Western Australia

Ayatana by the bay

June 12, 2024

Photography – Helen Janneson Bense

Locations – Ayatana by the bay | Busselton Jetty Train ride and Underwater Observatory | Wonnerup beach | Forest beach | Aquarium | Injidup Natural Spa | Ludlow Tuart Forest

Bookings – Ayatana by the bay

Welcome to Ayatana by the bay, a luxury, coastal inspired home on the Geographe bay beachfront in Busselton. 

Ayatana means “the place where your senses dwell” It’s a nurturing, calming space to rest and retreat, to adventure and explore, to immerse your senses and spark joy. The carefully thought out design and well stocked amenities made it feel more like a home than most stays. 

The beautiful and calm Geographe bay is right on your doorstep. Each morning I would head to the beach with a chai and watch the sunrise. During the day I was exploring the many wonders of this region, paddle boarding, swimming and hiking. Afternoons were spent soaking in the luxurious bathtub, enjoying the sun on the front deck or taking a little nap in the super comfortable master bed. In the evenings I relaxed in the alfresco area with the magnificent sunset views. And at night I enjoyed a toasty outdoor fire as the dark night sky came alight with a kaleidoscope of stars. 

What sets this space apart is its stunning beachfront location, dreamy ocean vistas, and amazing fire pit overlooking the beach. Ayatana is the ideal vacation home for families, couples, or a group of friends. It’s a beautifully designed 4 bedroom beach house with 2 kitchen spaces, 2 bathrooms plus multiple lounge spaces to enjoy for groups. There’s also ocean toys, a kayak, stand up paddle board and bikes for guest use. 

The outdoor area at Ayatana really deserves special mention as it is perfectly situated for watching the sunset. Enjoy a complimentary wine while soaking in the quiet beachfront views in luxe comfort. The space is setup up with privacy screens, night mood lighting and a heater. When the afternoon sun hits, lounge in one of the comfiest sun chairs and soak up that glorious sun. There’s a bbq so you can enjoy dinner while taking in the quiet peacefulness of the evening. 

In the cooler months you can light the outdoor fire and even order in and have dinner by the fire. The well equipped kitchen has marshmallows on hand for roasting over the fire pit. There’s also a beautiful selection of high quality teas including the most delicious chocolate chai. 

Make sure to bookmark this spot for your next trip down south. For first timers to the Margaret River region this is an ideal location to be close to shops, restaurants and its proximity to the Busselton jetty and beach. Make sure to explore some of the local spots like Wonnerup beach, Ludlow Tuart forest and Forest beach. A little further afield there is Cape naturaliste, Injidup natural spa and the Aquarium which are all iconic locations to visit on any trip to the Margaret River region.

Take a short drive or a walk along the beachfront path to Busselton jetty and enjoy breakfast at the idyllic beachfront cafe The Goose. Head on the Busselton jetty train tour, an electric solar powered train that runs along a 1.8km scenic ride and learn about the history of the jetty. At the end of the jetty make sure to explore the underwater observatory. You’ll descend 6 flights of stairs in a 9.5m diameter observation chamber to see the largest artificial reef in Australia. It has 11 viewing windows and is filled with over 300 different species of marine life. If you’re feeling adventurous you can snorkel and dive here and explore the underwater sculptures created by local WA artists. A waterproof map can be purchased from the interpretative centre. They even have a shark deterrent in place for those concerned about shark interactions.

Here is a little information and a few travel tips for this region –

  • Injidup Natural Spa – To avoid big crowds go early between  8-10am. Visit in the shoulder seasons and avoid summer school holidays. Be careful of big waves. They can come out of nowhere and it’s incredibly dangerous with so many rocks. 
  • Aquarium – located on the Cape to Cape trail between Smiths beach and Canal rocks. It’s a 15-20min hike starting at a carpark located on canal rocks rd as you near Canal rocks. Bring water and all your gear you need as it’s a long walk back to the car from the Aquarium if you forget something. Be aware of snakes on the trail, especially in spring and summer.
  • Busselton Jetty train tour – it’s runs on the hour every hour from 10am – 4pm. Ensure you book in advance especially during school holidays or summer.
  • Restaurants – book ahead for popular restaurants and wineries as they book up fast especially over peak seasons. We love Glenarty road, Clairault Streicker, Cape lodge, Lamont’s, Casina, Wise wines and Meelup farmhouse.
  • Make sure to visit the Ludlow Tuart forest. It is the last remaining tall Tuart forest in the world. Estimated to be over 300 years old.

At Ayatana by the bay you’ll be within the Margaret River region and right on the doorstep of world class wineries, restaurants, surfing and art. There is an abundance of activities to do from wildlife tours, marine life tours, winery tours, cave exploration, hiking, abseiling,  indigenous tours and so much more! If you need any help planning your perfect trip always feel free to message me. 

My Holiday in Esperance

May 9, 2024

Photography – Helen Janneson Bense

Location – Esperance with My Holiday

Stay – Esperance Island View Apartments

Tours – Le Grand 4X4 Beach Adventure + Pink Lakes Scenic Flight

I’ve found the ultimate holiday experience just a short flight from Perth in the peaceful and breathtaking town of Esperance/Kepa Kurl in Western Australia. With kms of pristine coastline and friendly kangaroos roaming on white sand beaches, it’s understandable why so many beaches in this region have been voted as the best in the world by travel experts.

Picture endless crystal clear blue waters interrupted by a multitude of steep granite boulders and islands that stretch across 230kms. Off the southern coast of Esperance you’ll find the Recherche archipelago made up of 105 islands and 1200 rocky outcrops. Woody island is one of the only islands in the region with public access. It’s a great spot for snorkelling, swimming and spotting marine life. The best way to see the magnificence of these views is by plane. You’ll get to enjoy that incredible birds eye view, snap a million pictures, spot marine life, and gain a greater understanding and perspective of this amazing region. All of this can be effortlessly organised by the travel experts at My Holiday.

Utilising the amazing travel knowledge and skills of the team at My Holiday, I was on a plane, checked in to my resort, with a hire car ready to explore, all with effortless ease. They seamlessly take care of all the details – all you have to do is show up. It’s a perfectly packaged holiday created to impress even the most discerning travellers with some great inclusions. You’ll always enjoy something a little extra.

They organised some incredible local tours in the region. The 4WD tour to Cape Le Grand national park is a must. You’ll cruise along long stretches of white sand beach, exploring Lucky Bay and the local friendly kangaroos, have thrill seeking adventures in the white sand dunes and drive up giant boulders at Wylie beach, all while swimming and spotting wildlife along the way.

I stayed at the lovely and very convenient Esperance Island View apartments. My self contained apartment had a beautiful spa bath to enjoy after long days of adventures. It was perfectly situated along the Esperance foreshore with ocean views, food trucks, restaurants and shops all within walking distance. Right on my doorstep were e-scooters allowing me the flexibility to venture a little further.

Within walking distance I enjoyed some delicious plant based food at Siam Thai restaurant, Taylor St Quarters and amazing acai bowls at Sir Juice food truck on the foreshore. A short drive out of town you’ll find Lucky Bay Brewery, perfect to visit for a Sunday afternoon sesh of live music.

My days were filled with ocean adventures, peaceful moments, connections with locals and travellers, wildlife encounters, great food, and wholesome nature experiences. My must visit recommendations are –

Lucky Bay – a stunning white sand beach visited by friendly local kangaroos and dolphins.

Hellfire Bay – a beautiful beach for some boogie boarding and swimming. It has a lovely scenic hike to Little Hellfire Bay that can’t be missed,

Esperance Stonehenge – an exact replica of the original Stonehenge from 2000BC. This is an impressive sight made of 137 stones.

Frenchman’s Peak/Mandooboornup – hike the peak when the winds are low and take in some scenic views over Cape Le Grand National Park. It’s a grade 5 level hike with some very steep parts and takes approx. 1-2 hours.

Twilight Beach – a popular swimming beach with unique boulders for some rock jumping fun. This beach is one of the easiest to access without a giant staircase, so good for anyone with mobility issues.

Blue Haven – this is one of my favourite local spots for a swim. I often see dolphins here and in whale season it’s a beautiful spot to keep an eye out from the top of the steps.

Eleven Mile Beach – a protected lagoon ideal for swimming and watching the sunset.

West Beach – a great spot for surfing, long beach walks and watching the sunset from Rotary Lookout.

Wylie Beach – a stunning scenic spot where two bays merge surrounded by white sand dunes. This is a great spot for some 4Wding.

Observatory Point – a breathtaking elevated spot to watch the sunset. Best enjoyed when the winds are low.

There is one more place that deserves special mention and I highly recommend. Wharton Beach is what I believe to be the most beautiful beach in the world. It’s located just an hour out of Esperance and well worth the extra effort to stray from the beaten path. To many of the locals, Wharton Beach is their absolute favourite too. And I totally understand why. Its crystal clear waters, whitest sand imaginable and perfect waves set against a jaw dropping giant granite backdrop make it a mermaid’s playground. While you’re exploring this way ensure to pop into the Condingup Tavern, a local spot built by a resident Esperance family, rich with history and stories.

These are the kind of untouched places that are harder to access yet provide a richer and even more beautiful travel experience. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of My Holiday. They organised a hire car for me so I could have the freedom to explore at my own pace and seek adventures close to my heart. They provided me with their travel expertise and suggestions for places to visit which helped guide my entire trip. I had so much fun exploring this region and discovering so many gems like this.

As many of you know I’ve been battling chronic illness for almost a year now. When it comes to planning trips, I need all the help I can get these days. The endless planning and researching can take a lot of time and energy. My Holiday created an amazing flexible itinerary with loads of suggestions specifically suited to my needs. From experience I know not all holidays are created equal, and sometimes there are important things that can be missed. It’s always helpful to talk to a trusted expert to create an experience that aligns with your needs and wants and will be unforgettable. This way you’ll get the holiday of your dreams without compromising yourself in any way. And that is what this holiday was for me. Effortless, easy, enjoyable and one I’ll never forget. I’m so grateful for the team at My Holiday for making it so easy for me and ensuring I still got to see and do everything I wanted.

Esperance is a wild place and it definitely left a deep imprint on me. Even just that small glimpse into local life made me fall in love and even picture myself living here one day.

Edge Luxury Villas

December 27, 2023

Photography – Helen Janneson Bense | Bobby Bense

Locations – Edge Luxury Villas | Clairault Streicker winery | Vasse virgin soap factory | Injidup Natural spa | Eagle bay

Dress – Linen floral maxi dress

Picnic gear – Rug | Umbrella | Cooler bag | Towel – Use discount code HELENJ10

A brand new, unique gem has opened up in the golden triangle of the Margaret River region. Welcome to the Edge Luxury villas. A private oasis of peace and serenity, perfect for a romantic getaway, special celebration or some healing retreat time.

These new luxurious, adults only, overwater villas are one of kind. They are ideally located, central to world class food, wineries, art, surf, immaculate beaches, with nature right on your doorstep. 

These spacious villas are so beautifully and thoughtfully designed, created with such a high standard and attention to detail that enhances the entire experience. All the quality furnishings and appliances add an extra layer of luxury. Enjoy your coffee and tea on the deck using Smeg appliances, or a lakeside picnic with Wandering folk picnic rug and glassware.

There are 4 villas on this 132 acre property, with Villa 1 being accessible for anyone with mobility issues. Each villa is incredibly private from the next and you’ll feel like it’s just the 2 of you. They are situated overlooking the most pristine lake that will be beckoning you to take a dip. The lake water is so clean and refreshing, perfect for swimming, paddling or even a jump off the bridge or jetty. At sunrise watch the colours of the sky dance across the lake as you enjoy your morning cuppa with complimentary locally made Margaret River coffee and teas. At sunset take a romantic stroll across the bridge to the little island or explore the beauty of the forest and spot wildlife.

For some serious relaxation enjoy a soak in the stone bath with some locally made Vasse Virgin bodycare, while watching the sun sparkle on the water. This bathroom lake view is definitely my favorite spot to relax.

Before retiring into the most comfortable bed you’ve ever slept in, step outside, turn off all the lights, and gaze at the dark night sky. You’ll have one of the best starry night views here and hear a chorus of wildlife sounds from the surrounding forest.  

For delicious food and wine you will be spoiled for choice. My top pick is Clairault Streicker which is just a few minutes down the road. We enjoyed one of the best plant based lunches I’ve ever had in this region. You absolutely have to order the vegan tiramisu. You won’t be disappointed. The entire meal was world class and definitely deserves a visit on your next trip down south. 

In the neighborhood, just a 5 minute drive away you’ll find Vasse Virgin soap factory. They are a passionate family business creating natural olive oil skin care products that were originally made to help their daughter combat her eczema. They are absolutely beautiful products that smell and feel amazing. The lemon Myrtle body scrub is my new favorite.

Margaret River has an abundance of beautiful beaches to visit. Within a 10-15 minute drive from the Edge luxury villas you can visit some of my favorites – Injidup beach and natural spa, Yallingup beach, the Aquarium (natural rock pool) and Smiths beach. In summer and during school holidays some of these spots can get really busy so I always recommend going early to avoid crowds and then enjoying your afternoons back at your beautiful accommodation.

The Edge is the kind of place that will create those core memories for you and your loved one. It’s incredibly special. And it was designed and intended to be that way. I hope you’ll experience the magic of this magnificent place for yourself.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

Summer at Smiths

April 9, 2023

Photography – Bobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense

Location – Smiths Beach Resort

Recommended tours – Sailing Charters WA | South West Eco Discoveries | Lake Cave

Food and Wine – Lamonts | Gralyn Estate | Cape Lodge | Glenarty Road | Amelia Park Lodge | Meelup Farmhouse | Casina | Aravina Estate

Smiths beach is arguably the best beach in the Margaret River region, a region dotted with incredible white sand beaches. What makes Smiths stand apart is its grand topography. It has a very long stretch of pristine beach with breathtaking national park as a backdrop. No matter how busy it might get, there is always a private space to enjoy. Head south and explore the hidden rock pools along the cape to cape track or north for surfing and dolphin spotting. As the sun goes down, enjoy a beach picnic from the beach, the staircase viewing platforms, or right from your very own balcony at Smiths Beach Resort.

Our top choice of accommodation for this vast region is always Smiths Beach Resort. We’ve been visiting for many years now and it continues to impress. There are many room options from budget friendly to pure luxury, all self contained, serviced and beautifully designed for relaxation in mind. Their dedication to sustainability is another reason we love this resort. Utilising the power of the sun with 270 solar panels, this is part of a continued effort to minimise their carbon footprint, increase water conservation, and protect the surrounding nature and wildlife.

Smiths is ideally located between popular towns, landmarks, beaches, wineries, restaurants and tours. Within walking distance is the Aquarium, a lagoon rock pool around 20-30 minutes hike south along the magnificent cape to cape track. The journey is just as beautiful as the destination. Read my travel tips below on how to prepare when visiting this spot.

Within 10-20 minutes drive you can visit Dunsborough, which is a hub for cafes and restaurants, boutique shopping and right on the beach of Geographe bay. Visit the ancient, subterranean caves; my personal favourite is Lake cave, which is a crystal wonderland. Set sail with Sailing Charters WA for the most scenic way to experience this coastline. It’s a small tour of max 6 people that takes you along the sheltered waters from Dunsborough to Eagle bay. Stop for a swim along the way at Castle Rock. Snorkel, swim or float on the tubes in crystal clear, turquoise water that could be mistaken for the Maldives.

For world class surfing you have multiple options from Smiths beach resort. Surf right there at Smiths, head 5 minutes away to Yallingup beach, 30 minutes north to Windmills or approx 30-40 minutes south to Gracetown or Surfers point. You can also check out Injidup for great surf or head to the natural spa for a soak, only a 10 minute drive from Smiths or approx 1.5 hour stunning hike.

The Margaret River region is a nature lovers dream. It’s teeming with wildlife, marine life and stunning flora. One of our favourite tours anytime of the year is the Woylies nocturnal tour with South West Eco Discoveries. They’re doing great things to help rehabilitate wildlife in this sanctuary zone and it offers a chance to get close and personal with some truly adorable animals. If you have dreamt of feeding and petting a wild kangaroo then this is for you. It will pull on all your heartstrings. All the kangaroos here have been rescued which is why you can touch and feed them here. Please do not attempt this in the wild.

For marine life keep your eyes peeled at Smiths beach for dolphins. From June – December keep a look out for migrating whales. Augusta and Castle rock are both great vantage points for whale spotting. For stingrays head out early to Hamelin bay where you’ll find them dotting the shoreline.

For the foodies and wine aficionados, you are in the Mecca of it right here. On the resort grounds of Smiths is Lamonts, with the best curated selection of wines you’ll find, and food created by an absolute genius in the kitchen, Kate Lamont. My favourite wineries in the area, all relatively close by, are Wise Wines, Cape Lodge, Gralyn Estate and Vasse Felix. My favourite restaurants are Meelup Farmhouse for breakfast, Glenarty Road for lunch, and Amelia Park lodge, Aravina Estate and Casina for dinner. Casina has an extensive vegan menu available as well. My last recommendation would be to stop at Eagle bay Olives for some of the regions best olives. When you’re done enjoying wines, indulging in artesian foods, and salty from your ocean adventures, you can be greeted by the comfort and relaxation waiting for you at Smiths beach resort.

Here are some of my personal travel tips for the region –

  • Plan a rough itinerary for your trip, especially in summer time, as tours and restaurants get booked out.
  • Head out early to see any of the popular spots like the Aquarium, Injidup natural spa, Canal rocks, Sugarloaf, Castle rock. In summer everywhere is very busy. If you walk around the corner of many of these spots though you’ll find your own quiet pocket of paradise, so make sure to explore.
  • Check winds to determine which side of Cape Naturaliste is going to be better for your activities planned.
  • Take a first aid kit, reusable water bottle, and appropriate footwear on all hikes. Keep an eye out for wildlife. We’ve spotted echidnas along the cape to cape track from Smiths beach to the Aquarium.
  • Take all your rubbish when you exit, and leave nature as you found it.
  • The Aquarium doesn’t have facilities so go early and go prepared with water, food and all your beach essentials. Make sure to bring your snorkel gear and underwater camera. Water shoes come in handy here as well.
  • Don’t try to see it all. It takes time on your first visit to the Margaret River region to get a lay of the land. Slow down, enjoy it and its many unexpected surprises. Just know that you can see more of it next time. I have been more times than I can count now and I still have so many more places I want to explore.
  • Bring a kayak or paddle board if you have one. Paddle anywhere along Geographe Bay and you can spots dolphins and sting rays along the way. Castle rock is my personal favourite.
  • Please be careful of king waves and tide changes, especially at Injidup Natural Spa. You can’t always tell when a huge wave will come crashing over. I’ve seen it go from super calm to dangerous in seconds.
  • Be mindful driving at dawn or dusk as kangaroos will be very active and we always see them along the side of the road. They can quickly jump in front of you so drive slowly along the roads especially at night.

And while there is so much to see and do, you’ll find that staying at Smiths beach resort is an experience in itself. You may not want to go anywhere as the resort and beach offer so much relaxation and a back to nature experience while enjoying a little luxury.

Much love and gratitude,

Helen xx

WA’s Wildflower Wilderness

September 15, 2022

PhotographyHelen Janneson Bense | Alexandra Casey | Sarah Went Solo | Marco Kraus

EditingHelen Janneson Bense

Locations – Pinnacles, Coalseam Conservation Park, Kalbarri – Australia’s Coral Coast

Mellenbye Station Stay , Widimia trail (Morawa), Wongan Hills, Mt O’Brien, Petrudor Rocks, Dalwallinu – Australia’s Golden Outback

Wongamine Reserve, Coorinja Winery (Toodyay), Barton park events, Laurelville Manor, Mount Brown (York) – Destination Perth

Outfits – Spell Madame Peacock Gown + Butterfly Gown | Fortunate One Land and Sky Dress + What I do Midi Dress | Vintage Spell

Accessories – Wandering Folk Grande Fleur Rug | Picnic basket | Primrose Margarita Glasses

Now is the absolute perfect time to get out there and experience these biodiversity hot spots with over 12,000 wildflowers species right here in Western Australia. I’ve prepared an itinerary here for you, but as always follow your joy and discover for yourself the wonder of the journey through wildflower country.

Set aside 1 week if you can to fully experience the beauty of this season. Otherwise a weekend or even a day trip from Perth to the Avon valley is very achievable.

Day 1 – My wildflower trip started north from Perth with a stop at the Pinnacles for sunrise. If you don’t mind waking up early, the sunrise over these ancient limestone structures will be worth it. From here stop at Dongara and tour with the amazing New Leaf Connect. They are experts and will know exactly where to take you to see carpets of wildflowers through Depot Hill and Coalseam Conservation park. They also set up a beautiful and delicious picnic to enjoy among the wildflowers.

Next up drive a couple of hours further north to one of my all time favourite spots, Kalbarri. Stay 2 nights at Kalbarri Edge Resort which is an easy, comfortable and affordable stay. They have a great restaurant on site and can accommodate for dietary needs.

Day 2 – Visit the Natural bridge to look for whales and hike the Bigurda trail as you’ll spot lots of wildflowers and hopefully Bigurdas (kangaroos) and whales along these majestic coastal cliffs. Book a tour with D’GUY Charters and you’ll get the best wildflower and historical knowledge as you experience the beauty of the national parks. Hot spot trails are Natures Window and Z bend. Guy’s star gazing tour at the skywalk is a must! Wine and dine under the clearest night sky. You’ll be mesmerised.

Day 3 – Head east into the golden outback to Mellenbye in Yalgoo. Make sure to stop along the way for photos and lunch at Mullewa Wildflower Cafe. Mellenbye has some lovely accommodation options and you’ll get to see the rare WA Lechenaultia macrantha wreath flowers right on the property. You’ll also find wreath flowers around Pindar along the Beringarra – Pindar Road. Mellenbye is a beautiful stay and if you have time I’d book more than 1 night. They have a beautiful dinner space with magical lighting and karaoke and they even have a monster truck on the property! It’s the best spot for big sky country vibes and star gazing, and if you’re into Astrophotography then this is your place.

Day 4 – Venture south to Morawa and take a wildflower walk along the Widimia trail. You’ll spot yellow and white pom poms, pink everlastings, and rare orchids. For lunch stop at The Wheatbean Cafe in Perenjori and enjoy some of the wildflower walks in the area. There’s a cute community garden in town with beautiful murals. I stayed 1 night at The Old Convent Dalwallinu Guest House which is a beautiful spot to wake up for a sunrise walk and spot local wildflowers. Check in and then head off for a sunset picnic at Petrudor rocks.

Day 5 – Just under an hour head south to Wongan hills to the Mt O’Brien lookout where you’ll get beautiful views of the canola fields. Right in town there is a wildflower walking trail for rare orchid spotting and a beautiful pink everlasting field. Keep heading south to the Avon Valley to Toodyay and enjoy lunch at the famous Toodyay bakery. They have the best vegan pies I’ve ever tasted. And make sure to check out the Christmas shop. It’s the biggest I’ve seen and out of this world. I stayed 1 night at the beautiful Victoria Hotel that overlooks the Avon river. It’s so peaceful, comfortable and picturesque. For wildflowers in Toodyay visit Wongamine nature reserve. It was historically used as a watering/stopping place and for gravel extraction and now it’s a conservation reserve. It’s a beautiful and vibrant walk and will be popping with even more colour and flowers right now.

For local wine tasting and lovely sunset views overlooking the brook plan a visit to Coorinja winery. It was established in the 1870’s and is one of the oldest wineries in the state. You’ll be able to see the historic Ringa bridge here.

Day 6 – Only 30 min from Toodyay is Northam. You can take a hot air balloon here at sunrise overlooking the canola fields and there’s a wonderful Noongar cultural and environmental knowledge centre Bilya Koort Boodja where you can learn more about history and country. Another 30min on and you’ll be in York, the quintessential country experience. Stay a night (or more if you have time) at Laurelville Manor a historical Edwardian style homestead with the best breakfast and welcome platter I’ve experienced in WA. This is only 1.5 hours from Perth and well worth a visit for the weekend. I’m still dreaming of a mid week retreat stay here. It’s absolutely spectacular. If you’re an early riser like me take the opportunity to walk to the top of the property for sunrise views overlooking the valley. The way the light hits the morning fog is breathtaking.

If you’re planning a special event, wedding, birthday etc then you must check out Barton Park Events. They have a purpose planted pink everlasting field perfect for those spring wedding photos. It’s a beautiful rural space with a dreamy, bohemian vibe. I enjoyed a beautiful day here with lunch supplied by Gather York. It was the best vegan platter I’ve ever had in Perth!

In York you can visit the beautiful canola fields in full bloom right now. Head to PetTeet Park for those dreamy photo ops with all that iridescent yellow. Please note it is illegal to photograph in roadside canola fields and it contaminates the crop causing years of issues for farmers and a loss of $$ and livelihood. There are also snakes so best to stick to places where it is allowed. If you want to take photos in canola fields you must ask permission from the farmers first or visit places like Petteet park.

While in York check out the community bushland gardens. A lovely spot created for the people, the environment and animals.

For sunset you can’t go past Mount Brown. This is the spot for epic views overlooking the valley. I was lucky enough to hear some Noongar stories from local Elders while the sunset filled the entire sky with colour.

It’s been so wonderful to experience the beauty of wildflowers but please do be careful and not step on them or pick them. Enjoy them and tread lightly. For photography aim your camera low to the ground. For your subject, have them on the opposite side of the trail and not amongst the flowers. It looks better like this and it protects the flowers.

If you have any questions or would like help planning your own WA wildflower adventure let me know. Always happy to help.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

Coral Coast road trip

August 11, 2022

Up to 30% off tours, activities & things to do | Backpacker Deals

Photography Bobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense

Photo Locations – Morels, Cactus garden – Carnarvon | Pink Lake | Wooramel River Retreat | Beach Shack cafe – Exmouth | Turquoise bay, Oyster Stacks, Osprey bay, Yardie Creek gorge – Ningaloo Reef

Where we stayedWooramel River Retreat (1 night) | Exmouth (8 nights) | Horrocks (2 nights) – Western Australia

What to do at Ningaloo reef Scenic flight over Ningaloo reef | Swim with whale sharks | Turtle Kayak tour | Yardie Creek boat tour | Hike and/or paddle along Yardie creek gorge | Snorkel at Turquoise bay, Osprey bay, Oyster stacks to see turtles | Watch sunset from the lighthouse (bring mosquito repellant)

My favourite easy road trip stops – Natural Bridge (Whale watching from shore) | Pink Lake | Cactus garden | Morels | Artesian Baths | Coral Bay | Turquoise bay | Yardie Creek gorge

Oufits – Spell Bo Mini Dress | Spell Utopia Blouse + Skirt | Spell Basecamp Scarf | One piece swim | Tiare Hawaii Holly Dress | Heartbreaker Maxi Dress

Accessories – Linjer Peaceful Heart Necklace | Rings | Wandering Folk Arctic Folk picnic rug + Crystal Forest picnic rug | Wandering Folk Glassware

I’ve lost count now how many times we’ve made this road trip. What I do know is, it won’t be our last. Every time is unique with new discoveries of pristine, remote beaches, unexpected wildlife encounters, and family bonding time that is more precious to me than anything else in this world. This trip had it all! My favourite part was watching my teen kids connecting, laughing, playing in the ocean with joy soaked faces like they were 5 years old again.

Our final destination, Ningaloo reef, is about a 13+ hour drive from Perth. We started our trip with an overnight stop about 8 hours north at Wooramel River Retreat. We love the slow paced, outback vibes at Wooramel and the facilities are excellent. We’ve stayed in both the camping area and the self contained family rooms with the hammocks out front. Both experiences were amazing. After the long drive we enjoyed a soak in their famous Magnesium rich, artesian baths before cosying up by the communal fire. Wooramel is such a great place to meet travellers, share stories and laughs by the fire.

Along the way we have a family tradition to stop at Morels in Carnarvon for mango ice creams. They’re delicious, plant based, nothing but pure, tropical mango, and it sets the tone for what’s to come. Close by is the Carnarvon food trail, filled with tropical fruits and beautiful photogenic spots like giant, pink bougainvillea and a super sized cactus garden that is open to the public for viewing and photos. The garden will show up on maps when you’re in Carnarvon, but it is located on South River road in case your reception drops out.

Next stop for us was Exmouth, situated close by to Ningaloo reef. Once we settled into our holiday home we mapped our must visit spots to snorkel and paddle for the week. It was about an hour drive from town into Cape Range National Park each day. It honestly isn’t that bad at all, as the drive itself is simply stunning with wildlife spotting along the way. If you want to stay closer to the park, or within the park, there is camping and some self contained chalets at Yardie Creek campgrounds. There is also camping all along the national park, though very few facilities are available at the beach campsites. For a luxurious glamping option there is Sal Salis, though there is a hefty overnight rate that comes with this option. While I liked being in town for the ease of shopping, going out to cafes, etc we did spend almost all our time on the range and reef. Next year we have booked a Yardie creek chalet and will be trying some camping out too. I found an off grid campervan for hire through airbnb and they set it up/pack it down for you. All we have to do is book a campsite and show up. Pretty excited to trial this out. Will let you know how it goes next year!

This trip really exceeded expectations. We found pristine, secluded beaches and some of the best snorkelling spots we’ve ever experienced. We paddled with dolphins and swam with more turtles each day than we could actually count. The turtles were very friendly and curious and we even saw them eating jellyfish and seagrass. We were lucky enough to see leopard, white tip and black tip sharks, giant sting rays, unicorn fish, octopus, cuttlefish, lion fish, catfish, flatfish and so many different species of tropical fish I lost count! The reef is so healthy and it’s a joy to be able to experience it thriving with life. In between snorkeling and paddling we spent some time hiking at Yardie creek gorge. It’s an ancient spot with some of the cutest little rock wallabies hopping about. At first they will blend in quite well, but if you look closely and sit for awhile, you’ll start to see them in the cracks along the rock wall. You’ll also see Ospreys flying overhead and bats hiding amongst the trees. You can take a boat tour along the gorge or paddle with your stand up paddle board or kayak.

Another really amazing new experience for us was taking a scenic flight over the reef with Ningaloo Aviation. It’s an hour long flight and every moment is mesmerising. My top tip is to go around 1-2pm as the reef will be looking it’s absolute best. We saw whales, turtles, dolphins, dugongs and sharks with great clarity. The reef itself was iridescent, glowing with all shades of dreamy turquoise and blue hues. I’d definitely do this tour again as you never know what new wildlife experience awaits.

Ningaloo reef is the largest fringing reef in the world and the perfect spot to swim with whale sharks, humpback whales and manta rays. These are season dependant, though it’s worth planning your trip around what you want to experience most. For us late June/early July is the perfect time. We escape our winter in Perth, and enjoy some sunshine and warmth. We get to see all the marine life and especially love that we make it in time to see the whales which start showing up around the beginning of July. Swimming with them is still on my bucket list so maybe next year we might tick that one off.

While there are so many incredibles stops along the Coral Coast highway, like Kalbarri, Pink Lake, Shark Bay, Monkey Mia, Shell Beach, Gnaraloo, Blowholes and Coral bay, we are always so very eager to get to Exmouth and get in that water. We usually choose a couple of these stops along the way to Exmouth and back to Perth, and each year we change it up. This year we explored a new quiet coastal town called Horrocks, which was a stones throw from Pink lake and Kalbarri. It was a beautiful way to end our trip and take in a few more majestic sights along the way. We watched some of the most vibrant sunset skies that I’ve ever seen in my life. If you’ve ever watched a sunset in Horrocks you’ll know what I’m talking about. It lasted for what felt like forever. It was an otherworldly experience for sure. I actually feel like the entire trip was so dreamlike. I’ve even noticed now, a month later, I’m still dreaming of underwater experiences. How wonderful that my mind takes me back to these beautiful spots even after I’m home.

If you haven’t visited Ningaloo reef, put it on your list. And as always feel free to reach out for travel tips, questions and help to plan your dream Coral Coast trip!

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

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