There are lots of places in Western Australia that have a huge reputation. Pender Bay is one of them, and albeit less well known than many of the huge tourist attractions, we were expecting big things when we pulled in for two nights earlier this year, on the Dampier Peninsula.
We’ve stayed at Kooljaman (now closed!) and also Middle Lagoon before, and Pender Bay is actually just around the corner from the latter. From the moment we pulled up to camp though, I was absolutely gobsmacked at how beautiful the area is, and the way its been set up.
Honestly, this is the most scenic camp site we’ve ever stayed at, and that is a pretty big call!
Where is Pender Bay?
You’ll find Pender Bay not far from Middle Lagoon, roughly 178km from Broome itself. Its up the Cape Leveque and Dampier Peninsula Road, and then along the same road to Middle Lagoon, before teeing off.
What’s the road like?
The road in is not amazingly smooth, especially if you’ve never done much sand or corrugations before, or towed a new trailer. It starts off fairly corrugated and sandy, and then you get a heap of woops (ups and downs) where you need to be going slowly.
You should deflate your tyre pressures and adjust your speed accordingly. Watch out for other traffic, as many parts are only wide enough for one vehicle, and one of you will have to reverse if you don’t stop in the right spots.
Make sure you engage 4WD, and you keep an eye on your transmission temperatures as it can work the vehicle fairly hard!
Is Pender Bay suitable for 2WD vehicles and caravans?
Pender bay is most certainly not suitable for 2WD vehicles, but it is suitable for caravans, and even full size off road ones.
You need to be careful on the way in that you don’t meet anyone coming the other way without a way around, and that you mind the branches, but there is clearance for a full size van to drive in without any damage.
Pender Bay cost and booking
Camping at Pender Bay is $20 per adult, per night. Its not super cheap, but its not exactly expensive and when you think about the views, privacy and amazing location I think its pretty fair.
You need to book well in advance as its become quite popular and there aren’t hundreds of different sites like other camping on Cape Leveque. They do have cancellations so you can ring if you are in the area, but expect it to be busy.
Fishing at Pender Bay
We did a fair bit of fishing at Pender Bay, and were fairly unsuccessful initially. I suspect this is due to only a couple of easy to access fishing locations, and the fact that a lot of people would use them.
Despite this, we saw some big fish (tuna/mackerel size) jumping off shore, and if you had a boat I’m positive you’d do pretty well.
We were going to spearfish here on the first day, and then were discouraged by the thought of crocodiles. By the third day we’d plucked the courage up to go in and we woke to white caps and howling winds, which put an end to that plan.
You can dive here, and many people do, but there is always the risk of crocodiles coming past. None live here, but they do swim past on the odd occasion, and there’s no worse place to be than in the water if one is nearby. There was a bloke bitten on the face last year here, and he was pretty lucky to survive!
Daniel did manage to nail a big Queenfish on our last day, which was a good feed for the families.
Fires at Pender Bay
Fires are permitted at Pender Bay providing you bring your own wood in (or buy it at the shop) and use the designated fire pits (or a portable fire pit).
What else is worth seeing in the area?
We seriously loved our time at Pender Bay, and there are some fantastic spots to check out on the property, and also nearby.
What’s so good about Pender Bay?
We loved Middle Lagoon and Kooljaman, but Pender bay’s scenery takes the cake every day of the week. The red cliffs, amazing beaches and pristine areas are nothing short of world class, and we fell in love immediately.
The spacing of camp sites
What makes Pender Bay really stand out from the crowd is the fact that they’ve kept the camp sites relatively well spaced apart, and private. You can see others, but they are far enough away that you don’t really hear them, or feel they are apart of your camping experience.
There are a few sites that are closer together, but for the most part it’s a super spread out camping setup and this makes for such a nice experience. Coming from Broome Caravan Park and Broome in general, where half of Australia must have been it was a very, very welcome experience.
We even had our own private slices of beach, which were hardly accessed by anyone else, which was amazing.
The laid back feel
Nothing beats a nice, laid back camping experience. No major lists of rules, no people prying into what you are doing; just a laid back atmosphere that everyone was soaking up, with people doing the right thing.
The weather around Broome is next level amazing. As I write this, I’m sitting in our camper at 8PM with all of the windows open, and sitting in shorts and a singlet. It gets proper warm during the day, to the point where you enjoy a swim and a nice slice of shade, but the weather is fantastic.
Be prepared for wind
Going a bit further on the above point, if you are going to Pender Bay be prepared for it to blow, because it can do, and as luck would have it for the extra day we decided to stay, it howled in for most of the day. There were white caps, big waves, dust bowls being blown everywhere and it was fairly unpleasant for a number of hours.
Fortunately for us we had a fairly protected camp site, but there were those who weren’t so lucky, and got hammered. We did still end up with fine red dust over a lot of our gear, but such is life. It was well and truly worth it.