We had four nights camping at Yanchep National Park over the Australia Day long weekend. It is an excellent National Park with heaps of things to keep you occupied. At only an hour and a half away from Perth (even less if you live in the northern suburbs) it is very convenient for a weekend away (or day trip).
We really enjoyed the short drive to the campgrounds from Perth. We had booked the site online through DPAW (an excellent resource if you are interested in camping in National Parks in Western Australia). We purchase a year long annual pass every year to enter all the National Parks in Australia for a 12 month period. It normally costs about $80 a year, but if you are a member of RAC then you can access 50% off through their website. I think this pass (especially at 50% off) is excellent value and we also feel that it is good to support our national parks.
We introduced ourselves to the caretakers and they directed us to our allocated site. At the time the campsite was still being established, so there was not much grass. It was perfect for Em to make countless serves of sand soup to feed to her baby (one of her all time favourite camping games).
The following is a summary of what we did and what is on offer in and around Yanchep National Park.
Chocolate Drops Cafe
We think we know how the cafe got its name as Em’s cousin kept calling all the Kangaroo poo on the grass chocolate drops. I think he was secretly hoping that someone would eat one of them. I had to make it especially clear to Em that it was POO and NOT CHOCOLATE. But luckily, she is almost 3 now and developing a good sense of humour so she was laughing along at the joke. We enjoyed an icecream sitting outside near the lake and were entertained by a couple of galahs in the tree above us.
The kids loved the cave tour. Em’s cousins who are 10 and 9 were always right at the front of the tour listening to everything the Ranger had to say. T asked the classic ‘I am a ten year old’ question of, ‘Would you die if one of the stalactites broke and hit you on the head?’ The Ranger answered, ‘It would depend on how big the stalactite was.’ The Ranger was funny and informative and it was nice and cool down in the caves considering the 42 degree heat outside and it was fun trying to spot king kong in the crystals.
One of the most interesting things about the caves was realising just how much water has dried up and the problem of climate change and how it will affect Perth. Perth has always had a massive aquifer underground and previously (until about 20 years ago) there were underground lakes and streams in the cave. Not anymore. There was one remaining pool of water, otherwise the caves were dry. As the ranger said, ‘If you believe in climate change, or if you don’t, when you look at this you have to acknowledge that something is changing’.
It was also interesting to learn about how the caves were formed. They used to be huge sand dunes which calcified and then collapsed in the centre. They have been around for a long time. The Ranger showed us a tiny little stalactite and said it was older than he was. He then showed us a much bigger one and said that this stalactite has probably been around longer than humans have been on Australia. Pretty crazy stuff!
Unfortunately we didn’t get to the tavern. We talked about going for a meal, but as always I packed WAAAAAY too much food. We took 2 Engel fridges and 1 large esky of food as well as one large container of dry food. We only ate 1 Engel worth of food and had to carry the rest back with us. Next time I swear I am going to meal plan so we don’t have to carry so much food. And I would like to return to try the tavern another time.
We enjoyed the Yanchep beaches although our first trip to the beach – just a bit further down the beach than the Lagoon – was in the afternoon and it was choppy and rough and there was a strong current. Personally I prefer calm peaceful bays. I had to watch all 3 kids carefully (of course Rick was there as well but he is less of a worrier than me.) My worries did not affect the amount of fun they had at any time. They were laughing and giggling and splashing and completely unconcerned about the strong current. All they were concerned about was having a good time (Oh to be a kid again!).
On Australia day we went to the Lagoon, which was exactly my kind of beach. It was calm and shallow and I felt confident to sit on the shore and watch the 2 older kids splash around. They had a great time with the bucket trying to scoop up the little fish that were swimming around. Seriously they spent about 2 hours non stop in the water trying to scoop up those fish. The fact that they did not catch even one never deterred them! Then they all collected all the seaweed they could, dragged it out of the ocean and created a pile of seaweed on the beach. I love that kids can make fun out of anything.
Morning was definitely the best time to be at the beach. As soon as the seabreeze came in in the afternoon it seemed to get rough and choppy. The Lagoon was still lovely and protected but you could feel the pull of the current underwater. There were a few more beaches that we have left to explore but once we found the Lagoon it was hard to go past – especially with a toddler in tow.
We woke early on the Friday morning and did the first walk through Boomerang Gorge, and then the second half of the caves walk. It was beautiful and cool at 6.30 in the morning and there was no one else on the trail (except a couple of kangaroos). We had fun looking out for all the caves. We had learnt on our cave tour that Yanchep has more than 300 caves and we could see many paths coming off the main trail and we were certain they headed out to more caves.
The next day we did the wetlands walk. To get to the start of the walk we did the first part of the Woodland walk and then we had to walk around the lake before the wetlands trail started in earnest. At the lake we watched two kangaroos fight for alpha male supremacy which we stopped and watched for quite a while. It was unresolved by the time we continued on our way to the start of the wetlands trail.
The wetlands trail was meant to be 2.7km but I would say it was over 4km by the time we added in the rest to get to the start of it and then the walk home. We ended up carrying Em for part of it and towards the end she just sat on the path with a look on her face that said, ‘I’m not going any further.’ It was however a lovely walk and most of it was nice and cool and shaded so a good one to do at any time of day.
We drove up to Two Rocks to have a look at the beach there and also because Rick has memories of visiting Atlantis when he was a kid. Em currently has a fascination with Mermaids so he thought she would like to see the huge King Triton statue on the hill. The minute we hopped in the car, Em promptly fell asleep. Being flexible travellers, and parents that enjoy a touch of sleeping child peace and quiet every now and then, we decided to go for a bit more of a drive to give her some more time to sleep and ended up in Guilderton, where the Moore River meets the ocean. Oh my, definitely a piece of paradise that we will be returning to. Rick commented on how it is just so easy to drive past these things – and we have driven past it, probably 20 times in the last 3 years. Em had a great time splashing about in the river. I thought it was too cold to swim. It was 34 degrees, but after 42 degrees the day before it just felt too chilly for me (Haha, what a WA girl I have turned out to be).
Since Em was now awake we drove back to Two Rocks to look at the Atlantis remnants. It is now being developed into a housing estate so most of the statues are behind wire fencing and are not easily viewable. You can still see King Triton on the hill, but I expect once the development is complete it might be an interesting walk around. By the time we had finished that it was time for lunch. I made an executive decision and we got some kick arse fish and chips. We sat in the park and ate them and then headed back to camp for a chill out before more family came to join us for the rest of our trip.
I tried to have a nap one afternoon but Em wanted to see the koalas so I was up and we made it just in time to hear the free talk that they do daily at 3.15pm. There are only 8 koalas that live in the park so it was a bit of an anticlimax, however it was fun to walk around and try and spot them all. We only counted 7 though, so one of them escaped our notice.
We had Em’s two young cousins join us for two days and one night. We had one night on our own and we had two nights joined by Rick’s Mum and her partner and Rick’s cousin and partner. It is always great fun camping with friends and family and we all enjoyed it. Em had a great time with her cousins and it was great fun watching them play together. They loved the beach and the caves but I enjoyed the simple things like, watching their faces light up as they added handfuls of mini marshmallows to their hot chocolates and watching them running around under the sprinklers in the heat of the afternoon on Australia Day.
They did pick the sprinkler up a few times and Rick got a good spray and I had a good chuckle. I loved seeing them make new friends with kids from other camps as an impromptu cricket match was started. And they were very excited every time they spotted a kangaroo.
The cousins were only with us for one night and we all had a great time. It was definitely a benefit of camping so close to home that we could take them for an evening and it wasn’t too far for their mum to pick them up.
It was good fun for us having company in the evenings and sitting around having a drink and a chat. My usual camping routine is bed when the sun goes down, read a book for a bit and then to sleep, so it was fun to have company for a change. Em enjoyed being able to run from camper to camper to have a chat with our visitors before going back to standing on the edge of the camp staring longingly at the kids camped next door.
All in all it was a pretty jam packed few days but we also felt like we had plenty of time to relax. It was also great to be home by midday on Sunday. Yanchep National park is definitely a good one for a long weekend or a weekend when you don’t want to waste too much time travelling but want to fit in a getaway.