Our journey from Margaret River on Monday was one of those Plan B days. We followed Cave Road down to Hamelin Bay, our intended over night stop, only to find we would not fit into any of the available sites. We spent about an hour or so in the Bay, had a wander around the beach then decided to carry on to Augusta.
We must mention the magnificent Boranup Karri Tree Forest we drove through on our way to Hamelin Bay. The Karri forest is at the bottom end of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and is spectacular. It is not really necessary to do the Boranup Drive thing because there are several spots along Caves Road south of Lake Cave where it is safe to pull over to the side of the road and take in the view. The Karri tree is a hardwood tree and grows to 90 metres. It is the third tallest tree in the world. Many of the karri forests in Australia’s southwest are now protected.
Now to Augusta. Augusta is the most southwesterly point of Australia. Settled in 1830, the town is situated on the banks of the Blackwood River and Hardy Inlet where it meets the Southern Ocean. We were parked up about 3km out of town in Flinders Bay and right on the edge of the Blackwood River. Once we had settled in we unhooked the jeep and took ourselves off to Cape Leeuwin, about 8 km from our parkup.
Cape Leeuwin is known for a number of ‘standouts’. Firstly, it marks the point where the Indian Ocean meet the Southern Ocean. At certain times of the year the climatic conditions and currents turn the ocean around the Cape into a washing machine. During our visit it was like a millpond! Secondly, the Cape is home to the tallest lighthouse in Western Australia and the third highest in Australia. Constructed in 1895 and standing 56 metres above sea level, the lighthouse guards one of the worlds busiest shipping lanes. Thirdly, the Cape hosts a memorial dedicated to the 10 young sailors aboard the HMAS Nizam (an N Class Destroyer) who lost their lives off the Cape on 11 February 1945. A rogue wave caused the ship to heel and 10 sailors were thrown overboard. No trace of the men was ever found. Interestingly, the Australia N Class Destroyer Association championed the construction of a memorial to the men and since its unveiling in 1993, an 11 February ceremony has become an annual event. At an N Class Destroyer Reunion in 1999, the Cape Leeuwin site was recognised as a formal Australian War Memorial. Veterans over here are accorded a tremendous amount of respect from both Central and Local Government and the Australian community.
Tuesday morning it was domestics and vehicle maintenance time then in the afternoon we decided we would make a visit to the limestone caves Australia is so proud of. We felt we were unable to provide an objective comparison with Waitomo unless we did the yards. The limestone ridge of the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park hides a series of caves, many of which are open to the public. We decided to tour the ‘Jewel Cave’. The Jewel Cave is approximately one million years old and was first discovered in 1957. Hidden in the Karri forest of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge and nine kilometres north of Augusta, this cave sinks to a reachable depth of 42 metres and is 1.9 kilometres long. The cave has giant formations, no natural light and while it is Western Australia’s largest tourism cave, only 40 percent has been developed for tourism. Does it compare with Waitomo? Both caves a very different so it’s hard to make a comparison. Jewel Cave is ‘dry’ while Waitomo is wet and has its rivers. We very much enjoyed both.
For those of you following us down the coast, Augusta is a great little town and there is everything here that you need. It is certainly worth considering making it your base while taking in the surrounding area.
This morning we are back on the road and plan to drive inland on the Brockman Highway to visit Nannup, then hook a right onto the Vasse Highway to lunch at Manjinup then continue south through Pemberton, Northcliffe and back to the coast to Windy Harbour. Windy Harbour (Salmon Beach) is our planned next overnight stop but nothing is set in concrete. You never know what we could come across on the way.
We are having a few cellphone coverage issues around this part of the coast so if you are calling, emailing or texting and we are not responding, you know the reason why. We will get back to you as soon as we are able.