Trip 37, part 2 – Exmouth

It’s good to be back in Exmouth and feels very familiar, despite it being nearly 10 years since we were last here.

We expected there to be more change, however, the town still feels the same, with many of the same shops still operating. It’s certainly busy though! We’re staying at the RAC caravan park in town and it’s been packed the whole time.

With no plans for our time here, we arrived on Thursday 16th June and had a couple of days to ourselves, before BJ, Rod, Paul and Tania join us on Saturday.

Our first day was spent reacquainting ourselves with the town, walking up from the caravan park. One nice change to the town is the addition of Froth, a microbrewery at the end of the mall. So after exploring the shops we then, somehow, found ourselves sitting at the bar, overlooking the mall with a cold pint in hand and some modern pub grub. Magic! We needed the liquid refreshments as the humidity was extreme, with heavily clouded skies and rain on the horizon. It didn’t start raining until about 8 pm that night and what started as a gentle pitter-patter, soon evolved into a steady torrent, with 69mm of rain falling overnight. Goldy our van stood up to the elements and we spent the night dry and safe inside.

Setup in Exmouth
Best soup ever!
Yep, never a truer word said
And the good stuff – liquid gold.
Jules with her breakfast options
Vlamingh Lighthouse

The guys weren’t due to arrive until late afternoon so we spent Saturday exploring the Charles Knife and Shothole Canyon drives. Taking plenty of pics at both. The road to Charles Knife takes you up onto the range and provides fantastic views east, back into the gulf. The whole cape is cloaked in verdant green grasses at present, contrasting nicely with the oranges of the ranges and turquoise of the ocean.

View along Charles Knife Canyon
View along Charles Knife Canyon
View along Charles Knife Canyon
View along Charles Knife Canyon
With 69mm of rain overnight, the top of the canyon was flooded in sections
View along Charles Knife Canyon
View along Charles Knife Canyon
View along Charles Knife Canyon

Whereas the road into Shothole follows the creek bed up towards the head of the canyon, with the overnight rain, much of the road was reclaimed by nature and was still running like a creek with a reasonable runoff flowing across the top and lots of creek crossings. We made it up to the end and out again with no issues, only challenged by one steep entry into a creek bed which we managed in low 4wd.

View along Shothole Canyon
View along Shothole Canyon
View along Shothole Canyon
Jules at the end of Shothole Canyon, looking back out to the entry
Gwavin after successfully navigating Shothole Canyon

After the troop had settled in and made welcome, we walked up to Whalebone Brewery, just a few hundred metres from the park, for more locally brewed beer and fantastic pizzas, accompanied by a one-man music show. All in all, a lovely evening and good to catch up with the crew again.

With P&T still finishing their setup on Sunday morning, we opted for a lazy day, culminating in a group drive around the cape and down to Tantabiddy, checking out many of the old beach access haunts we used to frequent. The strong offshore South Easterly, combined with a pumping swell meant the surf breaks were packed. These conditions also provided great views of rolling barrel waves with surf tails flying off behind them.

Pumping surfbreak
Rod inspecting the sea
Rod posing
Vlamingh Lighthouse
Vlamingh Lighthouse

The guys decided to check out the canyons and Learmonth Jetty on Monday morning, so Jules and I drove back into the Cape Range National Park where we completed the Mandu Mandu and Pilgamannu Gorge hikes. Both hikes were fantastic and not too challenging.

Whilst hiking we kept our eyes peeled for the rare Black Flanked Rock Wallabies that inhabit the rocky gorges, however, it wasn’t until we’d stopped to talk to another hiker, that we spotted our first. Hilariously, we’d asked her if she’d seen any wallabies on her hike, as she’d completed more of the walk than us, to which she replied ‘no’. It was then, as I was looking around that I spotted a pair of wallabies, less than 20metres away, just sunning themselves on the rocks.

Now that we had our eye in, we started spotting them regularly, and by the end of the day, we’d counted well over 50 wallabies!

Nankeen Kestrel at the star of our Mandu Mandu Gorge hike
The 1st wallaby, just chilling in the sun, about 20metres away from where we were discussing how we’d not seen any wallabies, with some fellow hikers.
Black-Flanked Rock-Wallaby
Black-Flanked Rock-Wallaby
I liked the crisp reflection of the leaves on the rock
Black-Flanked Rock-Wallaby
Black-Flanked Rock-Wallaby
Black-Flanked Rock-Wallaby
Black-Flanked Rock-Wallaby
Black-Flanked Rock-Wallaby
Black-Flanked Rock-Wallaby. This fella and its mates were sitting on a little rock ledge, out from the gorge on the track in. They were very chill, not moving as we drove the car along the track about 25metres away.

Topping off a beautiful morning of hikes, we arrived at Yardie Creek in time for a beer and box of Pizza Shapes for lunch, before grabbing the kayak for a yak up into the Yardie Creek Gorge. Whilst only a short paddle, the views were stunning and well worth the effort of getting the yak setup. The red and orange rocks of the gorge walls become steeper and taller until they’re towering vertically above you. As we gently paddled down the gorge, we continued to spot Rock Wallabies, and then spied a couple of Ospreys on their giant nests of sticks, before wrapping up the paddle passing a bunch of argumentative fruit bats hanging in the mangroves. We even managed to spot our first baby fruit bat, watching as it clambered over its mum whilst she squawked at her neighbours.

Yaking in Yardie Creek
Yardie Creek Gorge
Osprey on ledge
One of two Egrets in Yardie Creek, the other type being all grey
Osprey in the nest, Yardie Creek
Yardie Creek Gorge
Fruit Bats in Yardie Creek

Rod, Put and BJ wanted to try their luck at yak fishing from the Pilgramannu Beach access on Tuesday, but Jules, Tania and I decided to relax a bit and opted, instead, to snorkel the coral bommies just offshore. We’d not snorkelled here before and enjoyed it, although with a relatively low tide we didn’t see as many fish as we’d hoped.

The highlight of Tuesday, for me, was my late afternoon microlight flight, but as this was so cool I’ve discussed this in a separate blog post here.

After completing my microlight flight, I was so excited that I managed to convince Tania to book her own flight, which she arranged for Wednesday afternoon.

As Tania had to be back in the early afternoon for her flight, most of us chose to snorkel Lakeside Bommies Wednesday morning. Whilst it was a lot busier than we remembered it – word must have gotten out about how good it was – we loved the snorkel, spotting heaps more fish variety. Highlights of the snorkel included 6 or so large, 80cm’ish, Chinaman Cod, a school of large Trevally including watching one Trevally getting cleaned at a cleaning station. We also spotted a small Blacktip Reef Shark, Turtle and some anemone Clown Fish. Cool as.

On our drive back from snorkelling we spotted a strange thing in the distance, which turned out to be a microlight glider parked on the side of the road, south of Tantabiddy. It turns out it was my pilot from Tuesday night, Duncan. On stopping to see if everything was alright, he explained that he was out doing a solo flight spotting whales and whale sharks for their sister dive company when he, as he explained it, ‘did a prop’. Upon closer inspection, one of the three propeller blades was missing so presumably, Duncan had cut the engine and then glided down to land on the Yardie Creek Road. I’m certainly glad I saw this after my flight the previous evening but kinda felt a little bad for Tania in the back seat who was booked for her flight in a few hours. Of course, we couldn’t help but take the piss out of Tania about her impending flight. I’m sure she’ll be fine – fingers crossed….

She’s ALIVE and loved her flight.

Wednesday was completed with a few more craft beers and pub grub at Froth. Oh, I wonder what the poor people are doing.

Three wise dickheads at Froth (pic from Putter)

Our time in Exmouth is starting to wind up now. On Thursday Put and Rod decided to chase some fish over at Learmonth, Jules, Tania and I headed down to Mangrove Bay, while BJ opted for a rest day at camp. Our plan, and hope, was to spot a Dugong in Mangrove Bay from the yak, then based on how calm it was, I was considering jumping overboard with a GoPro, mask and snorkel to try and get some footage.

Alas, we didn’t spot any Dugongs, but still had a lovely paddle for a couple of hours, spotting plenty of Turtles and fish in the shallows.

Kayaking at Mangrove Bay

Friday was a campsite day, restocking food and sorting the van out ready for our impending week, beach camping at Giralia Station. Although, we managed to fit in another session on Friday night at Whalebone Brewery for more beer and pizza!

The crew at Whalebone Brewery with Lucy, the Argentine waitstaff who photo-bombed the photo

Thanks, Exmouth. It was great seeing you again! Not sure when we’ll be back, but we enjoyed our time in such a beautiful part of Western Australia.

If you’ve not visited Exmouth before, we highly recommend you add it to your list.

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