Travel Story Messing about in boats: A houseboat holiday in Walpole

Photo of Geoffrey Thomas

A stay on a houseboat at Walpole's Nornalup Inlet is a chance to enjoy nature’s therapeutic beauty.

Be prepared to see not another soul, just chicken soup for the soul in the form of the most wonderful array of wildlife which allowed us into its domain. 

Where are we? Nornalup Inlet on a houseboat and our company is osprey, heron, dolphins, pelicans, swallows, oyster catchers, waterfowl, and a couple of courageous crows.

And getting among this wildlife is so easy.

We once again hired the six-berth Break Away houseboat from Houseboat Holidays in Walpole and after a 40-minute refresher operational and safety briefing from owners Rob and Louise we are on our way.

And if you forget a thing or two there is a comprehensive illustrated and easy-to-follow manual, as well as detailed maps of where to go and, more important, where not to go. Those with a Recreational Skipper’s Ticket get a shorter brief.

Gentle back-pressure on the twin throttles and our boat eased back away from the wharf. A gentle nudge into forward and a lazy turn and we are on our way. We set course for our favourite spot — Snake Island near the mouth of the Deep River.

The anchorage is nestled into the leeward side of the tiny island giving you flat calm conditions except in a north-wester.

Houseboat Holidays has set up 16 anchorages in the inlets and the Frankland River and, with a little care, the yellow buoys are easy to pick up if you approach them at slow speed and into the wind.

Once secured for the night, it was time to relax and enjoy an icy-cold champagne and nature’s therapeutic beauty.

Over our champagne and smoked salmon, we discuss how many times we have done the “houseboat thing” since our first encounter in 2010.

A quick scan through our image library reveals this is our seventh venture afloat. And within a few minutes we are reminded why.

A pelican just cruises by to inquire if we are considering some fishing.

Pelicans seem to know that we will pull in undersized fish and have to throw them back — in their direction of course.

However, a warning, feeding of the birds is not allowed.

Darkness heralded a galaxy of stars so bright they were clearly reflected on the water’s surface on our first night.

Morning broke with thunderstorms brewing from the north-west. For the next 24 hours, we were treated to a spectacular light show of rainbows and lightning.

A great time to throw a line over the back and catch bream, skipjack, herring and King George whiting — most of which went back.

All around us the wildlife was in full flight. An osprey swept down to catch a fish and took it on to a nearby tree to devour.

On the beach oyster catchers were guarding their offspring.

In another direction a pod of dolphins frolicked. 

When the weather cleared it was time to explore so we moved across the inlet and up the Frankland River.

This is where mobile coverage dies but apparently Telstra has just commissioned a new tower, which is great news for those who just must stay in touch.

Across the inlet there is excellent coverage but once you get lost in the river valleys the signal fades.

The houseboat comes with an easy-to-use 4m dinghy which is great for exploring the upper reaches of the Frankland or Deep Rivers.

A word of caution — the Deep River isn’t that deep, so easy does it.

Another great location for the dinghy is the mouth of the Nornalup Inlet where you will find deep blue-green water beside a steep hill with the raging Southern Ocean beyond. Fish abound so bring your fishing licence with you.

The houseboat is well equipped and has all the comforts of home, enabling you to enjoy a host of out-of-the-way experiences.

Walking on remote coastal tracks, swimming with not a soul in sight, fishing in the secluded bays, messing around in boats or enjoying the ever-changing vistas.

And there’s nothing more relaxing than to read a book or do a jigsaw while hearing the cries of the stunning bird life. 

You need to bring food, drinks, sheets, towels and tea towels, fishing gear, bait, sunscreen, hats and insect repellent.

The houseboat has laptop power, a radio/CD player, a comfortable lounge to put your feet up and a great barbecue on the front deck. 

And you can take evening cocktails on the roof deck.

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