350 kilometres north of Perth, the Brand Highway finally touches the coast at the lovely little port of Dongara. Dongara has become a popular stopover on the tourist trail, not only for it's fine beaches and reef enclosed bay, but for it's abundant supply of mouth watering rock lobster.
Following the coastline 73 kilometres further north, Geraldtonis the largest centre between Perth and Karratha (see The Pilbara). Sprawled along the shores of the sparkling Indian Ocean, Geraldton's expansive white beaches and sunny year-round weather have made itone of W.A.'s favourite holiday destinations. Windsurfers revel in the reliable off-shore Summer breezes, and seafood lovers get anotherchance to get stuck into some succulent fresh lobster.
If you can drag yourself away from the restaurants and beaches, there'splenty to see and do in and around Geraldton. The Geraldton Museum houses an excellent maritime exhibit which portrays the stories of the ill-fated Dutch ships (the Batavia, Zeewijk, Zuytdorp) who met their dooms on the treacherous reefs just of the coast. Salvaged relics from these vessels are also on display. Other noteworthy attractions are the Geraldton ArtGallery, the Old Goal Craft Centre, and the complimentary tours of the local lobster factory at Fisherman's Wharf.
On the southern outskirts of Geraldton, the verdant banks of theGreenough River is a beautiful place to unwind with a picnic orbarbeque, with good safe swimming and a lush nature walk beginningat the river's mouth. This pretty area also provides the setting for a colourful country market, held every third Sunday. On the otherside of the river, the quaint farming village of Greenough is home to the Greenough Historical Hamlet, an enclave of eleven buildings constructed in the nineteenth century, which have since been painstakingly restored by the National Trust. Running with the theme, the town'spioneer museum is also well worth a look.
Travelling north of Geralton, the Brand Highway changes into theNorth West Coastal Highway before arriving at the small township of Northampton, 50 kilometres up the road. Northampton is another well preserved historical settlement and like Greenough,many graceful old buildings still line the streets. Apart from it's interesting heritage and charming rural atmosphere, Northampton's main appeal is derived from the stunning and secluded Horrocks Beach, to the west of the town centre. Just north of Horrocks Beach, theremote coastal township of Port Gregory has a gorgeous beach as well.
Lying 64 kilometres off the main highway north-west of Northampton isKalbarri, a holiday town on the beautiful Murchison River estuary. It's picturesque setting, great climate, and close proximity to the awesome anchient landscapes of Kalbarri National Park, has seen the town's popularity soar over recent years, attracting hoards of backpackers and anyone else who appreciates unspoilt beaches and wilderness.
Although fishing and beach-combing are favoured pastimes, most peopleare drawn to Kalbarri to hike in the national park. Kalbarri NationalPark encompasses over 1000 square kilometres of exciting bushlandwhere the lower reaches of the Murchison River twist and turn throughspectacular gorges on their journey to the Indian Ocean. Close to the southern end of town, the cliffs along the jagged coastline are equallyimpressive, covered in brilliant multicoloured layers of sandstone. Visitors in Spring arealso treated to an breathtaking display of colour, when over 500 different species of wildflowers bloom to life.
The park is easily explored via a variety of walking trails, stemmingfrom a network of unsealed roads, generally OK for conventional vehicles. For a more thorough expedition, jump on one of the manyadventure and wildlife tours operating out of Kalbarri.