Uge grew up in WA – learnt to surf on many of the beaches of Margies and spent many a summer on Rottnest, but he had never ventured passed these locations in all his 44 years. Now residing in Bondi where we live and work from our Bondi Gallery – we thought it was time to take our boys (8 and 5 years) back to where he came from and show them some of his old haunts and also see some of WA he’s heard about, but never seen.
Here is our journey – where we stayed along the way our favourite places for brekkie, lunch on the road, where to swim – surf and things to do that will knock both you and your kids socks off. We had the time of our lives, we didn’t miss a sunrise or a sunset and everyday was an adventure of the best kind – together, every minute of it!
We started in Ningaloo – it’s May and the warm dry heat radiated off the tarmac as we stepped off the plane in Learmonth. We made our way to Mantarays in Exmouth – on sunrise beach. It’s nice, feels like a resort with all the amenities but in the desert. It’s cool in the mornings and bakes in the day and cools off again at sunset. There are flies but you kinda get used to them and it goes with Ningaloo – red dirt, white sandy beaches. It accompanies the rawness of where you are, it’s authentic outback Australia – so there’s no mistaking you know where you are.
We ate at the hotel – food is great. My personal favourite for brekkie and lunch was, The Social Society in Exmouth town. Healthy and amazing smoothies and food. We also had dinner at the Froth Craft Brewery with a whole group of young local photographers – a personal highlight for all of us. They were living in the moment and were all doing what they loved – mostly girls, a good example for our boys. Good salads and pizza here – better than pub food.
Our first day we drove to Charles Knife Canyon for sunset drinks. It’s vast, breathtakingly beautiful and the best place to watch the sun go down.
Day 2 was a highlight – our chance to dive with the whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef. We went with Live Ningaloo they have a maximum of 10 guests. It’s intimate, you make some new friends and their crew is about as passionate as they come. This was one of the best days of our families lives, to be in the open ocean with these beautiful calm creatures is beyond any kind of expectation or dream you may have. Our youngest Spike jumped in swam in quite choppy seas 5 times and had according to him ‘the best day of his life’. We didn’t see our eldest Jet much as he was with the whale shark at all times. Magic.
We spent 2 nights off the grid at Sal Salis. It’s a beach side safari camp and is a very unique and beautiful experience. Planted alongside Ningaloo Reef on one of the most beautiful stretches of beaches we’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen a few) you camp in luxury style tents, eat at a communal table for meals and see kangaroos, snorkel off the beach on the reef for hours on end and watch magical sunsets. It’s roughing it in luxury (note 20 litres of water a day only and pit toilets) a magical eco resort with amazing cuisine and staff you wanna be mates with. We loved this experience as a family, so much.
There’s plenty to do by land also, we went rock wallaby hunting in a nearby Canyon – found em. This was about an 8 minute drive from Sal Salis and on the way home we saw dingoes and emus. There’s no shortage of wild life and for kids it’s real Australia and breathtakingly beautiful.
There are many surf breaks the whole way along the coast – even for mum. One we visited and loved was called Dunes and it was popular with the tourists and locals and a great shaded shelter right on the beach.
After 5 days in Ningaloo we flew back to Perth, straight into a hire car and made our way down south.
We spent our first night at Pullman Bunker Bay Resort – perfect for families with large villa type accommodation and a nearby restaurant and bar and top resort facilities (pool/gym) and a walk to a beautiful stretch of beach.
The waves were pumping and we spent the morning at 3 Bears – beaches are mostly empty – long white and sandy and untouched with amazing rock formations spilling into the beach.
The next two nights were spent at Smiths Beach Resort – stunning large apartment style accommodation with open fire places and large balconies overlooking Smiths Beach. We loved this location and the accommodation was stylish, comfortable and luxury in every way – with the nearby Lamonts restaurant for takeaway and sit down – amazing food. We rated it highly here.
We visited Next Level Monkey Biz and as a family LOVED it. We’re all pretty active and agile – but it certainly tests your climbing, swinging and balance ability but well worth the visit. The zip line was the highlight. A must do in Margies.
Be mindful that things are far apart – so don’t rush and try to fit too much into your day. We of course were on turbo and did as much as possible. But take your time…Tans are unique people.
I almost don’t want to give away the Aquarium – it’s a locals spot and you can swim in the bluest of blue rock pools. It’s not far from Smiths Beach Resort. The second carpark along smiths beach road and a good 15 minute walk through lush bushland and oh so worth it when you arrive. Take a packed brekkie or just your towel and swimmers, you won’t be disappointed. We loved it here.
There are plenty of places for a beautiful long lunch – in Vineyards. Our pics were the Amelia Park (for very fine dining – not that great for kids), Barnyard, Wild Hop Brewery and Aravina Estate.
The town of Dunsborough has everything you need grocery and supplies wise. Check out Milc Fashion Homewears and Lifestyle for a little shop. Mum liked it here!
Food wise – we loved the Dunsborough Bakery, The Merchant and Maker and Mealup for great coffee and takeaway food.
Canal Rocks is definitely worth a visit for sunset. The kids climbed the rocks – there’s an vast rawness about WA’s South West coast and means your kids have freedom to explore without you watching their every move.
Our next stop was Margaret River/Prevelly where we stayed in a stunning private home with these guys. It was nothing short of a beachside mansion with open fire – views over the beach and close to ‘The Common Prevelly’ for pub food and drinks. We weren’t here long enough to really make the most of this house, but it’s a book for a long weekend or week and read by the fire in winter or on many of the open decks in the sun.
We watched the sunset at Gas Bay – stunning and a great wave off the beach.
Don’t miss Elephant Café – on the beach and food is great. A very unique special spot for brekkie, lunch or a coffee.
Next stop Denmark – wowee, we loved it here. The isolation and beauty was out of this world. The most stunning beaches and one our favourite spots to stay at Parry Beach Breaks. These stand alone, very private houses are everything you could ever wish and want for in accommodation. A bath with a view, luxury fittings and linens and just felt like home. An open fire place with views over Parry Beach, kangaroos, emus and something indescribable in the air.
You will need to stock up in town as the accommodation allows for you to cook etc, but things are far apart. It’s a half hour to town, so take all your supplies. Trust me you are not going to want to leave. Darren and Angie – we will forever be grateful to you for your kindness and making us feel so very at home. We can’t wait to come back.
Must do’s that will knock your socks off. Most beautiful spots in the world:
Valley of the Giants
Boston Brewing Company (amazing spot in the sun, by a vineyard and great for kids to play while mum and dad relax).
Mrs Jones for brekkie in Denmark
Nornabar near Parryville for lunch before Valley of the Giants (old fashioned home cooked food and service) remember don’t be in a rush anywhere cause you will be the only one!
We hit the rain for the last 3 days of our trip – but it didn’t slow us down or dampen our adventure.
Next Stop Esperance. Here we stayed at Esperance Chalet Village. Beautiful location out of town. Rustic – with a touch of luxe. Our cabin was small, but quaint. A small cocktop for cooking basic things. This is a summer town, so you can enjoy open fire pits at night and hammocks that rest between giant gum trees. We’ll be back to experience it that way.
Lucky Bay – we missed the Kangaroos on the beach as they apparently don’t care for the rain and winds
Sand dunes at Wylie Bay – we loved and the light, of the light.
And 10 and 11 mile on low tide – rocks pools.
Cape Le Grand
Taylor street Quarters
The pier Hotel (great pub food)
Downtown expresso bar for coffee and toasties
WA we loved our time with you. Our hearts are full, our family so grateful for the adventure and we will be back to see more of you.
Shop all of our Western Australia artworks here
Words: Debbie Tan
Photographer: Eugene Tan