Bushwacker bonanza: Western Australia's wilderness

How do you entertain small children in the outback? Sebastian Hope trails from hot coast to cool creek in Western Australia's wilderness

All parents have moments when it seems there are some things, like sleep, they will never be able to do again. Revisiting Australia falls into that category. However, when newly migrated friends asked us to visit we suddenly found ourselves heading to Perth and 40-degree heat with three- and four-year-old boys.

There was a time when 40C would have meant taking a break from hitching and spending the afternoon swigging a cold beer. With children, other forms of climate control were needed. Cottesloe Beach was far too hot but Perth's air-conditioned aquarium, Aqwa, seemed the perfect answer - and also good preparation for our journey along the coast. The displays range from coral to kelp, but the showstopper is the tank of sharks and rays through which a perspex tunnel runs.

Our friends had moved to Yallingup, on the coast three hours south of Perth. The great swells of the Indian Ocean roll up on its reefs and crash on the sand. Luckily, at one end the reef forms a protective barrier around a pool of shallower water, a great place for the boys to try out snorkelling. On this coast they say "never turn your back on the sea nor take your eye off your kids", but on the other side of Cape Naturaliste there are beaches where vigilance can be relaxed slightly. Eagle Bay is at its best in the late afternoon with a rod and a boy eager to reel in small fish. After a week of fishing even my son was beginning to tire of going to the beach yet again. So we decided to take a road trip.

Caves Road runs south from Yallingup past Margaret River. While the town itself is a thriving, pretty little place, most of what has made Margaret River famous - food and wine - is to be found in the surrounding countryside. Caves Road passes the front door of umpteen vineyards, many with restaurants, but we were heading first for a different kind of meal on a Bushtucker Tour.

Mercifully, my boys are too young to associate 'bushtucker' with 'trial', so canoeing up the Margaret River for our picnic held no dread for them. We started from its mouth at Prevelly Beach and paddled past paperbarks to the place where European settlement of the region began. The meal consisted of nuts and berries, wild fruits and meats, but this being Margaret River the emu was lightly smoked, the fruits chutneyed, the grubs made into a mousse and served with focaccia. It was only the bread the boys disliked.

Caves were important places for the local Aboriginal clans. The whole coast here is riddled with hollows. The road passes over the top of Lake Cave, one of the prettiest, whose entrance is through a giant roof fall, out of which 400-year-old karri trees grow. Further towards Augusta the road twists through a stand of old karris at Boranup, a first taste of the Southern Forests.

Surprisingly for a logging town, Pemberton is surrounded by forest. It still has a working lumber mill, but logging has moved on and the old railway tracks now carry tourist trains. Well, one tram, which winds through the woods towards Northcliffe, and one steam-train. The latter runs only in winter: there's too high a risk of forest fire in summer, when the forestry agency carries out 'controlled' burns. One patch we passed through was still smouldering, and in the Gloucester National Park the blackened trails were closed. At least the Gloucester Tree itself was still open, towering well over 60 metres. There are steps, or rather spikes, driven into the trunk that spiral up to a platform 58m off the ground, although the climb is more exciting than the view.

Passing over the Lefroy Brook, our tram driver told us there were trout in it - as well as a native freshwater crayfish, the marron. A more tot-friendly version of the experience was to be had at King Trout, a sort of "catch-your-own" restaurant. The boys caught two each. You pay by weight for what you catch, and then you can have it dressed and cooked for another modest charge. Our mud-brick cottage was on Pump Hill Farm. Farmer Dan took the children to feed the animals every morning.

Our next stop was Big Brook Dam. The coast around Pemberton is accessible only by 4x4, and there are operators offering sand safaris through the vast Yeagarup Dunes, but you can't just pop down for a dip. Big Brook Dam is the place for that, a placid lake surrounded by old-growth karri forest, perfect for a boy to practise his casting.

We turned towards Walpole on the South Western Highway, only to be stopped outside Shannon. There was a fire at Broke Inlet up ahead. A burn had got out of control. We were about 100km from our next destination, Walpole, and now we would have to drive 260km to get there. We fuelled up and took Muirs Highway towards Mount Barker. In spring, the ground there is thick with wild flowers; but on this, the first day of autumn, the land was baked dry.

They say the town of Denmark is like Margaret River 20 years ago: the same mix of surf and turf. In March, big 4x4s with dinghies strapped to the roof and camping trailers behind head for the campsite at Parry Beach to join in with the Salmon Team. Every autumn shoals of salmon stream west along the south coast. Their arrival is eagerly anticipated by sports fishermen, though they are not rated as a table fish. "But", said Rob, owner of the Parryville Chalets, "if you get them 'fresh as', and fillet them, they go great on the barbie, and if you happen to be on Parry Beach when the Team is pulling in, they'll give you one."

Nothing was moving in the bay. The team lookout sat in his hut, scanning the sea for a shoal. Team members fished off the rocks for herring. The Bibbulmun Track, a 900km walking path that ends at Albany, rejoins the coast here and follows the curve of William Bay. Parry Beach was relatively sheltered, but beyond it on Mazzoletti Beach the surf was breaking in big, slow-moving lumps. Yet there is respite from this majesty. At the eastern end is Green's Pool, ringed in by vast granite boulders.

It was the presence of whales that brought Europeans to this coast, and Albany was their first settlement in Western Australia - founded in 1826. Its "Mayflower moment" is commemorated in a replica of the cockleshell, the Brig Amity, that brought them from Sydney. The town's whaling wealth is on display in its fine Victorian buildings, but there is a more curious relic of that era out on the Flinders Peninsula.

Whale World is on the site of Australia's last whaling station and an uncomfortable place to visit; we bunked off the rather grisly tour before the flensing deck and rendering shed. The kids headed for the playground and its whale-shaped slide. Looking up at the old whaling boat beached nearby, I noticed its harpoon was pointing straight at the smiling fibre-glass leviathan. Old habits die hard.

We'd saved the showpiece of the Southern Forests until last. In the Valley of the Giants National Park outside Walpole, an aerial walkway leads up to the karri canopy 40m above the ground. It was best, in the children's view, when swaying. At ground level the path loops through the grove of ancient tingle trees. The boys raced round that too, and finally, we pulled into Walpole after our long diversion, on a baking afternoon. We coolled off in a swimming hole on the Frankland River - welcome refreshment, until someone mentioned leeches.



Perth is served by British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) and Singapore Airlines (0844 800 2380; www.singaporeair.co.uk) via Singapore; Cathay Pacific (020-8834 8888; www.cathaypacific.com) via Hong Kong; Malaysia Airlines (0870 607 9090; www.malaysiaairlines.com) via Kuala Lumpur; and Emirates (0870 243 2222; www.emirates.com) via Dubai. The writer's car hire was arranged through Trailfinders (0845 054 777; www.trailfinders.com).


Seashells Caves House & Restaurant, Yallingup (00 61 8 9750 1500; www.seashells.com.au). Doubles from A$175 (£71) including breakfast.

Yallingup Forest Resort (00 61 8 9755 2550; www.yallingupforestresort.com.au). Self-catered cabins from A$155 (£63).

Pump Hill Farm, Pemberton (00 61 8 9776 1379; www.pumphill.com.au). Self-catered cottages from A$105 (£42).

Parryville Chalets, Denmark (00 61 8 9840 9067; www.westnet.com.au/parryvillechalets). Self-catered chalets from A$140 (£56).

Houseboat Holidays on the Inlet, Walpole (00 61 8 9840 1310; www.houseboatholiday.com.au). Three nights' rental from A$580 (£234) excluding fuel.


Goanna Gallery & Cafe, Yallingup (00 61 8 9759 1477).

Simmo's Ice-Creamery, Yallingup (00 61 8 9755 3745).

King Trout, Pemberton (00 61 8 9776 1352).

Hidden River Estate, Winery and Restaurant (00 61 8 9776 1437; www.hiddenriver.com.au).


Aqwa (Aquarium of Western Australia), Perth (00 61 8 9447 7500; www.aqwa.com.au).

Bushtucker River & Winery Tours, Margaret River (00 61 8 9757 9084; www.bushtuckertours.com).

Pemberton Tramway (00 61 8 9776 1322; www.pemtram.com.au).

4x4 dune tours with Pemberton Discovery Tours (00 61 8 9776 0484; www.pembertondiscoverytours.com.au).

Pentland Alpaca Stud & Animal Farm (00 61 8 9840 9262; www.pentlandalpacafarm.com.au).

Valley of the Giants (00 61 8 9840 8263; www.valleyofthegiants.com.au).

Whale World, Frenchman Bay (00 61 8 9844 4021; www.whaleworld.org).


Southern Forests Region: 00 61 8 9771 1831; www.southernforests.com.au

Western Australia Tourism: 00 61 89 262 1700; www.westernaustralia.com

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game