DM and MM's Western Australia 2010 Diary

Day 2 - Perth to Margaret River

Sunday, 15 August, 2010

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Australis, Margaret River. 19:59

We've just had the Sunday carvery buffet dinner here at Australis, a short walk from our room. We decided to eat close tonight and explore more of the town's restaurants over the next few nights.

The day began back in Perth in the Aarons Hotel. I woke up early at about 05:00 and couldn't get back to sleep, but M. slept through until about 06:45. We got up and showered before heading out to breakfast at Miss Maud's across the street. This is a Swedish place that does an enormous buffet breakfast with all sorts of goodies: cereals, bircher muesli, breads, cold meats, cheeses, fruits both fresh and preserved, jams, croissants, pastries, muffins, yoghurts, and then cooked items: eggs, both scrambled and fried, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, French toast, and pancakes in two sizes.

Swedish Danishes
Swedish danishes at Miss Maud's breakfast buffet

We started with cereals then worked into some eggs and sundries, ending with fruits and pastries. M. sent a photo of me eating a chocolate custard danish to her dad. We made sure to fill up well for the day ahead, then grabbed a fresh apple and pear from the fruit basket as we left. Then it was back to the hotel room to pack and check out.

After checking out, we walked with our luggage the three blocks to the Avis car hire depot. The morning was brisk and it was good to be out and about, feeling better after a sleep. Once settled into our hire car, we navigated our way on to the Kwinana Freeway southbound to Mandurah.

We arrived in Mandurah about 10:30 and stopped in this holiday town to stretch our legs and see whatever sights there were to see. We stopped at the tourist information centre and a helpful lady there showed us several things on a map. We walked across the nearby boardwalk and across a park to Dolphin Quay, a waterfront area full of cafes and shops, adjacent to a large marina full of yachts and cruisers. There was a covered market there with a dozen or so touristy stalls selling things ranging from antiques and Christmas decorations to shoes and dresses. Truth be told, it wasn't that exciting and we soon headed back to the car to continue our journey.

Mandurah wharf
Mandurah wharf

A bit further down the road was the small community of Falcon (formerly known as Miami), home of the famous Miami Bakehouse. This is a multi-award-winning bakery known across Western Australia for its spectacular pies. Being a fan of a good pie, I had to stop to check it out. We managed to call our stop lunch by virtue of finishing our meal after 12:00. I had a crab and feta pie and a sausage roll, while M. tried the spinach and ricotta roll, then had a coffee for the road. Honestly, the pie was good, but not spectacular - the pastry could have been lighter and flakier on top.

Miami Bakehouse Pie
Spinach and ricotta roll, and crab and feta pie from Miami Bakehouse

The next stop on the road south was Yalgorup National Park, where we turned off the highway to reach Lake Clifton, a lime-enriched coastal lake where there were 600 million year old thrombolites accumulating in the shallow waters. These stromatalite-like domes of rock encrusted by bacterial mats filled the water below the boardwalk and presented a prehistoric vista which was both beautiful and awe-inspiring. The day was chilly in the shade, but in the open sun it got hot very quickly.

Lake Clifton Thrombolites
Thrombolites at Lake Clifton

From there we drove south to the town of Bunbury. On the way into town we stopped and the Mangrove Swamp Boardwalk that the Lonely Planet recommended. It was a short 200 metre walk along a boardwalk through some typical looking mangroves - nothing special there. Apparently this is considered an attraction here because these are the southernmost mangroves on the west coast, and a considerable way south of any others. But to us, who live walking distance from mangroves back in Sydney, it was nothing special. The Lonely Planet and information signs both claimed there were lots of birds to be seen, but look as we might we didn't manage to see any until almost back to the car, when M. spotted something mostly hidden amongst the reeds. We never even got a good view of it!

Hoary-Headed Grebes
Hoary-headed grebes on Lake Clifton

Across the road from the mangrove swamp was the Dolphin Discovery Centre, which offered the chance to swim with or observe wild dolphins. We crossed over and checked it out, but it turned out to have closed at 14:00, and we were there about 10 minutes after that time.

So instead we headed into the centre of Bunbury and got out to stretch our legs by walking up and down the main street. Not much was open beyond the cinema and a couple of cafes, and a chemist where I popped in to buy some dental floss because the pack I brought from home is about to run out. M. grabbed a coffee from one of the cafes, then we drove out to a tall observation tower on the north of the town centre that we could see from the main street. This was on a hill overlooking the entire town and the ocean beyond. Climbing the tower's spiral staircase to a height of about 20 metres above the hilltop gave us spectacular 360° views of this coastal town.

Bunbury Tower Self-Portrait
On the observation tower, overlooking Bunbury

Leaving Bunbury, we headed south to Busselton, an even smaller town. On the way, we spotted a sign pointing to a pottery and took the indicated turn off the 110 km/h highway - after first taking an early turn and ending up in nothing but a petrol station. The place turned out to be the house of a woman on a back street a couple of kilometres from the highway. We chatted with her while browsing the pots and other ceramic items she'd made. We bought a blue glazed water jug, which should match the other blue pottery stuff we have at home.

Busselton Jetty Interpretive Centre
Interpretive Centre on Busselton Jetty

The next stop was Busselton, where apparently the only attraction is the Busselton Jetty - at almost 2 km long the longest wooden pier in the southern hemisphere. It was undergoing renovations and closed to the public immediately after the Jetty Interpretive Centre, which is built on to the pier itself about 20 metres from the shore. The jetty was still very impressive and included two sets of railway tracks leading off down it into the distance - for loading and unloading of cargo from ships moored in the deep water at the far end, no doubt. The Interpretive Centre contained a detailed plan of the renovations, indicating that they began in 2009 and would be completed later this year.

The evening fish
Fisherman, with Busselton Jetty in background

We didn't stop to see anything else in Busselton and paused only to eat our apple and pear from Miss Maud's before leaving and heading straight to Margaret River. We arrived in the town of Margaret River a bit before 18:00 and checked in here at Australis, which is a bit over a kilometre out of town. The Sunday special at the restaurant is the carvery buffet, and we booked a table for 18:30. This gave us enough time to drive back into town to buy some breakfast supplies at the IGA grocery store. We got some muesli and other cereal, milk and yoghurt, to allow us a simple breakfast in our room for the next three mornings.

Then it was the dinner. We ordered a glass each of the house red and white wines - the red a cabernet-merlot blend, and the white described only as a "classic white" from a local winery. I guessed it would be a Sémillon-Sauvignon blanc blend, and on tasting I'm pretty sure that's what it was. M. grabbed some of the vegetarian pasta and baked vegetables, while I tried the tomato and bacon soup for a starter. M. said the guy serving the carvery items was enthusiastically describing to here all the roast meats and a shepherd's pie, but she of course didn't take any of them. It was left to me to make him happy after my soup by asking for some slices of the roast turkey and roast beef, and also piling on a good helping of the shepherd's pie. It was all very good. There was also a bowl of prawns with salad which I hadn't noticed earlier, so I grabbed a few of those after finishing the plate of meats. Then there was cheese - a cheddar, blue, camembert, and feta - to have with crackers, though I tried some with a bit of a very nice breadstick. There was pavlova, fruit salad, and a hot apple crumble for desserts. M. had some of the fruit salad while I tried the crumble with some whipped cream. The only thing missing was a chocolate dessert! M. suggested we ask the staff when the chocolate dish would be brought out of the kitchen.

Australis cheese
Cheese platter at Australis resort buffet

As it turned out, we were the last to leave the restaurant - although this was not that surprising as the place here seems mostly empty, this being the low tourist season, and there were only three or four other tables of people eating, all of whom were there when we arrived. The woman charging the meal to our room accidentally missed a decimal point and entered $650 instead of $6.50 for a glass of wine. I said the meal was good, but not that good, and we had a laugh over it. The error fixed, we headed back to our room to turn in for the night.

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