The $95 million Indian Ocean Drive
drastically cuts the driving time between Perth
. Now there's no need to take the inland Brand Highway, with a new route allowing drivers enjoy a quicker and prettier route. The Indian Ocean Drive is limited to light vehicles and tourist buses and we asked Jules Lund to road test it.
The new road leads to one of the west's most iconic landmarks: The Pinnacles. The limestone formations in Nambung National Park, near Cervantes, have long been accessible, but now it's so much easier.
The road begins at the intersection of Yanchep Beach Road, 57km north of Perth and stretches for 268km, finishing just south of Dongara.
The $95 million road, which was completed under budget and nine months ahead of schedule, means it now takes less than three hours to reach The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park.
Building the road had its moments. Five unexploded bombs found on land next to the Defence Department site had to be detonated, and an 8km moving sand dune needed to be diverted.
The new section, 65km long, starts at Lancelin, 130km north of Perth. Nestled between a large bay and sand dunes, Lancelin is known for good windsurfing conditions and rock lobster fishing. The popular destination for Perth residents has excellent fishing, swimming, boating, snorkelling, diving and exploring the 14 shipwrecks along the coast.
The dunes are at a 45-degree angle and are great views of farmlands and the coastline from the peaks. The snow-white dunes are popular for sandboarding, dune buggies, motorbikes and four-wheel driving. Have a Chat, the local general store, has boards for rent so you can join in.
Wedge Island is a little gem 26km north of Lancelin. Before the new road opened, access was by four-wheel drive along the beach.
The 400m wedge-shaped island is a declared nature reserve. It has around 350 beach shacks used by cray fishermen and holidaymakers. Described as having "ramshackle charm", there are moves to demolish the corrugated iron and scrap metal shacks. They don't have water or electricity and the Squatter Removal Policy has seen more than 600 shacks demolished.
It was a pleasant surprise for Jules that The Pinnacles have no fences or barricades and he could drive all the way through them. Some of the loops are several kilometres long, and Jules suggests doing a circuit in the car and then head out on foot for a closer look.
Just south of Cervantes, travelling north, The Pinnacles are in the 17,000 hectare Nambung National Park. Thousands of spectacular limestone pillars rise eerily from yellow sand. Some reach 3.5m tall.
Jules had a look around with ranger David Henke who told him The Pinnacles were created millions of years ago when seashells were broken down into sand and then eroded by water and wind. When passing Dutch sailors saw them in 1658, they believed they had seen the ruins of an ancient city.
The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre is an interpretation centre with an insight into the processes that formed the structures. It also has information on the park's biodiversity.
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