Gumbanan's traditional mayoorr fish trap at sunset
Gumbanan's traditional mayoorr fish trap at sunset.

Deviating to the Dampier Peninsula – Offroad adventure

Pender Bay
Pender Bay campsite on the cliffs overlooking the beach.
Golden trevally
Bridie’s PB golden trevally,
Pender Bay caves
Pender Bay caves.

IT’S time to recount our visit to the Dampier Peninsula, located north of Broome, Western Australia.

The turn-off is about 30km east of Broome township and heads due north.

The road is only bitumen for 10km and then it’s back to dirt and corrugations.

spanish mackerel
The author with a spanish mackerel

At the time we were travelling, they were doing major roadworks and there was talk of it being made completely bitumen all the way to Cape Leveque in future.

First port of call was a couple of free camp stays, beginning with Willie Creek.

This is also the home of the Willie Creek Pearl Farm, which offers tours around the farm, scenic helicopter flights, a restaurant and more.

The creek was picturesque, with beautiful turquoise water at high tide, while at low tide it was merely sand flats with a trickle of water running through the deepest sections.

It was lovely on low tide in the afternoons to walk along the creek to the mouth at the surf beach.

We walked past some Australian Customs sites where I believe they dismantle illegal fishing and immigration boats

Heart Rock
Heart Rock at Pender Bay.

It was quite nice to watch the sunset over the surf beach and be the only souls for miles around.

Willie Creek is a 72-hour free camp and you must be fully self-contained. From here we travelled a little further north to Quondong Point, which was another 72-hour maximum free camp perched high on the red cliffs above the ocean. We regularly saw whales migrating north throughout the day. It was also very interesting here at night-time because we were invaded by saltwater hermit crabs. They were everywhere, including some really big ones! The kids played with these crabs for hours and they provided plenty of amusement for the whole family.Dampier Peninsula Dampier Peninsula Dampier Peninsula

Another highlight for the kids were the dinosaur fossils that could be found on the rocks at low tide just south of the main camping area. It was also a famous spot for sea fog in the morning.

We would wake to a complete white-out for the first couple of hours until the sun climbed high enough and burnt off the moisture to reveal beautiful blue skies. Of a morning it was truly amazing to sit outside while enjoying a coffee and see that every square centimetre of sand around your van was covered in hermit crab tracks where thousands of them had foraged during the night.

From here we were off to Pender Bay, which is just north of Beagle Bay. The road up was quite corrugated, with lots of bulldust sections. Turning off to Pender, the tracks were quite sandy but still hard enough to comfortably tow the caravan through.

Upon arrival at Pender Bay Escape we were welcomed by owner Andrew who gave us a run-down of the area and detailed what sites were available. Pender Bay Escape has toilets and showers, though no power, and was $30 per night for the family. The campsites are large and very private, with 50-150m between sites, so you have your own piece of paradise to yourself. We managed to get a lovely site, again on top of the red cliffs overlooking the magnificent white sand beaches and crystal-clear water. Again whales were constantly splashing and playing just offshore in the warm waters of the bay. We could quite clearly see and hear them, with some almighty breaches and tail slapping. This was hands-down my favourite place on the Dampier Peninsula.

Little goat tracks ran down the cliff and onto the beach where every afternoon a dozen or more kids would play soccer while all the adults sat atop the cliffs having a quiet coldie and occasionally offering refereeing advice, because as you probably know, kids can start playing for sheep stations. The water was amazing to swim in at high tide and very clear. Walking around the point, we found amazing caves to explore as well as a heart-shaped rock and a rock that looked like the knight of a chess set. The afternoons with the setting sun were truly amazing. Red cliffs, white sand and blue water all changed colours through sunset. Just magic.Dampier Peninsula Dampier Peninsula Dampier Peninsula

Click here for an awesome braised Mango chicken recipe you can cook over coals when camping.

The other great thing about Pender Bay was the amazing fishing. A nice road down to the beach allowed visitors to launch boats and car toppers and we were lucky enough to have some amazing weather while we were there. We only had to run a couple of kilometres out, where I slowly sounded around and found bait balls and rubble patches. Here we jigged up nice golden trevally, spanish and school mackerel. We also bait fished, which resulted in sweetlip, cobia and parrotfish. The marine life around us was just incredible. Whales, dolphins, turtles and tuna schools were visible almost all day.

The kids had a great time and Bridie landed her PB golden trevally of about 6kg. Dustin gave me a proud Dad memory by slugging it out for 40 minutes with a 20kg-plus cobia. I didn’t bring it into a car topper to destroy everything in its path, but got some photos of it in the water alongside the boat. We only intended to camp three days at Pender but ended up staying a week. And we would have stayed longer but we were running low on supplies, so we moved on to Gumbanan. We will definitely return to Pender in years to come.

Gumbanan is located on the inlet of One Arm Point and boy don’t the tides move around here, with crazy lows to mega highs. The water literally rushes in and out with the moon. Camping at Gumbanan Wilderness Retreat costs $34 per night for a family. The campgrounds overlook the traditional Indigenous mayoorr fish trap. We went to Gumbanan because it is one of the few places where you can witness and photograph the staircase to the moon. This is when the full moon rises and the reflection off the mud flats at low tide makes these line-like ‘steps’ from the earth to the moon. It is spectacular to see but quite difficult to capture with a standard camera. We used Gumbanan as a base to head over to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, which is just across the main road into One Arm Point. Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm offered beautiful meals and cold drinks. If you bought food and drinks you were welcome to use the infinity pool with a beautiful outlook over Cygnet Bay. The farm also offered tours of the pearling factory and beautiful pearl jewellery for sale. Dampier Peninsula Dampier Peninsula Dampier Peninsula

Unfortunately for Raylene, I wasn’t carrying enough money haha.It is a little oasis, especially after bush camping for quite a few weeks. Cygnet Bay is a must see if you are in the area. We also did a day trip to Cape Leveque and had a look around the resort there, enjoying nice iced coffees and milkshakes. The coastline up that way is absolutely breathtaking, especially with the red cliffs, white sand and blue water. It makes for an excellent place to take some great photos. We had a ball at the Dampier Peninsula and thoroughly recommend having a look around there. You’ve got plenty of places to stay and see as well as fantastic fishing on offer. It’s a great place to take kids and we came across plenty of other families. When you plan on travelling in this part of the world, you need to take lots of food and water because there are very few shops and most of the water is from bores and not suitable for drinking.

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About TODD EVELEIGH

TODD EVELEIGH
Operating out of Lucinda, north Queensland, Todd Eveleigh owned and operated Crackajack Sportfishing Adventures. Now, Todd is on the road with his family, caravanning around Australia and enjoying all the greatest hits in our wide brown land.

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