4 4WD TOUR­ING: The West Coast

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Adventure -

Grade: Mod­er­ate More info: www.baird­bay.com, www.seafood­trail.com

YOU COULD TELL by their move­ments that they were feed­ing. The school of fish was ob­vi­ously trapped close to the rocky shore and the small pod of dol­phins was feast­ing on them while the go­ing was good. The mam­mals’ arch­ing backs, rapid dives and planned at­tacks were all part of a well re­hearsed and ex­e­cuted strat­egy. Mean­while, a group of swiftly fly­ing terns swooped through the sky, stoop­ing into a ver­ti­cal plunge as any likely morsel, forced too close to the sur­face by the hun­gry dol­phins, caught their eye.

We were stand­ing on the cliffs at Point Westall, south­west of the fish­ing and farm­ing com­mu­nity of Streaky Bay, en­joy­ing the view of this spec­tac­u­lar coast and look­ing for a spot to camp when the dol­phins had caught our eye. Ear­lier that day we had been at the small com­mu­nity of Baird Bay where we had joined Alan and Tr­ish Payne at Baird Bay Ocean Eco Ex­pe­ri­ence for a swim with the de­light­ful sea li­ons (most peo­ple call them, rather in­cor­rectly, ‘seals’) that call a small is­land just off­shore, ‘home’, as well as join­ing a pod of dol­phins for a short swim. It’s one of the best, if not the best, wildlife ex­pe­ri­ence you can have in Aus­tralia.

From Baird Bay we drove the short dis­tance west to Point Westall and then pushed on along the rugged cliff-lined coast to High Cliffs. Here there is a small and pleas­ant bush camp­ing spot lo­cated just back from the beach and close to the bluff that gives the spot its name.

Over the next week we poked our way north, pass­ing through the coastal town of Streaky Bay and then along the coast, sam­pling its de­lights and camp­ing at such places as Per­lu­bie Beach and the less well known Dunn’s Well in Acra­man Creek Con­ser­va­tion Park. The creek of­fers pro­tected wa­ter and good fish­ing (great for a kayak) as well as fab­u­lous bird watch­ing.

Point Brown juts out into the Great Aus­tralian Bight from near Acra­man Creek and south of the tiny ham­let of Smoky Bay. The good dirt road ends at a sign over­look­ing Ed­ward Bay and the fin­ger of cliffs that is Point Brown. From here a 4WD track skirts the coast and then breaks into myr­iad lesser tracks that cut across the penin­sula to the shores of a shel­tered St Mary Bay and the dis­tant tip of the head­land. There’s fish­ing, snorkelling and surf­ing along this coast as well as pro­tected spots for swim­ming. Off­shore are the scat­tered is­lands of the Nuyts Ar­chi­pel­ago, the is­land group tak­ing its name from the Dutch of­fi­cial, Peter Nuyts, who in the Gulden Zeepard un­der the com­mand of Fran­cios Thi­jssen, sailed these wa­ters in 1627, 125 years be­fore Matthew Flin­ders in the In­ves­ti­ga­tor, and French­man Ni­co­las Baudin in the Geographe.

Just 40km or so from Point Brown, Ce­duna is the big­gest sign of civil­i­sa­tion on this far north­ern coast of Eyre Penin­sula, where you have your choice of head­ing to re­mote beaches and cliff-lined coasts fur­ther west, or head­ing north across well-veg­e­tated sand dunes on Googs Track to Kin­goonya and be­yond. But be­fore you rush off on an­other se­ries of ad­ven­tures make sure you en­joy the fine seafood – espe­cially the oys­ters and the King Ge­orge whit­ing – avail­able in the town. By then you would have re­alised that a 4WD trip to SA’s far west coast is not only an ad­ven­tur­ous and pleas­ant way to spend a week (or a month or more) but it’s also a gourmet ex­trav­a­ganza of some of the finest seafood around. No won­der we keep go­ing back there! – Ron Moon

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