Yalgorup National Park is 45kms south of Mandurah which makes it one of the best National Parks (location-wise) for camping close to Perth. When we stayed there over the Australia day long weekend the weather forecast was perfect with a top of 25 – 27 degrees each day. Perfect weather for camping in the bush in January so we could relax and not worry about bushfires (unfortunately always a concern around that time of year where we live).
The unsealed road to Martins Tank is also the road to Preston Beach. The first drive in was not too bumpy but because four wheel driving and hanging out on the beach is our nation’s greatest Australia Day tradition, the quality of the road deteriorated rapidly over the few days we were there.
The campgrounds at Martins Tank were nice, though pretty basic. There was a drop toilet only and no showers. Em’s cousins were horrified by the toilet when they first saw it. I laughed when I heard them gasp, eyes open wide with shock. So great to give the kids their first drop toilet experience. I paid for it though having to accompany them multiple times when they needed to use it.
There were a total of 34 campsites available with the last few being suitable for caravans and camper trailers. It was a reasonable size site with bits of bush in between each site so you weren’t right on top of your neighbour. Each campsite also had a picnic table and chairs.
We went for a total of 3 nights. 2 of those nights we had Rick’s sister and her 2 kids with us and Rick’s mum and partner also spent a day with us. The last night it was just the 3 of us.
It was a relaxing weekend spent exploring the local area, spending time with family and hanging out at the beach. The kids just loved having two whole days to play together.
They played for hours on their scooters at the campsite. They made friends with some of the neighbours kids and played cricket together and they explored the bush around the campsite, searching for critters with their binoculars, screaming and running back to camp after unearthing an ants nest.
Yalgorup National Park is home to about 15 salt lakes. The first evening, after we had eaten dinner and before the sun went down we went for a quick walk to the closest lake – Lake Preston. It was the hour just before sunset and there was a band of pale pink in the sky that was also reflected in the lake. No one else was down there and it was nice to have a little walk around. We entertained ourselves by taking slow motion Baywatch pictures on the shore of the lake which we all found hilarious. (I think my sister in law got the better photos though).
The main attraction of the weekend was the Australia Day celebrations. We started the day with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and baked beans and were at the beach by about 8.30. The beach was quiet when we arrived, the water was calm and glassy with only a couple of other families there. A stingray brushed against Rick’s legs while he was carrying Em and playing with the kids in the water. I was watching them from the beach and he had a stricken panicked look on his face and almost dropped Em in his haste to get back to shore. It was quite funny really but it is such a shame that stingrays have such a bad reputation after the whole Steve Irwin thing. They are really quite gentle and nothing to worry about in the water. Rick didn’t believe me when I told him he needn’t have panicked but it is true. They will not attack you unless they feel threatened.
We left the beach after a few hours and headed off to see Rick’s Mum and her partner who were staying at Lake Clifton, near the colony of thrombolites. Thrombolites basically looks like a bunch of rocks in the water but are actually an example of the oldest life form on earth. The thrombolites at Lake Clifton are only 3500 years old and not 3 billion years old like the original. It is however one of the few places on earth that you can see them. I like to think of them as breathing rocks (technically they are cynobacteria or something like that but I think the idea of breathing rocks makes them much more accessible intellectually so that is how I like to think of them.) After a short visit we headed back to camp for lunch of salad and sandwiches.
In the afternoon, it was back to the beach for some four wheel driving fun. The beach was like a highway with hundreds of cars on the 20km stretch of sand. Everyone was well set up for the day with awnings off the car and one party had even taken a full size bbq on the back of their ute! Em fell asleep in the jolting car as we rocked through the sand.
Eventually the rest of the family had departed and we were left on our own. After they had all left we decided to go for a bit of an explore ourselves. Lake Hayward was a smaller lake just outside the national park. It was a steaming hot afternoon so we just had a quick look around. It would have been a perfect early morning walk. Unfortunately it was our last afternoon and we had spent all our early mornings getting to the beach before the afternoon breeze came in. For the rest of the afternoon we drove further down the coast, with the air conditioning on while Em slept in the back of the car. She was exhausted after so much fun with her cousins. We stopped at all the small beach side towns getting ideas for future weekends away. We stopped at Myalup, Binningup and the Leschenault Peninsula Conservation Park. All good contenders for a future trip.
The highlight of this trip was spending time with family and watching the kids play. It was a convenient location with the best of a bush based national park which was also close by the beach.