A drive out to Wave Rock

The weather was still dreadful south of Perth with heavy rain and gusty winds.  We weren’t impressed either to find out that the temperature back in Brisbane is 30 degrees. Inland looked considerably better with sunny days but cold nights.  We picked up a self drive map which would take us on a loop East, as far as the popular tourist spot of Wave Rock.

Day 1

Our drive started in the historic town of Guildford which has National Trust status and sits at the southern end of the Swan Valley.  James Street is famous for its antique shops and cafes.

Our first overnight stop was York (beginning to feel like we’re in England) which also has National Trust historic town status.  The council provides a free 24 hr rest stop at the Avon River Park with power, which is the first time we’ve seen this on our travels. The rest stop is also close to the main street.  As well as the heritage walk around town, Barclay Books bookshop is well worth a browse, there is a motor museum, a ye olde sweet shoppe and a well stocked IGA.  We could probably have happily spent another 24hrs here.

York main street
Avon River Park rest stop

Day 2

The town of Shackleton claims to have Australia’s smallest bank – it probably also has Australia’s shortest opening hours.   Bruce Rock is an interesting town. The centrepiece of the main street is a sculpture park, memorials to servicemen and women and an amphitheatre.  There was pop music playing at top volume through loudspeakers which slightly spoiled the reflective mood of the memorials.

Day 3

We had our morning tea at 54 Mile Gate of Rabbit Proof Fence No 1.  In the mid 19th century, a certain Thomas Austin thought it would be a good idea to bring a few rabbits to Australia for hunting.  Their numbers quickly spiralled out of control and rabbits became a serious problem.  The Western Australian government decided to build three barrier fences.  Fence No 1 is 1,822.4 km (1,139 miles) long and stretches from the south coast to East of Port Hedland in the North.

The 2002 Australian movie ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ is well worth watching.  It was based on a true story of three Aboriginal girls who were forcibly removed from their family in the North so they could be taught how to assimilate with the white population at a camp in the south.  The eldest girl realised they could follow the fence back to their home and the movie depicts their journey and the authority’s attempts to find them.

Wave Rock

Very impressive and well worth the drive. I’m sure Jonathan can add something about how it was formed geologically.  I just know it was something to do with water and erosion of the granite over millions of years.   The local Ballardong people call the rock Katter Kich and believe it was created by the Rainbow Serpent.  You will notice that there is an unsightly wall along the top of the rock which we assumed was to stop daft tourists in unsuitable footwear slipping on the wet rock and falling to their death.  In fact it was built to funnel rainwater to a storage dam.

A short distance away is the very aptly named Hippo’s Yawn.

To be continued …

Kununurra, WA

We’ve become a bit more savvy when booking into a campsite now and ask to choose our own site.  Quite often the powered sites are very expensive and you’re crammed into a small space with no views whilst the unpowered sites are spacious and in the best spots.  This was the case at the Lakeside Caravan Park, Kununurra where we chose a lovely spot by the lagoon in the unpowered section.    The only downside – at night we realised just how many crocs were in that lagoon when we shone a torch.

Ivanhoe Crossing

This is just outside of Kununurra and worth a visit.  It’s a concrete causeway across the Ord River.  Water flows over it year round but in the dry season it is a challenge for people to cross in their four wheel drives.   There are saltwater crocodiles at the crossing and the waters are extremely dangerous but it’s still also a popular barramundi fishing and swimming spot.

Celebrity Tree Park

Ask visiting celebrities to plant a tree in your park and put up a plaque. Here’s Princess Anne’s tree:

There were also trees planted by Baz Luhrmann, John Williamson and John Farnham.

The park also has an impressive Boab Tree.  These are common in the Kimberley region. The trees store water in their bottle shaped trunks.  The boab nuts are edible and the seeds can be ground down to make flour.

If you have a four wheel drive vehicle, one of the iconic off-road challenges starts here.  The Gibb River Road is around 650km long and takes you across to Derby .

Alice Springs

Lasseters Casino

This part of Alice Springs felt like a world away from the town with a convention centre, luxury hotels and landscaped gardens.The Casino was the final destination for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert where the three drag queens performed a show.

The Olive Pink Botanic Garden

Miss Olive Pink sounds like a formidable woman.  She was an anthropologist who moved to central Australia in the 1930s to study and advocate for the Warlpiri and Arrernte people.  She was a pioneer in using native plants and created the gardens as a ‘soulfeeding antidote to the restless rush and materials of what modern living entails.’

The NT writers’ festival was taking place at the garden and I took the opportunity to listen to a talk while I was there by Tim Low, a biologist from Brisbane who is writing a book about rare plants in Central Australia.

The School of the Air
The School of the Air

The Ghan stopped for a few hours in Alice Springs on its way to Darwin from Adelaide.  It’s a very long train and these passengers had a very long walk down the platform in the heat.


Kings Canyon

We didn’t manage to get to Kings Canyon when we were here in 2008, due to a tight schedule and some essential van repairs in Alice Springs so we were looking forward to seeing it on this trip.

There’s a choice of two walks – a 6km Rim Walk and a 2km Creek Walk.  Mr Intrepid did the Rim Walk which starts with a lung busting climb up to the rim of the canyon.

We stayed at Kings Canyon Resort for the night – I think ‘resort’ is stretching things a bit but it was the closest camping to the Canyon walks.  Also the most expensive site so far at $25 per person.  Goodness knows what they do with the money but we had a gravel site with power and drinking water.  There’s no phone reception here but there is wi-fi at the Canyon car park.   Later, we sat having a drink at the campsite and watching the sunset over Kings Canyon when a dingo appeared.

It seemed pretty tame and more interested in saying hello to Winston but I quickly headed back to the van with the fluffy one.  This seemed a good reason not to stay a second night.

The next morning, we returned to the Canyon, which is a 6km drive from the campsite, along a sealed road.  I decided the Rim Walk was too scary and did the creek walk.  My guided tour of the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens came in handy.


The roots of the Witchetty Bush provide a habitat for Witchetty Grubs which are highly nourishing and rich in protein.  Often seen in bush tucker trials on ‘I’m a Celebrity’.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert movie note:  Guy Pearce’s character has a dream to climb to the top of King’s Canyon in full drag and they do this towards the end of the movie. The writers wanted it to be Uluru but weren’t allowed.


Broken Heel

Broken Hill is quite possibly the drag queen capital of the Outback thanks to the 1994 movie ‘Priscilla,  Queen of the Desert’.

If you haven’t seen it, three drag queens go on a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs and Priscilla is the bus they travel in.  It’s a road trip full of bitching, sequins, prejudice, mechanical problems and Abba.   The trio stopped at the Palace Hotel in Broken Hill for the night despite a hostile reception from the locals.

The hotel was already famous for the murals that cover its walls and ceilings but now attracts visitors with quirky Priscilla events such as drag queen bingo on Tuesdays with Shelita Buffet and the annual Broken Heel Festival in September when drag queens from far and wide descend on the town.

“We’re goin’ to Bonnie Doon” (sung repetitively)

We found ourselves at the location of another favourite Aussie movie.   ‘The Castle’ tells the story of the Kerrigan family and their fight to save their home.  It’s at the end of a runway and the government wants the land to expand the airport.

The Kerrigans have a holiday home at Bonnie Doon where they ‘feel the serenity’ despite all the power lines.  The movie put the town of Bonnie Doon on the map.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s highly recommended and you’ll soon be using such iconic quotes as “tell him he’s dreamin’”, “this is going straight to the pool room” or maybe singing “We’re goin’ to Bonnie Doon, we’re goin’ to Bonnie Doon”.