Duke of Orleans Bay

Trip Leader: Martin & Karen Archer

When: 26th December 2011 to 8th January 2012

Location: Duke of New Orleans Bay

Participants: Roger & Jan Freegard, Keith Parker, Guy & Wendy Lehmann, Michael & Marion Gilbert, Troy & Keryn Shortland, Richard & Helen Kingston, Rick and Nancy Ellis, Peter & Denise Belcher, George & Linda Bickendike, Glenn Bignell, Bob & Bridget McPhersnon.

It was a fine Boxing Day for driving the full day to Duke of Orleans Bay which is situated about 70 kilometres east of Esperance on the south coast. The Duke of Orleans caravan park is located near the very picturesque Wharton Beach which is a popular surfing, quad bike and fishing location. We had reserved a section of the caravan park’s unpowered area suitable for the 12 campers and caravans from our club. Most of our members arrived within the first 2 days of our 2 week stay.

The club’s 2 gazebos were erected in a central area of our camp. The gazebos side panels proved their worth screening the cold southerly winds during some of the less desirable evenings. With 22 members in our group, the two gazebos were just big enough to cosily accommodate everyone. We also hired a fire drum from the caravan park for the two weeks. At $20 per day, which included all the firewood you could burn, it worked out to just $1 per person for each day of their stay. If you are thinking, ‘that doesn’t add up?‘, some members departed sooner than others which balanced up the costs.

With this trip being the second subsequent visit to this area, we had a leisurely 2 weeks visiting the locations that impressed us the previous year. There was little need to travel far as Duke of Orleans Bay is surrounded by an array of truly wonderful bays. And with each of them facing in various directions, a bay could always be chosen that was favourable for the prevailing winds. Every beach is skirted by dazzling white sand and deep turquoise clear water.

We did a number of day trips to beaches further east and west. One of which was the coastline around Cape Arid National Park. This area can present a variety of driving conditions depending on the tide levels and recent weather. The beaches can be difficult if the tide is up and vehicles have churned up the upper beach strip. Or it can be as easy as a bitumen road if the tide is out. Navigating between the many bays requires some good wheel placement over rock outcrops. Cape Arid has two managed camp grounds or a number of secluded bays where you can escape from other campers. Our day trip visit to the area before New Years Eve discovered that most of the bays had been claimed by lucky campers. But there was miles of magnificent beaches for us to pull up and have lunch and a swim without interfering with others.

Last year we had missed just one beach in our exploration of the coast between Cape LeGrande and Cape Arid. That gap was filled this year with a day trip to Kennedy Beach which is the last stretch of coast before reaching Cape Arid. Bushtrax.com and other trip notes suggested that this beach was inaccessible following wet weather. This was a concern because the day prior to running this trip it had rained quite heavily. Sure enough, as we left Merrivale Road onto the Kennedy Beach track there was a sign warning that the track may be impassable. But we soon discovered that the swampy areas had been filled with road base and the only difficulty was the soft sand dunes closer to the beach. These were easily navigated with reduced tyre pressures. Once again we were not surprised to find yet another beach from heaven.
Lunch stop was on a flat rock outcrop overlooking crystal clear seas, which proved so relaxing that some men folk fell asleep in their chairs. After lunch we tried to bay hop back to camp, but one particular hill climb proved quite a steep sand climb with a difficult rock outcrop near the top which brought us to a stop. Everyone else was patiently waiting on the beach for the ‘all clear’ but we decided the challenge too difficult and dangerous without chancing damage to our vehicles. I had to reverse out of the track which was steep and curving with equally steep drop aways on the side. This is where you learn that vehicles reversing down steep curving sand hills do not necessarily go in the direction you want. Eventually, we all backtracked and exited the coast the way we came.

Thanks to Troy who organised a couple of fishing trips which resulted in the odd catch of herring and whiting. The best catch of all was provided by another camper who offered our group a couple of bags of abalone. Troy spent some time bashing and tenderising the abalone after which I trimmed off the gristly bits before throwing them on the hot plate for a happy hour feast. Although they were tasty and enjoyable, I fail to see why they are so expensive and sort after. One of Troy’s fishing adventures included an enjoyable evening on the rocks watching a picturesque sun set.

Thanks also to Michael for offering to run a day trip. However, I think he would have been better off at Walpole where the ‘locked and lifted’ members were hanging out. Because after posting the trip as a level 4 he found himself in a convoy of one. Some of those that didn’t want the challenging drive decided to opt for coffee and scones at Condingup Tavern. Not taking rejection to heart, Michael and Marion headed east to explore more coastline and tracks.

The Condingup Tavern once again impressed our group with a wonderful dinner on New Years Eve and another dinner for Jan’s birthday several days later. The Tavern is a family run business and they provide excellent meals with very friendly and accommodating service.

The Gibson Soak Hotel was re-visited this year for a lunch stop during our visit to Esperance. This year we found the tavern quite busy with a number of large groups in for lunch. The tavern allowed us into the main dining room as there were no tables left in the casual meals areas. Another hearty lunch was had with an over abundance of food that many could not quite get through. This was followed by a drive back to camp along the beach from Wiley Creek to Cape LeGrande. This run covers about 30 kilometres of hard white sand which can be easily driven by a 2 wheel drive car.

Throughout the 2 weeks we came across a number of snakes. One of which, a carpet python, was found by Roger inside his annexe before going to bed. Luckily Jan was visiting the ladies at the time and did not discover it herself. The skirt of the annexe was raised and the snake coerced out into the open. It was then broom handled into a bucket and taken back to the bush and released. We had other visits from snakes into the camp, one of which  was a dugite which soon found its self on the wrong side of Troy’s shovel.

Despite several days of strong winds and wet weather the 2 weeks was very enjoyable thanks to a great bunch of members to enjoy it with. Having spent the last two New Years Eves in this area, Karen and I have decided to try something different next year. However, the Duke of Orleans Caravan Park will welcome our club again should anyone else wish to organise a club trip for this coming end of year. Please see me and I will pass on the contact details for the caravan park.

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