When we are looking for a winter weekend or long weekend escape, we often pack the car and head north.
Usually, it’s straight up Indian Ocean Drive until it joins the Brand Highway. We like the way both roads hug the coast, passing through lobster fishing villages such as Lancelin, Jurien Bay, Cervantes, Green Head, Leeman and Dongara.
Surfing Lancelin’s sand dunes
Sometimes, we get the urge to go off-road in our 4WD and get an adrenaline rush taking on massive white sand dunes at Lancelin. It’s a lot of fun, but we always keep an eagle eye out for dirt bikes, beach buggies and 4WDs that can appear from nowhere.
If you have never been before, visiting the Pinnacles near Cervantes is an absolute must-do. Around sunset is the best time to visit, as there are fewer people and the rock formations really light up for great photography. This is Western Rock Lobster country, so we like to pop into the Lobster Shack and snack on some of Cervantes magnificent seafood.
Thereon, it’s very hard for us to drive past the campsite at Milligan Island near Green Head. Watching the sunset over rocky islands and swimming in crystal clear bays is simply sublime. There are also some impressive dunes in the area, which is a quieter alternative to Lancelin.
One for the tastebuds
Our journey north continues to another lobster hub, the attractive little town of Dongara. The Dongara pub is a good place to indulge in local seafood delicacies as well as a few drinks.
From Dongara, it’s a stop at Greenough, a cute little settlement of historical buildings that date back to the 1860s. Then we pop into the beautifully restored Hampton Arms Inn for a cleansing ale or a coffee depending on the time of day.
The Greenough River flows into the Indian Ocean and is often protected by a sandbar, which provides calm conditions for kayaking and swimming. We sometimes camp further upstream on the Greenough River at Ellendale Pool, a nice spot for a swim in summer.
Just south of Geraldton, trees take on a permanent bent look thanks to howling summer afternoon southerlies.
Geraldton is the big town up this way and has a developing funky bar and cafe scene. Follow the Geraldton Food Trail to uncover the best spots.
Did we mention that Geraldton is also the closest big town to two major shipping incidents? Those being:
1. Batavia, which was shipwrecked on the nearby Abrolhos Islands in 1629, yes before Captain Cook. The Geraldton Maritime Museum has the relics and the mind-blowing story of the gruesome Batavia mutiny and massacre.
2. HMAS Sydney, which was sunk in 1941 off the coast by a German ship. All 645 sailors on board died. We both find the memorial on a hill overlooking Geraldton very poignant.
Undeniably, Western Australia is also one of the ten best wildflower places in the world. To see even more spectacular flowers, we usually head back to Perth via the wheat belt towns of Mullewa, Morawa and Dalwallinu. Flowers are at their best in August, September and October.
To sum it up, calling this action-packed getaway a weekend away is a bit of a stretch. Sure, you could do the trip in a couple days and jam in a few activities. But to do it justice, why not bite the bullet and spend a week up this way?