Roads and Tracks We Have Traveled (Part Four Beaches South and North of Broome)

Monday, Mar 05, 2012 at 18:43

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

For those of us lucky enough to head into the North - West of WA Broome is often the mecca of our destination, especially if it is our first time. It is a great destination, a vibrant tourist location, blessed with great weather, a lovely beach, excellent tropical food and drinks (oh those tropical smoothies !!) and a heaps of special events and activities to experience. If you take a bicycle it is an ideal way to explore the 'City of Pearls'.
There are however plenty of other great coastal locations to experience either side of Broome. Coming in from the arid regions what better way to relax for a few days / weeks than to spend time at a lovely beach, long stretches of sand, blue blue water and those sunsets across the water.... As you leave the glorious Pilbara region one of the first of such places is 80 Mile Beach. Just a few klms off the highway it is well known and popular, especially for caravaners with its easy access. It is a great place, a large well organised caravan park well treed given its setting in such a barren landscape, but sitting on a gem of a beach (that literally extends for 80 miles). You are permitted to drive on it at low tide when it is long, wide, safe and with excellent shelling and fishing (especially the Thread Fin Salmon in season). The tidal flow is extensive, in fact I remember on an early visit here Brenda and I were heading for a swim a little after high tide and were wading knee deep when we met a German couple and struck up a conversation - a few minutes later as we departed, the water was barely above our ankles and the chance for a dip a long way out and long past.

Approximately 220 klms North there is the small community of Port Smith with its neat and very clean caravan park, it boasts its own 9 hole golf course (with the roughest rough possible) but used by the locals (and campers) for a weekly comp. We'd visited here in 2002 and had a wonderful time. It is different, not on a beach but provides the opportunity for good fishing. Here's how it happened back then. We were invited to go fishing which involved us boarding the rear of a Toyota ute, driven a short distance to a small bay surrounded with mangroves and an incoming tide. We were loaded into a small boat and taken out to what had now become an island largely of sand. plenty of room to walk around or through the light vegetation. The idea was to fish for a few hours before catching the boat and ute back to camp. Don't linger beyond the departure time or you are there until the next tidal change. We did enjoy the experience but few fish, none by us, were caught that day. There is also a bird sanctuary to view if you are interested. As I said we haven't been back since and I do hope little has changed as it had real charm.
A further 10 Klms North along the highway and 6 klms in on a sandy station road is Barn Hill. It is hard to imagine the change in the coast in such a small distance. Back in 2004 when we first came upon this location we arrived to find only a handful of campers. The camp site was a few hundred metres from the beach and behind a hill. We camped under the shade of a large spreading tree, this was a mistake as it was early in the season and this spot was dominated by mosquitoes, they said good night to us, were in our dreams !!, and were there to greet us next morning. To help our first impressions there was a brown snake (small thank goodness, mum had been disposed of the day before) in the ladies lou come laundry. I remember the young lady in charge arriving next morning (very friendly and relaxed) riding a quad bike with her 3 year daughter on the back, no shoes in fact no clothes at all and totally sun tanned. How things have changed.... We thought it a lovely place then with its beach scenery and casualness but only stayed one night (I think it was the mossies...) we did see its potential and noted that we would return.
You can imagine my surprise and dismay when in 2008 I brought a group of friends (5 Vehicles) to this lovely little get away only to find a queue waiting to book in, the camping area greatly expanded including hurriedly erected open air toilets and showers (actually very practical in that climate) and of all things a bloody bowls tournament in full swing with a large participation. They have a small two rink green - it was there in 2002. The place was full to bursting. Our group will dislike this camp.... To the contrary we ignored the crowd, were amused by the bowling and simply loved the scenery. The beach, swimming the very blue sea the fantastic rock sculptures along the sand stone cliffs and the always interesting small rock pools. The beach provided for long wanders and solace, there were magnificent sunsets, it is a magic place, and the showers were ok. However it is well and truly on the tourist 'must stop at', great for the station that owns this lovely piece of the Northern coastline.

North of Broome there is a wealth of lovely bush camping opportunities. Past Willies Creek Pearl farm, Quandong Point provided us with the opportunity to experience this area. It is very popular with campers seeking to avoid the overcrowding in Broome and so it is hit or miss as to whether you can obtain one of the defined camping areas. At present the close by James Price Point is currently under dispute re the proposed gas installations and is subject to demonstrations by activists anti this proposal. I can only assume that it has had quite an effect on its availability for camping. Not taking sides in the issue, it is a pity that this popular and quite pretty area, may no longer be as available to the public.

The road to Cape Leveque has been unsuitable for caravans but provides a wonderful opportunity to visit a number of communities and experience some of the best beach camping possible (quite a bit of the northern section of this road has been bitumenised), 2/3rds of the way and 34klms off this road lies Middle Lagoon, run by a local family and very popular with the traveling public (you need to book ahead) but is well worth it. You can camp overlooking a lovely beach or behind the sand hill in more shaded areas, there is good fishing, great walks along the beaches, creeks and the rocky headland. In our first experience there in 2002 we watched whales blowing on the horizon each day, from our camp. Then an invitation to visit Beagle Bay community (some 64klms by road) for a Defence Force concert and fete, a practice run for Timor. We were however provided with a mud map for a much shorter trip through the mud swamps - easy enough to follow in daylight but a little more difficult to find the right track among many in the dark for our return. We had a great night sampling the locals food and wares but only caught the end of the concert. The next morning back at camp the large Hercules plane flew low over us on its way to Timor. Here in Beagle Bay there exists a beautiful church that you are invited to view. It is decorated within with Mother of Pearl shell, quite spectacular.

At the tip of Dampier Peninsula is Cape Leveque. The Kooljaman Resort here provides various cabin/tent accommodation and a small camping area, it is reasonably expensive and pre booking is essential even for the camping area. On the eastern side is a good swimming beach but it is the Western Beach that is just magnificent at low tide on sunset - the colours and shapes in the cliffs make this area well worth a visit. At low tide it is possible to walk around the headland. The camping area has unisex toilets and showers. Brenda tells the story (our 2002 visit) that when heading for her morning shower, she came upon a gentleman toweling himself off outside of his small cubicle facing her as she walked in. Smugly, she walked past saying good morning and entered the next cubicle, he retreated rapidly saying nothing. A few minutes later she heard him loudly yelling at his wife ..."why didn't you tell it was unisex?" We still laugh about it.

If you prefer a less developed environment, there are other camping areas run by local families worth investigating. One that we found was Gambanan just off the One Arm Point road. We first found it in 2002 when it was just starting up and we returned there in 2008 for several days. It has now expanded to take in more of the view over King Sound and hence it is in need of more facilities, closer to these new camping areas. It is however a relaxing and beautiful camping spot, we were even able to view the Stairway to the Moon from here. It was here that we also came across and active flock of the elusive Gouldian Finches. The younger family members provide an all day excursion to the Horizontal Waterfalls ( not for us the boat was too small), they provide fishing and crabbing excursions as well. There is a swimming beach some distance away at high tide, with lovely white sand but close to Mangroves. The owners insisted it was safe - so we swam.

It provided a good base for us to explore the Peninsula - the One Arm Point Community on the edge of King Sound and its Ardyuloon Hatchery and Crocus Shell polishing. A visit to Lombadina Community with its lovely little church (with its original bark roof- now covered) and very tidy and proudly kept environs. There is a small supermarket, bakery, garage and art center.

This whole area North of Broome is well worth a visit and provided us with the opportunity for great relaxation before kicking off via the back track through to Derby and more of the Kimberly region.

There has been a suggestion in our camp that maybe our 2012 July August trip could be back to Middle Lagoon - it is being widely canvassed but it is a long way from here. What a great idea.

Part five The Kimberlies.
We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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