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Destinations Road tripping

What to do in York, WA – a rural town in Western Australia

March 1, 2016

Remote Northern Western Australia can only be described as a desert- extreme temperatures, and dunes with scrub for miles. As you venture south towards the great city of Perth, small valleys and wooded stretches of road become a sign of relief, and you begin to search out every high-point, hill or mountain, you can find to scramble up and enjoy the view of vast open land.

Located inland (East) from Perth, and boarded by a wonderfully ‘cruisy’ stretch of road, you will stumble upon the tiny town of York. The Shire of York boasts the oldest inland town in Western Australia, and is about a 2 hour drive from the coast- located in the Wheatbelt.

A perfect day trip for anyone finding themselves unhappy in Perth or curious about the surrounds, York is gilded in the sentiments of an iconic and historic Australian town. A quick browse of slightly underwhelming reviews on TripAdvisor gave me a general understanding of what I was in for when my boyfriend requested I grab my camera, the dog, and hit the road to York.

I left Fremantle around 6am and had a leisurely 2 hour drive up the range. Upon arriving in York, WA, the first stop was the 24hr Rest Stop where Luke was camped out at. After a quick coffee and run with the dog, we hit up York Visitors Centre for a de-brief. The Information Matron rattled off an overwhelming amount of things to do and see during our short weekend stay, and advised us to make a plan since many shops closed early (1-2pm) and some were shut on Sundays. After a quick scribble of notes we were away!

What to do in York, WA

Get to town early on a Saturday morning (at 9am) to have the best country town experience.

Firstly, Get to the Bakery

Small towns have a damn good baker, and York is no exception. The bakery boys were the busiest in town, and my god, get yourself a spinach roll, vegetarian pie, and beef pie. While you’re there, add an apple turnover to the list, pull up a chair, and eat yourself stupid. The bakery was adequately priced and the food was fresh.

Visit the Information Centre

Located in the Town Hall, the visitor centre in itself is a must see. As you enter the mid 1800’s building you will be greeted by gorgeous Jarrah floors, a detailed pressed tin roof, and a curved staircase. Walk straight through the doors on the lower level and be greeted by an enormous hall with light pouring down from the roof, and a stage worth twirling on. You can clearly imagine the ‘olden days’ as you dance through this empty hall.

The Lolly Shop

Stroll alongside the herritige buildings dating back from the mid 1800’s, until you reach the Lolly Shop. This shop is packed to the brim with every sweet under the sun. Browse through candy collections or settle on an old favourite

The Olive Factory

Head back on the highway and a 5 minute drive will land you at the York Olive Factory. Browse through a collection of delicious spreads and sauces from around regional Australia, and give the Olive Oil a taste. There’s lemon and chilli, as well as the regular. The highlight of this place for us was the home made flying fox! We had a few runs up and down to burn off our tasty Nutella and Caramel homemade ice-cream!


  
  
  

Perts Pantry

The Mill Cafe is a gorgeous spot for a cuppa, and if you stroll around the side you’ll find yourself in a sculpture garden! Just a little further around that corner and you’ll find a shed ‘General Store’ full of wonderful nick nacks, and finally, next to that shed, there’s a little room called Perts Pantry. This is the best place to stock up on local produce!

The Swing Bridge

As you stroll back into town you’ll follow the signs to the Public Toilets in the park next to the river. This park has a convict-built swing bridge that joins both sides of the river. You can’t resist jumping up and down to see how much force the bridge actually takes! It has recently been maintained with new floor boards and is worth a photo op!

The Lookout

As the sun starts setting, make your way up the hill towards the Lookout. It is here you’ll have a great perspective of how the town is nestled in the valley. We spent the sunset snapping silly photos with our dog and sipping cheap wine while the clouds rolled over and the land turned pink.

The Pub

By now you should be joyfully tipsy and starting getting hungry, and the Pub is the place to be. Step inside and be taken back to the 18th century, with green velvet carpets, original wooden features, and posters from festivals dating back to the 50’s. We ordered the daily special each, Chicken Pineapple Parmigiana’s and a schooner of Swan beer, and rolled back to our base. There’s an entertaining bar area and pool table, as well as a separate dining room in which Luke believes he likely saw a ghost. A very interesting place worth a mozey.

Accommodation

York is full of unique accommodation options. You really need to stay the night to appreciate every aspect of this town and there’s something for every budget. From a farm stay out of town, to bed and breakfasts, a simple motel room, or even free-camp at the 24hr rest stop. The town caters for tourists fantastically and even provides RV and Caravaners with free power and a field of green shady grass. Ideal for our dog and plenty of space for the van.

During our quick little York adventure, we fell in love with the tiny town. It had just enough to offer for day-trippers and overnighters, so we certainly were not bored for a minute! The food and dining options were endless and it was a great weekend away from Perth with your pets and partner!

 

Diary

Finding Nowhere

August 27, 2015

As soon as the sun rays lifted above the horizon it set fire to the earth, bringing swarms of flies and making you sweat from every crevasse. It was 5 am, and as I unzipped the swag a lone fly came to greet me, the first for the day. They stick to every surface on your body- eyelids, lips, nose, and inside your ears- everywhere they shouldn’t go, they do.

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Coffee was on and I managed to pester Him enough to wake and rig the boat for our day of exploring and fishing. We only had a brief window where the tides would allow us to launch and retrieve the boat from the shore, so timing was relatively important. As we drove over the crusty red dirt and into the white powdered sand dunes, I couldn’t help but notice the pristine coastline stretching as far as the eye could see. Not a soul in sight but each other.

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He backed the car to the edge of the water as it lapped peacefully against the trailer tires. I unhooked the tinnie and started the motor, throwing in a stupid attempt at a little donut before picking him up from the shore, and off we went, into the bluest of blue waters, towards a glistening horizon, on a journey for finding nowhere. It was at this moment I felt truly ‘alone’- at peace. Just us, the only humans for as far as the eye could see, alone with the big ol’ blue. I thought of how some might call this moment one of ‘calmness’ but it couldn’t be farther.

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The ocean tides were strong, gushing out to sea; birds overhead were screeching to one another; fish were flapping about as sharks pushed them to the surface as their morning meals- this place was ALIVE. There was even a vicious looking sea snake cruising by, and turtles mating in the distance.

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It was uplifting, the thought of it being just the two of us, completely alone in this giant blue world. It was liberating. The gorgeous day continued as we found reefs and rocks leading us to some pretty awesome fishing. Ocean fishing is new to him, but even with the wrong gear we managed to score a decent catch throughout the day. Watching the enormous tides turn from our tiny tinnie was a breathtaking experience. We were simply fluff in a washing machine, being thrown around as waves broke in every direction. Not a lip of wind yet we were flung across the big blue like a dandelion– it was time to get out of there.

Returning to camp as a sunburnt cherub, I was a changed soul. My mind was opened and from that day on the water at Cape Leveque, I became scarily addicted to the feeling of being without humans, and oh what a glorious feeling this was.

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Only in solitude do we find ourselves; and in finding ourselves, we find in ourselves all our brothers in solitude -Miguel De Unamuno

Destinations Hiking

What to do in Chillagoe, a tiny Far North Queensland town

August 20, 2015

North Australia is unlike anything you can possibly imagine. Theres the endless stretch of scrub, the blazing sun, the dry red dust.. if this combination doesn’t make you crazy, the flies sure will. But more than anything, there’s the heat. Just before sunrise, a calm breeze would dance through camp as if tormenting us, because once that sun rose, it would set fire to the land and suffocate us in a blazing inferno of heat. Welcome to Chillagoe, Far North Queensland.

Plenty of water, good shoes, and an Akubra are a must when exploring Chillagoe

Plenty of water, good shoes, and an Akubra are a must when exploring Chillagoe

Chillagoe is a small town 3 hours from Cairns. The drive will take you through dry and remote country, filling you with an overwhelming feeling that you are about to explore a land filled with historic sentiments.

We camped at local show grounds for almost nothing (see the town Visitor Centre to pay a small fee). This is a small empty field with a tap/dump point and toilet/shower shed. We camped in the rear corner, and I much preferred setting up a makeshift outdoor shower over using the germ-pit provided, out of fear of falling through the floor. But the camp experience was not why anyone comes to Chillagoe. Let me share some ideas on what to do in Chillagoe.

We were here to explore the Chillagoe caves, fish the Walsh River, visit the ruins, and sneak around the Australian scrub looking for whatever wildlife we could find.

What to do in Chillagoe

Say G’day to Old Tom

This guy’s a bloody legend, and famous for his unique Ford car collection. If you’re lucky, he’ll let you take a seat in his gleaming red and white 1965 Shelby Mustang in the open garage- it gets the girls, he says. Drop a donation to get him closer to driving his 1958 green 18cwt Freighter around Australia. Well worth the morning visit listening to his passion explode from within.

Get to the Chillagoe Rodeo

May 8-9. You don’t know Queensland if you haven’t experienced a rodeo in the West. The best $25 you will ever spend. Make sure to book the camp grounds as the Chillagoe rodeo brings folks from far and wide. We were bummed to miss out on the rodeo when we visited in September, but it sure makes Chillagoe come alive.

See the Chillagoe Caves

These are the main attraction to Chillagoe, as theres nothing quite like it in North Queensland. You can self-explore the smaller caves if you have the right footwear and lights, however to see the three big guys, you must do a tour with a Ranger. A 3-cave tour will set you back about $50, but there’s cheaper options for the budget-wise fellas like us. By camping at the grounds we could afford to do a two-cave tour and it was definably worth it. Other walking tracks around the area are best to do in the early morning and offer insight to Australian life on the land.

Amazing natural Cathedral- a welcome relief from the scorching sun outside.

Amazing natural Cathedral- a welcome relief from the scorching sun outside.

Check out the Balancing Rock

Yep, nestled along a walking track in the Australian bush you will discover Chillagoe’s Balancing Rock. If you’re running out of ideas on what to do in Chillagoe, go for a walk. Not only is the raw coloured landscape a photographers delight, the unique rock formations formed from Volcanic activity will blow your mind.

A photographers dream! Take advantage of the amazing textures, shaddows, and natural light affects in this unique landscape

A photographers dream! Take advantage of the amazing textures, shadows, and natural light affects in this unique landscape

Standing in awe of the underground cave system that opens up in parts to the sunshine.

Standing in awe of the underground cave system that opens up in parts to the sunshine.

Visit the ruins

Growing up in Cairns you are more than likely to have a school excursion and camp-out to learn about the rich history of Chillagoe and the mining boom that put it on the map. Prospecting is still a huge drawcard to visitors to Chillagoe, and you are still likely to find things from old medicine bottles in dried out creek beds to unique gemstones in clay walls. If scurrying around the scrub in blazing heat isn’t for you, then head to the old Smelters to learn a little more about the old mine. The scale of infrastructure for that era is incredible, not to mention this place feels as if it is in the middle of nowhere! History aside, the ruins makes for some pretty incredible photo-ops. If you’re a budding photographer and running out ideas on what do do in Chillagoe, then I highly recommend heading out to the ruins at night and watch the stars light up the land.

Chillagoe Smelters

Chillagoe Smelters

During our two-day stay we met some of the most unique and interesting locals and travellers alike, from crazy bushmen, talkative grey nomads, and 4wd enthusiasts on their way towards the famous Telegraph Track. I advise you to be prepared for Mars-like conditions and you will fall in love with this cute town. Step out of your zone and have a chat with a stranger, they may even share some insight for finding gemstones, or ways to get to the secret fishing spots. Sit down, enjoy a cold brew, and reflect on the harsh country that is the wild west of Queensland.