In Toronto, a two or three-hour drive from the city would bring reprieve by way of a smaller-town setting with local shops, wine-country or perhaps even a bit of countryside, however in WA you get desert. And honestly – it’s super cool.
For my birthday this year I took myself on a two-day trip to Lancelin Sand Dunes, Pinnancles Desert and Jurien Bay for a city-escape with some fun in the sun. I was definitely looking forward to it, but to be fair I didn’t fully appreciate just how much could be packed into a less-than-48-hour road-trip until I got here!
Typically these destinations bookend a longer trip up to Exmouth or Broome, but I’m really glad I did it unto themselves. It allowed me to focus on the sights and activities without any rush, and I loved the leisurely pace of allowing each spot to be the destination, not simply a stop on the way to something….well, something better.
Here’s how it all went down:
DAY 1: I picked up my rental car around 8:30AM and the hit the road to kick-off a couple days of Birthday fun. First stop, because priorities, was Sherbet Cafe + Bake Shop in Maylands to get cupcakes for a picnic that night. Red Velvet was hands down the winning selection, but I digress.
Onwards I went with the windows down, tunes up, sun shining bright to make the easy 1.5 hour drive to Lancelin Sand Dunes. Full disclosure – I wasn’t particularly keen on this stop, I just figured it was something to do so I included it for the purpose of, “meh – might as well check it out.” I had no intention of really staying or doing much beyond looking or walking up a couple of dunes, but what an unexpected highlight it turned out to be!
As I pulled up to the car-park with the impressive rolling sand hills in the background, there were about 8 yellow ATVs parked off in the distance, and as soon as I saw them, there was no chance I wasn’t getting on. So, I geared up (you need closed-toe shoes and a helmet) and took off. You’re not supposed to go fast, but please, obviously I set off racing.
It was so. much. fun! I did get bogged a couple times because the sand is quite soft, but with a little muscle I was able to get myself out each time, up and over the next dune just waiting to be tried on.
After ripping around on the quad for just under an hour, I drove a bit further North to Nambung National Park where the Pinnacles Desert can be explored for as long as you’d like (well, within park hours). You can drive through or walk through or take a hybrid approach like I did by doing both.
This place feels like you’ve landed on Mars. It’s a pretty cool natural occurrence of free-formed limestone build-up resulting in a very celestial landscape.
And of course, as indicated by the first photo of this post, there were a few Roos to play with here as well!
NB: Do not actually try to play with, or touch the Roos. I was seriously afraid I was about to get beat up when one jumped out unexpectedly before I saw him camouflaged among the shrubs and sand. Good thing I’ve taken so many boxing classes in TO, haha.
This was pretty well a full day’s adventure, so it was time for a sunset picnic at Hangover Bay (and of course, time to enjoy that cupcake purchase from earlier that morning).
As we know I often realize things along the way that I wish I’d realized sooner, SO the lesson here would be to book accommodation in Jurien Bay (I didn’t, so I had to drive back south, only to return the next morning).
DAY 2: Just when you think it can’t get much better, Jurien Bay Turquoise Safari Tour comes in to blow your mind.
Swimming with sea lions is not something I’d ever thought I’d do in my life. It’s not even something I thought I desired, but when I saw the option to do so in Jurien Bay, and saw the photos of these sweet, playful pups, I decided this was exactly how I wanted to spend my 2nd annual 30th Birthday (the 1st annual was spent in Nashville – also a great time, for the record).
But this was more than I could have possibly imagined. At the outset, Landyn, our guide, told us that nothing is guaranteed by way of the sea lions choosing to engage with us or not. We are their guests, we are entering their home turf, and therefore we must be respectful of their boundaries. There is no stepping on the island, no using food to bait the sea lions to come see us. We simply anchor, and the rest is up to them if they feel like coming to greet us.
Well, it must have been some birthday magic because boy, did we ever luck out! As soon as we reached Essex Rock where there were about 15-20 sea lions either sunbathing or splashing in the surf, one young pup came out to say “hello” right away. Zipping back-and-forth, twisting and diving and flipping forwards and back, he was curious and fearless and really so much fun to play with!
Within a short while longer, we had a grouping of 4 sea lions flitting around us, every single one of us just having the time of our lives. What a special moment, to say the least.
We spent a good amount of time in the water diving and gliding alongside these adorable creatures before basking on the boat with a hot bevy and sweet treat. Riding back between the islands on our power boat was an added highlight for me to get my fix of wind in my hair (I’m a real need-for-speed kind of girl, the amount of tickets I’ve had on my driving record is proof of this, so it’s best when I get to just go along for the ride).
A leisurely drive back to Cervantes for lunch and a walk along the shoreline was the perfect afternoon ending before gassing up and heading back to the city.
Dinner and drinks at a wine bar in Highgate were the crowning touch to finish off an amazing day, so I’ll be forever grateful to these new furry friends for making an already special day for me one to remember.
A definite “must-do” for anyone with a few days to spare in Perth and the surrounding area!