After leaving the Perth CBD we headed up the Sunset Coast, where we briefly considered learning to surf but decided it was too cold, so opted for a seaside coffee instead. We drove up the coastal tourist drive and visited City Beach and Scarbourough Beach, as well as Hillarys Boat Harbour.
We hadn’t really made it out of the city that day, so we settled in at a nearby caravan park where we met some of Perth’s famous black swans.
Yanchep National Park
A bit north of Perth is Yanchep National Park, where the main attraction is the koala bears that live there. I’m not really sure about the advertising because they bill them as “koalas in their natural environment”, though they are contained in a big open air enclosure, so not exactly running around in the wild. But no matter, it’s not a cage per se so you can get up close for some good pictures.
At one point one of the koalas climbed down from its tree and scurried around on the ground a bit before climbing up a different tree. It was exciting because I’ve never seen a koala do anything but sleep before.
Nambung National Park
Nambung National Park is home to the Pinnacles, some very weird and famous rock formations. They are basically a a bunch of tall pointly rocks, which look particularly weird because they stick straight out of the desert sand.
No one knows how the Pinnacles were formed, but the main theories are that they are either the remnants of a petrified forest, or formed by minerals leaching down in the soil (around tree roots?). The park has a fancy visitors centre that leads to both a walk trail and drive around the Pinnacles. It was pretty hot out but we did both, because why not?
Jurien Bay and Green Head
Jurien Bay is a small but pretty coastal town a couple of hours drive north of Perth. We were here mainly to camp and visit Green Head, an even smaller nearby town. There is not much to see in the town, however there is a very friendly guy named Brendan, who has an 8 person boat and takes small groups out to visit the Australian sea lions that live on a nearby island. This was totally one of the highlights of the trip so far.
We headed out with Brendan and four others at 9am in the morning. The island is pretty close and only takes about 20 minutes to reach. As soon as we got close enough, we could see lots of sea lions lounging on the beach.
Brendan explained that the young males and female sea lions like to swim with people, while the larger males are lazier/more aloof and will at most just swim by to check you out. Sure enough, as we approached the island the smaller sea lions perked up. Conservation regulations dictate that you can’t go on or within 15m of any island colonized by sea lions, but that’s not a problem because the sea lions actually come to you. By the time we pulled up about 20m from shore, several sea lions had swam over and were bobbing around our boat, swimming up and down its length and popping their heads out to look at us. Brendan gave us the usual “you can’t touch them but they may touch you” wildlife rules, and said that the more we swam around, the more they would also get into it. So off we went!
The sea lions were SOOOO CUTE. As soon as we started swimming around they started playing with us, and it was AMAAAAAAZING. As we swam around the sea lions followed, diving when we dove, surfacing when we came up to breathe, and doing summersaults and barrel rolls (much more gracefully) when we did.
If you stopped and just floated around the sea lions would come right up to your face and then flip away, like they were trying to entice you to get swimming again. I took about a million pictures because they were so adorable.
The water was cold, but trying to keep up with the sea lions kept us pretty warm. The littlest ones were the most playful. At one point an enormous male swam up, but as Brendan had said, he just looked at us and then continued on his way.
We swam around for a couple hours, but the sea lions outlasted us as eventually we all got too tired and cold and got back on the boat. We had hot chocolate and cookies while one last sea lion swam around the boat watching us, lest we come back in the water. Sadly it was time to head back to shore, but it had been pretty much the BEST DAY.
On our drive back south we stopped in Jurien Bay to get pies for lunch. We are really getting into this pie thing, how Australian are we?!