Sunday, 14 September 2014

Cape Range National Park

After leaving Bullara early on the 9/9/2014 we headed towards Exmouth. On our way through town we grabbed a fresh loaf of bread & then went straight out to Cape Range national park. All bookings for campsites have to be done online now, so luckily we had booked as all the campgrounds were full. We booked into Kurrajong camp site number 23. The road in is all bitumen until you get right to your campground & then it is only gravel for about 500 meters, so all sorts of cars can access the park. Some of the road is damaged on the way in from the big storms & flooding they had back in April & some of the campsites & beaches are still closed. 

We arrived at our campground to find it was pretty good. The sites were very large by national park standards & also more spread out than we thought they would be. It also had new pit toilets. We had booked for 5 days & there is no shade at all so we also put up our big awning. The ground was rock hard, so putting in the pegs was a hassle, but finally we were all set up. We went down to the beach for a look & wow! Just glorious! The camp is tucked behind the sand dunes, but as soon as you walk over them, the view is spectacular. We went for a bit of a walk, the water looked so inviting, it would definitely be worth a swim & may be a snorkel. 

The beach at Kurrajong campsite above & below

We headed back to camp & the wind really started to pick up, we readjusted all of the awning poles, but it just got stronger. It continued to blow really strong for the next 2 days. Cooking was a nightmare, no fires are allowed, so trying to cook on gas & butane was pretty hard. It started to get cold as well & our fish & salad for dinner didn't seem very appetising again. Instead we had a chuck it all in pasta dish, that was warm in our bellies, we went to bed early again to escape the wind, but the canvas flapped all night. 

Unfortunately it wasn't much better the next day, so we decided to go for a drive to escape the wind. We went back towards town & checked out some of the beaches closer to town, & also the lighthouse, where you can drive all the way to the top of a huge hill & the views are amazing. We then had a look around town. It is pretty flash, they have even built canal estates. There is most things you need in town including 2 IGAs, post office, grog shop, camping shop, bakery, butcher, caf├ęs & pubs. We decided to go to the pub for lunch. We went to the tavern & it was an American style Country music place, it sounds corny, but it was actually pretty cool, with old Willie Nelson & Johnny Cash posters on the walls & American decor & menu. After some pork ribs & chicken wings & to many beers for Mat, I drove us back out to camp, where the wind was still blowing. We watched the sunset over the water on the beach & then finally had our fish for dinner, although with veggies not salad, damn cold weather!!

View from the lighthouse above & lighthouse below

The next day it was still blowing a gale, so we went for a drive down towards Yardie Creek. A very picturesque creek, that you can cross to head towards Ningaloo if the tide it right, but when we were there the tide was rushing in, definitely not safe to cross. 

Yardie Creek

We headed back towards our camp & called into Osprey Bay, another camping area. Wow, just beautiful & you can see the water right from the campsites, but obviously more windy than behind the dunes. The wind was lighter here, so we grabbed our snorkel gear out & went for a swim. Well Mat did. I have only ever snorkelled once, in grade 7 at Tallebudgera school camp & I can't remember loving it. I am not a great swimmer & also a country girl, so am a bit scared of the sea to be honest. We did have the occasional beach holiday as a kid, but I would only ever go out up to my waist or so. Mat on the other hand did marine science at school & snorkelled around the Yeppoon area & then did courses at Uni that did research at Heron island, so he loves it. He was straight in exploring the beautiful coral. I got in & it felt like the current was to strong & I didn't have any fins, so just stayed in the shallows, trying to remember how to use my mask & snorkel properly & how to breath. Mat raved about what he saw, he said there were lots of neon blue & yellow fish, but I just couldn't do it, I did get a nice swim though. 

Osprey Bay above & below

We headed back to camp & the wind had really dropped off, so we had a really relaxing afternoon. The next day we decided to stay around camp. I got up early & went for a lovely walk on the beach, the wind was still calm. We then did some jobs around camp, Mat fixed the brake controller that had snapped on our way here & I did the hand washing. That all done, it was still calm, so we took our snorkel gear down to the beach in front of camp. It was really calm. I swallowed my hesitation & jumped in. It was amazing, the current wasn't to strong, so I felt comfortable. I found I could even breath properly. We swam over heaps of beautiful coral & saw all sorts of fish. Another lady snorkelling pointed out some more coral to us that was further up the beach & there were so many fish, it was amazing. I was hooked, I couldn't keep the smile off my face. I have never ever swam in the ocean like that before, just so free & it was surprisingly calming. I definitely had to buy some fins. 

The beach at camp, nice & calm

The next day was our last full day & we decided to go into town to see if we could extend our stay. Sadly our site was already booked, so we did our grocery shopping, went shopping for some fins for me & we also unfortunately had to buy a chemical toilet. We really didn't want to, but all of the places that we want to stay at in the next month you must have one. You can hire them, but at $10-15 per day, it was cheaper for us to buy one. 

On our way back to camp we went to a beach called Oyster Stacks in the national park, one of the most famous snorkelling sites. I was confident, I had my new fins, I was ready. When we arrived it had got quite windy again & it was pretty choppy. The beach is all rock where you enter the water, so we walked down a bit further, so we could enter the water a bit safer. We got our gear on & went in, Mat was off & straight into it as usual, but I could feel the current was stronger here. I went in, but couldn't get the hang of my fins & had trouble breathing & swallowed a heap of water. I did manage to see about 5 minutes worth of reef & it was spectacular. The coral was so close to the surface I thought I was going to crash into it, the amount of fish was 10 times more than the day before. Pretty soon though the current had washed me back towards shore & I got out disappointed. From snorkelling legend one day to a bit of a fail the next! Oh well I am hoping I will get the hang of it in some calmer waters at Ningaloo. Mat continued on, doing 2-3 more sweeps over the area & said it was some of the best snorkelling he has ever done. When he finally got out, we made our way back to camp to start packing up. 

Oyster Stacks, 3 photos above

We ended up taking down the awning in the afternoon to make it easier the next day & packed up what we could. I then sat down to get all of these blog posts done, so I didn't forget anything. We loved our time at Cape Range national park. We would definitely come back again & there is still  heaps to see. Make sure you check out the campsite booking page online if you plan on coming here, every campsite has to be booked online as of April 2015 & they were full every night while we were here. The cost is $10 per person per night, the only facilities are pit toilets. There is no phone reception. If this is the start of the Ningaloo reef experience, we can't wait to explore the rest. 

Kurrajong camp, I only realised I hadn't taken any photos after we put the awning down

Typical country in Cape Range, low scrub leading to the ocean

We didn't get any really spectacular water sunsets, but it was still lovely. 

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