Kalbarri itself is a beautiful little town, with white sandy beaches and a plethora of stunning scenery nearby.
After leaving the Murchison River Caravan Park where we spent the night, our first stop was just across the road to see the beach.
Kalbarri is located at the mouth of the Murchison River, and the town beach is actually inside the river’s mouth.
Heading out towards the headland, is Chinaman’s Point, just off the main road through town.
From here, you get 360-degree views.
You can see down the river mouth, back towards town, across the river to the northern coastline, and down the southern coast to Red Bluff.
From Chinaman’s Point you can also get out to more beaches, but they are pretty rocky.
Heading south along the coast from Kalbarri, the first stop is only 5.5 km’s away, Red Bluff, the same Red Bluff you can see from Chinaman’s Point.
As you might guess, Red Bluff is named because of the vibrant red sandstone that you can’t miss.
From the carpark, there are two lookouts, both on the same paved track. The closest, Pederick Lookout, is 700m return and has views looking south towards Eagle Gorge.
Red Bluff Lookout, on the other hand, is 1km return with views back to the town of Kalbarri.
It is paved all the way out, except for the very end which has some sandstone steps down. If you have mobility impairments, you might not be able to make those last few metres, but the view from the top is arguably better anyway!
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, there is also a 1km dirt track from Pederick Lookout down to the beach from Red Bluff. It’s pretty steep and uneven in places though so do be careful if you take it.
When we were here in September, there were lots of wildflowers in all different colours that added to the vibrancy of the sandstone.
It’s not far down to Eagle Gorge, another of Kalbarri’s sandstone formations, just 5km’s by car. Between the two is Pot Alley, we decided to give this one a miss though. Eagle Gorge is the starting point of the Bigurda Trail, an 8km paved walking track that follows the coast to all the key landmarks including the Shellhouse, Grandstand, Island Rock, Castle Cove, and ending at the Natural Bridge.
If you visit between May and September, you’ve got a good chance of seeing Humpback Whales off the coast as they migrate, we spotted one while we were here!
Eagle Gorge is, as its name might suggest, known for the wedge-tailed eagles that have made it their home. We were really hoping to see one of these massive birds, but unfortunately, it was not to be. We did see even more wildflowers and a lizard though.
The access road for the remaining attractions puts the Natural Bridge right at the end, so we started there and worked our way back seeing everything except for the Shellhouse.
From the carpark, it’s a 750m return walk on a paved track to the Natural Bridge viewing platform.
It’s similar to the other natural bridges you can find along many coastlines. For those that have seen the one that used to exist along the Great Ocean Road before it collapsed, this one is much smaller, but nevertheless, it’s a beautiful stretch of coastline that is worth taking some time to check out.
Castle Cove lookout is a 400m return paved track from the Natural Bridge car park. You can, however, walk directly from the Natural Bridge viewing platform to the Castle Cove lookout.
From here, you can look over the cove to Island Rock, a large rock that looks like it was at some point an outcrop from the cliffs and could have even been a second natural bridge. Now though, it is separated from the cliffs and stands on its own.
The cove itself is shallow, so the blue Indian Ocean is very vibrant and crystal clear. You can see straight through it to the rocks below.
It actually isn’t far from Castle Cove to the Island Rock Lookout, and to be honest, the Castle Cove Lookout actually gives you a better view of the whole rock.
Island Rock Lookout is only 800m from the Natural Bridge, so it’s not far to walk, but if you want, you can also drive into the Island Rock Lookout carpark.
From here, you can look back towards Castle Cove, so you see Island Rock from the opposite side. It is closer, so you get a better look at the detail in the rock, and it does make it look more like an island, but if you are pressed for time, you could just do the Castle Cove Lookout and rest easy knowing that you saw Island Rock as well!
Our last stop along the Kalbarri cliffs was the Grandstand. The access road brings you in nice and close, and from the carpark, you can again follow the paved walking track out to the viewing point.
As with the rest of these coastal sights, the Grandstand has of course been named because it looks like a grandstand. The red sandstone is perhaps at it’s most vibrant here. The reds seemed almost unreal to us as they are so rich.
Port Gregory and the Pink Lake (Hutt Lagoon)
Heading south from Kalbarri along the coast brings you past the Pink Lake, also known as Hutt Lagoon. To get the best views of it though, you have to head to Port Gregory.
Port Gregory is an unusual port in that it is a tiny town that doesn’t really have any kind of port at all. If you drive all the way through it, you get to a beautiful beach that could just about pass for one on a tropical island somewhere, even down to the little shanties.
There’s a small jetty and a few little fishing boats that operate from the town. Otherwise, though, that’s about it.
If you are short on time and just want to see Pink Lake, you don’t need to go all the way into Port Gregory. Instead, the best vantage point for Pink Lake is the road in.
It passes through just above water level, with the lake only metres from its edge. From here you can get brilliant views of the vibrant pink water.
Hutt Lagoon is pink due to the presence of a bacteria in the salt called Dunaliella salina. This bacteria produces beta-carotene that in turn is a red/orange colour and is farmed in a 250 hectare series of ponds connected to the pink lake. It turns out that this farm is actually the largest microalgae production plant in the world.
Hutt River Province / Principality of Hutt River
Next up, we passed through Northampton on the way to Hutt River Province, now known as the Principality of Hutt River.
Yes, this does require doubling back on ourselves. Unfortunately, this is the quickest way to get to Hutt River Province on sealed roads from Kalbarri. If you have a four-wheel-drive or aren’t worried about taking dirt roads, then there is a shorter route from Kalbarri to Hutt River on unsealed roads.
The Principality of Hutt River Province is a fascinating place that claims independence from the Australian Federation.
We were fortunate enough to meet Prince Leonard Casley, the founder of the Principality, on our visit. He is getting on in age and stepped down from the throne in February this year, crowning Prince Graeme as the new ruler.
Prince Leonard makes the claim that he successfully seceded from Australia in 1970, of course, the Australian Government, primarily the ATO, disagrees.
You can read all about the history and disputes on Wikipedia here, but regardless of the legal status of Hutt River, it makes for a remarkable tourist attraction.
Over the years, the province has produced just about everything a country could be expected to have, including coins, banknotes, stamps, medals, passports and more.
If you want to visit though, the gates are open from 9am to 4pm, and a “visa” is required, which can be purchased on arrival in the form of a passport stamp, or a ‘government’ card.
It costs $4.00 per person with free entry for children. These ‘visas’ are purchased at the government building/post office after you enter.
Once you’ve bought your ‘visa’, you can explore the public areas of the province, and if someone is available, they can tell you about the history and some of the highlights.
For us, Prince Graeme shared much of the principality’s past, and Prince Leonard showed us various letters he has received over the years that are of particular significance, including one from the Queen of England.
In many ways, the public spaces are both a museum and a testament to the eccentricities of Prince Leonard and his late wife, Princess Shirley. There are collections of all kinds, from shells to coins, to gemstones, to bank notes, to passports and all types of province memorabilia produced over the years.
There is a church, which has its own quirks, and a recently built shrine called “Princess Shirley’s Sacred Educational Shrine”.
I mean no disrespect, but the irony of these two concepts amuses me. It is, however, just another example of the unusual combination of things you will find here.
It was constructed following Princess Shirley’s passing and honours the exploration of the spirit world that she was so interested in.
It also incorporates various calculations that Prince Leonard has come up with to represent different aspects of that world.
It’s an eclectic mix of math and Chinese spirituality that left me feeling incredibly uncomfortable.
The church could pass for a small Catholic church in a rural country town.
Inside it was oddly dark with the windows all tinted a blue colour that gave it a very eerie atmosphere inside.
Then, of course, you can’t miss the giant carving of Prince Leonard’s head.
We spent about an hour here all up. It’s a remarkable place that, in spite of the harsh red dirt everywhere still has beautiful gardens and is very welcoming.
If you want to really look at all the collections, you could probably spend longer, and it’s certainly one to add to the list of unusual places to see, even just to meet the welcoming Casley family and hear their unlikely stories.
Geraldton HMAS Sydney II Memorial
We made our way back to Northampton and passed through it to Geraldton. With a population of almost 40,000 people, Geraldton is the most extensive town we’ve encountered since Darwin and is more than twice the size of the next biggest. Even though it’s still relatively small and still seems pretty remote, it all of a sudden feels like you have hit civilisation again, with shopping centres, dual lane roads through town, and McDonald’s.
What we were here to see though is the HMAS Sydney II Memorial.
After visiting the USA, we’ve realised that in Australia, we often don’t give our soldiers the respect they deserve for their commitment and sacrifice to protect us. Not necessarily because we don’t have memorials or we don’t put effort into them. More because we as people just don’t do a decent job of remembering. HMAS Sydney II is an example of a moving memorial where you can’t help but remember. It pays tribute to our fallen soldiers in such a profound way.
On 19 November 1941, HMAS Sydney II was on its way back to Fremantle after escorting the Zealandia troopship to Singapore when it was sunk by a German ship, the HSK Kormoran, pretending to be a merchant vessel in distress. Sadly, in spite of Sydney putting the Kormoran out of action and forcing it’s sailors to abandon ship, all 645 Australian sailors on board Sydney were lost (read more here).
It is these sailors who never returned that we remember at the memorial in Geraldton.
The memorial is moving with its many symbols of remembrance, especially the waiting woman.
The other symbolic elements are The Wall of Remembrance, The Dome of Souls, The Stele, The Eternal Flame, and the Pool of Remembrance.
The memorial is located on a hill, allowing you to gaze out over the city to the ocean, just as the waiting woman is, and as the sun was starting to go down, the atmosphere here is compelling.
Lest we forget.
Other sights around Geraldton
There is more to see in Geraldton but sadly, the sun was already starting to set as we left the HMAS Sydney II Memorial, so it was too late to visit them. If you have time, you can also see the old Victoria House hospital, the Old Geraldton Gaol, the Old Police Station, the port, and Point Moore Lighthouse. We did a rapid circuit of the city to see what we could before continuing on to Dongara Port Denison, 50 minutes away.
We arrived just as the sun was disappearing over the horizon, and checked in to the Big4 Dongara Denison Beach Holiday Park. We got a powered site for $37/night and were very impressed with the facilities. Not to mention, it’s right on the water, so you get to listen to the waves all night long.
What a day!