It is the perfect combination. Augusta on a sunny but cool winter's day. A warm, contemporary, Alouarn Apartment. A terrific cooked breakfast at Deckchair Gourmet Cafe and Deli.
And whales. Humpback whales in Flinders Bay, as the water switches from turquoise to patchy silver-and-ink and they blow great clouds of salty breath and arc their great bulks through the surface.
Some 236 whales have already been counted in the bay and on Sunday, when I joined the daily 10am cruise on Cetacean Explorer, Naturaliste Charters' purpose- designed whale-watching boat, a pair quickly paraded alongside, swimming together, with Cape Leeuwin lighthouse in the background.
Then we were drawn by a couple of young male humpbacks tail slapping and cavorting. Others in the distance exhaled great spray clouds from their blowholes.
For the humpbacks and southern right whales (and more occasionally rare blue and minke whales), Augusta is landfall after swimming up from the krill- feeding waters of Antarctica.
From here, they will migrate up the coast through Geographe Bay to northern breeding grounds.
It was all worth getting up for, of course, although that proves a somewhat testing moment.
I am at Alouarn Apartments, tucked under a pure wool doona in a superbly comfortable bed. Whales beckon, but it's a brief test of character to get up.
There are two new Alouarn apartments, one with one bedroom, one with two. What they have in common is stylish and very comfortable living.
We stayed in the two-bedroom apartment, with two king-size bedrooms, each with an ensuite, a spacious, light and warm living room with sofas, a large plasma screen, and a well-equipped kitchen with dishwasher and coffee machine (the coffee pods are complimentary). It has a sizeable courtyard and barbecue area.
I particularly mention "light and warm" because an interesting aspect of the apartment is its very efficient passive solar design, which reduces the need for heating and cooling. Its rammed limestone walls not only provide a big thermal mass to help maintain temperatures, but are aesthetically delightful. This is clever, quality accommodation.
A breakfast voucher for Deckchair Gourmet Cafe and Deli (worth $20 per couple per day) is included in the tariff.
Poached eggs and coffee kick-start the day.
Four seasons pass by the window. The mottled, sun-pocked inlet. A rush of chill wind from a long-way south. A brief burst of light rain. Then sunshine and blue sky. An oceanic display of weather, and the backdrop for the day of oceanic splendour.
>> Naturaliste Charters' boat Cetacean Explorer is ideal for whale watching.
Whale-watching cruises from Augusta are two to three hours, departing 10am daily, from Davies Road or Ellis Street jetty, weather permitting. They are $75 for adults, $35 for children aged 4 to 12, $45 for students aged 13 to 17, $65 for seniors, and a family pass for two adults and two children (4 to 12) is $200.
Sightings are likely, but not guaranteed. See www.whales-australia.com or call 9725 8511.
As the whale migration season progresses, Naturaliste Charters also has whale-watching from Dunsborough, from September. Naturaliste Charters also has deep-sea fishing trips and can cater for private functions and events.
>> From now until December 15, Apartment 1 at Alouarn Apartments is $220 a night for two adults and Apartment 2 is $165 for two adults, $220 a night for four adults.
A breakfast voucher for Deckchair Gourmet Cafe and Deli (worth $20 per couple per day) is included in this tariff. See www.alouarnapartments.com.au, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0428 575 116.
>> Deckchair Gourmet Cafe and Deli is next to the IGA supermarket in Augusta town centre.
>> Cape Leeuwin, where the Indian and Southern oceans meet, has mainland Australia's tallest lighthouse, and is always worth visiting.
There are 12 guided tours a day, a visitor centre, and a cafe and shop in one of the heritage cottages overlooking Flinders Bay.
The precinct is open every day of the year except Christmas Day, from 8.45am to 5pm.
Site admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children up to 16 years.
The tour is $15 for adults, $7 for children. See www.margaretriver.com/pages/cape-leeuwinlighthouse or call 9758 1920.>> For general information on the area, see www.margaretriver.com.
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