With thanks to guest blogger Sharon Smith
As we are heading further up the coast of Western Australia and inland to national parks, Carnarvon will probably be the last biggish town we pass through for close to a month. We decided to stop here at BIG4 Plantation Caravan Park for several days to relax, enjoy the facilities and stock up on essentials.
What I really loved about this park was the space. The sites were huge, and lawns were green and lush. The layout itself is bordered by beautiful established native trees and bougainvillea which were in full flower during our visit. Our site was under the shade of a beautiful gum tree. Not that shade was really needed as it was unseasonably cool during our visit. Year round temperatures usually average 28°C, but we were there on the coldest day they have had for 12 months. The kids looked longingly at the pool, but mum and dad just weren’t game enough to venture in.
As well as spacious, the park is also very flat, and almost all the powered sites have concrete slabs as well as a grassy area. The open-air camp kitchen was clean and welcoming, and situated right next to the jumping castle. This made dinner preparation easy and fun for everyone. The staff has that small-town friendliness, and Barbara at reception was full of great tips of where to buy the best food treats in town. We just couldn’t get enough of the fresh veggies, and loved those frozen chocolate bananas and fruit ice creams.
When you consider this park was affected by not one, but two floods in the last 12 months, you can really appreciate the work and effort the owners, staff and friends have put in to keep this park at the high quality level it is at. Some of the cabins are still undergoing repairs, and some have been replaced with new cabins. But the amenities block and laundry are spotless, and show no evidence of the floods. All the washing machines and dryers were replaced with brand new versions. In their reception, you can see photos of the worst of the damage, but you have to look hard to see it in the park’s current state.
Carnarvon is situated on the Gasgoyne River, the longest river in Western Australia. Interestingly, it is an upside down river, which means the water filters through 18 metres of sand before it hits a rocky bed. Water is actually flowing underground, and is purified through the sand. This phenomenon, together with the almost tropical climate makes it the perfect area for growing fruit and veggies. At least, this is what happens most of the time. Given the amount of rain during the last wet season, the water just had nowhere else to go.
The park backs onto one of the region’s numerous plantations. There is a little fruit and veggie stand out front near reception where you can purchase some in season goods. Bananas are in now, and having been absent from our children’s diet since cyclone Yasi, we just went to town on cheap, vine-ripened bananas. Rhys was tucking into at least 4 every day we were there, and we couldn’t leave without buying a few more days supplies. I even made banana pancakes.
We were lucky enough to time our visit to Carnarvon with the annual Tropicool Festival. The local festival ground was set up with games, rides, food stalls and entertainment. The weather brightened for the event, so we spent a lovely afternoon having fun at the fair. We also took the opportunity to venture out to Point Quobba, just 70km north, for some spectacular snorkeling. You walk out a few metres into the sea, and the bay is just teaming with fish, giant clams and coral. I don’t think I have ever seen so many species of fish in one place, especially this close to shore.
Carnarvon is also known for its fishing. Unfortunately, going out on a boat can be a bit tricky with young children, but for those who just love the sport, there is plenty of opportunity here. But we did have a great seaside experience travelling on the Carnarvon Jetty Train, a community run train along the old mile long loading jetty.
We left Carnarvon happy, relaxed and overloaded with supplies for the next couple of weeks. It was a surprising gem of a town, and we wished we were able to stay longer. But the Coral Coast is beckoning so onward we go.