With its plethora of wineries and rolling green pastures you might sometimes be forgiven for thinking you were in France when visiting the South Western tip of Western Australia. Of course, the tall Karri and Jarrah trees, not to mention the red soil, are a bit of a giveaway but in fact there is a stronger French connection to this part of Australia than you might at first realise. The names provide a clue! Late one afternoon on our winter’s break, we stopped off at another of our favourite little spots along the Cape Naturaliste Road, Bunker Bay. The road out to Cape Naturaliste point and lighthouse is dotted with sheltered beaches and inlets and is, not surprisingly, favoured by tourists and holidaymakers. On this particular day, however, we had the place to ourselves (as we had done for our earlier stroll along Meelup Beach). The sunlight was just begin to fade and the light was somewhere between a soft aquamarine and lilac/blue.
No need to explain why we love this particular spot! Photos don’t do it justice – it’s incredibly beautiful and peaceful. I can remember years ago somehow getting our younger daughter’s stroller down the rocky path to the water’s edge. There are no wild seas here – the bay is calm and sheltered and has easy access for young and old alike. Bunker Bay is on the coastal trail (the Bunker Bay Loop), which we took in part round the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse on the tip of the point (see here).
After walking around and admiring the view for a while we noticed the information sign, which gives you some background on the history of European exploration in the area. It turns out that many moons ago in the time of Napolean, the French decided to send a couple of ships under the captaincy of one Thomas Nicolas Baudin to discover more about the “Great Southern Land”. Equipped with 262 crew and 23 scientists, Baudin and his entourage arrived in the bay off the South Western Cape on 30th May 1801 (after 7 and a half months at sea). They spent 10 days exploring and gathering samples of flora and fauna to take back home – the largest ever collection of such specimens from a single voyage! Baudin named both Cape Naturaliste and Geographe Bay after the 2 ships under his command.
The history of French exploration in these parts was extensively documented by Professor Leslie Marchant (1924 – 2004) in his book, “France Australe”. In honour of his research efforts he was awarded both an Order Of Australia and a French knighthood. As a mark of respect the northerly point of Bunker Bay was named Point Marchant in his honour in 2005. His work is carried on by the Woodside Valley Foundation who encourage the preservation of artifacts and research into the exploration history of Western Australia.
There are a number of walking trails in the Cape Naturaliste area in addition to the Bunker Bay Loop and you can find out further information on the Trails WA website here and here as well as information about many other bushwalks and trails in the rest of Western Australia. Talking of walks, Restless Jo has some wonderful ideas for walks around the globe in her weekly Monday Walks and Ting and Allane have some equally fascinating travel stories and ideas in their fortnightly Monday Escapes.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Ruth (RuthsArc) and her daughter for coffee this morning. They have been on a short holiday in Perth and Ruth will have plenty of stories to share from her Perth trip, which I’m looking forward to reading (always interesting to get a visitor’s perspective on your home town!).
In the meantime I’ll leave you with some lingering shots of the beautiful Bunker Bay!
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