Western Australia has got to be one of the world’s most underrated travel destinations. It’s Australia’s biggest state and contains natural beauty that’s nothing short of breath-taking, but because of its isolation – it’s a long flight to Perth, its capital, from anywhere in the world and to reach the state from East Australia by road means traversing thousands of kilometres across barren desert – it is still relatively unexplored.
What does this mean? Its natural beauty is largely untouched, and there’s wonderful destinations just waiting to be discovered! Travellers to Western Australia normally partake in a tour or a road trip – the Perth to Broome drive is the most popular, and includes most of the best attractions in Western Australia.
Located two hours’ south of the end of the Nullarbor Plain – Australia’s longest, straightest and most barren road – Esperance is a surprisingly bustling seaside town. It is popular with Australians and international tourists of all ages, and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
Visitors to Esperance can enjoy a coastal drive that rivals Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, and gaze out over some of the world’s whitest sand and bluest waters. The water on the south coast can be chilly, but in the summer the waves are popular with surfers.
A 45 minute drive east of Esperance takes you to the Cape Le Grand National Park, an incredible park famed for its kangaroo population, crystal clear waters and beaches frequented by 4WD vehicles. Camp on the beach, take a dip in one of the many swimming areas, or summit Frenchman’s Peak for a 360 degree view of the whole park.
Probably the most popular holiday destination for residents of Perth, Margaret River is home to surf beaches, chilled out towns and winery after winery. A whole day can be spent touring the vineyards – there’s also cheese and chocolate centres too – or head to the coast to check out some of Western Australia’s most stunning beaches.
Hiking to the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse at sunset will offer you a spectacular view as the sun descends into the Indian Ocean. And don’t miss the Karri Forests while you’re in Margaret River – these stunning woodland areas are pretty much the only forest that Western Australia has – and they’re definitely one to be admired.
Quirky Fremantle is a popular backpacker’s hangout, but there’s plenty for older travellers to enjoy too. The port city is a historic destination, and there’s plenty of historic points of interest – such as the Round House and Fremantle Prison – to enjoy. The town comes alive at the weekends for the famous Fremantle Markets, and there’s eateries and bars galore along the streets of the town.
But despite the fascinating architecture and gorgeous beaches, possibly the best thing about Fremantle is its community spirit; it’s got a lot of soul and this is what keeps travellers returning again and again.
I couldn’t write a list of the best places to visit in Western Australia and not include its capital, Perth. A lot of people think Perth is boring –I think it is anything but. Perth is a wonderful city which is developed, yet spacious. Elizabeth Quay showcases some fine modern architecture and the CBD is well developed yet spacious.
There’s an array of delicious restaurants and fun bars, including a variety right by the waterfront. And the water is where Perth truly excels. Its Swan River is a fantastic addition to the city, with suburbs being popular areas for watersports. Its also right by some of Australia’s best beaches, such as sunset hotspot, Cottesloe. And if you venture eastwards, you’ll find yourself in the Perth Hills – a fantastic destination with an abundance of vineyards, scenic lookouts over the city and gorgeous hiking opportunities.
Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park makes you feel like you’re walking around a ‘land of the giants’ set. The park is made up of a network of gorges, which can be hiked above, through, and over.
One of the best walks in Kalbarri National Park will take you past Nature’s Window – a fantastic spot for gorgeous photos – and over the top of the gorge, which you then descend into. It offers some of the best vistas in Western Australia. Other popular spots in Kalbarri National Park are the Kalbarri Cliffs, Island Rock and Red Bluff – which are all sightseeing, hiking and photography opportunities.
Western Australia’s answer to Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef – and arguably the much more colourful sister – the Ningaloo Reef has been attracting visitors for decades. It’s home to possibly Australia’s best off shore snorkelling, a world-class pier diving site and the seasonal chance to swim with whale sharks, the biggest fish in the ocean.
Coral Bay and Exmouth make up the Ningaloo; Coral Bay being a tiny resort and Exmouth a larger town. The Ningaloo Reef is bordered by Cape Range National Park – a haven for four wheel driving and trekking, where there are even more fantastic snorkelling opportunities to see this area of Australia at its very finest.
Karijini National Park
With sheer gorges, breathtaking waterfalls and secret caverns, Karijini National Park is a must-visit on a Perth to Broome drive and may well be the most breath-taking national park in all of Australia.
The park is home to several short gorge walks, as well as some more adventurous activities like a ‘spider walk’ into a secluded plunge pool, and a handrail descent down into a beautiful but freezing swimming hole.
If that isn’t enough adventure for you, you can abseil down the gorge cliffs – or if you’d rather kick back and relax, select one of the enchanted-looking swimming holes and laze away the day.
Broome’s isolated to say the least – its closest settlement heading eastwards is Derby, a two hour drive away, and wastwards is Port Hedland, a whole six hour drive across desolate outback roads.
But its isolation only seems to add to its charm – after a long drive in either direction, travellers can enjoy the lively restaurant and bar scene of the town, take a dip in the sea at Cable Beach – one of the prettiest beaches in the world – or explore the edge of the Kimberley with tracks leading to places such as cliff jumping destination Gantheaume Point, camping spot Cape Leveque and the gorgeous beach of Coconut Wells.
Broome’s a town with a rich heritage – it prospered as a pearling destination and recruited workers from all over Asia, resulting in a multicultural society that prevails to this day. There’s also lots of Aboriginal culture in the area, and an abundance of museums, historical sites and art galleries help to tell the tale of the town.
The Gibb River Road
The Gibb River Road is quite possibly what fairytales are made out of. It’s the highlight of a Broome to Darwin drive – a 660 kilometre stretch of gravel road from Derby to Kununurra, and it encompasses some of the most beautiful swimming spots, gorgeous and waterfalls in Australia.
In true Western Australian style, these will many times be completely deserted, leaving you free to swim, sunbathe and explore to your heart’s content. The road itself is somewhat challenging, with creek crossings, deep corrugations and very unsealed surfaces. You’ll need a four wheel drive vehicle to tackle it, as well as camping equipment and a true sense of adventure!
Lake Argyle is a fantastic place to unwind after a few days driving down the Gibb River Road. Located about an hour from Kununurra and very close to the border with the Northern Territory, It is Australia’s second largest lake – and its sheer size has to be seen to be believed.
There’s a range of activities to take part in on and in the lake, including sunset cruises, swimming and water sports. It is considered safe to swim in Lake Argyle, even though it has a large freshwater crocodile population – they are not generally unsafe to humans. Or, if swimming with crocodiles doesn’t appeal, you could stay at the luxurious Lake Argyle campground and take in the sights of the huge body of water from its gorgeous infinity swimming pool.
By Claire Martin – Claire’s Footsteps