One of the great unexpected benefits of writing a travel blog is how it has taught me to see my
boring-old wonderful home town of Perth in a whole new light – through the eyes of a tourist in town.
Although I originally started this blog as a hobby mainly to teach myself website design and write about things that I’m interested in, the more I work at it and watch it grow, the more unexpected interesting ideas and opportunities I find coming my way.
One such opportunity was having Suzann, who has recently started up a local tour company called Tours with a Twist, contact me to see if we could work together. She ended up inviting me along to write about and photograph a fantastic day tour she runs on Thursdays and Saturdays, taking travellers north from Perth to visit several of the highlights of WA’s Turquoise Coast – plus a couple of local favourites off the usual tourist trail.
The final stop on this tour, and the absolute highlight for most travellers, is the eerily beautiful Pinnacles Desert, a unique natural wonder and one of Western Australia’s most photographed tourist attractions…
The “twist” or idea behind the tours is to fill the day with fun activities and to show travellers from overseas some of the special hush-hush places, the local secrets that they would otherwise not know about or have difficulty getting to, along with the more well-known tourist attractions. Suzann takes her groups to her favourite places that she’s been visiting all her life, and treats leading a tour group like showing some friends from overseas around her home town.
First stop, Yanchep!
The day of our tour began bright and early, with lots of excitement for the adventures that lay ahead. My sister Laura and I caught the train into the city, meeting up with our Dad and Aunt who were also coming with us on the tour. In our efforts not to be late, we ended up at the Wellington Street tourist bus stand about 20 minutes early. Luckily we were not waiting long at all before the Tours With A Twist bus pulled in!
Yanchep, about half an hour’s drive from the city centre, was our first stop for the day. With a little bit of time to spare from our early start, we went for a short walk on Yanchep Beach before our visit to the National Park.
To me it felt a bit too chilly for swimming at that early hour, but plenty of people were already enjoying the water, and I could tell it was shaping up to be a beautiful summer’s day!
A Stroll Through the Park
At Yanchep National Park I was surprised to find the lake almost completely drained of its water! Last time I was there was quite a long time ago, back in winter of 2009, the lake was full of water and water birds with little row boats available for hire…
Back then, Yanchep National Park was a great spot for a picnic with friends – and I’d say it still is, because the lack of water in the lake does not detract too much from the pleasant scenery of the grassy park. And there are still plenty of things to see and do at Yanchep apart from rowing on and walking around the lake, including native wild life, koalas and limestone karst caves.
Spotting Wild Kangaroos at Yanchep National Park!
One of the reasons the tour stops in at the park at Yanchep is that it’s one of the best places close to Perth for spotting wild kangaroos. And sure enough, we saw two separate groups of roos on our stroll past the empty lake.
The Koalas at Yanchep
Unlike the kangaroos, the koalas at Yanchep are not wild (Koalas have not lived in the wild in Western Australia for over 10000 years), but they live in a large enclosure with plenty of trees to climb that does not feel too fenced in.
Of the ten koalas that live in the enclosure, we managed to spot nine! I don’t know where the tenth one could have been hiding.
Swimming and Kayaking on the Moore River at Guilderton
Guilderton is a special favourite spot on the coast for my family, so it was a joy to revisit the tiny town and the Moore River. My little sister especially has some wonderful memories from back when some friends of the family owned a cottage on the hill, which we frequently visited for the day or the weekend.
As it was a Saturday on a beautiful summer morning, the park, the river and the sand bar were bustling with activity. We joined in by hiring a couple of kayaks that Dad, Auntie Beth and Laura paddled over to the sand bar while I walked along the river bank taking photos.
We went for a refreshing swim in the river, then Laura and I ran down to the ocean for another, colder, swim.
Sand Boarding on the Lancelin Dunes
After eating lunch sandwiches by the sea in Lancelin while watching wind surfers and a dolphin close to shore, we headed over to the huge white sand dunes that begin at the northern edge of the town.
Dad, Laura, Suzann and I took it in turns to slide down a tall, steep dune on a sand board. Trudging back up, two steps forward, one step back, was tiring and difficult but so worth it for the fun of sliding back down again!
Auntie Beth preferred to sit in peace and quiet further away, watching the world go by, and us hooligans on the sand board. From the top of the tall dunes you get the most beautiful view over kilometres of stark white sand, with dune buggies and motorbikes buzzing around in the distance looking like bugs. In the other direction you can see over the roof tops of Lancelin and across to the ocean and Lancelin Island beyond.
Exploring The Pinnacles
The absolute highlight of the day tour of course was our drive through the Pinnacles Desert, a place that I always find fascinating and mysterious no matter how many times see it.
We didn’t think we’d need half an hour in the small discovery centre museum, but to our surprise that’s how long we did stay, looking at the displays then walking over to the first of the lookouts, near the car park.
By the time we were on the scenic drive, the sun was at the perfect angle for beautiful photos of the bright yellow desert against the blue sky, with the Pinnacles rocks casting contrasting shadows across the sand.
We must have spent about an hour or more in The Pinnacles, watching the strange shapes pass by through the windows of the van, walking among several different groups of rocks and admiring sweeping views from the lookout. For me the perfect end to our time in The Pinnacles was catching sight of an emu running across the plain! I had always wanted to see an emu in The Pinnacles.
My Thoughts on Tours with a Twist, and on Being a Tourist at Home
For backpackers and other budget travellers who have limited time in Perth but really want to see The Pinnacles, and especially solo travellers, I would highly recommend joining a day tour – and in particular the one that I went on with Tours with a twist.
At $115 per person (with discounts for children, concessions and family groups), the Tours with a twist tour is the cheapest of all day tours to The Pinnacles that I’m aware of, and in my opinion is excellent value for money. The cost covers a basic lunch and snacks, sand board hire at Lancelin and the $12/vehicle entry fees for the two national parks. The cost of petrol alone to drive a hire car up to The Pinnacles and back from Perth would be about $50 – $60, so for solo travellers the tour works out to be equivalent in cost, or cheaper than, hiring a car and driving yourself.
As for myself, my family and I had a fun-filled day out together without having to do any planning or organising (beyond getting to and from the bus stop at the beginning and end of the tour). I’d been to all of the places that Suzann took us to before, but that didn’t matter because the tour was really all about the fun activities in each place rather than just looking at sights while listening to a commentary.
I felt that Suzann makes a great tour guide because her tour bus does not fit too many people, and touring with her is like going on a casual road trip with a group of friends where one of them is a knowledgeable local who knows where to go and what to do. I liked the way Suzann makes conversation with the people on the bus, rather than providing a one-sided commentary. You still get the interesting facts and insights about the places you visit, but it’s a lot more casual and friendly.
Why I enjoyed being a tourist on a tour in my home town – and why you should try it yourself one day!
I would never usually think to go on an organised tour out of my home town, but my experience with the Pinnacles day tour made me realise there are some definite benefits and I’d even be keen to try out a few more tours of familiar places sometime.
I enjoyed the itinerary set out for the day, and loved the way we fit so many fun experiences into one single day. Best of all, it was a luxury for me to sit back and relax without having any responsibility for driving. The tour packed so many different things into the day and covered 400km, and based on previous trips I’ve done up to The Pinnacles, I’m sure I would have been exhausted by the end of it if I’d had to drive.
Last Updated: 27th April, 2015.
First posted on 5th March, 2014 by Bonny.
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