Down South Day 2: On the Rocks and Underground

Canal Rocks, Yallingup.

Apart from booking the accommodation, we didn’t do much planning for this trip. The extent of my thoughts on what we should see and do only went as far as a vague notion of retracing my steps from childhood family holidays, while trying show-off some of the nicer parts of WA to Emma. Armed with a ‘let’s see where this road takes us’ mentality, and a desire to see the ocean, we set off early on Day 2, and almost immediately, and quite accidentally came upon the beautiful Canal Rocks.

Despite the chilly breeze, the early morning was a great time to be there, with practically no one around and nice lighting for some snapshots.

The windiness, the rocks and the green hills reminded me of some beaches I visited in Ireland.

Emma on the rocks.

Next we headed to Lamont’s Smiths Beach to discuss our plans for the day over a breakfast of berry pancakes and coffee. After some debate, we decided to save the winery touring until the end of the day, and made up our minds to first drive north to the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse.

As we sat in the car, Emma poured over the maps in her many, many brochures, while I tested out the reception on my iPhone. It seemed to be working okay most of the time, but partly due to a recent update to iOS 6 and mostly from having to work harder to pick up signals out in the country, the battery was draining at an alarming rate. (Foreshadowing…)

I handed Emma my phone as I started the engine and said, “Hey, you can use my Whereis app to get directions if you want to. But whatever you do, don’t use the Maps app. Apple have replaced Google Maps with their own thing, and apparently it can’t be trusted.” (Horrible foreshadowing…)

“Uh-huh,” Emma said, still going over the brochures.

“Okay, so I guess I’ll just head back the way we came from and keep going North, right?”

“Wait, I think this is a shorter way, if we go along the coast,” Emma said gesturing to the map.

“No honey, look the dotted lines indicate that it’s an unsealed road. If there’s one thing you need to know about travelling in Australia, it’s that you stick to the safest option. Unless you’ve got a 4WD, stay away from the unsealed roads, okay?” (Dread-infused foreshadowing…)

On the walking trail, with the lighthouse in the distance.

So we set off the safe way and soon arrived at the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. Reading the signage, we decided against a tour of the lighthouse itself, and instead opted to do a circuit of some of the nature walks through Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.

One of these led us to the Whale Lookout point, where we were lucky enough to spot some humpback whales emerge in the distance. Without realising it, we had arrived during migration season, where a variety of species including humpback, southern right and blue whales can often be seen in the region. In the colder months they move closer to the equator to give birth in the warmer waters, ideal for protecting their calves who have only a thin layer of blubber; while in the warmer months they head down to the Antarctic to feast on delicious krill.

The Cape Naturaliste lookout really is an ideal place to see whales up close, as they often seek the protection of Geographe Bay during their migrations.

The bridge at Whale Lookout, Cape Naturaliste.

Not pictured: whales.

The shoreline at the Whale Lookout, Cape Naturaliste.

Stalactites in Ngilgi Cave.

Our next stop for the day was the Ngilgi Cave (pronounced Neelgee), a place I remember once visiting as a kid on a family holiday. Formerly known as Yallingup Cave, it was discovered in 1899, and has been a popular tourist destination since it was opened to the public in 1900.

In the early days, it was particularly popular for young newlyweds to visit the cave on their honeymoon, so many of the rock formations were named accordingly, such as ‘Cupid’s Corner’.

Back in those days it apparently took 8 to 10 hours to traverse the cave, all while wearing ridiculously inappropriate honeymooning attire (fancy suits for the gents, corsets and big dresses for the ladies). These days it only takes about an hour, and believe me, you’ll be thankful you can wear a t-shirt and shorts. It gets pretty humid down there.

The lighting is quite good for highlighting the rock formations.

Half-Life memories, anyone?

Sweaty and a little out of breath due to the excessive carbon dioxide, we left the cave and headed home to shower and change before heading out to lunch at Clancy’s Fish Pub. It’s a pretty big place, so we had no trouble finding a seat, all though there was a massive line to order food, and a bit of a wait time to be served. While we waited, Emma went to get us some drinks. As the designated driver I only wanted one drink, but Emma being Emma, got us White Rabbit Dark Ale, and on an empty stomach we were both tipsy immediately.

After some fish and chips sobered me up, we hit the road again on the way down through Margaret River, stopping at several wineries along the way. We stopped at random, sometimes choosing the places with the most interest names, sometimes choosing the prettiest surroundings. We visited Cullen Wines, Brookland Valley Margaret River and Woody Nook Wines, tasted several reds and picked up a few bottles as well.

Emma at Cullen Winery, Margaret River.

We only came here because Emma couldn’t find a Team Jacob winery.

Woody Nook, Margaret River.

After all the wines (most of which went into Emma, and not into the spittoons as intended) we headed into the main strip of Margaret River for dinner. Along the way we had a little detour to Target Country so Emma could buy a pillow because the pillows at our accommodation were too hard apparently. These are the things I put up with. Anyway, we had dinner at Margie’s Pizza, which was okay, but it was no Marco’s Pizza, which I consider to be the finest in the state.

It was an early dinner, but as we ate I pondered whether we could make it back to Yallingup with the sun still up. My dad always warned me against driving in the country at twilight. That’s the time when the kangaroos come out, and things can get a little dangerous on the road.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be back long before the sun goes down,” Emma said. (Final, horrifying foreshadowing.)

Stay tuned for the next instalment, or click here for my account of Day 1.



3 thoughts on “Down South Day 2: On the Rocks and Underground

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