Western Australia is a land of superlatives and extremes. Occupying a third of the continent’s total area, it is the largest state in Australia with less than 10 per cent of the country’s total population. Endless stretches of white sand beaches, vast deserts, wildflower beds, rugged canyons, and whimsical rock formations are just some of the state’s stunning natural assets. Western Australia is also renowned for its unique flora and fauna – the result of its isolation from the rest of the continent by its immense desert belt.
The state capital, Perth, exudes a sophisticated, sophisticated feel. Thanks to a mining boom, the city is bolstering its newfound wealth in its skyscrapers, luxury shops, galleries, and gourmet restaurants. Away from the city, outback adventures abound. Visitors can four wheel drive along the old Kimberley Gibb River Road , surf the big waves on Margaret River , sunbathe on the beach with kangaroos, swim with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef , mingle with dolphins, and marvel at the stunning beauty of some of the areas the most amazing wilderness in the world.
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Perhaps no Australian capital has changed as much in recent decades as Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Thanks to the country’s mining boom, Perth is now Australia’s fourth largest city. Bounded to the west by the Indian Ocean and to the east at the foothills of the Darling Range, Perth sits beside the winding Swan River. Not surprisingly, water sports such as surfing, swimming and sailing are part of everyday life. Top beaches include Cottesloe, Scarborough, Peppermint Grove, Rockingham, and a surf break from Trigg Point. In the city center, Perth showcases its newfound wealth with many office buildings, gourmet restaurants, luxury boutiques and galleries. Top attractions include Kings Park and Botanical Gardens,home to the Kings Park Park Memorial, where visitors can admire more than 1,200 species of native plants and the spectacular display of wildflowers in spring. The Perth Cultural Center includes an excellent museum and gallery, and the popular Tudor-style shopping arcade, London Court, between St. George’s Terrace and Hay Street Mall, sporting clock towers modeled on Big Ben in London.
About 20 km northwest of the city centre, Hillary’s Boat Harbour, home to the Aquarium of Western Australia, is a large and well-equipped marina packed with shops, restaurants and attractions. Ferries to beautiful Rottnest Island depart from here. At the mouth of the Swan River, Fremantle is Perth’s port city and a great place to learn about the area’s rich maritime history.
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Home to galleries and gourmet restaurants, Margaret River is a much-loved holiday resort and a hotspot for surfers. This pretty town is located about a 3.5 hour drive south of Perth, making it a popular weekend escape from the city. Surfers flock here for consistent big wave breaks as well as the more than 40 surf spots dotted along the coast. Travelers love the area’s beautiful scenery with tall timber forests and shimmering white sand beaches. The area is also noted for its impressive limestone caverns , such as Lake Cave, Gem Cave, and Mammoth Cave, with shimmering stalactites and prehistoric fossils. Other popular activities include rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking and whale watching.
Broome and Kimberley
Australia’s pearl capital, multicultural Broome is now a thriving tourist town south of the majestic Kimberley region. One of the city’s main attractions is Cable Beach. Backed by striking red cliffs, this impressive strand stretches for 22 km of sweeping white sand and turquoise waters. Visitors can ride camels along the beach at sunset.
The Broome History Museum tells the story of pearl fishing and the many Japanese, Filipino and Malay divers who settled here seeking their fortunes. Other attractions include the Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Wildlife Park; Image of the Sun; outdoor cinema; local pearl farm tours; and Stairs to the Moon, a seasonal phenomenon in which moonlight creates the optical illusion of steps towards the moon. Broome is also a popular base for Kimberley adventures such as Horizontal Falls, Cape Leveque, Gibb River Road, Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle), and Mitchell Falls.
Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle)
One of the best kept secrets on the planet for many years, the remote and spectacular rock formations of Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle), in the Kimberley, were hidden from the outside world until 1983. Today, the park honors the National and UNESCO World Heritage lists. Despite its relatively recent discovery, the Bukit Bungle Bungleand the surrounding area was home to Aboriginal people for thousands of years, and holds the remnants of their culture – ceremonial sites, rock paintings, and burial grounds, tightly protected.Hard summer rains carve the park’s deep gorges and ravines, and the bee-shaped rock domes of the Bungle Bungle are made of soft sandstone. Because sandstone can be broken down when touched, access to rock formations is restricted to dry riverbeds.
Visitors can explore the main sites on the footpath with varying difficulty. Cathedral Gorge, Piccaninny Gorge, and Echidna Chasm are some of the most popular sites. Aviation flights are a great way to appreciate the vast scope of this magnificent structure. Departing from Halls Creek and Kununurra, flights usually include a visit to the Argyle diamond Mine . Longer tours of all terrain vehicles are also available.
Location: Duncan Highway, Kununurra, Western
Ningaloo Reef Marine Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ningaloo Reef is the world’s largest fringing reef and one of the few places in the world where visitors can swim with whale sharks. Ningaloo Reef Marine Park extends about 260 km from Amherst Point in the south to Bundegi on the Exmouth Gulf in the north, and also takes in the coastal area of Cape Range National Park . Easily accessible from the beach, the marine park is an incredible shelter for sea creatures, including manta rays, dugongs, whale sharks, humpback whales, turtles, and more than 500 species of fish and 300 species of coral.
Exmouth is a popular launching point for reef trips. The small fishing port of Coral Bay is also an excellent base with its long white beaches and ideal conditions for swimming, snorkeling, fishing and boating. Off the coast there are plenty of opportunities for scuba divers, with the many wrecks of the Round Point Cloates. Along the coast, tourists can also explore the limestone cliffs, dunes and gorges of Cape Range National Park.
A ferry ride from Perth or Fremantle, Rottnest Island is a car-free nature reserve and a popular place for city escapes. The Dutch navigator Willem de Vlamingh landed on the island in 1696 and declared it an earthly paradise. Mistaking a small marsupial, called a quokka, for a mouse, he named the island Rottnest (‘rat’s nest’). Today quokkas still inhabit the island and are only found in Western Australia. The glistening bays, white sandy beaches and coral reefs on the island’s shores provide excellent opportunities for snorkeling and swimming. Top attractions on the island include the Rottnest Museum , housed in an 1857 warehouse and excavation, with its collection of historical material and shipwreck relics; the Parker Point Marine Trail;and Vlamingh Lookout . Most of the small limestone houses around the harbor were built by convict workers and are one of the oldest structures in Western Australia. Other activities include walking, tennis, golf, bowling, bicycles and boat rentals.
Karijini National Park is one of the largest and most beautiful national parks in Western Australia. Over millions of years, erosion has created deep ravines, up to 100 m deep, with waterfalls and rock pools lined by lush foliage. A track running through Yampire Gorge leads to most of the beautiful views of the park. The Fortescue Falls , fed by groundwater flows, do not dry out even in summer. Visitors can explore Kalamina Gorge and the deep waterhole on foot, while it’s possible to pass through Wittenoom Gorgeabout 30 km, with shady picnic areas beside the natural pool. The park is home to Western Australia’s second highest peak, Mount Bruce, but the best views come from Oxygen Lookout perched atop four red-walled gorges. Four-wheel-drive is recommended.
Shark Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, houses some of the largest and richest seaweed beds in the world. It is also known for its population of dugongs and stromatolites, algae blooms, which are one of the oldest forms of life on earth. Stranded on a beautiful beach ( Shell Beach is a favourite), Denham is the most important city in Shark Bay and the westernmost city on the Australian continent. But the most famous tourist spot in Shark Bay is Monkey Mia dolphin ,about 25 km from Denham. Each morning, rangers select several visitors to feed these friendly dolphins in their natural habitat. Dolphins became accustomed to humans in the 1960s when fishermen began tossing the remains of their catch into the sea. Apart from dolphin watching, visitors can enjoy swimming in the picturesque bays, fishing, kayaking, four-wheel adventure, Aboriginal cultural tours and camel rides.
Esperance Bay and Cape Le Grand National Park
Paddling beaches, turquoise seas, islands, lagoons, wildflowers, wildlife and easy access to spectacular national parks make Esperance Bay a nature lover’s paradise. One of the area’s main attractions is Lucky Bay in the spectacular Cape le Grand National Park. Set against the islands of the Recherche Archipelago , this dazzling stretch of sand has a reputation as Australia’s whitest beach. Kangaroos are often seen lazing on the beach. Snorkeling, surfing, fishing and beach safaris are popular activities along this pristine coastline.
Hikers and bikers love the Great Ocean Drive , which runs from Esperance to beautiful Twilight Beach. Surprisingly, the region even boasts its own mini replica of Stonehenge. Also in the area, Cape Arid, Fitzgerald River, and Stokes National Parks are popular tourist attractions, noted for their stunning coastal views, diverse flora and fauna, and fantastic hiking trails.
In Nambung National Park , about a 2-hour drive from Perth, the Pinnacles are thousands of limestone pillars rising from a stretch of yellow sand that resembles the moon. These strange rock formations range from a few centimeters to 4 m. Controversy continues about their origins, but it appears that a chemical change process caused by wind and water erosion caused the softer sandstone to be washed away, leaving the harder limestone exposed. Visitors can explore these strange-looking stone towers via scenic hikes or on foot. The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Center displays exhibits in the park.
Location: Pinnacles Drive, via Nambung National Park, Cervantes
Gibb River Road, The Kimberley
Slicing through the heart of the Kimberley, the Gibb River Road is legendary among outback adventures. “The Gibb”, as the name suggests, is an old cattle ranch route that runs north-east for 600km of Derby to just short of Wyndham. Recommended for four wheel drive, thread weave through rugged red rock canyons, outback cattle, aboriginal communities, crocodile-infested rivers, savanna and majestic mountains. Travelers along this route can camp or stay at one of the remote stations in the region. El Questro is one of the most famous. During the rainy season, from November to March, roads are usually closed due to flooding.
The famous Wave Rock is a magnificent rock formation of banded granite, 15 m high, in the form of waves that are about to break. Rainwater reacts with different chemicals in the rock to create a series of vertical stripes in shades of gray, red, and ocher. Another strange granite outcrop lies in the surrounding area. The 80 km circuit from Hyden takes three interesting examples: the Hump , the King Rocks , and the Gnamma Hole . Bates Cave , just north of Hyden, has Aboriginal rock paintings and handprints.