Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
17-28 June 2006 - Eighty Mile Beach

Location map Our site was in the older part of the park among trees providing shelter from the strong north-easterly wind which frequently blew while we were there. Sites are large and the access roads wide enough to easily handle caravans. Fresh water comes from bores; there are no restrictions on its use. Cars and caravans are washed and sprinklers are used daily on the grass. Television from a satellite receiver is locally re-broadcast for the park. ABC radio is also re-broadcast in the park. Electricity is locally generated with generators changing over as demand changes during the day and night; the change-over interruption varies from three minutes to fifteen seconds. The first time it happened was a bit of a surprise because some things in the van run off the van battery and kept going while the mains supply items stop working. We tried the television on 12 volts so it would keep going during generator changes but the picture quality wasn't as good.

Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park is separated from the beach itself by a long and high dune with a couple of tracks across it; access is easy from the park. The beach is very wide and flat; tidal range is about four metres and low tide exposes at least three to four hundred metres of white sand which becomes soft, white silt towards low tide level. At high tide the beach is lined with fisherpeople trying their luck, many of them successfully. The park provides a covered fish cleaning table with running water. At high tide there's regularly half a dozen people cleaning fish there. Once the tide starts going out the fisherpeople leave the beach which becomes the domain of shell collectors, beachcombers, and the idly curious, who can be seen wandering around staring about a metre ahead of their feet and often stopping to pick-up something which has attracted their attention. There aren't as many beachcombers as fisherpeople, though; twenty to thirty compared to more than a hundred. The third category of people on the beach are the sunset watchers. The sun sets into the Indian Ocean, sometimes with a range of colours as it goes, and people set up their chairs to watch the sun going down.
Fishing from the beach Keen fisherpeople trying their skill as the tide comes in.
Sunset Sunset into the Indian Ocean.
Beach at low-tide At low-tide beachcombers replace fisherpeople on the exposed sand.
Four wheel drive vehicles use firm sand higher up the beach to move along the beach; you have to look both ways while crossing that part of the beach. The inshore portion of the tidal flats is generally quite firm and could probably be used by vehicles but the sand one or two hundred metres out towards the sea is a fine silt which stays soft even while exposed during low-water. The park ranger said that last December a couple of tourists wanted to see the water at low tide without walking so they drove a new LandCruiser out to low water a fair way south of the park. The vehicle got bogged in the soft sand with all four wheels so deep that the vehicle rested on the sump/chassis/cabin floor. All the four wheel drive technology in the world wouldn't move the vehicle if none of the wheels had traction so there the vehicle stayed. They would have had a couple of hours at most to salvage what they could before the tide covered the vehicle - the water rises about 15 centimetres in 10 minutes when it gets moving.

On our earlier visit here a couple of years ago the higher parts of the beach were covered in heaps of shells two to three metres across and 30 centimetres deep; there were so many shells it was impossible to walk on the beach without crunching some underfoot. These piles of shells have gone now, probably washed away during cyclones, but there are still sea shells aplenty all along the beach; most of them empty.

The nights have been cool (minimum temperatures between 11 and 15 degrees). There is often a cool breeze in the morning; on one or two days the breeze was so cold that some fisherpeople decided not to go to the beach. After the cool mornings, the sun shines brightly and warms the day so that afternoon maxima were between 31 and 35 degrees. The wind usually creates a breeze through the van and opening the windows helps control the inside temperature. One day had some cloud, otherwise the sky was cloudless

I spent a lot of time at the beach. Mary stayed at the A-liner watching television, reading, doing crosswords and knitting. I had put up our special shadecloth across the long side of the annex to ensure shade outside the A'liner door. Sitting under the shade of the awning in a gentle breeze watching the world go by is a pleasant way to spend the time.