Our journey south down the Western Australian Coast between our chosen stopping points was becoming easier and easier in terms of distance travelled. Our next stop after Kalbarri was Geraldton, only 155kms away. We could have chosen to go straight back out to the North West Coastal Highway but it seemed like following the coast road down past Port Gregory and onto Northampton would be a more rewarding drive. We had been told that the Pink Lake was worth a look so that was our first destination for the morning.
George Grey was the first European Explorer to see the Pink Lake (Hutt Lagoon) in 1839 when he stumbled upon it as he walked south with his party after their boats had been wrecked landing around the mouth of the Murchison River. Unfortunately, he thought it was an estuary and when another expedition was sent to explore this estuary, they were surprised not to find it.
It is a pink lake due to its high salinity and the presence of the algae Dunaliella Salina that is a source of a food colouring agent. The lake has been used over the years as a source of salt, gypsum and brine shrimp used in the aquarium fish trade. There is a good lookout to view the lake in all its pinkness on the road into Port Gregory. Port Gregory is a small coastal town serving fishing holidaymakers. It entered Australian History books in 1943 when a Japanese submarine lobbed around 10 100mm shells onto the town from its deck gun. Nobody was home at the time.
After failing to find a coffee shop in Port Gregory, we drove onto the town of Northampton located where the Port Gregory Rd joined the main highway south. We enjoyed our short visit to this lovely little town for a number of reasons. The first was the quality of coffee and cakes found in the main street cafes. The second reason was that after a stroll around town, we got the sense of a friendly, homely town that was caring of its citizens…along with having a curious sense of humour. While there were no obvious signs of damage caused by the April cyclone, the townsfolk had set up systems to support locals and visitors struggling with the cyclone’s aftermath. The sense of humour seemed obvious as we seemed to run into statues of sheep at every corner of the main street. These were set up by a local group, unsurprisingly called ‘Ewe Turn’, who were looking to set up local attractions and promote the area’s sheep industry. There are apparently fifty statues of sheep and a number of sheep dogs keeping a keen eye on the grazing merinos. The town and local sheep industry appears to have developed in the area around 1850s; the town itself was declared in 1864. There are some very impressive heritage buildings designed by the fascinating priest architect, Monsignor Hawes.
I am not sure if statues of farm animals are a common form of promoting towns in Western Australia. Our visit to Northampton reminded me that a few weeks before, we had passed through the town of Cowaramup in the Margaret River region. This a town that takes their cows seriously; there are 42 life-size cows wandering the main street and in July 2014, the townsfolk set a Guiness World Record for the number of citizens dressed as cows (1352!).
Of course if you are from Northern NSW, you will immediately think of the small town near Murwillumbah called Mooball whose citizens like a good cow pun. I can only hope that the local indigenous people aren’t offended by these puns as “Mooball’ is an indigenous word that, awkwardly, means “bowels”.