Still hugging the Western Australian coastline as we head south, we came across a bush camp nestled into the sand dunes at a place called Quobba Point – about 70kms north of Carnarvon, and a million miles from cares. Bliss!
Quobba offered spectacular sunsets, long walks on the beaches as well as up the sand dunes to the quaint lighthouse, reef snorkeling straight off the beach, powerful seas, rocky cliffs and blowholes.
And lots of peace and serenity!
There are many reminders of the potentially treacherous conditions in the local area. Thankfully, the seas were relatively calm when we were here. Even so, the power of the waves was evident.
The rocky terrain was like nothing we’d ever seen before. The sharp uneven ruggedness reminded us of Hawaii’s volcanic terrain, except the colour here was more a light orange than Hawaii’s dark grey.
And the rolling power of the waves crashing on the flat rocky platforms was simply mesmerising.
The beach at Quobba Point fringes a calm lagoon, protected by a nearby reef. The water in the lagoon barely covers the huge reef, which is filled with thousands of fish and a lot of (mainly dead or colourless) hard corals. We learned the hard way that it was better to snorkel here at high tide, lest there’s a lot of squeezing in of the tummy to avoid scraping across the shallow corals! That said, high tides when we were here were only 30 to 50 cms higher than low tides!
The best snorkeling spot at Quobba is a (slightly!) deeper section, colloquially known as ‘the aquarium’. We understood why as soon as we entered the water … it literally felt like we were swimming in a large aquarium in somebody’s living room, as we were met by fish, clams, sea urchins and corals.
And the best parts … the water was warm (no wetsuits required) and it was easily accessible from the beach. Just walk in and snorkel.
Check out our short video of Quobba’s highlights, especially snorkeling the ‘aquarium’ …
When the water was too shallow for snorkeling, we walked along the beaches and sand dunes. We thought we’d take the short walk up to the nearby lighthouse, but we didn’t anticipate the many ups and downs trudging through very soft sand! Still, the view from the hill was pretty spectacular.
The wildflowers are starting to make an appearance in and around Quobba.
Quobba Point is also the closest land to where the HMAS Sydney was sunk by the Germans in the Indian Ocean in World War II.
We reluctantly said farewell to Quobba (promising to return some day), and headed to nearby Carnarvon to stock up on supplies and book our hardworking vehicle in for a service.
Carnarvon’s seafront area, known as the Fascine, has recently been refurbished, and includes a lovely waterside walk. A walk of remembrance includes a plaque for each of the 645 lives lost from the HMAS Sydney.
It wasn’t until we saw this unusual Give Way sign (below) that we realised we hadn’t seen any pedestrian crossings in Carnarvon. Unusually, it looks like traffic has the right of way here!
Carnarvon’s other claim to fame is its little known role played in the NASA’s manned space program in the 1960s and also in Australia’s satellite communications history.
With the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum tantalisingly close to where we were staying (ie overlooking the van park!), we decided to pay it a visit.
One fascinating display included video of Australia’s first ever satellite television broadcast in 1966, between BBC London studios and a live cross to the streets of Carnarvon (in fact, in front of the ANZAC memorial in one of the images above). The video showed the shire president of the time, a young Wilson Tuckey (if you please!) and included British family members in the London studio being able to talk to their relatives in Australia.
The first Australian satellite broadcast actually came about as an afterthought, following the unsuccessful launch of a satellite intended for the Pacific, which failed to reach the desired orbit, thereby rendering the satellite useless. However, enterprising ground station engineers realised they had a brief opportunity when the satellite passed above the Indian Ocean, giving them a 20 minutes window to set up the satellite link to England. As Carnarvon had no television service at the time, broadcast equipment was rushed from Perth, over 900kms away! And the rest, as they say, is history!
Carnarvon was once home to the One Mile Jetty, with a tram that used to run the length until recently. Sadly, it is now closed to the public following damage by floods and fire, and years of insufficient upkeep.
Nearby the jetty, we stumbled upon the beautifully haunting Lock Hospital Tragedy memorial. (We say stumbled upon, as we found no mention of the memorial in any of the tourism paraphernalia, nor signage to the memorial itself.)
The statue is sited here at the terminus for the “Path of Pain” and the departure point for hundreds of Indigenous Australians, in chains, from their traditional lands to their forced incarceration to offshore Shark Bay islands in the early 20th century. Most children were left behind, and this statue embodies a distressed girl and her young brother pointing out to sea in the general direction of their forcibly removed parents.
The Lock Hospital Tragedy memorial can be found on a small tract of land between the old One Mile Jetty and the nearby mouth of the Gascoyne River.
We will be following the (largely dry) Gascoyne River inland over the coming days, as we drive beyond Gascoyne Junction in search of Mount Augustus – Uluru’s less famous but significantly larger cousin!