Roughly half of Western Australia is pure wilderness. This part is called the Golden Outback. Like other parts of the country, it is the coastal area that most of the cities cling to. Hence, it is in the southwest corner of Western Australia we find the state’s largest city, Perth. But the interior of Western Australia is also worth a visit and there are plenty of attractions within this region. However, count on long distances in between. Skip the hot summer and come earlier. After strenuous rain, dry plains turn into lush lands. Western Australia is well known for its wildflowers that cover the ground in the spring. Like thick rugs in all colours of the rainbow, rolled out just to adorn the area. There are about 12,000 different plant species of which half of them cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. Within the Fitzgerald River National Park and along the coast towards Cape Le Grande, chances are that you will see some of these unusual flowers.
Most unexpectedly, Western Australia is rich in colours. In addition to the different shades of wildflowers, there are the characteristic red floors of the desert, but also the snow-white sandy beaches along Esperance. Twilight Beach is framed by granite blocks and low shrubs. The wind sweeps over the dunes and lowers the temperature a bit. Here are some of the country’s perhaps most beautiful beaches. In the vicinity are two pink lakes to explore. As if that were not enough, the national parks are not that far away.
To the north awaits the heart of the western desert. Stay a night in Kalgoorlie, the grand city in the Goldfields. A city in the middle of the wilderness that came to life after gold was found in the area at the end of the 1800s. Here is a lot of exciting history from gold digging heydays to explore. And there are more old mining towns to discover than Kalgoorlie. Zigzag your way through the countryside or set your sights on the larger towns. It is a special feeling to visit ghost towns that was abandoned when their former glory days ended. Nature too tells a fascinating story. Just outside the small town of Hyden with its hundred inhabitants, several discoveries await. The most spectacular one is Wave Rock; A gigantic granite rock whose sand seems to have been petrified whilst in the middle of a wave movement. There are also boulders resembling a hippo’s mouth and over 400 different Aboriginal rock arts telling the story of the local indigenous people.
Eastwards await an adventure of a special calibre. Follow Eyre Highway over Nullarbor Plain all the way to South Australia. The road is dead-straight and is lined only by low shrubs and red gravel. It is a road that makes for an unforgettable experience. If you choose to go west from Kalgoorlie, you will reach the capital of Western Australia, Perth. Although the city is often referred to as the world’s most isolated metropolis, there is much to discover within a shorter distance. Whether it is a relaxing weekend away from the city’s pulse or a busy day by the sea, the region has something to offer. And best thing, you can easily get around with the help of public transport. The network is well developed and with the help of trains, buses and ferries you can go far without access to your own vehicle. The golden sandy beaches of the west are within easy reach. Enjoy a few days in City Beach, Scarborough, Cottesloe or South Beach along the coast, popular hangouts on hot days. Since the sun shines almost every day, it is not uncommon for a day to be kick-started at the sea and finished at an outdoor terrace in the city.
The Swan River meanders from the inland’s northeast, through Perth to end its trip at sea in Fremantle. The eclectic port city has a colourful population and a multifaceted range of bars, art galleries and so many cafés that an entire street goes under the name of the Cappuccino Strip. Off the coast awaits magical Rottnest Island. The island is inhabited by the charming marsupials called quokkas and is free from cars. Take a ferry from either Fremantle or Perth and spend a full day in swimsuit with your snorkel equipment. Just east of Perth lies Swan Valley which is Western Australis’s oldest wine district. The vineyards are located next to the hilly landscape of the Darling Range. The surroundings are picturesque and photo friendly. Although Swan Valley cannot compete with Margaret River in the southwest, it is still worth a trip. Try the wines of local winemakers on your own or join in on a guided tour to discover the local gems. Nearby is Perth Hills, which offers cosy cafés and local produced food amidst a beautiful nature. There are also various hiking trails here.
Having a long coastline means Western Australia have a lot of activities revolving around the sea. The waters outside the city of Rockingham hides an exuberant marine life. Water activities are popular. Kayaking, paddle boarding and kitesurfing to name a few. But the aquatic animals are the biggest drawing card. Penguins and sea lions are often seen in the turquoise coloured sea. The playful bottlenose dolphins just off the coast happily comes to greet new visitors. And you can get close to them by joining a guided tour.
The charming town of Fremantle is located 35 minutes west of Perth. Fremantle is Perth’s freight port and important for export and import. Stroll around for hours just to visit cafés with outdoor seating or visit various artists’ studios. There are many nice and well-preserved buildings from the turn-of-the-century and the beach is close. Visit the indoor Fremantle Markets (fremantlemarkets.com.au) where you can buy unique handcrafts and food from all over the world. In the city you will also find the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Fremantle Prison (fremantleprison.com.au) that tells a cruel story. From Fremantle you can travel out to Rottnest Island by ferry, but it works just as well doing this from Perth. The island is free from car traffic, but cycling is allowed. Here you can snorkel and meet cute little quokkas. Rottnest is one of the most popular destinations in the area and ideal for a day trip.
Rockingham is worth a visit if you appreciate aquatic animals. It is not the city itself that is exciting, but what is nearby. Shoalwater Islands Marine Park has turquoise waters and is well suited for various activities. There is a sandbank leading from the mainland over to Penguin Island, but instead, take the ferry (penguinisland.com.au) which is much safer. People have died trying to cross on their own because of strong streams in the water. Several hundred small penguins live on the island. You can also book various forms of longer tours, swim with dolphins, watch sea lions and penguins. You can also try kitesurfing, paddle boarding or kayaking around the island.
Just over an hour’s drive south of Perth lies Mandurah, the state’s second largest city. It was previously a small fishing village. Like Rockingham, the marine life here is great, but you can also find museums, vineyards and nature in the immediate vicinity (visitpeel.com.au). For bird watchers, Mandurah is a bit of a paradise (visitpeel.com.au/go-bird-watching-and-explore-wetlands-of-international-importance) as there are over 130 bird species around the various wetlands. For those who want a few days to discover Mandurah, there are a lot of accommodation options in the area (hotelscombined.com/Place/Mandurah.htm). A tip for travellers who want to save money is the free guided tour through the city centre which is organized every Friday and Saturday during spring and summer. During this tour you get to know a lot about the city’s history and its heritage (visitpeel.com.au/foreshore-heritage-walk-tour-free).
About 25 minutes east of Perth lies the state’s oldest wine district, Swan Valley (swanvalley.com.au/Home) located next to the scenic heights of the Darling Range. The area can easily be reached by car, but the boat along the Swan River is another option. The area’s main town, Guildford, is a historic town and a good starting point, including a tourist office to visit. Follow the 32 km long Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail (swanvalley.com.au/See-and-Do/Food-and-Wine-Trails) which takes you through many of the area’s attractions. The nearby Perth Hills (perthhills.com.au) is another destination for vine lovers which also offers a large selection of local food as well as skilled craftsmen selling their products. Both Perth Hills and Swan Valley are well-visited destinations for both tourists and Australians (hotelscombined.com/Place/Swan_Valley_Western_Australia.htm).
Avon Valley is not too far from Perth Hills. Here, air balloon flights are popular among visitors (ballooning.net.au). Take the highway to Avon Valley and stop by at Caversham Wildlife Park, a park where kangaroos, koalas, wombats and emus wander around to the visitors’ great delight. If you plan ahead, you may also be able to feed or pat some of the animals (cavershamwildlife.com.au).
New Norcia (newnorcia.wa.edu.au) is a two-hour drive northeast of Perth. The town was founded by Spanish monks in 1847. Even today the religion has a role to play, but the town also has a strong Aboriginal character. New Norcia has many beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings. Except for visiting the monastery, you can make a stop at the town museum.
Travel inland and experience past heydays in Kalgoorlie-Boulder. At the end of the 1800s, gold was found in the area and Kalgoorlie grew. Splendid buildings were built from the money that poured in thanks to the area’s valuable gold. In 1989, the city merged with its neighbour Boulder. Kal has long been known as an outlaw town where rough men order frothy beers from bikini-dressed bartenders. Despite the city being slightly tidier now, parts of that picture are still true. Outside Kal you can visit one of the world’s largest open pit mine and see gigantic trucks zoom past. Kalgoorlie-Boulder has a Visitor Information Centre inside its town hall at 316 Hannan Street and there is another centre in Esperance. There are plenty of possibilities to stay a night or two in Kalgoorlie-Boulder (hotelscombined.com/Place/Kalgoorlie_Boulder.htm).
When the miners get a few days off, many travels south to Esperance. Children’s families, young people and retirees also come here. In Esperance, everyone can relax. The scenic resort is right next to the sea’s rolling waves. Rough rocks of granite protrude from the seductively turquoise-coloured water. Esperance is like taken out of a brochure, a heavenly beach with snow-white sand. The town has plenty of accommodation options and nice restaurants. A short drive west and you will end up at Twilight Beach, a most enchanting and beautiful beach.
Western Australia has several pink lakes. It is unclear what it is that makes the water change in colour, but it is believed to be some form of algae. One of these mysterious lakes is located near the town of Esperance and has been named the Pink Lake. The lake is best seen from the signposted vantage point. The colour varies depending on the weather, which means that it is not always very colourful. Lake Hillier is another bubble-gum-pink lake located out on Middle Island, just south of Cape Arid National Park (parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/cape-arid). The lake is located next to the shoreline and when seen from above, combined with the green trees around it, it looks like a watermelon. There is more to discover within the nearby national parks. Cape Le Grand National Park (parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/cape-le-grand) has a varied landscape with granite mountainous hills and wide heaths. And more sandy beaches of course. You can go camping here if you like.
A few minutes’ drive east of Hyden in a region called the Wheatbelt, you will find the Wave Rock. A 110-meter-long and 15-meter-high rock formation that looks like a gigantic wave in the moment just before it breaks. The Wave Rock is believed to have been formed over 2,700 million years. The rainwater running down the rock has given the formation its colours in red, orange and brown. There are other magnificent rock formations in the area, like the Hippo’s Yawn and The Humps. At Mulka’s Cave you can see ancient rock carvings made by Aboriginal tribes.
If a big adventure sounds attracting to you, there is a given way to go. Or rather drive, for it is extremely long. From the mining town of Norseman, you turn onto Eyre Highway. This highway leads across the border to South Australia. Ceduna is the first major town on the other side of the state border. Make sure you have a good night’s sleep before you get behind the wheel, because the distance between Norseman (hotelscombined.com/Place/Norseman.htm) and Ceduna (hotelscombined.com/Place/Ceduna.htm) is about 1,200 kilometres along the Nullarbor Plain. The name Nullarbor is derived from Latin and mean no trees. Travelling across the Nullarbor Plain is no easy thing, especially since there only are a few inhabited areas along the way. If you need help while on the road, it may take a long time for it to arrive.
Warm, sunny summer days with temperatures up to 35 degrees Celsius. It will be both warmer and drier the farther inland you get. During the winters it is cooler, and it rains more often. One of the best times to visit the inner regions is during the spring. The state is known for its thousands of different wildflowers that adorn the ground in all its colours. Between June and September, the chances are that you will see the ground in beautiful bloom.
Summer and long weekends are peak season in Perth. This means that much accommodation is booked up, prices are rising and a stream of tourists appears (hotelscombined.com/Place/Perth.htm). Some activities are only available during the summer months. For example, Rockingham Wildlife encounters are closed during winter between June and August.
The endless question regarding travelling in Australia, is whether to hire a car or not. Usually, the answer is that having your own vehicle is the easiest. To see more than Western Australia’s coast, in this case too, a car is required (wotif.com/Car-Hire). At least if you want the freedom to experience multiple locations during a limited time. But it is possible to get to Kalgoorlie and Esperance by bus from Perth with Transwa (transwa.wa.gov.au). Buses also run between Kalgoorlie and Esperance. However, should you cross the Nullarbor Plain, having your own car is the way, unless you are booked in on an arranged tour. Expect petrol prices along the Nullarbor and the inland area to be around 30 per cent higher than in major cities.
Many of the destinations around Perth can be reached using public transport. To Swan Valley you can take the ferry departing at Barrack Street Jetty (captaincookcruises.com.au) or the train from Perth to Guildford (transperth.wa.gov.au). Wine tasting and lunch can be booked via the ferry company. To get out to Rockingham, Mandurah and Fremantle, there are trains departing from Perth Central Station (transperth.wa.gov.au). To get to Rockingham and Mandurah, you can count on an hour-long trip, and taking the train to Fremantle takes just over half an hour. Use the trip planner on the website Transperth (transperth.wa.gov.au). TransWA (transwa.wa.gov.au) public transport serve the larger part of the region. If you stay for a longer time it may be worthwhile to invest in a visitor travel card. The magnificent Indian Pacific train (greatsouthernrail.com.au/trains/the-indian-pacific) run all the way between Perth and Sydney and thus crosses the Nullarbor Plain.
Thanks to the short distances from Perth to the various attractions nearby, it is quite possible to be able to visit two or three different places during one weekend. But of course, it is best to set off some time so that you do not have to rush through your trip. After exploring what Perth has to offer (wotif.com/discover/australia/western-australia/perth.d180013), head to Swan Valley and the main town of Guildford. Visit some of the district’s many vineyards on your own or join a guided tour to avoid driving yourself (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Guildford%2C+Western+Australia%2C+Australia). For example, you can go with Swan Valley Tours (wotif.com/things-to-do/swan-valley-wineries-half-day-coach-tour.a258424.activity-details).
After a lovely day with good food and drinks, it’s time for other activities. The next morning, take the train to the port city of Fremantle (wotif.com/discover/australia/western-australia/perth/fremantle.d8079). You can easily spend a morning or a whole day at this place. Visit the weekend market and have a coffee along South Terrace Street that goes under the nickname Cappuccino Strip. Take the ferry over to the scenic Rottnest Island where you on two wheels discover the island. Rent some snorkel equipment and look for your own favourite beach, or choose from guided tours and a variety of activities (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Rottnest+Island). Meet some selfie-loving quokkas and work on the tan before it is time to return to the mainland.
The next day you travel south to Rockingham. There you can relax at Rockingham Beach or book a guided tour (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Rockingham,%20Western%20Australia,%20Australia. Meet the penguins of Penguin Island and rent a kayak to see more of Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. Another appreciated activity is to swim with wild dolphins that live in the waters in the immediate vicinity.
If you come from Perth and plan to go south and inland, you have two options. One, drive east towards Kalgoorlie (wotif.com/discover/australia/western-australia/kalgoorlie-boulder.d1800) and 600 km later you reach the mining town of all mining towns, built on pure gold. You can spend a few days in the Kal without getting bored. Wander along the wide streets. Look up at the majestic buildings and try the local pubs. Visit the Super Pit, one of the world’s biggest open mining pits. Follow its layers of soil leading you downwards in a spiral, where excavators shovel away the soil in search of finds. Then drive towards Esperance.
Option two is to drive from Perth towards Hyden. A few kilometres from Hyden is your goal, Wave Rock, about 330 km away from the state capital. In addition to seeing this wave-like rock formation, you should also tick off the Hippo’s Yawn which is nearby. Just as the name implies, this rock looks like a yawning hippo. Then you drive down towards Fitzgerald River National Park (parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/fitzgerald-river) or take the road east towards Esperance.
Once in the coastal resort of Esperance, let the car rest for a while. Sip fresh coffee, eat fresh seafood and sleep in crisp sheets at an accommodation that fits your budget (hotelscombined.com/Place/Esperance.htm). Get your swimwear out, some strong sunscreen and a good book. Spend a few days on some of the country’s most beautiful beaches. Check out if the Pink Lake really is pink or drive out to one of the nearby national parks. Five of them are available within a day’s drive from Esperance. Among them the incredibly beautiful Cape Le Grande National Park (parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/cape-le-grand). Climb Frenchman’s Peak for an unbeatable view of the area. Swim at Lucky Bay, and if you are lucky, you can spend the night in the park.
If you are ready for a great adventure, drive north towards Norseman (norseman.info). Here you load up with lots of supplies. This is your last chance to acquire everything you need before departure. Then it will be days before you get to a town or a city with a good range in stock. Make a visit to the information centre. And finally, time to steer the car towards Eyre Highway, the solitary highway that takes you across the Nullarbor Plain all the way to South Australia.