Indian Ocean Drive, Western Australia

03 Oct

It was time to leave Cervantes. We had seen the Pinnacles, the stromatolites, and enjoyed the oh-so-fabulous meals at the Country Club, but checkout time was 10am. If we drove straight back, we would be at home in time for lunch. But why do that? After all, there was plenty to see along the Indian Ocean Drive.

We started with a quick visit to a part of Cervantes we had missed – a point of land with a 270 degree view of the sea. Incidentally, the sea at Cervantes is very calm – the entire shoreline, it seems, is sheltered by a reef a few hundred metres offshore. If the water were more beautiful, it would be the perfect place to bring young kids for their first taste of salt water swimming. Then, it was onto the Indian Ocean Drive for the trip back to Perth.

The Indian Ocean Drive is a new road – it had opened only two weeks before we drove on it. The local wildlife hasn’t yet figured out the implications of replacing a dirt four-wheel-drive track with a modern highway. One of the first things we did is nearly hit an emu who thought he could get across the road in front of us. A beep of the horn and a sudden swerve was enough to avoid bereaving the bird’s partner. The swerve made everyone scold me (the driver) of course, until I reminded them that hitting a 30kg bird at 110 km/h – with no roo bar – is not the best way to keep your car in good nick.

Running Down A Sand Dune

Running Down A Sand Dune

The landscape around Cervantes is coastal scrubland – almost no trees, as far as the eye can see. In some places there are huge sand dunes that must be inching slowly across the land as the years go by. One of these is right opposite a parking stop on the Indian Ocean Drive. My son had been pining for sand dunes the whole time we were there – his dream being to slide down one on a piece of cardboard. Well, we hadn’t brought any cardboard, but with sunblock on and sunglasses donned, we carefully crossed the highway and the cleared ground to the dunes. The kids had immense fun climbing up and running down the dunes. We were not the only people doing this – enough cars were stopping that it might be worth someone’s while to build a fence and charge admission.

We stopped in Lancelin for an unremarkable lunch. Lancelin is 6km off the Indian Ocean Drive. It seems that their main preoccupation is sandboarding – we saw tours advertised where people board a huge four-wheel-drive bus with enormous tyres, travel out onto the dunes, stop and slide down on boards. More than one of the locals was spied carrying a sandboard (something like a snowboard) ready for some fun in the sand and sun.

Gravity Discovery Centre, Gingin, Western Australia

The Gravity Discovery Centre

Our last stop was the Gravity Centre, near the Gingin Observatory. This is about 12km off the Indian Ocean Drive and just a little north of Yanchep – near enough to Perth to make a day or even afternoon trip. The Gravity Centre is a place where West Australian scientists are playing their part trying to detect gravitational waves. If successful, it will help physicists understand more about the universe, and what happens when neutron stars collide and become black holes. However, you don’t have to have a taste for deep physics to enjoy the Gravity Centre – it hosts a mini science museum with well-maintained exhibits that should interest anyone. We went on a guided tour, which helped us get even more out of the visit. Our tour guide showed us a number of the more interesting exhibits, explaining what they were, and then fired up his smoke ring cannon and let the kid have a ball blasting smoke rings at each other!

Then, the sun hanging lower and lower in the afternoon sky, it was time to go. As a finale, we bought some water balloons – the Gravity Centre has a leaning tower to drop water balloons from. I can think of no other place where you can let the kids drop a water balloon from a height of an eight storey building, without worrying that you’ll kill someone or be arrested. The balloon landing zone is a big sandpit, fenced off, with warning signs – “Gravity At Work – Beware Of Falling Objects”. How appropriate!

Catching Smoke Rings At The Discovery Centre

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