Crocs and Curtis Stone: More reasons to love WA’s Dampier Peninsula.

The drive up the Cape Leveque Road isn’t for the faint-hearted, but my gosh it’s bloody worth it. And so is a good bra.

Cape Leveque, the most well-known place on the Peninsula, is only 240km from Broome but it takes more than three hours to get there. You’ve got to concentrate on the drive because you don’t want to run over any bits and pieces that have been shaken off cars, trucks, trailers and boats ahead of you.

The first 100kms is red dirt, pindan, followed by 100km of bitumen. There are a couple of communities worth visiting on the way. Beagle Bay and Lombadina have incredible missionary histories and their churches have to be seen to be believed.

Cape Leveque is spectacular. It’s the northernmost tip of the Peninsula. Kooljaman is a wilderness camp that’s worth a visit. Facilities are pretty basic and can be expensive (I paid $130 for my beach shelter) . It can be really busy during the dry season but I’ve just had a glorious weekend there in November.

The east beach offers incredible swimming and snorkeling. If you squint you can see me! There are tides like no other in this part of the world. Nine metre tides aren’t uncommon. I was swimming at an almost-high tide.

The west beach offers some awesome fishing (below is a gratuitous photo of the Hilux on the pindan – I just love it!). There’s sand on the other side of that pindan.

Now, it is the Kimberley after all. And while they don’t often mention crocodiles in the tourist brochures, they are around albeit infrequently.

I was chuffed to see evidence of a saltwater croc on my pre-dawn walk at the very location I was swimming at the day before. Yup! Croc tracks!

And check out the brilliant imprint he left behind after relaxing on the beach for a while. I estimated him to be about two metres. There’s a creek about 6km north of the beach so I’m assuming he lives in the mangroves there and just wanders from time to time.


I meet great like-minded people on my travels and every now and again I meet someone who’s worth bragging about. Celebrity chef Curtis Stone is one of those. He was genuinely lovely and was very excited to share his passion for Western Australian produce with me, including some bush tucker that he and some local guides had collected at Kooljaman. He had lunch at Kooljaman and made a point of making his way to the kitchen to thank the young chef. That story made its way to ABC radio. Listen here to hear how over-the-moon the young chef was and how much Curtis was loving his trip north.

Curtis isn’t the only one who can cook up a feast! This is the breakfast I cooked from my beach shack overlooking the East Beach. Not a bad kitchen! The tide was going out at this point. During a high tide the rocks on the beach can’t be seen. If you look closely you can see my ground sheet. That’s where I rolled out my swag.

And how’s this for my bedroom! I often roll my swag out and sleep under the stars. I have to admit this bedroom will be hard to beat. In the far right of the photo you can see the sun coming up. The Dampier Peninsula has the best sunrises I’ve ever seen. (Darwin has the best sunsets, btw.)


It’s dubbed the Dampier Peninsula’s best kept secret and I absolutely agree! Gumbanan is about twenty minutes drive east of Kooljaman (close to One Arm Point), and a camp site there is fraction of the cost. For $15 I camped in the most delightful spot (see below). Ridiculous, eh? The bathroom and showers are just as basic as Kooljaman but they do they job nicely. And I didn’t shower or pee alone. There were green tree frogs to keep me company.

I slept in my swag in the back of my Hilux. Heaven really is a great view from a $15 camp site.

The tides are pretty incredible in the north. I sat and watched the tide come in and go out from my camp. Check out the difference in just a few hours!

And a different tidal point of view: Just magic!

It’s a pretty easy place to pour yourself a drink and watch the tides and the wildlife go by. While it be warm in September (the start of what’s called the build up) there’s usually a sea breeze to cool you down. Gumbanan is no exception.


Feral donkeys aren’t uncommon on the Peninsula. You’ll see their calling cards on the road and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see some.


Another gem of a place on the Peninsula! Again, I was there out of season. And look what I saw from near where I was camped! I was up pre-dawn and saw a whale from my swag. On closer inspection she had a new-born calf with her. More magic!

This German tourist Lars was camped beside me so when I saw the whales in the bay we jumped at the chance for a closer look. After a couple of hours of whale watching (yes, hours) Lars went snorkeling and this very active whale made a bee-line for him (photo below). I was watching it all unfold from land. Check out this video I took. The drone vision isn’t mine but the other shots are.


Middle Lagoon has both unpowered campsites and cabins. Of course, I was more than happy with my $15 campsite (low season price). This photo was taken at an almost-low tide.


The Dampier Peninsula is a most worthy detour if you’re around Broome. Sadly plans are afoot to bitumen the rough Cape Leveque road, making the Peninsula’s communities more susceptible to grog running and drugs, and providing much easier access for tourists to the Peninsula’s relatively unspoiled environment. The Peninsula’s beauty lies in its unspoiled simplicity. An influx of people and a lack of planned infrastructure to cope with those increased numbers threatens that.

I’ve mentioned just some of the great camping spots. There are quite a few more. And there’s also the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm which is a great place for lunch and a swim (See below. That’s me on the left. Tough gig, right?) It also offers a range of accommodation options.

The Dampier Peninsula is a very, very special place – one of my favourites. You’ll need a four-wheel drive to get there.  And it’s probably best to put your tyres down a bit. The road can be very corrugated in parts and sandy in others.

Oh, and take your rod if you’re going camping. The Peninsula’s got great fishing!



Lisa Herbert is houseless not homeless. She’s the author of funeral planning guide ‘The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan’ . She’s been travelling around the country for about four years, occasionally filling short-term contracts for the ABC in places like Kalgoorlie, Broome, Tamworth and Darwin. Lisa enjoys blogging about the unusual graves, memorials and cemeteries she finds on her travels. 
Get in touch with Lisa via Facebook .


When laziness gets you bogged and preparation gets you out.


I’d had a great weekend camping and was heading back into town but decided at the last minute to do a little bit of exploring on my way home.

I followed old tyre tracks on sand in an area I didn’t know and where there wasn’t a clear path. While I was in 4-high (high range 4WD), my tyres were still on road pressure. Up until that point I’d had no dramas so I was a little bit over-confident and a lot lazy.

I knew I was in trouble the second I hit the soft sand. With some experience it becomes an unmistakable feeling and there’s an instant difference in your vehicle’s handling. I whacked the Hilux into low range and started reversing. I’d got in that way so I was hoping I could get out that way.

Er … Nope.

I carry a fair bit of weight over my rear axle so my rear tyres weren’t able to lead the way. I had successfully reversed about six metres before she started digging in. I was going nowhere.

And it was my fault.


I had three choices.

  1. Keep trying to reverse. But spinning my wheels would have been dumb. No matter how hard I hit that accelerator she wouldn’t have gone anywhere other than further down into the sand.
  2. Try rocking forwards and backwards. That is, go forwards and back trying to get some momentum.
  3. Swear. Get out of the car. Assess the situation. Swear some more.

I went for Option 3.

On this occasion I didn’t try #2 as there was no point. I was foolishly running my tyres at 40psi. (It hurts to admit that.) Any further attempts to drive out of there would have only resulted in my wheels digging deeper into the soft sand. 

LESSON #1.  Stop immediately when you realise you’re bogged. You’ll only make things harder for yourself later on when you try and dig your vehicle out if you don’t.


Okay. You’re stuck. Now what?

Take your time to work out how you’re going to approach your situation. It can be overwhelming when you’re realise you’re in a bit of trouble but a cool head is critical. Take a deep breath and apply the “oh well” rule. Getting flustered and angry or worried or screaming at your partner isn’t going to help. I mostly travel solo so screaming at someone else isn’t going to work.


It was bloody hot and humid when I got stuck east of Broome. Two people had died of heat exhaustion in WA in the week prior. One was a hiker at Kalbarri, the second was a well-prepared motorcyclist on the Gibb River Road. Getting out of a bog can be long, hard, physical work. Heat exhaustion is a serious threat and I was keen to avoid it.

Despite being foolish with my tyre pressure, I like to think I redeem myself a little by carrying some essentials in my vehicle at all times. A hat, sunscreen and at least 20 litres of water are permanent features. And there’s usually a bottle of scotch in there for when I’m really in trouble.

I lathered on sunscreen, put on my hat and put my water where it was easily accessible so I could have regular water breaks.

LESSON # 2. Slip, slop, slap and slurp.

LESSON # 3. Sips of water don’t cut it. The experts say you need a glass of water every time. 

LESSON # 4.  Take a photo for use on social media for when you’re back at camp and feeling a lot better about your situation.

LESSON # 5. Tell someone if you can. I was in phone range so I rang a friend, sent him the photo and discussed my plan with him. He wasn’t particularly helpful when he asked if I had a winch. He knows I don’t have a winch and the photos clearly show a lack of bloody trees to attach my non-existent winch to.  


My plan for the Great Unbogging was a text book plan for a text book soft sand bog.

  1. Drop my tyre pressure.
  2. Dig out the sand behind all four tyres.
  3. Put my recovery boards/MaxTrax behind the rear tyres.
  4. Reverse out.
  5. Vow never to drive on sand again without dropping my tyre pressure.
  6. Take photo to prove the Great Unbogging was a success and, in some small way, redeem my credibility after stupidly getting stuck in the first place.


The most important thing you need to know about driving on sand is don’t be lazy like I was. PUT YOUR BLOODY TYRES DOWN. The less air in your tyres, the more the tyre is able to spread out on the sand, giving you more surface area for traction. The prime objective is to maximise the length of your tyre so it behaves more like a track on a bulldozer or tank.

On soft sand I usually run my tyres at about 13-15psi. Sure, ask ten people about what tyre pressure they run and they’ll all give you different answers because tyre size and vehicle loads all vary. You can go down to 10psi apparently if you’re in real strife but I’ve never done that. Keep in mind that running low pressures in your tyres increase the risk of rolling your tyres off their rims. Avoid cornering and sharp turns and it shouldn’t be a problem.


You can’t dig out your tyres if you don’t have anything to dig with. Always carry a shovel of some sort. Shovelling sand isn’t too bad. Shovelling mud is the worst thing ever so a pissy little spade won’t cut it. Buy your shovel accordingly.

My rear tyres needed my attention most. They were the ones that were going to save the day/save my arse. But they were also the tyres that were buried the deepest – no surprise there because of the weight of my canopy.

So I dug the sand out from my back tyres and laid my recovery boards (or MaxTrax) firmly against my tread. The boards work best when not laid flat, instead protruding at an angle. That will guide your tyre onto the top of the sand.


So I’d let my tyres down, dug out the sand from around all four tyres and laid my recovery boards behind my rear tyres. The hard work was done and took less than half an hour. (The last bogging I was involved with took 6 people, 2 shovels, a winch, an airbag, 4 maxtrax, 2 snatch pulls and 5 hours to rectify. (In Top End mud, not my vehicle).

I walked my escape route and worked out that the best place for me to reverse was on the path I had driven in on. I’d planned to follow my tracks until the sand was relatively solid again – about 25 metres. There were no obstacles that I had to dodge.

All going to plan, my low tyre pressure would give my tyres lots of traction on my recovery boards and I’d be on my way.

I started the engine, took a breath, checked I was still in low range, put her in reverse and accelerated slowly. The slow wheel rotation allows your tyre to grip your boards. If it doesn’t work, stop and reposition your boards. You may even have to dig some more to ensure the boards are firmly wedged against your tyre.  Spinning your wheels now would only wreck your boards and dig you further in.

My tyres gripped my boards easily and the Hilux reversed effortlessly.




I drove out of the sand and once I was on solid ground I used my trusty air compressor to pump my tyres back up.

Phew. Time to go home!

No heat stroke, no hissy fits, no damage (except to my pride) and no scotch required.



Lisa Herbert is houseless not homeless. She’s the author of funeral planning guide ‘The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan’ 

She’s been travelling around the country for about four years, occasionally filling short-term contracts for the ABC in places like Kalgoorlie, Broome, Tamworth and Darwin.

Lisa enjoys blogging about the unusual graves, memorials and cemeteries she finds on her travels.

Get in touch with Lisa via Facebook .


Lisa Herbert lives on the road in her well-equipped 2010 Hilux SR