A light offshore breeze fans the wave face, the ocean glimmering green in the late afternoon sun. I spin around to stroke over the shallow rock shelf, the barnacles on the gurgling sea floor demanding precaution. Groomed lines of swell wrap around the dusty red headland, growing in size as they thunder down the line. Surfing here is only for the brave, or foolhardy.
From the corner of my eye, I notice a gigantic pyramid rock formation in the distance towering over land and sea. Its sheer size makes the depth of the ocean that lies beneath seem small in comparison. I can't help but admire the hand of God in creating this monstrosity, a structure that wouldn't be out of place on Mars or Ancient Egypt. Ironically, it looks the stern of a boat...
When Lieutenant George Grey and his men stumbled across Kalbarri for the first time, it saved their lives. After their ship was wrecked on the Zuytdorp cliffs, the men rowed for 56 hours. Painstakingly battling their way through treacherous seas in a leaky boat, they finally arrived at 'Red Bluff'.
Before they began the 600km trudge back to Perth – Western Australia’s only settlement at the time - Lt. Grey and his men were astounded by what they found ashore.
“We came out upon one of the most romantic and picturesque-looking estuaries I had yet seen,” Grey notes in his journal.
“The nature of the rocks and the lofty and peculiar character of the distant hills gave promise of the most fertile region I had yet seen in extra-tropical Australia. Indeed, this was the only part of South-West Australia in which I had met with the ancient red sandstone of the North-West coast.”
The red dirt sears underfoot as I step out of my car. A dry desert breeze blusters through the rustic carpark, chapping the skin from my lips, gust by gust. Those living in Western Australia's North-West are truly at the mercy of the land.
Kalbarri marks the unofficial beginning of Australia’s North West. This is one of the world’s last remaining true wildernesses, and is regarded as one of the final frontiers of travel – even by Australians. Although Kalbarri sits on the edge of rugged oblivion, the town is not without luxury and homely comforts.
Since its establishment, Kalbarri has been firmly rooted in West Australian holiday history. A popular holiday spot for rural mining families in the 1920s and 30s, a military camp was even established for the embattled soldiers of WWII seven years after it was declared a town site in 1948.
Today, whilst Kalbarri's population rounds off at a mere 2000, it can swell fourfold during holiday periods, and attracts almost a quarter of a million annual visitors. It's not hard to see why.