As we travelled down the coast having left Ningaloo Reef, we encountered vast desert plains of scrub, spinifex and red earth, not unlike the landscapes of much of our travels through arid outback Australia. So, when we arrived in the town of Carnarvon, it was like entering a desert oasis.
The Gascoyne River, which begins 865km East near the Gibson Desert, finally flows into the Indian Ocean at Carnarvon, and it is here that something special happens. The hot climate and reliable water source has made this small town the food bowl of Western Australia.
As we rolled into town, we passed by some of the 170 farms that are laid out along either side of the river, with the mango and banana plantations making it feel like we had truly arrived in paradise.
We don’t generally like staying in caravan parks
However, we discovered Capricorn Holiday Park, Carnarvon where the sites were both cheap and shady. Willow loved spending time outside watching the other campers, and would often chirp for a pat as one walked past.
The park was a little bit out of town, but all three of us felt so at home there. Every Friday night they fire up the pizza oven and campers line up with their homemade pizzas ready to bake.
We kept Willow on her harness and lead to keep her from wandering anywhere she shouldn’t. This is not only the rule for most caravan parks, but also our choice to keep her safe in busier areas.
There were quite a few friendly strays in the park who we got to meet. You could almost guarantee that Brian would be having a nap on the couch beside the camp kitchen, and mango would be seen at all hours, sprinting from one site to another.
Willow was not interested in befriending either.
Carnarvon is a fresh produce paradise
For such a small area, Carnarvon produces an impressive assortment of fruit & vegetables, and visitors can drive around the farms to purchase it for themselves.
The red grapefruit from Gascoyne Organic Farm were the sweetest I have ever tasted. At Borich & Sons we picked up some beautiful mango chutney and chilli sauce. Tipton’s Plantation Shop was our goto for bananas, corn, cherry tomatos and beans.
At Morel’s, the fresh rocket and dill was out of this world. We returned many times to pick up chocolate coated frozen bananas and custard apple or black sapote icecreams – though the fruit is so creamy it doesn’t actually have any cream in it.
Forget about Cavendish; there is another banana variety that is so much better.
I love going to banana growing regions as it means I can pick up some Ducasse (or Thai) bananas. These bananas – not to be confused with ladyfingers – are not often commercially grown in Australia, so they’re always a treat when I can find them at local farms.
These tiny bananas have a more complex flavour and are slightly tangier – they also keep really well.
Space cat at Carnarvon Space & Technology Museum
Carnarvon was used as a tracking station during NASA’s Apollo missions to the Moon. The station played a crucial role in these missions to facilitate communications between the astronauts and the control centre in the USA.
Now the station is a museum featuring a huge array of space memorabilia and equipment used in the Apollo missions.
But if you ask me, the best thing about the museum is Buzz. Buzz is 4 years old and supervises the volunteers and welcomes guests. Buzz is a cat.
Willow is also a space cat. Specifically, she is an in-your-purrsonal-space cat.
The growers’s market was fantastic
Every Saturday from 8-11:30am during May – October, the town centre comes alive with fresh produce stalls, arts and crafts, and food stalls.
We really enjoyed Win’s cakes and slices, Steph picked up a breakfast roll, and I found more Ducasse bananas.
Goodbye Carnarvon, but we will be back
We spent our last night in Carnarvon at the caravan park for pizza night where we chatted to our new friends. Steph made sourdough bases for our famous asparagus pizza with homemade tomato sauce, and they were cooked to perfection by Andrew who was in charge of the oven.
In total we spent 3 weeks in Carnarvon. Tourist season was winding down as summer approached, so it was nice to enjoy the quiet. The change in seasons meant no more red grapefruit and I was sad to discover we couldn’t stock up before we left. Oh well, we will come back one day!
Everyone is searching for something when they travel. For us it’s nothing particularly exciting; just a shady place to park the van, good people, and fresh food. It reminds you of what’s really important in life.
Before we left, Willow had to say goodbye to Nat in the front office. And of course, I had to visit Morel’s one last time to get a black sapote icecream for the road!
See you next time Carnarvon!