A Monastery? A Service Station? A Tent? Five Interesting Places to Stay in Western Australia

Some people insist on 5-star travel with the plushest of towels, king-sized beds and endless hot water in palatial bathrooms.

Others seek adventure under a million stars, rather than just five.

We were driven by a sense of desperation and urgency so our choice of accommodation was slightly different and pretty much out of our control.

Here are five very different accommodation options, all without gourmet room service!

Earlier this year we enjoyed a short hiking and swimming adventure in Western Australia. Like all modern-day Covid19-travellers we had to be flexible, including doing the midnight flit from Perth to avoid an emergency 3-day lockdown. This stressful development threw our travel plans up in the air and the start of our tour changed from a comfortable 1.5hr plane flight to almost 20hours in a bloody minibus. Our comfortable tent accommodation changed to an any-port-in-a-storm approach, often arriving at some remote location after dark and thoroughly stiff and rattled after being origamied into a minibus for hours on end. If nothing else, we saw some places that were definitely not on our tour itinerary.

Firstly, after escaping in the dark from Perth, we woke up in…

New Norcia Monastery, Western Australia. Source: newnorcia.wa.edu.au
New Norcia Monastery. Source: newnorcia.wa.edu.au
  1. New Norcia Benedictine Community

We drove around and around in the dark and the minibus headlights flickered across imposing facades, sandstone monuments, and looming red brick walls. Frankly, I was past caring and just wanted to get out of that overcrowded vehicle.

Grabbing our bags we wandered into one of the large buildings and it dawned on us that we were sleeping somewhere very different that night!

New Norcia has been home to a community of Benedictine monks since 1847 when it was established by two Spanish monks, a French Benedictine novice and an Irish catechist. Yes, this is starting to sound like a joke…all we need is a bar for them to walk into!

Our rooms were large, sparse and sparkling clean. Lying in my narrow single bed and staring up the 18ft high ceilings, then rolling over and placing my feet on the cool, tessellated tile floor, I instantly got the feelings of simplicity and minimalism that would have been the norm of the previous residents’ lives.

Stepping out into the crisp early morning air the size and scale of the complex was astounding. Everywhere we looked were huge school, dormitory and religious buildings. All in the middle of absolutely nowhere and all absolutely empty.

The places you end up when you are doing a runner!

What else: It is possible to book a guided tour of the grounds and a museum is also open to the public. Or grab some of the freshest bread and tastiest cinnamon scrolls baked in the Monastery’s original wood-fired ovens.

Location: New Norcia Rd, New Norcia WA 6509

Cost: Not sure. You will need to contact them direct

For more information: Check out their website or info@newnorcia.wa.ed.au

Back in the bus again and +13hours driving later we arrive at…

Capricorn Roadhouse, Western Australia.
It’s not the Ritz, but it is a good option. The Capricorn Roadhouse.

2. The Capricorn Roadhouse

Again our arrival was in the dark and we were tired and disgruntled from another long, cramped day. We tumbled out the minibus like lemmings and it was only when we looked around at the massive semitrailers and B-triple road trains that it dawned on us that we were actually staying in a service station!

Grabbing our room keys like drowning men, we dashed along the concrete path, found our room and retreated inside. We had a scored an ‘accessible’ room so we were blessed with even more glorious space.

The room was basic, clean enough and had WIFI. No 5-star accoutrements here, but the bed was comfortable and the showers were hot. It was a joy just to be able to stretch out our legs and recline on something was wasn’t bumping around, jolting over pot holes and without that constant side-to-side vibration that seems to set up in vehicles with great long distances to travel.

Again the big reveal happened the next morning and I found that our rooms were actually prefabricated dongas cleverly stacked on top of each other and nicely landscaped with trees and shrubs to soften the cubist effect.

What else: There is nothing else to see or do here other than marvel at the monstrous trucks and machinery that are the lifeblood of supply in this part of remote Western Australia. The service station serves a fabulous Spanish Omelette and excellent coffee that comes in bucket-sized cups. Just what I needed.

Location: Lot 10, Great Northern Highway, Newman, WA 

Cost: $220pernight – WOW! I didn’t realise it cost that much. Supply and demand, I guess.

For more information: Check out their website. Beware of their Facebook page – it includes an interesting range of incredibly colourful language and commentary!

Back into the %$#@ minibus to finally arrive at…

3. Karijini Eco Retreat

If you don’t like the colour red and a fair dose of dirt and dust, then camping at Karijini Eco Retreat may not be for you. We had a fabulous camp set up with individual tents, really comfortable stretcher beds and sleeping bags. Yes, it was a short stroll to the toilet and bathroom facilities, but they were clean and the water warm. Hand washing tubs were also located in the ablution blocks.

Karijini Eco Retreat also has eco tents, huts and luxury tents. Dining options included a restaurant/bar area that had live music in the evening. We were kept so busy, I didn’t get a chance to poke my nose into any of these facilities so I can’t accurately report how ‘luxury’ those luxury tents were.

What else: While the facilities are simple, the gorgeous sunsets and sunrises make up for the lack of any modern conveniences. To lie in bed and stare at the stars or hear the dingos yapping in the distance was all we really needed.

Location: Savannah Campground (off Weano Road), Karijini National Park, WA, 6751

Cost: Unpowered campsites start form $22 per night.

For more information: Check out their website.

Our time in Karijini was over in the blink of an eye and it was time to load up the mini-bus and head West to…

Looking down onto the Cheela Plains. Source: Cheela Plains Station
Looking down onto the Cheela Plains. Source: Cheela Plains Station

4. Cheela Plains Station

Seemingly in the middle of nowhere our minibus turned left off the Nanutarra-Munjina Road (Highway 136) and slowly bobbed and bounced over a wide swathe of red dirt road. After about one kilometre we puttered up a steep rise and a green oasis awaited us on the plains below.

Cheela Plains is a working cattle station of 188 501 ha (or 465 796 acres – Yes, you read that correctly) and, like many stations in Outback Australia, they have diversified their business to provide tourism and hospitality experiences, caravan and camping sites.

What else: For a small set-up, they provide a hugely warm welcome and their services were excellent with washing machines, hot showers and lush communal seating areas with large, welcoming fire pits. Again, the sunset and sunrise were outstanding with brilliant reds and yellows fading to the prettiest purples.

Location: 174 Nanutarra-Munjina Road, Paraburdoo WA 6754.

Cost: Unpowered campsites start from $30 per night. They also offer rooms in a fully renovated Shearer’s Quarters and are developing more accommodation options.

For more information: Check out their website.

Another 6.75hrs in the bus and we arrived at…

Camping under cloudy skies at Yardie Homestead
Camping under cloudy skies at Yardie Homestead

5. Yardie Homestead Caravan Park

Yardie Homestead has developed from the original old homestead, belonging to Yardie Creek Station, into a true accommodation metropolis. When we parked the minibus and stepped out onto yet more red dirt, there would have easily been 250 caravans plugged in, 50 tents pitched, plus more comfort-focused individuals in three chalets, six cabins, and the renovated shearer’s quarters. Obviously this was a very popular destination for visitors like us to the Ningaloo Reef and Coral Coast.

The Caravan Park also features a swimming pool, bar/café and a convenience store. The fact that this is a dog-friendly park meant that there was every shape, size and age of dog enjoying a stroll with their owners. I am not sure I could travel such vast distances with a pet, but obviously people do. And if you prefer a flying holiday, they have their very own airstrip right next to the Park so you can just drop in out of the skies.

What else: The ablution blocks were plentiful and had lots of hot water. The washing machines were also a hit with our touring group at this stage of the tour. Probably the only downside of this place was the inconsiderate nature of some caravaners partying into the wee hours, without any real walls to block the noise. Hopefully, the yapping dingos woke them up at some ungodly hour!

Location: Yardie Creek Road, Exmouth WA 6707

Cost: Unpowered sites start from $35per night.

For more information: Check out their website.

Although I was sad to sweep out my tent and pack my bag one final time in preparation for the long trip home (bus, walk, plane, walk, plane, walk, drive, drive drive), I was looking forward to getting back into a real bed, my own bed and having an ensuite a mere 4 steps away. The tour started in chaos and exposed me to some places I would never dream of seeing, let alone sleeping in. I guess that is what an adventure is all about!

Where is the strangest place you have slept?

Camping under cloudy skies at Yardie Homestead
Camping under cloudy skies at Yardie Homestead

#monasteries #travelinspo #westernaustralia #dongas #servicestations #interestingsleeps  #anyportinastorm #camping #caravans #campinglife #vanlife #outbackaustralia #roadtrips #offthebeatentrack #nonfivestar

26 thoughts on “A Monastery? A Service Station? A Tent? Five Interesting Places to Stay in Western Australia

  1. Coral Waight September 29, 2021 / 11:15 am

    I ended up one night in a ratty old caravan at an out of the way footy ground somewhere between Adelaide and the border, with the drunken footy team celebrating on the other side of the ground. That was a bit intimidating but they were gone by midnight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure September 29, 2021 / 11:22 am

      Hilarious! Just as well they didn’t decide to pick up your caravan and take you for a little trip! That happened to me in a portaloo once! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure September 30, 2021 / 1:21 pm

      Hmmm, not sure about that, but it is a nice thought/skill to have! I think it was more like I had no bloody choice but roll with it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. margaret21 September 30, 2021 / 1:49 am

    I’ve always had a hankering to sleep in a monastery. You’ve backed up that feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure September 30, 2021 / 1:23 pm

      What? Not in a service station?? 🙂 Yes, the monastery warranted a longer visit and explore. So much fabulous history in the middle of nowhere.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. wetanddustyroads September 30, 2021 / 1:52 am

    Oh, that %$#@ minibus … it sure took you to places! I like the look of the monastery, but those tents at Karijini Eco Retreat sure looks like a great place to stay!
    I don’t think I ever slept in a “strange” place – we had our fair share of tents, caravans, shacks, yachts and yes, even a hotel or two … but like you said, your own bed … hmm, that surely is the best place!

    Like

    • Life...One Big Adventure September 30, 2021 / 1:30 pm

      Yes, that minibus took us on a merry dance, but considering we have been locked down and locked in since then, it was a small price to pay.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure September 30, 2021 / 1:32 pm

      You gotta love the ol’ supply and demand! $220 is probably a bargain to some people. May your sleeping/staying luck continue….

      Like

  4. Annika Perry September 30, 2021 / 8:40 pm

    Times are ensuring we look beyond our normal behaviour, including holidays! I enjoyed a canal boat stay in a town centre earlier in the year which was lovely and most unusual – and safe! I had to laugh at the caravan site and your hope the party that ‘.. the yapping dingos woke them (the party revellers) up at some ungodly hour!’ Quite!😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. travelling_han September 30, 2021 / 8:57 pm

    Oh wow – I don’t think I could have coped with this in the way you did. Thankfully never any service stations for me, but I remember a cheap hotel room in Singapore with cockroaches which wasn’t ideal

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rkrontheroad October 3, 2021 / 10:21 am

    I’ve never stayed at a 5-star hotel, unless it was for a project or conference where someone else made the arrangements. I prefer to stay some place that reflects the culture and environment I’m in. I enjoyed this post! I’ve stayed in a couple of monasteries and found those the most interesting. I can do without bedbugs – I’ve found them in a few, seemingly nice places, surprisingly.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Travel Architect October 4, 2021 / 10:51 am

    Variety is the spice of life, so they say… I’m not sure it’s all that remarkable, but it’s definitely 1 star: when we road trip with our trailer we often spend a night here and there parked in a Walmart parking lot as we make our way out west. It’s free, easy, and all we want to do after 14 or so hours on the road is crash, so it works out well as long as I don’t have to do it all the time (no hookups or anything).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure October 7, 2021 / 4:16 pm

      That Walmart parking lot approach seems to be a ‘thing’ in the US. I am not sure that it is allowed in Aus and suspect the police would come and move you on….parking in the bush is a whole other story! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Travel Architect October 8, 2021 / 9:05 pm

        That’s probably true here, too, for other businesses. It’s just that Walmart allows it because it knows you’ll get up in the morning and go into the store to use their bathroom, buy food and maybe a few supplies… and it costs them nothing. It’s like this unspoken rule/understanding. We’re not Walmart shoppers, but I’ll admit to utilizing this convenience when we make the 14-hr drive to Colorado or other points west: pull in late after a long day of driving, walk to a nearby restaurant for a late dinner, return to your travel trailer, and crash. No fussing with reservations or having to check availability, no forms to fill out, no money to pay…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. restlessjo October 7, 2021 / 5:45 pm

    See life, hey, Mel? I love that monastery, and had a similar but smaller scale experience on the Azores. Weirdest for us though was in Croatia many years back. I think we must have been double booked because we ended up sleeping in a tiny cottage full of lace doillies and antimacassors- if that’s how you spell it? The old lady must have slept on the sofa and peered anxiously at us early morning, offering breakfast.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure October 8, 2021 / 7:33 am

      It pays to be adaptable as you travel, doesn’t it? Those doillies would have done my head in! I can’t stand the things. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Monkey's Tale October 13, 2021 / 11:00 am

    What an adventure. Sleeping in the monastery sounds like a great experience, so different from anywhere else. We’ve had a few odd places but what comes to me first is staying in a lone room above the cows in Mustang in northern Nepal. Our toilet was a very small hole in the floor that dropped straight down to the cows! We opted to use a toilet down the street in a restaurant.

    Liked by 1 person

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