The Coral Coast is filled with nature's wonders, with extraordinary sights on the southern part of the highway, finds STEPHEN SCOURFIELD
We’re on the road, between ocean and outback, heading north. On our left shoulder, to the west, is the blonde, sandy coast, the turquoise fringe of the Indian Ocean and then its deep, dark, inky blue. On our right, to the east, the low, rich green kwongan scrub spills through agricultural lands to the outback.
By any standards, anywhere in the world, this transect between red and aquamarine, and all under a canopy of blue sky is, well, a true blue, dinky-di road trip.
The experience of driving our near-north coast is now being rolled up under the title Coral Coast Highway — not one road, or a new road, but a combination of routes that take us through from Cervantes and Jurien Bay to Dongara and Port Denison, Greenough and Geraldton and Kalbarri.
And it is also being made easier, perhaps particularly for friends and family visiting (wanting to experience the real Australia but being careful about how they spend their time) with a new drive-and-fly initiative, with car hire one way, and a flight the other.
It’s a long, varied piece of landscape, full of subtle shifts and changes. So, just for now, we’ll concentrate on the highlights of the southern part of the Coral Coast Highway.
- Pinnacles desert: More than 25,000 years ago, the ocean receded and left deposits of seashells. And the limestone pillars that are the Pinnacles of Nambung National Park are those seashells.
- Jurien Bay: Rather shapely young ladies have helped Jurien Bay earn its reputation for adventure tourism. For the female Australian sea lions living here and looking after their young 220km north of Perth not only lure the males from further south, but have long been an attraction for tourists, too.
- Leeman, Green Head & Stockyard Gully: This spot just north of Jurien strikes me as a secret — a dramatic little bit of landscape between Stockyard Gully Reserve and Beekeepers Nature Reserve and what feels like a remote piece of Indian Ocean coast. Stockyard Gully’s name dates back to the days when it was a stop on the stock route between Geraldton and Perth.
- Mount Lesueur National Park: has more than 900 species of flora, 200 of which have special conservation significance. It is one of the most important flora conservation reserves in WA.
- Dongora: The temptation is to pass through Port Denison and Dongara too fast; the advice is, don’t. Port Denison has a good marina and beaches and good family accommodation.
- Greenough: The temptation in all these places is to stay, but this is a journey, and I head on, calling in to Greenough, with its famous leaning trees and historic settlement. When George Grey saw this region in 1839, he thought it could become the “granary of Western Australia”.
- Geraldton: If there’s one good piece of advice to live by… start a stay in Gero at the Geraldton Visitor Centre. Next to a big fig tree on the foreshore, it’s easy enough to find, and inside there’s plenty of friendly advice, and information. Visitors might start with the comprehensive street art map, showing creative locations throughout the city.
- Pink Lake: North of Geraldton is the heritage town of Northampton, and then we swing off the main highway and head to Kalbarri down the scenic route, down Port Gregory Road, through Port Gregory and past Pink Lake.
- Kalbarri: famous for its gorges and the Murchison River estuary — but the new Kalbarri Skywalk is due to open early next year…
This is an edited version of the original, full-length story, which you can read here.
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