Dampier Peninsula – amazing pindan cliffs and white sand beaches
There was only 190 km from Derby to Broome and we drove it in two hours.
We got to Broome before noon so we had plenty of time to do some shopping and find a place to leave our trailer. Our plan for the next few days was to conquer Cape Leveque in the Dampier Peninsula, but first, stop at Middle Lagoon for a night.
There was no problem with our trailer. We found a place in town and for a small fee, we could leave it there safely. The only thing was that we had to repack (similarly to our Bungle Bungles trip) to make sure we had enough clothes, water, and food in the car.
After all, preparations were done, in the evening we just went to visit the beach. Our plan was to come back to Broome after Cape Leveque and stay there for a week to soak the atmosphere of this holiday destination and visit all the interesting places.
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Dampier Peninsula is the only place in Australia where you find contrasting pindan cliffs, white sand beaches, and turquoise waters. We were very excited about the next few days.
On the way to Middle Lagoon
The next day, once the trailer was under the watchful eye of the locals, we headed to the Dampier Peninsula for three days. Our first stop was Middle Lagoon, so the first part was to drive 85 km on a brick-colored sand road.
The shape of the road resembled a toboggan run and to tell the truth, it was so sandy that sometimes we had the impression that we were sliding like on snow.
If the car fell off the ruts for a moment, the rear was immediately losing traction. As for overtaking, it was already a real ballet on ice. Then, the road turned to asphalt surface and for another 100 km was perfectly even.
We stopped for the night at a campsite at the Middle Lagoon run by the Aboriginal community.
Middle Lagoon is located on the west side of Dampier Peninsula about 40 km from the main road.
This place is beautiful and looks very natural. We wanted to live in a palm hut on the beach, but we had to carry all the equipment from the car for 150 m and that put us off.
But Middle Lagoon beach was amazing – every Victorian’s dream. The sand was white as snow, the sea was intensely aqua-blue and the coastline shined with brick color rocks.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I can easily give 12. After setting up the tent, we went to a cafe near the ‘Singing Whale’, which is located nearby. But we got there an hour too late and we could only admire this magical place: old car wrecks, bored camels, showers in the middle of the forest. You can’t see that anywhere else!
Relaxing evening in Middle Lagoon
Later on, I went with Nell to the beach, and Marius made his way to the previously selected rocks to get some fish for dinner. The bay was beautiful, sandy, and rocky. Nell was delighted she can play in warm, wonderful water.
I was enjoying the view of the seagulls and the sunset at Middle Lagoon. Evenings like that show us a different perspective. We were so far from big cities, people, or civilization? The sun was setting in beautiful raspberry colours, and Marius positioned himself exactly in front of it.
The night was very windy and the tent flapped so that we woke up several times. In addition, it was a full moon so the tent was as bright as during the day. Our next stop after Middle Lagoon was Cape Leveque.
In the early morning we set off to the end of the peninsula. We decided to camp in Gumbanan Campground (right next to Cape Leveque on Dampier Peninsula).
The Gumbanan Campground was set in an Aboriginal settlement and run by a tough, but very nice, sixty-year-old Muriel. We haven’t seen anything like this yet. The great colours of the surroundings and the view from the window of the tent were simply stunning. Everything seemed to be unreal.
The next day we went to the Aboriginal Ardiyooloon community at Cape Leveque. You can shop there or visit the hatchery where sea turtles are bred and later released into their natural environment.
After that, we went to the Jologo beaches. I have never seen such white sand in my life! It was like flour. The whole beautiful beach was just for us!
Finally, I could try the snorkelling equipment. We were told to watch out for sharks because they rarely come to the beach.
Fortunately, nothing dangerous happened. The water was so clear that we would certainly see ‘something’ coming. Cape Leveque beaches are one of a kind: white sand and turquoise water – what else do you want?
In the evening Marius went fishing, but he lost his weight on the first cast. It happens!
I enjoyed the wonderful glow of the setting sun. At one point the water surface turned a pink-azure colour and it looked simply psychedelic. White parrots, as usual, flew screaming across the bay. It was getting greyer and pinker.
The night was coming so we sat down by a small fire under a tree. Crickets played and millions of stars shone over our heads. What an experience. Life is beautiful! We will return to Gumbanan in the future!
In the morning Nell woke me up as she was trying to open the tent. When I asked what happened, she told me that the moon was so beautiful she wanted to see it. I tilted my head and saw that it was not the moon but a great sunrise.
I was shocked because our child took out a high chair and she started watching the beginning of a new day for at least 15 minutes. Then she got tired and went to the tent for some more sleep.
Artificial pool at Gumbanan Campground
Another surprise was waiting for us at breakfast. Two aboriginal women were coming back with spears full of fish. Moreover, they asked us if we wanted a fish or two.
Well, we couldn’t refuse. I couldn’t take my eyes off two wonderful golden trevallies so we were given fish for free. Amazing people!
It turned out that at low tide the fish are trapped in a specially constructed artificial pool. The fish can be easily caught with a spear (easily for Aboriginal people).
The pool edges were made from rocks that were stuck on each other. It had a round shape. It must have taken a lot of time for Aboriginal people to create it. Now, they can use it as a food source as there is always something there at the low tide.
We went for a walk on the bottom of the bay as the water receded to a depth of 11 meters so we could walk there. There were also times when you could see pieces of the reef and beautiful red corals.
Thousands of small crabs escaped from under our feet. The time was running out and water was coming quickly back. After an hour, everything was again covered with a few meters of water! And we could see all of that from our Gumbanan camp.
We also went fishing, but we didn’t catch anything. However, a turtle came to us several times, and later on, a pod of dolphins showed up a few meters from us.
We had delicious fish for dinner. Muriel came in at five o’clock in the afternoon to tell us about the people living here and their traditions, animals, and birds. She talked until it was completely dark. We also learned that whales and sea elephants come to the bay.
People often have to rescue them when they are stuck in a bay at a low tide. The crocodiles come here too, but they are not welcomed. Aboriginal people know very well how their meat tastes.
We were also invited to fish at dawn, Marius was already looking forward to it. I would like to stay here longer and I really regret that we have to go back tomorrow to civilization.
Saving the turtle at Gumbanan
In the morning we quickly rolled up the tent. By 8 am the water was already very low, so we went to see what was caught at a low tide. It turned out that other people were already there and they told us one queenfish and a turtle was caught in the pool.
In fact, in a moment we saw a fish spinning around us. On the other hand, the turtle got stuck between the stones in water that was too shallow for it, and it looked very distressed.
I immediately remembered yesterday evening and Muriel who told us in detail how to cook turtles. The Aborigines have not come yet, so we exchanged quick glances and we decided to save the turtle.
After we saved that life I noticed a small, really beautiful but deadly blue-ringed octopus. In fact, this is one of the deadliest animals in the world. Maybe it looks amazing, but everyone should keep distance and definitely not touch it, because paralyzing neurotoxin is on its whole body.
Gumbanan – catching queen fish with bare hands
Marius tracked down the aforementioned queenie that was hiding under the rocks. He struggled for a while but finally, he won the battle after catching it with his bare hands so we had a fish for dinner.
I think he remembers this for a long time as queenie left him a 2 cm scar on his hand.
On the way back to Broome
So, we were leaving Cape Leveque with a sizable queenfish in our fridge. History likes to repeat itself and we made the same mistake again.
When we left for Cape Leveque, we forgot to swap gas bottles (the connected one was running out of gas) and the refrigerator in the trailer ran out of gas during our absence. It was good that we didn’t have too many things in it.
Overall it was worth it. Our 3 days trip to the Dampier Peninsula was great. Cape Leveque was great and Gumbanan Campground was one of a kind. We realized later there were more places to see on Dampier Peninsula (check FAQ below) but we were running out of time. We wanted to be at the East Coast by the end of November and there were many kilometres ahead.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are there any other Aboriginal campgrounds in the Dampier Peninsula?
Kooljaman at Cape Leveque – they offer a variety of accommodation including safari tents, ensuite cabins, ground units, and powered and unpowered camping sites.
Chile Creek Community Stay – safari tent accommodation accessible by 4WD only. No day visitors.
Goombaragin Eco Retreat – they offer eco tents, eco chalets, and tent sites.
Whale Song Campground – located at Pender bay they offer tent sites
Mercedes Cove Retreat – they offer private eco tents, no camping sites.
Gnylmarung Campground – beautifully located campground that offers great views and fishing.
Banana Well Gateway – they offer cabin and house accommodation but also powered and unpowered sites.
Is there any other road to Cape Leveque coming from Derby?
If you drive from Derby you take a dirt road shortcut. You turn right at Bidan (Bedunburra) for a 121 km track.
Is Cape Leveque Road fully sealed?
The road was sealed in November 2020, but any off-side roads are still dirt or sand tracks. Note the sealed road is very narrow and you have to move aside when a big truck is coming.
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4WD Equipment Checklist
GPS Navigator or compass
Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction
Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD
Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)
Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)
UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency
Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road
High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks
Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking
Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places
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