One of the things I love the most about OZ, is the people. They are so friendly and helpful it is a continual source of amazement. At the tee box for the third hole of the Nullarbor links, in a small farming town called Penong, we met a pair of local gents. They struck up a conversation with us, and offered us each a beer. As we were preparing to part ways, so we could all play some golf, one of them suggested we go check out Cactus beach on our way out of town. He said it was something of a world famous surf beach, and the road had just been graded so getting out there should be no problem. We took his advice and went and went and checked it out. If it was not for those two fellows we met, we would completely missed out on a wonderful piece of Australia.
Cactus Beach is part of the Point Sinclair National Surfing Reserve. It is dedicated to preserving the area so that future surfers can experience it in the same state as those of the past generation. There is a gorgeous off shore break that makes for wonderful surfing, and the people who we met at the campground were all wonderful people, if not a little weird. Most of them were a bit older and had been coming there since they were young in the 70s and 80s. They all enjoyed telling us how little the place had changed, besides the upgraded toilets, and how much they loved coming there. Many of them stayed for weeks at a time and down the road a bit, there are people who live there permanently. The gentleman we camped next too looked like a combination of Jeff Bridges and Kurt Russell. He was an awesome old traveling surfer.
The area was a popular destination for surfers in the 60’s and due to its popularity, the area was getting damaged due to use. Many people would come and stay for weeks at a time to ride the waves and enjoy the beautiful coastline. In 1976 a coastal protections officer, who was also an avid surfer, drew up the plans that made it a reserve. Bathroom facilities, fencing, and other basic infrastructure have been put in to protect the environment and allow the area to remain a viable beach camping area for those wishing to enjoy it. It has been owned by Ron Gates since 1986, and he does a wonderful job maintaining the place.
The camping spaces are hard sandy clearings amongst the salt brush on the back side of the dunes, which means they are some what protected from the coastal wind. There are flushing toilets, sheltered fire barrels with wood provided and benches built in, and a shower hut and clothe line. The shower and sinks all run on bore water which isnt potable. But, most of the fire pits also had water containers that I believe were full of clean water, we forgot to ask the park attendant about them so I suggest checking before using. Though far from flash, it had all the basic amenities, and it had a wonderful charm that made it feel both remote and homey.
The beaches face west and the sunset over the water was stunning. Big dunes protect the coastline and there were trails that wind along the tops. There were wonderful places to sit and enjoy the view, or if you are Courtney and I, plant yourself and read a book in the sunshine. There were numerous beaches to hang out on, and there was a point that is no more then 2 Ks walk from the camp ground that provides for a stunning view of the Bight. Even for us non-surfers, it was a lovely place to be.
A bit further down the road there is a well-maintained jetty for fishing, and during the summer the shark nets are lowered for a protected swimming area. The jetty itself was built before the highway system, and was used to ship in supplies and ship out the grain that grows throughout the region. It is another well maintained piece of Australian history that I would never had seen if it weren’t for the friendliness of the Aussies.
Though I am not a surfer myself, I understand a bit of what the lifestyle is about. This reserve, more then any other place I have ever seen, embodies that lifestyle. It is without a doubt, a surfer’s paradise. But even for those who do not surf, it is a place that is well worth a visit.