WA Wildflowers - bloomin' fantastic
|Bloomin' fantastic - Quick Facts|
|Weather||Rainfall, sunshine and geography affect the season's timing. The first flowers are generally in the north in July and may not fade in southern W.A. until late November. August and September offer the most spectacular displays near Perth.|
Tourism Western Australia's comprehensive wildflower website details the best drives.
In Coalseam Conservation Park, Miners and Breakaway campgrounds have sites for caravans. Only Miners has toilet facilities. Sites are limited and no bookings are taken, so avoid weekends if possible. Phone (08) 9921 5955 or go online.
Kalbarri Anchorage Caravan Park sits on the Murchison River a short walk from town and beaches and has sites suitable for large motorhomes.
In Stirling Range National Park, stay at Moingup Springs campground. Sites are unpowered; bring your own drinking water. Phone (08) 9842 4500 or go online.
Quaalup Homestead Caravan Park, near Fitzgerald River National Park, has great facilities and family activities. Phone (08) 9837 4124 or go online.
The wildflower season in Western Australia is one of the world's greatest natural spectacles. Australian Caravan+RV outlines some of its top driving routes.
Wordsworth once wrote a poem celebrating 'dancing daffodils'. I'm not knocking the English flower, but it's a shame the poet never visited Western Australia. He might have penned a stanza or two about pink boronias, banksias in brilliant orange, or the paperbark blossoms that erupt on trees in vivid magenta.
Many of Western Australia's other blossoms have names fanciful enough for poetry: featherflowers, red ink sundews, pixie mops and honeypots. Local Aboriginals call the flower of one shrub the 'Floor of the Sky' for its colour. The wildflower season is enough to bring out the poet in anyone. Between late July and November a wave of blooms spreads across Western Australia, transforming the arid landscape into a kaleidoscope of colour.
"There are few other places on Earth where flowers are so all-pervasive, varied and sumptuous," explains photographer Stanley Breeden, co-author of Wildflower Country, a visual hymn in stunning close-up to Western Australia's flora. "It isn't just their brilliant colour, but exciting forms, diverse textures, fabulous variety and accessibility."
You can drive just about anywhere in the state during the season and enjoy wildflowers, but there are a dozen designated wildflower routes. One of the best is the Everlastings Trail, heading north from Perth on the Brand Highway. Make sure to spend some time in Nambung National Park (best known for The Pinnacles rock formations), which comes alive with wattles and banksias. The trail then turns inland to Mullewa before returning to Perth on an inland route that passes through Dalwallinu, where a street parade and festival in September celebrates its spectacular wattles.
Mullewa is the highlight: the area is renowned for its profusion of delicate spider orchids and wreath flowers, which grow in distinctive circles of pink and yellow. Stanley Breeden says he has a soft post for coneflowers. "In Mullewa, photographing coneflowers, I thought over and over how they looked like exploding fireworks."
Nearby Coalseam Conservation Park unfolds carpets of everlastings in white, yellow and pink. You can camp in fields of white at two sites within the park; Miners campground is particularly well situated on a bend of the Irwin River South, surrounded by flower-speckled bushland, including flamboyant hakeas and grevilleas.
If you have time to continue up the coast, August in Kalbarri National Park north of Geraldton features orange and gold banksias and kangaroo paws, which contrast startlingly with its red-rock landscapes. Blood-red eucalypts are usually in full bloom by August. Pompoms and everlastings spread along the roadside all the way to Carnarvon and beyond on the North West Coastal Highway.
For another very fine drive, you could head east from Perth instead, towards Kalgoorlie on the Goldfields Trail that winds through the state's wheat belt. Bushwalks in various nature reserves along the way (such as Sandford Rocks and Merredin) take you among granite outcrops, salt lakes and stands of salmon gums. Wattles, orange grevillea, everlastings and bright purple firebush bloom. You'll also see that famous outback flower, the Sturt's desert pea, which William Dampier first described back in 1699 as "a creeping vine… the blossom like a bean blossom, but much larger and of a deep red colour looking very beautiful."
If you're holidaying around southern Western Australia, the best displays mightn't appear until October. Drive southeast from Perth and you'll quickly be in wildflower country. "It's impossible to say which spot is the best," says enthusiast Jim Barrow from the Wildflower Society of WA. "Each has its own beauty. Even small reserves such as those at Corrigin, Kulin, Quairading or Harrismith have an incredible diversity."
Just north of Albany, the Stirling Range is particularly special not only for some 1,500 species of wildflower but dozens of varieties unknown elsewhere, as well as 40-odd types of orchid such as the magnificent Queen of Sheba, a star-shaped flower in bright purple with scarlet trimming. The jagged peaks of the range are a magnificent contrast, on a grand scale, to the miniature beauty of the wildflowers, which can be enjoyed on daily weekday ranger-guided walks during the season.
If you want to camp within the national park itself, Moingup Springs is the only option for trailers, but it's a beaut spot, visited by kangaroos in the evening and shaded by trees alive with multi-coloured birds. The birds are lovely except, perhaps, in the early morning, when their shrieking is enough to wake the dead.
"My favourite wildflower spot would have to be Cheynes Beach in Waychinicup National Park east of Albany," says Stanley Breeden. "It has such a wild landscape shaped by storms and wind, and incredible plants not found anywhere else. It's astounding: some flowers you'd dismiss from the roadside as uninteresting yet, up close, you see the most glorious details, if only you take time to look."
One of Western Australia's richest collections of flora lies between Quaalup and Hopetoun on the southeast coast. The Esperance Trail is another designated wildflower route that will take you along some of its highlights. Quaalup Homestead Caravan Park is a good spot to unwind; it sits on a wilderness retreat boasting an historic 1858 homestead - now used as a guest lounge and café - and activities such as fishing and canoeing on the Gairdner River. There's a signposted nature walk that highlights the flora of the retreat, which lies adjacent to Fitzgerald River National Park.
Most of the year, it's the birds that are the big attraction in this national park: see if you can spot little green ground parrots and electric-bright blue wrens. Whale watching is also excellent, and Point Ann Beach near Quaalup Homestead is the best place to spot southern right whales.
However, in spring, wildflowers upstage everything else. The walking trails along the coast of Fitzgerald River National Park are ablaze with banksia, royal hakea, orchids and lilies, coupled with profuse bird life and some glorious scenery. And, while swamp bottlebrushes mightn't sound like the most attractive of plants, they burst into flowers that resemble dainty ballet dancers in vivid pink tutus.
Everyone has their own favourites. "Tiny pink petticoat flowers grow in ephemeral puddle so that their roots can trap insects," says Jim Barrow. "In contrast, gaudy banksias wait to catch the eye of a passing bird or possum. And despite being protected by vicious spines, standbacks are beautiful in delicate cream."
There are no daffodils, of course, but who needs them - or poetry. Western Australia's wildflowers will render you speechless. Just soak up the spectacle, and rejoice.
Words by Brian Johnson. Photography by Stanley and Kaisa Breeden.
Published in Australian Caravan+RV magazine, August/September 2013.
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