Why I Love Western Australia
Featured destinations: Australia & New Zealand
Published 21 July 2016
The state of Western Australia can sometimes be overlooked when planning a trip to this expansive country. True – it may not be as busy as the East Coast, late night bars may not be easy to come by, and you’ll often find yourself driving for hundreds of miles without seeing another living soul, but this only adds to the allure of this vast and beautiful state. On a recent trip Round the world Expert, Gemma Budd discovered her unknown love for Western Australia.
National Parks & Natural Beauty
Starting in the north of this immense state is Australia’s ‘final frontier’, The Kimberley. Wild, rugged and packed with untouched natural beauty, a visit here is one of the very few places you can feel (and more or less are) a million miles away from any other living soul. Hire a four-wheel drive campervan for the ultimate Western Australia adventure. Further south, the deep-set gorges, fresh waterfalls and hidden pools in Karijini National Park are a must-see. Nothing compares to climbing through the rocky heart of a gorge and stumbling upon your very own water hole.
Continuing south, canoe along the Murchison River and gaze out of Nature’s Window at Kalbarri National Park, walk through the otherworldly landscape at The Pinnacles or ride the wave (the rock wave, of course!) in Australia’s golden outback. It’s not all rugged landscapes – visit Margaret River and the southwest for lush vineyards, green forests and expanses of beautiful wildflowers in spring. And of course, WA's coastline is worthy of a mention... but I'll touch on that later.
Top tip: If you’re looking to explore some of WA’s outback but don’t have enough time to visit The Kimberley, or don’t want to hire a four-wheel drive vehicle, take a trip to Karijini National Park. As WA’s second largest National Park, Karijini is the ideal getaway for those looking to escape the usual hotpots, while still being accessible to two-wheel drive vehicles. Make sure you pack decent walking shoes and plenty of water as you are free to explore this incredible red-rock landscape on your own. Make the most of you adventure with a stay at the Karijini Eco Retreat – a slice of luxury in the outback.
Coastline & Beaches
There are more beaches in Western Australia than in any other state, and arguably WA is home to some of the best! Plus, with over 12,000 miles of coastline to choose from, you really are spoilt for choice. Cable Beach in Broome is probably one of the state’s most famous – sun-kissed beaches are flanked by azure water, and it’s here you can enjoy one of Cable Beach’s famous fiery red sunsets – why not take in the sunset from the seat of a camel for the perfect end to the day? Don’t miss the white-sand beaches that fringe the World Heritage Ningaloo Reef, the dramatic Lucky Bay in Esperance. If you visit the Margaret River region, Yallingup Beach is one not to be forgotten - this beach has it all – spectacular views, picture-perfect turquoise waters, excellent surf, and even a reef to snorkel over.
For total beach bliss, head over to Rottnest Island – a short 30 minute catamaran ride from Perth. This small island boasts unspoilt natural beauty, abundant marine life, spectacular flora and fauna, and, of course world-class beaches. Whichever beach you choose, you won’t be disappointed. Visit The Basin for fantastic swimming conditions for all ages (be sure to take your snorkel!) or for total relaxation, visit the west end of the island and the quiet Marjorie Bay. I really shouldn’t mention the colour of the water again, but wow! Some of the clearest waters in the world are found along the West Coast of Australia.
Top tip: Did you know Western Australia’s capital city Perth has a number of beaches just outside the city centre? Beautiful Cottesloe Beach is probably Perth’s most popular, and for good reason. Like all Perth’s beaches Cottesloe has powder white sands and clear waters, but here you’ll also find a number grassed areas above the beach, perfect for a picnic!
Food & Drink
Deep fried barramundi in Broome, Geraldton rock lobster, grilled marron in the South West, Rottnest scallops, Mandurah crab – the seafood in this state is bountiful and delicious.
If seafood isn’t your thing, the state is also well-known for its delectable black truffle. Based in Manjimup in the south west, the Wine & Truffle Company produces some of the most sought-after produce. Combine this with Perth’s up-and-coming restaurant scene and more and more dining options appearing across the state and you’ve got some of the best food in Australia!
All this food is worthy of an accompanying wine or two and really you can’t visit WA without sampling some of the local offerings. The internationally-renowned Margaret River is under three hours’ drive time from Perth and is home to over 220 wine producers and over 100 cellar doors. Spend an afternoon strolling through the vineyards and sipping the fruity flavours or indulging in one of the many local restaurants, which will pair wines to your meal. Western Australia also has more than 30 boutique breweries which include everything from light lagers and wheat beers to fresh and fruity ciders and malty bitters – try Little Creatures in Fremantle or Bootleg Brewery in Margaret River for some of the finest in the state.
Top tip: if you don’t have the time to get down to Margaret River, why not visit the Swan Valley wine region? Be transported from the city centre to rolling vineyards in under half an hour and sample some of WA’s oldest wines.
WA offers plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing both on land and underwater. There really isn’t any better feeling than seeing animals in their natural environment, and the opportunities in this region are endless. Catch a glimpse of Australia’s hopping icons, the kangaroo as you drive through WA’s outback countryside, keep an eye out for crocodiles basking on the banks of rivers and wetlands and remember to look up as well as down where you could spot eagles soaring the skies as well as numerous brightly coloured birds such as rainbow lorikeets and red-winged parrots.
However, the real magic of this region happens underwater. World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef is one of the few places on Earth you can swim with the largest fish in the world – the whale shark. Get up close and personal with these gentle giants on a swimming encounter – an unforgettable experience! WA is one of the top spots to view wild dolphins and you’ll find many of these playful creatures frolicking close to the shore – visit Monkey Mia where their friendly dolphins visit the shore every day for a feed! From May to December, you could be lucky enough to witness the annual whale migration of humpbacks, southern right whales and the rare blue whale. Head south to Rockingham to meet colonies of sea lions and fairy penguins… the list really could go on! This state really is teeming with every experience imaginable!
Top tip: Ever heard of a Quokka? Known as ‘the world’s happiest animal’ these cute and furry teeny tiny wallabies can only be found on Rottnest Island. If you’re walking or riding around the island be sure to keep a look at for them!
Gone are the days when Western Australia’s capital city was nothing more than a sleepy town –contrary to popular belief, Perth is now a thriving up-and-coming metropolis that is very much deserved of a mention. From sensational shopping around the Murray and Hay Street Malls to skyscrapers in the CBD, a green park oasis in Kings Park and even some city beaches, Perth has all the ingredients for a world-class city but is often not the first place that springs to mind when planning your Aussie holiday.
Of course, it’s not just these components that make a city. When visiting Perth, why not take a Two Feet & a Heartbeat Walking Tour? This unconventional walking tour shows you all the things you don’t know about Perth and all the places you should see. From street art and graffiti walls to hidden restaurants and bars and random cafés down the darkest of allies – you’ll get to know the nitty gritty about Perth, and you’ll love it!
There is always something going on in the city so there’s a real buzz about the place. From the annual International Arts Festival to food and wine shows, the funky Fringe World Festival and seasonal displays, the chances are you’ll be in the city when something is going on.
Top tip: Head south to Perth’s vibrant neighbouring city, Fremantle of Freo as the locals affectionately call it. Stroll the quaint streets and admire the colonial architecture, visit one of the buzzing markets or relax with a flat-white and soak up the café culture. Head to the Fishing Boat Harbour for some of the best fish and chips and wash it all down with an ice-cold local beer.