After spending three months of lockdown in Broome, we were itching to get back on the road and continue our adventure. We had no idea of the incredible camping that lay ahead of us as we made our way south along Western Australia’s north coast. It was some of the best camping we had ever experienced.
You might think sitting in Broome for three months while the COVID-19 lockdown was happening wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to you. While I’m certainly not going to complain about it, it wasn’t exactly fun either. Everything was closed. There were no tourist attractions operating. It was 38 degrees and 90 per cent humidity every day and all the pools were closed. We could go down to Cable Beach but we couldn’t risk swimming there. We didn’t do much else except eat and drink which didn’t do our waistlines any favours, that’s for sure. In any case, as soon as the borders opened up, we couldn’t wait to get on our way.
Now, travelling down the northwest coast of WA is an amazing experience and there are dozens of places you can visit but when you’re travelling with dogs as we do, your options can be somewhat limited. For example, Eighty Mile Beach is a magnificent spot that is extremely popular and we would love to have gone there but our girls were not welcome.
Fortunately, we did manage to find a few spots to stay and, let me tell you, these places were simply stunning. The combination of the Outback’s red earth meeting the deep blue waters of the Indian Ocean are a sight to behold and to be able to stay for weeks on end at these places was the perfect way to resume our travels. Here are the four best places we stayed and a little taste of the scenery they have to offer.
Barn Hill Station
Located just 132km south of Broome, Barn Hill Station is situated within Thangoo Station, one of the few beef cattle stations in the Kimberley that is still family-owned and operated. That said, you would have little clue as the camping and caravan park is located on the edge of the property overlooking 50km of pristine and untouched coastline, a world away from the business going on around it. Conveniently located only 9 km off the Great Northern Highway, you would never imagine paradise could be so easy to get to! The road into Barn Hill is unsealed but it is suitable for 2WD cars and all campers, caravans and motorhomes. It is graded regularly but if you visit during the tourist season, the road may get a bit of extra traffic and there may be a few bumps along the way. Our travelling companions had no problems getting their large Jayco Optimum motorhome and tow-behind car into the campground.
There are a few options when you get there. Barn Hill offers powered and unpowered sites, sheltered camping and hut style chalets. Keep in mind the 240-volt power available may be limited and you may not be able to run high power devices such as air conditioners or electric hot water systems. Not that you will need to anyway. Most sites are nestled among big gum trees which provide ample shade from the hot sun. They also have excellent amenities including roofless showers where you can stargaze while washing the dust off. The operators have recently completed a sheltered shop/cafe with lush grassed areas where the kids can play and grab an ice cream. While all this is fantastic, it’s the amazing coastline that you have access to here that will take your breath away. I’ve never seen a beach quite like it. The red dirt is washed onto the cream coloured beach when it rains making fascinating patterns in the sand. Combined with the blue waters and incredible sunsets, Barn Hill is a very special place. Fishing, beach walks, photography and exploring are all activities available to you. It will leave an impression on you, I guarantee it. Click here to find out more about Barn Hill Station.
Port Smith Caravan Park
A little further down the Great Northern Highway is the Port Smith Lagoon and Caravan Park. This has to be one of the Kimberley region’s best-kept secrets where you can enjoy the sunset over the lagoon or a dip in the pristine waters. Depending on the time of the year, you can catch local dolphins and turtles at play, or marvel at the whales as they travel past on their journey south. If you’re a fisho, you will love Port Smith Lagoon but you may need a small boat to get the most out of it. Certainly, most of the people we met there during our stay had dingies.
Port Smith is a photographers dream, where the red soil, grey rocky outcrops and pure white sands all meet the turquoise waters of the ocean. Combined with the interesting flora and fauna, it all makes for fantastic photos. I can attest to that given the amazing images I captured with my cameras and drone. There are lots of hidden spots to explore while you’re there but you may need a 4wd to get to them as the tracks are mostly sandy. We took a drive out to Saddle Hill Cliffs and spent the day just exploring the area and enjoying the incredible endless beach. It is truly beautiful here. The caravan park is well set up with around 100 large shaded powered sites and a big amenities block. Access is via a 23km dirt road that is similar to the one into Barn Hill so it’s suitable for 2wds and large RVs but the usual dirt road caveat applies. Conditions can change with adverse weather and extra traffic. For more information about Port Smith caravan park click here.
Cape Keraudren Cliff Campground
Out of all the places we stayed on the WA coast, Cape Keraudren was probably the most spectacular. Located about 160 km north of Port Hedland, the coastal park is huge with several vast camping areas scattered around the 4,800-hectare site. Apart from the magnificent waters, numerous walking and 4wd trails as well as exposed reefs and rock pools, Cape Keraudren is home to the northernmost point of the world-famous Rabbit-Proof Fence. The structure is a 1,837 km long barrier erected between 1901 and 1907 to keep rabbits and other agricultural pests out of Western Australian pastoral areas. A sign marks the approximate location, and some remnants of fence posts can still be seen. It’s here that we found the Cliff Campground. This incredible area is probably the most isolated campground of the park and access to it is via a short but challenging rocky track. It’s a bit steep and, given this area is strictly off-grid, you will need to have your water tanks filled for your stay. This means your vehicle will need to be able to pull your fully laden van over this obstacle.
Once there you’re greeted by the most incredible views imaginable. The water here is the deepest blue colour we have ever seen. The few campsites in the area are situated right on the edge of the rock outcrop. The cliff at the edge is around 7-8 meters high. At low tide, you can scramble down this cliff to the rock pools below and explore the many corals and marine life that call this place home. You might be lucky to see octopuses and huge clams among the pools and perhaps score a feed of natural oysters off the rocks. The tides here are huge and when it comes in, the waves splash over the top of the cliff edge. At night, you can enjoy a small campfire at your site and be dazzled by the bright starry night skies. Honestly, it is mesmerising.
Access to Cape Keraudren is via the Cape Keraudren access road which is sealed to the ranger’s station and park entrance. From there, you access the various camp areas on good dirt roads. Some camps have toilets and rubbish bins. Potable water and a dump point are both available at the park entrance. For more information click here.
The last camp on our West Coast adventure, Cleaverville is a massive campground that is strictly free camping only. If you want to put your rig to the ultimate long term off-grid camp test, you can stay at Cleaverville for up to 28 days which is what we did. Trust me, that will put your battery system to the test. The main campground is not much to mention. To be frank, it’s a bit of a dust bowl but if you like to camp near others, it’s a friendly place to stay. On the other hand, if you value your privacy, you can drive either to the north or south of the main area and park your rig at one of the dozens of campsites scattered along the top of the dune overlooking the beach. While you don’t necessarily need an off-road caravan to get to these sites, the tracks are narrow with the occasional rocky or sandy sections so you need to be reasonably confident you can get your rig through. I can guarantee you, it’s worth the effort as these sites are quiet, isolated and all with extraordinary ocean views.
The abundant wildlife here includes many bird species, hermit crabs, amazing wildflowers and the usual marine life among the rock pools at low tide. Campfires are permitted here and, each night, following more stunning sunsets the stars come out again to put on a dazzling display. Cleaverville is a wonderful place to just sit back in your camp chair, relax and let the days drift away. It is a unique paradise like no other.
There are no amenities here. You need to be completely self-sufficient. The only convenience is a dump point. That’s it. Fortunately, if you need water, food or other supplies, Cleaverville is only a 20-minute drive to either Karratha to the south or Roebourne to the north. Access is via a reasonably good dirt road off the Coastal Highway. For more information click here.
It is no big secret that Western Australia has some of the best coastlines in the world, and these four spots are perfect places to experience everything the area has to offer. You don’t need a serious off-road rig to get to these places and, if you travel with pets, you are welcome to bring them with you. We certainly cannot wait to return here and perhaps spend even more time exploring the beaches, watching the sunsets and gazing at the night skies. This is remote area caravanning at its finest.