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Hearty Pies, Static Canoeing and Shipwrecks on the Coral Coast

Howdy folks, I’m on my first Taste Mastering trip of 2014, a six hour self-drive adventure from Perth up to Kalbarri National Park and Geraldton on Australia’s Coral Coast.

One of the many highlights of the drive was the devouring of a Caltex service station award-winning pie in Dongara.

Ladies and Gents, I can honestly say this was the best pie I’ve eaten in Western Australia. It ticks all the boxes in my Good Pie Guide, deep filled, plenty of meat, real tasty, and most importantly of all HOLDS ITS FORM! No hot pie filling dripping down my arm for me, no Sir.

If you take the Indian Ocean Drive to Kalbarri you get to really appreciate the dramatic coastline and can imagine the Dutch trading ships sailing round the coast hundreds of years ago (with a lot of them not making it). There’re a lot of shipwrecks and stories out there, one of the most famous being the notorious shipwreck, mutiny, executions and punishments which surrounded the wrecking of the Batavia. Gruesome, chilling and heroic stuff.

Another in 1839 saw Lieutenant George Grey shipwrecked near the mouth of the Murchison River and having to WALK back to Perth, and that’s where we start our adventure folks. Not walking back to Perth, but at the Murchison River.

It’s a bit dry at the moment, but depending where and when it rains can change the Murchison  into an unforgiving, raging torrent overnight…

…and I wouldn’t mind having this view from my window at home, it’s Nature’s Window!

Kalbarri is a fishing village and a great family holiday spot. There’re loads of activities here and we ventured out on a canoe gorge tour. Here’s a tip, if you want to glide smoothly over the beautiful waters and get lost in the history of the 400-million year-old river gorges, don’t have the heaviest male in the group in the back of your canoe.

Blimey, we were SO SLOW. I swear the rock formations had changed on the return leg of our 6km trip. It didn’t matter how hard we paddled we just weren’t shifting anywhere. We were getting overtaken by young kids and old ladies and actually bottomed out a couple of times and had to carry the canoe along slippery rocks.

..I found out they were slippery the hard way.


After hiking and very slowly canoeing round the gorges of Kalbarri we hit the road for the 160km drive south to the town of Geraldton. En route we passed Pink Lake and I’ll give you two guesses how it got its name!

Pink Lake gets its colour from the microscopic algae which occur naturally in salt lakes. They in turn bloom under the right conditions (warm weather and salt levels) and produce carotenoids which are a pigment found in fruit and vegetables (see, I KNEW it had a Taste Master slant!) The lake is a mixture of all different carotenoids that can be found in brightly coloured vegetables (for example the orange of a carrot or the yellow of corn) resulting in the colour of the Pink Lake.

Or in other words it’s just a big old mish mash of colours. Imagine putting a load of different coloured clothes in the washing machine and in the end everything just comes out pink.

OK now we’ve reached Geraldton and here’s my top tip of the day. I’d highly recommend popping into the Geraldton Museum and having a look at their Shipwrecks Gallery and the special commemorative HMAS Sydney II display. It tells the story of how Australia’s most famous maritime mystery was finally solved. Tragic and moving.

The museum pieces together the extraordinary tales of murder, mayhem and survival against the odds of the areas most famous shipwreck, the Batavia, on her maiden journey in 1629.  She ran aground on Morning Reef, one of the 148 separate islands making up the Abrolhos Islands group which lie 70km off the coast of Geraldton. Because this job is absolutely brilliant I got to see the islands from the air, and this is what they look like.

So after landing on Turtle Bay for lunch and a swim we flew back to Geraldton, and now that’s it folks! I’m very sad to say that as my Taste Mastering contract ticks away, this is my last visit to the beautiful Coral Coast. But what a way to go out eh, with a flight over the Abrolhos Islands. I can’t imagine what the Dutch explorers must’ve thought when they first discovered the Western Coast of Australia.

Actually, I CAN imagine what some of them thought…..


Tips and Tricks

Getting to Kalbarri and Geraldton

  • Journey to and explore the region in a three to four day round self-drive trip
  • Virgin Australia also operate flights into Geraldton

Where I stayed in the region

My expert local guides

  • Captain Gavin from the Kalbarri Wilderness Cruises gives a very funny commentary and is a wealth of knowledge on the Kalbarri region and its wildlife
  • Join Wendy, chief pilot of Geraldton Air Charters, for an amazing Abrolhos Islands adventure.

My Insider tips

  • For a nice bit of tea get some fish and chips from the Jetty Seafood Shack, Kalbarri while you watch the sun go down on the beach and for a real hearty brekkie head to Gorges Café, Kalbarri
  • Southerleys Dongara makes for a good road stop for lunch.
  • You can also have some tastings of olive products at Silverdale Olive Orchard.

Events to keep an eye out for

  • Australasian Safari, dates TBC

For a full list of events in the region visit: