Located on WA's Coral Coast, Kalbarri is a pretty little town about 600 k's north of Perth. It's a mix of laid back, tropical vibes, adventure sports and water activities galore. It's a great place to take the kids, and there's heaps for adults to do too. Here’s some ideas on how to spend a weekend in Kalbarri.
Things to do:
After being picked up by the nice people at Kalbarri Abseil, we headed about 45 minutes out of town and started the tour off with a hike down the gorge, taking in some stunning views along the way.
Once we got to the Z bend gorge, we got all our abseiling gear on and had a quick safety lesson and explanation. The staff were really professional and told lots of (bad) jokes to try to help any nerves we might have been feeling about stepping backwards off a cliff edge.
We started off on the easy four metre drop just to get used to the gear and learning to trust that the person holding the rope below wasn't going to let us plummet to our deaths.
Next we moved on to the 25 metre cliff. Once you walked backwards over the lip of the cliff, it was possible to take several jumps to get down to the bottom.
It was a really exciting activity for the kids (and us), and both Miss 11 and Master 13 managed to get past their fears and enjoy it (although only one of them decided to tackle the highest cliff).
Our last cliff was a 35 metre drop, which required a few metres of backward jumping followed by a whole lot of free fall. If you dared to look around, the views from the top were really beautiful, and you could see down the gorge to the green pools below.
After the abseiling, we trekked down to the bottom of the gorge for a swim.
After some initial confusion due to the operator cancelling our sunset cruise (due to the tides), we managed to make it onto a morning cruise instead, and I’m really glad we did. The Murchison river is WA's second longest (I learnt that on the tour) and is about 820 k's long. It starts up at Meekatharra and is filled from the rainfall that comes with cyclones in WA's north.
We set off from the main beach in the morning and cruised up the river while our friendly boat captain regaled us with stories of the history of the area while pointing out different points of interest, including the imaginatively named Big Red hill and Little Red hill.
The rock formations of the area date back to as long as 500 million years ago, and the colours are striking.
One of the more recent additions is a collection of picnic tables along the banks so that locals and tourists can stop for a spot of lunch or fishing.
The cruise was really interesting, and it was really relaxing being out on the water. We even got the chance to hop off up river and have a look around (and take a quick selfie up a tree).
Rainbow jungle bird sanctuary
To be honest, I'm not that excited by bird sanctuaries (or birds), but even I was impressed by this one. The owners have created the entire sanctuary themselves, and it's an absolute credit to them. The sanctuary has hundreds of birds from all over the world, including parrots, macaws, cockatoos, finches and quails.
The sanctuary apparently houses the largest parrot free flight aviary in Australia, and it was really fun to watch them flying in and out of their nests, feeding, fighting and generally making a lot of noise!
Some of the macaws were huge, and had the most beautiful, brightly coloured feathers. Many of the birds were also happy to have a chat and do a little dance, but their friendliness obviously only extended so far, with most of the cages bearing signs warning not to put your fingers anywhere near them!
The aviaries are surrounded by extensive tropical gardens, with huge palm trees, waterfalls, ponds and bridges.
There's also a whale watching tower, which gives sweeping views down the coast.
The sanctuary also shows nightly family movies on an outdoor movie screen.
Hiking the gorge
The gorge in the Kalbarri National Park about 30 minutes out of town offers some awesome hiking opportunities. The gorge is ancient, and you can see some prints in the rocks that were made by giant scorpions and worms millions of years ago.
While the top part is graded pathways, further down you have to crawl through crevasses and over boulders. We saw a group of people trying this with young children, and to be honest, it didn't look like much fun. The good news is, once you get to the bottom of the gorge, it's possible to go for a swim, although some parts are quite green (depending on the season).
We hiked along near the bottom of the gorge until we came to a deeper swimming hole. We were told the water is 50 metres deep in some parts, and we all took a jump off a ledge about 6 metres above the water, which was a lot further than it looked!
Given it's on the coast, a lot of Kalbarri's activities centre around the water. Whether it's the river or the ocean, there's heaps of things to do including fishing charters, canoeing, sail boating, pedal boating and stand up paddling, most of which you can hire on the main shore. The river also provides a safe, shallow place for the kids to swim.
The river meets the ocean off Kalbarri's main beach and the channel out to sea is considered one of Australia's most dangerous for recreational fishermen.
Otherwise known as Hutt Lagoon, the lake is a salt lake that’s been turned red/pink by a certain type of algae. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Kalbarri, and definitely worth a look (and a couple of selfies).
Where to stay
We stayed at Blue Ocean villas, which were a brilliant choice. The villas are only a 5 minute walk from the beach and a 5-10 minute walk from town.
Our villa was two bedroom two bathroom, with an upstairs lounge room and bathroom for the kids. The villa also had a spa bath, which I would've loved to have the time to make use of! The villa also had a full kitchen and big fridge, which is especially handy when you're travelling with the family (and when Kalbarri runs out of food - see below).
The complex also had a below ground pool which, even though the weather wasn't that great, the kids still made good use of.
Where to eat
I'd love to give some recommendations on where to eat in Kalbarri, but given that most places in town seem to have run out of food, that's a little tricky. Yes, it was Easter weekend, so the town was full of tourists, but I'm pretty sure Easter has been happening for a long time and it couldn't have taken any of the local businesses by surprise! First we headed to the fish and chip shop to be told it had run out of fish (an hour after it opened), which, given it’s situated in a major fishing town, was a little bemusing. Next, we went to the restaurant to find it was closed due to an electrical problem. So then we tried our luck at the cafe, only to be told they'd run out of food, but could probably find us something. In hindsight, we wish they hadn't! So, moral of the story, next time we go to Kalbarri, we will be taking a lot more food with us.
For more info, visit: http://www.kalbarri.org.au/