For Hidden Treasures, Ro sent me to get salty and explore an area that hasn’t changed, thanks to sliding door moments and big roads. Let’s hit the road and travel south. Not ‘down south’. Just ‘south’.
The first thing you need to know about Lake Clifton and Preston Beach is that they’re not backwaters. Just like the thrombolites that lie by the lake, it looks like they’re not doing much but they’ve successfully survived by not doing much and they do it very well.
Let’s start with the Lake Clifton Caravan Park which if you’re looking to have a quick getaway that includes your dog then this is perfect. There are a few permanent onsite residents and while most of them are kangaroos and emus there’s a few people who call the park their permanent home.
I love that their website asks you to make a booking but if you’ve made a last-minute decision as you’re driving past they’ll help fit you in. It’s that sort of place … very laid back and very welcoming.
The 10th Light Horse Bridal Trail is 45 kilometres long and starts at the Harvey River Bridge alongside Yalgorup National Park and just south of the Harvey Estuary and Kooljerrenup nature reserve. There are no real hills and if you love your walking and camping, particularly with kids, this would be a good way to spend a long weekend.
Lake Clifton is a long thin lake that starts just south of Dawesville and ends at Myalup just to the north of Australind.
This is where you’ll find the Thrombolite reef.
Science says Thrombolites are fragile rock like structures that are the work of microorganisms and represent one of the earliest forms of life on Earth. But the oldest living culture on earth says they are Waggyaals Noorook, eggs left behind by the creator spirit.
For bush walks the Lakeside Loop is around 5 kilometres and there’s kangaroos everywhere and little blue wrens flitting along the path to make you feel you’re in some sort of nursery rhyme – they’re just magical little birds.
There are several wineries to stop at and taste some local wines and ginger rum.
One of the wineries is even brewing some fierce ales and stouts as well. Ed, from the Thorny Devil Brewery, points out the flavour notes of his stout, slightly less eloquently than maybe Matt Preston would, “You can almost taste your sandshoes in it.” You know I love a good word and a hint to Ed’s age is his use of the word ‘sandshoes’.
There are a couple of great tour operators covering this area: Mandurah Dreaming is an accredited Aboriginal tour operator and have a tour of the Thrombolites every Saturday from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
Salt & Bush run a Wildlife Nocturnal Tour through Yalgorup National Park that takes in the Lake Clifton and Preston Beach area, including the lakes.
Lime Kilns located in bush next to Lake Clifton are a really interesting example of a sliding door moment for the area. While dredging and transporting shells from the lake had been going on for a number of years over a hundred years ago, the kiln only operated for two days before they realised the quality wasn’t what was expected when making lime onsite. So the industry folded and with it much of the settlement, leaving the environment to slowly recover and be seen for what it is today.
As you pull into the Preston Beach General Store you’ll notice a couple of signs proclaiming how good their burgers and fish and chips are. This is a general store where I was lucky enough to be looked up and down by a couple of locals sitting out the front and a couple more standing at the counter when I walked in.
It was assumed I was after bait as I have that rugged, salty fisherman look about me. A nod of the head indicated where the bait fridge was but I quickly explained I was after a fish burger. As I waited for the burger, I wandered the store, looking at the range of squid jigs, poppers and burley cages.
I looked at the thong rack, ready for travellers who need a pair for the beach. There were sandcastle buckets, jumper leads, crossword books, stubby holders and pocket knives.
This is the General of general stores. There was even flotsam and jetsam adorning the front veranda of the store!
Preston Beach is about 12 kilometres long and perfect to sit and eat the best fish burger in the world. It’s accessible for 4WDs or you can park in the carpark and walk through the dunes to the beach which is great for swimming and more often than not, good for losing your thong in the soft sand – good thing the general store is just up the road.
It can be soft even on the track to the beach so make sure you’re prepared to lower your tyre pressures or the only place you’re going is deep into the sand.
Lake Clifton and Preston Beach are Hidden Treasures because nothing has changed from when they were both popular, it’s just that a fast road was built that takes you past it.
They’re still great spots for camping, bushwalking, beach driving and fishing, looking at ancient living things, sipping some very good local wine and brews and eating the very best fish burger in WA from the best general store in WA with a bait fridge bigger than the drinks fridge and the best sign in WA that boldly says “Bloody Good Fish & Chips”.