From the lookout at Mt Clarence there is nothing but 4000 km of Southern Ocean between the city of Albany and the Antarctic, but it wasn’t always that way. This part of the Australian coast was once joined to Antarctica as part of the supercontinent Gondwana. When the continent finally broke up 45 million years ago the rugged coastline of the south of Western Australia was formed.
Not all of the coast is rocky though. The waters of King George Sound and Princess Royal Harbour are deep and calm, and form the only natural harbour between Shark Bay in the north of Western Australia and Port Phillip Bay in Victoria. Ships have been sheltering here since the 17th century.
Along the coast past Frenchman’s Bay the land becomes rocky and barren. The granite cliffs have been eroded by wind and water since the breakup of Gondwana. Waves pound against the Natural Arch and the tide surges into the Gap with relentless force.
Look down if you dare but hold on tightly. It’s always windy and people have been blown over the edge by unexpected wind gusts in the past.
The energy of the wind has been harnessed further along the coast at the Albany Wind Farm. Located on the cliffs 80 metres above the sea are 18 wind turbines. The wind is strong enough to turn the turbines for almost all of the year, generating enough clean electricity to provide 80% of Albany’s power.
The graceful turbines stand like watchful giants, looking out over the land and the ocean. What would Don Quixote have thought if he could see them?
If you’re on a road trip, comfortable bathroom facilities along the way are a lucky find. When they are in amazing positions with fantastic views it’s more than good luck – it’s good planning. These wonderful amenities are all located at sites along the south-west coast of Western Australia where the ocean can be wild and the scenery is spectacular.
Sugarloaf Rock is a small granite island off the coast near Yallingup. Completely surrounded by the pounding waters of the Indian Ocean, Sugarloaf Rock is a safe haven for red-tailed tropic birds which fly from the tropics to breed here.
Travel a little further south to Canal Rocks, a group of rocky islands and reefs which trap the ocean in a series of canals and channels. The rocks here are composed of gneiss, a metamorphic rock formed when the supercontinent Gondwana began to move 230 million years ago. The ocean swirls as it rushes in between these tiny islands and the current is strong – don’t be tempted to swim here.
Head east for 600 kilometres to the dramatic coastline of southern Australia and you’ll find these newly built comfort stops at Hamersley Inlet in the Fitzgerald River National Park. The inlet is a salt water lake, sometimes connected to the Southern Ocean by a narrow fiord in the sand dunes. It’s a good spot for fishing when the salt levels aren’t too high.
Not far from Hamersley Inlet is Cave Point. Put on your coat because the wind blowing off the Southern Ocean feels like it has come all the way from the Antarctic, 4000 kilometres to the south. It’s worth braving the icy wind though to see the ancient coastline stretching away on both sides. In one direction is East Mount Barren, a rugged rocky mountain rising out of the sea. In the opposite direction is West Beach with its fine white sand and crashing waves.
Continue in an easterly direction past the small coastal village of Hopetoun to Southern Ocean Road. This road hugs the shore and there are several places where you can stop and marvel at the deserted beaches, high dunes and vast expanse of the Southern Ocean. Two Mile Beach is one of many along this part of the coast and if you’re lucky you’ll have both the amenities and the beach all to yourself.
You can also read The Original “Loo With a View” and A Loo With A View, Part Two.