Playing in the Sand – D’Encastreaux National Park

We knew when we left home it was roughly 3500km to Albany but really we had no idea just how far it was! So given we were all the way over here, the lure of the Margaret River region proved too great and we rearranged our plans and headed further west.

We spent a couple of fun days in the Manjimup and Pemberton areas enjoying the beautiful produce and stunningly tall Karri tree forests. The rough stuff was calling us though and we made our way into the D’Encastreaux National Park.

Our first foray into the park was as a day trip to the Yeagarup and Callcup dune systems. This area is not for the faint of heart nor light of foot – these dunes take some serious revs to get up and over! The Yeagarup dunes are a 10 km long system of moving sand dunes making these the longest in the southern hemisphere. We were blown away to discover that they actually encroach on the Karri forests they rise up out of at a rate of 4m per year! This kind of gives you some idea of the wind in the area too!

The first challenge saw us get up and over the steep and very soft rise up to the top of the dunes rewarding us with stunning views across the white, wind-rippled landscape. From here we followed the white markers along the shifting track down to a very wild and woolly beach. The boys thought it was hilarious as we bumped our way along the track – far from being smooth there were some serious ruts and holes and given just how soft the sand was and how steep some of the rises were there is no slowing down or easing your way through them. Matty and the Prado smashed it though and we had a lot of fun!

By a stroke of luck, the time and day meant we scored a very low tide and we were able to cross over the Warren River inlet without getting the tires wet. By all accounts if the tide is too far in or the river is raging, it is impossible to cross meaning you miss out on the challenge of driving up Callcup dune. This infamous dune has 3 sections to make it up – the first relatively short but steep climb up from the beach then two more VERY long, VERY soft climbs. We were pretty proud as Matty made it up first go – not something achieved by everyone!

The next day we packed up the camper and headed back into D’Encastreaux to spend a couple of nights at Black Point in the national park and check out some more of the impressive natural landmarks and 4×4 tracks. The majority of this park can really only be accessed with a high-clearance 4×4 and you definitely wouldn’t be towing a caravan in here. But this is the reason we traded in the Swan in for the Robbo!

We were on a role with our luck and it turned out the Black Point track, which is only accessible during the drier months, was only just reopened the day before. Bumping our way along it was easy to see why this track is closed over winter – there were some pretty impressive bog-holes that some unfortunate vehicles had become fairly well stuck in at some past occasion. Another seriously fun track, it even had a water crossing or two for us to wade through, one of which turned out to be a bit deeper than we expected thanks to a nice big rut midway. Car and camper made it through unscathed however and we set up camp amongst the beautiful peppermint trees at the Black Point campground. The first night, there was only one or two others somewhere off in the distance making for a pretty awesome spot to stay.

During our stay we spent some time down at Black Point beach where some 100 million years ago, flowing lava was cooled by the sea leaving stunning black basalt rock ‘stepping stones’ and columns. We scrambled our way over some of the rocks but the tide beat us from getting too far and we made a very steep ascent over a sand dune to get back to the car!

We also, of course, had to visit Jasper Lake and Jasper Beach. Jazzy did think it was pretty cool that was where we were going. Jasper Lake looked beautiful but sadly we were beaten by the march flies which were relentless and biting so we gobbled down our lunch in the car then headed back for Jasper Beach. We had a great time splashing in the waves and meandering along the beach checking out the big chunks of coral and sea sponge washed up on the sand.

So I did promise you another recipe this time and I thought I’d share one of my favourite one-pots. I love a good one-pot as apart from anything, it saves on washing up and whilst we have about 240L of water at full capacity we do have to be a bit stingy with it. Anyway this lamb biriyani recipe originally came from a woolies magazine but I have of course tinkered with it (quite a bit). I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Until next time, eat well & live happy


Lamb Biriyani

  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 large brown onion, finely diced,
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 3cm piece ginger, finely grated
  • 1.5 cups brown basmati rice
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 cups brown basmati rice
  • 60g organic sultanas
  • 4 cups water (or homemade chicken stock)
  • 1.5 tsp herbamare (vege salt)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 120g baby spinach leaves
  • approx 2/3 cup natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/3 continental cucumber, peeled and grated
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • fresh coriander
  • olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy based pot over med-high heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger and saute for 2-3 mins until starting to soften. Add mince and brown. Add spices and saute for a further minute until fragrant. Add rice and sultanas and saute for 1-2 mins. Add water (or stock) and herbamare. Stir, cover and bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered for approx 35 mins, stirring occasionally to prevent rice from sticking. Approx 10 mins before cooking is finished, add the peas. When done, all the water should be absorbed and rice should be tender. Add the spinach leaves and gently mix through. Meanwhile, combine yoghurt, cumin, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Serve rice with a big spoonful of the yoghurt mixture (raita) and fresh coriander leaves.

Eyre Bird Observatory & Twilight Cove

After pulling up and spending the night at the roadhouse at Cocklebiddy, we packed up the boot of the Prado with our overnight stuff and headed off for our next detour off the bitumen. 

The Eyre Bird Observatory is located around 50km from Cocklebiddy and has been set up by Bird Life Australia to collect data on the birdlife and other fauna of the area. The original old telegraph repeater station, built in 1877, has been converted into accomodation for the volunteer caretakers and visitors.

The EBO is located in the Nuytsland Nature Reserve, not far from Twilight Cove. About 35km of the trip in is on a gravel, rocky track that turns to sand and is 4wd only – definitely not the most difficult driving we’ve done, but lots of fun all the same! There were fires that ripped through the area some years ago and the black of the trees and fresh green regrowth contrast against the white sand making for stunning scenery.

On arrival, the warm, friendly caretakers, Danie & Delene, greeted us and showed us around. I have to say it felt a lot like going on school camp as we settled ourselves into our room & enjoyed the lunch put on for us and the other guests staying.  You can really feel the isolation here. The EBO is completely off grid, being totally reliant on solar power & tank water.
Quite dense bush grows around the old Observatory building, with the white sand dunes rising above the beach in the distance. There is, of course, abundant bird life in this beautiful, tranquil setting. That is, until the Jazzy Devil arrives in all his thundering glory… really sorry to those two twitchers who arrived just after us!! We did get to spot a few different bird species though, my favourite were definitely the Major Mitchell cockies.

We spent a fantastic afternoon driving over one of the dunes to the beach then following one of the marked walking trails. We also climbed our way up to the top of a pure white, rippled, sand dune. The sun started to dip, casting a golden glow over the gently rolling dunes and the boys had a ball rolling back down, making for a definite highlight of our trip.

I had brought food along but I definitely hadn’t needed to as Delene did a stellar job catering for us, gluten & dairy free and all – with very limited supplies too.

The next morning, after waiting for low tide, we got our adventure boots on and headed off along the beach for Twilight Cove. The track follows the beach for about the first 13km then heads slightly inland along a tight, winding, rocky, sandy track. Definitely a LOT of fun! Although the Prado now has a few bush pin-stripes to show for it. The track pops back out at the beach again and we pulled up at Twilight Cove which could only be described as a little piece of heaven. We had the whole pure white beach to ourselves, in fact, I think this beach sees very few visitors. It was a scorching hot day, but we found a little shade in the overhanging rocks and splashed in the crystal clear, turquoise water.

We also got to spot quite a lot of wildlife on our way. We were quite excited to see a dolphin playing in the waves, a sea eagle and a dugite – thankfully we were in the car when we saw this one! Matt also came face to face with a rather large roo when he was checking out a track and I’m not sure who got the bigger fright!

On our way home we had planned to head back via an inland track but we just could not find which dune to cross to get to the start of it. We ended up following along the beach as the tide was quite low, however things got a bit hairy as we hit some very sharp limestone outcrops. Stuck between the thick piles of seaweed (seriously, this stuff would swallow your car), the salt water and the rocks we crawled along, trying not to get bogged or destroy the car on a ‘diff-buster’ (a rock just high enough to smash your diff if you go over it the wrong way!). We were actually going quite well until a very large boulder right on the edge of the water blocked our path entirely and we had to backtrack. Time was ticking on and we had to be mindful of the tide so we ended up coming back the way we came via the EBO but it certainly made for an adventurous day! I don’t have any good photos of the track for you, partly because they just don’t do it justice but mostly because we were concentrating too hard on making our way along the track!

Looking forward to filling you in on more of our adventures



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