Situated 130Klm’s South of Broome in Western Australia, Barn Hill is located on a small parcel of land on Thangoo, a half million-acre cattle station. Barn Hill offers travellers the chance to enjoy the idyllic surrounds of Roebuck Bay and the Indian Ocean in an authentic and rustic outback-Aussie style. Established in 1986, Barn Hill Beachside Station Stay isn’t a chance for visitors to get their hands dirty and experience life on a cattle station, it’s more of a one star caravan park with views to die for. I don’t mean one star in a negative way although during our stay there I did talk to many people who missed the point entirely and couldn’t wait to move on. What it does offer is an insight as to how people exist in this part of the world with amenities that are very basic to say the least.
Barn Hill has an office/shop on site that is fashioned in a typical Australian bush architecture style; clad in corrugated iron, the framework appears to have been fashioned out whatever has been lying around and as a result oozes outback-Australian character and charm. The office is your first port of call once you have driven the ten kilometres of corrugated dirt and sand track off the highway to reach the park. The response to our arrival was nothing short of appalling to be honest and being spoken to like I was some sort of inconvenience would have had me turning around and looking for somewhere else had it not been for the fact that we were there to catch up with friends. I booked for two nights and headed to the last available site in the un-powered section of the park.
There are three sections to the park with a nice tree filled area for the powered section, a large, sparse red dirt area for the un-powered section and another smaller un-powered generator free site on the other side of the powered section. Between the powered and un-powered section resides the office/shop and bowling green. The shop sells frozen sausages, mince and bread as well as home made sausage rolls and vanilla slice. You can also grab an ice cream or some milk should you need it.
Once we had set up camp we set about familiarizing ourselves with the layout and amenities of the park and after the coffee laden journey from Broome nature was banging on the door, hard. After a walk of about fifty metres I found a small corrugated, unisex ablutions block with one washing machine sitting beside it under a lean too type of arrangement. There were four toilets and four showers, all again typically Aussie bush style in their construction, no roof and assembled out of the same bits and pieces used in the office construction. The toilets were of the flushing variety, which was nice and they were very clean considering the harsh, dust filled environment in which they inhabited. The showers were really only of use during the day as the hot water system consisted of a long length of black irrigation pipe coiled up on the ground beside the facility so once the sun went down it was cold showers only. I kind of enjoyed the experience of standing out in the sun washing the days red dust off but the lack of water pressure meant that the dribble that flowed from the shower rose made rinsing off the lather of soap required to get clean, very difficult.
Regulars and long termers of the un-powered section referred to the powered section as ‘yuppieville’ as they had gas heated hot water and separate men’s and women’s facilities. Although still constructed from the same ramshackle componentry of the unpowered ablutions building it was nice to have a hot shower in the evening if you were busy exploring the pristine beaches during the day.
They have a variety of activities at the park, mostly organized by long term ‘residents’. Wednesday night was BBQ night where it is simply a case of bring everything and the park puts out two large BBQ’s and everyone just simply sits around and socializes whilst cooking at the BBQ. Thursday is bowls day and it’s an extremely serious affair with a perpetual trophy up for grabs. The day kicks off around nine in the morning and goes right through til late afternoon. Large crowds of spectators gather each week as teams strive to have their name added to the shield. Friday night is dice night with a Barn Hill developed game called Left, Right & Centre. It costs a buck to be involved and it’s great bit of fun with sixty or seventy people turning up, refreshments in hand all vying for the chance to take home the kitty.
The rules of the game are quite simple, there are four dice all of which are marked with two each of the following characters, 'L' and 'R' and one each of the following 'C' and 'K' and each player needs five twenty cent pieces. The person who goes first rolls all four dice and then proceeds to move four twenty cent pieces in the direction the dice instructs, for example I roll two 'R's' a 'C' and a 'K' so I move two twenty cent pieces to the person on my right, one to the 'Centre' pot and 'Keep' the fourth, so I am now left with two of my original five coins. The dice are then passed to the person on my left and they then roll and act as per the dice's instruction, and so it goes around the table. On my next turn I would only roll two dice as that is all the coins I have left. Eventually people start to run out of money and are no longer able to roll a dice. They are still in the game as the players to their left or right may have to pass them coins. Eventually it gets down to one player holding all of the twenty cent pieces except for what's in the 'Centre' pot. They must then roll a 'C' or a 'K' to take home the booty, if they have two coins they must roll two of each, three coins means they roll three dice and so on. If they roll a 'L' or an 'R' then all of sudden their neighbour is back in the game. The game is a lot fun and works best with groups of around ten to twelve. There are a couple of enterprising regulars to Barn Hill who make up 'Left, Right and Centre' dice kits and sell them at the markets on Sunday.
The Sunday morning is market is a chance for travellers to sell their wares. Again this is more of a social event with people gathering for a coffee and some vanilla slice before wandering around the stalls to see what bargains they can grab. Come the evening and it’s time for the big social event of the week, the Sunday Roast. For $17 a head you get a basic three-course roast dinner and some live entertainment provided by local band, The Family Shoveller Band. The band hails from the indigenous community of Bidyadanga and they do a great job of getting the crowd up and dancing with a fantastic mix of classic cover songs with the odd sprinkling of originals thrown in.
In a nutshell I’d have to say that I found Barn Hill Station an interesting experience. The beaches are pristine and the whales put on a fantastic display each day as they made their way North to give birth. There were huge numbers of dolphins in quite close to shore and there is a large fishing culture within the park community. The facilities, whilst barely adequate in number for the shear volume of people that the park accommodates they do offer a taste of outback Australian bush living. The regulars who have been coming to Barn Hill for years to escape the colder Southern climate are, for the most part friendly and hospitable and while there are a few who do feel that their regular appearance at the park is something you are interrupting with your presence were, thankfully a very small minority and once you do manage to get them to acknowledge your existence you are immediately left with the feeling of wishing you hadn’t have gone to the effort. The other negative for me was the attitude of the staff and whilst there were a couple of them who were nice enough the rest seemed to share the attitude of the aforementioned regulars. Would I go to Barn Hill again? Probably not. Not because of the facilities or the rude and arrogant nature of the staff but just because it’s so far away from the East Coast we call home. If we end up in this part of the world again we will drop in for a short stay and enjoy the natural beauty that the place has to offer before moving on to somewhere of equal beauty and a few more facilities. For more information on Barn Hill you can check out their website here.
Powered and Un-Powered sites.
Powered mud brick ‘Chalets’.
Powered Sites-$32 Per Night, 2 Adults, $16 per extra Adult, $8 Per Extra Child.
Un-Powered Sites-$25 Per Night, $12.50 per extra Adult, $8 Per Extra Child.
Chalets-$100 Per Night (two night minimum), $25 per extra adult, $10 per extra Child.
No prices for Donga’s listed on website
*Prices are correct at time of publication but as always we recommend doing your own research.