After refuelling and topping up supplies in Broome we started to make our way down the coast. This is now August and we are thinking that by the time we get further south it should start to warm up a bit. So we thought!
Barn Hill Station $28/night unpowered
We were met by a lovely lady at reception who checked us in and explained we could camp anywhere outside of the caravan park, the caravan sites are all powered and shaded. There were some lovely cliff top sites with views of the ocean but they were all full. We could only manage a dusty site close to the walk way to the beach. As always with us the first day was lovely, hot, sunny and perfect for the beach. The beach was lovely to walk along and to go exploring. The rock colours and formations make it a wonderful place to explore. We personally found getting into and out of the water a bit of a challenge. Not sure it was just related to the weather or it is always like that, the swell was high and the current was strong. If you have a boat, you can launch it here and apparently the fishing is great and from what I saw quite a knack when bringing the boat back in. The sunset is gorgeous here and certainly didn’t disappoint. The station has unisex toilets and showers and are kept well maintained. They have a cafe and a lovely grassed area nearby.
During the night the weather turned terrible and there was a weather warning out for strong winds. With loads of prickles stuck to everything and being in a open dusty area, it certainly didn’t make for a nice place to sit out the weather. So we packed up and headed south. The weather was coming up from the south so we hoped if we travelled far enough we may cross it.
Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park $35/night unpowered
What a wonderfully set out caravan park, well maintained and very friendly. I asked for a shady and protected site which we got. The beach was amazing and the beach was completely littered with so many beautiful shells for as far as you could walk or drive. Magnificent sunsets and when the tide went out it made for some magical photos. I highly recommend this caravan park, it has everything you need and with the friendly staff you can’t go wrong. The road in from the highway is a bit rough but I was driving, so can’t be too bad. Otherwise I’m sure Chris would have made me stop so he could drive.
Port Hedland Golf Club $15/night unpowered
Our options were limited here. All the reviews on Wiki Camps did not make us want to stay in a caravan park and there is no free camping in Port Hedland. However, we did find the Port Hedland Golf Club. Now there is not much here but the service you’ll receive from Sandy will be exceptional. She does her best to ensure you have everything you need. The price allows you access to the toilets and showers and Sandy will give you a key so you have access after hours. Sandy also provides a wonderful morning tea for $5/person with lovely scones, jam and cream plus other lovely cakes and tea or coffee.
The port was really interesting watching so many massive ships arriving and departing. Quite amazing considering the size of them.
Pretty pool is a lovely place to go exploring. We obviously visited when the tide was right out and probably took us about 1/2 hour to reach the water. There is a creek that is tidal and you have to cross this during your walk to the ocean, hence the name pretty pool.
Lunch at the Esplanade Hotel was probably our most expensive lunch since leaving home. Albeit very tasty and a beautiful location I’m not sure it was worth the price we paid.
Before we left home we had decided to not visit Marble Bar mainly because it is touted as the “hottest town in Australia” so really hadn’t done any research on the town. On the day before we were planning on leaving Port Hedland, we made the decision to visit Marble Bar and it was certainly worth the visit.
We arrived at the rest area in town and headed straight to the general store and bakery, where we were greeted with a very well stocked Store and the friendliest people running it. The bakery items were delicious and we savoured every morsel of those danishes.
The town supports the travelling community extremely well with picnic grounds, toilets, playground, dump point and a drinking water tap to allow you to fill up your tanks.
Chinaman’s Pool on the Coongan River is a popular swimming hole for the local residents. We found it very calming and a lovely place to spend a few hours.
Marble Bar Pool on the Coongan River, is another lovely place to spend a few hours and a great place to cool off and not too far away from Chinaman’s pool. There are picnic tables and BBQ’s provided. Marble Bar was named after a local deposit of mineral first thought to be marble, which later proved to be jasper (a highly coloured cryptocrystalline variety of quartz). If you pour water over the jasper the gorgeous colours come through. You will face hefty fines if you are caught taking the jasper. They have a place near town where you can go fossicking for Jasper if you would like to collect some.
The Comet Gold Mine
At the Comet gold mine you will be greeted by the lovely Gerard. You will sit out on his verandah and Gerard will tell you all about the history of Marble Bar and the Gold Mine. It will be a couple of hours well spent, it is only $3.00 each and extremely interesting to learn about the hardships of the mine.
We found a great little place to camp for the night on the Hillside – Marble Bar Road called the Comet Rest Stop. You will have to be self sufficient as there’s nothing there which is what makes it so special. Gerard warned us to be careful of our fire as the previous campers failed to make sure their fire was completely out and it burnt a huge piece of land before Gerard and the rest of the town could get there with fire fighting equipment. You can see in the photo below how much was burnt.
As always, we pour our washing up water over our fire embers before we leave any camp site and make sure it is extinguished.
Corunna Downs WW2 Secret Airfield
Another highlight for us at Marble Bar was the secret airfield. Personally I had never heard about this place prior to coming here. Previously you had to seek permission from the Corunna Downs Homestead to gain access to the airfield. However, steps were made to remove the airfield from the leasehold Pastoral Lease.
The airfield is located in scrub and spinifex country, about 35 kms south west of Marble Bar in The Pilbara area of Western Australia. No. 73 Operational Base Unit operated the Corunna Downs airfield which comprised of two intersecting bitumen runways. One ran approximately north-south, 5,000 feet in length while the other ran approximately east-west, 7,000 feet in length. Both runways were approximately 150 feet wide. A 50 foot wide taxiway linked the northern end of the north-south runway to the western end of the east-west runway. Approximately 20 camouflaged revetments to disperse aircraft to minimise bomb damage were constructed at Corunna Downs. RAAF, ADF and USAAF operated out of Corunna Downs airfield during WW2. It was called a secret airbase for a reason, it was hidden so well that the Japanese bombers were unable to ever find it. The long range B24 Liberator Bombers were able to carry ample fuel to enable them to achieve missions over a 14 hour period and return back to base safely. The conditions were primitive to say the least and I can’t even comprehend how terrible the conditions would have been. The base ceased operation in 1945 and was disbanded by 1947.
We couldn’t leave without having a beer at the famous Ironclad Hotel. If the walls could talk in this hotel I’m sure there would be some pretty interesting stories to be told. This hotel has been on this site and serving beer since 1893. The building is clad in iron and It still retains the corrugated iron facade.
We are now heading to the Great Northern Highway to arrive at Karijini National Park. The Hillside – Marble Bar Road is a 154km drive to reach the highway, the first 84km is unsealed and was in excellent condition. Once you arrive at the turn off to Mount Webber Mine the road is bitumen and you will face lots of trucks going backwards and forwards which made it extremely difficult to pass. We had our radio on UHF 40 and found the truck drivers were extremely helpful in assisting us to pass. Once on the highway again, there were still plenty of trucks and they were very accommodating in letting you know when safe to pass.
Two Camel Creek 24 hour rest area (Free Camping)
This rest area is set well back from the road and is not the most inspiring stop however, it does have clean toilets, dump point and skip bins.
After a peaceful nights sleep we headed onto Karijini National Park. After refuelling at Auski Village we found this fabulous rest area. The Albert Tognolini Lookout and rest area. It is so well thought out and set up, a place where you can enjoy fabulous views towards Munjina Gorge. The area is massive and you can certainly get right off the beaten track and find a secluded spot. It is first in best dressed and I’m sure you will find somewhere suitable however, there are no facilities here. If we hadn’t driven all around the secret airbase before heading towards Karijini we certainly would have stayed here the night. We will remember this stop for next time.