Western Australia – The perfect road trip!
When in Australia, you must go westward. When people think of Australia they always envision Sydney and its iconic opera house, or the well trodden East Coast. Western Australia is often forgotten and overlooked, but if you want the true Australian experience—one that shines with unending adventure and discovery—then Western Australia is where to go. It is the biggest state in Australia, and distances between towns can be huge. In my opinion, a Western Australia road trip is the best way to explore. If you are heading down under, don’t forget to check out my packing list for Australia. The landscapes are varied, stunning, and full of excursions, ranging from wine country, cityscapes, harbors, beaches, shipwrecks, colorful national parks, and historic sites. Whether you are spending a few days in WA or years, there will always be something new to discover, but to get you started, here are the top must see places in Western Australia to add to your bucket list:
Perth and Fremantle
Any one who comes to Western Australia has to make a stop at Perth, the capital. If you are arriving by flight, plenty of international flights arrive into Perth airport, as well as frequent domestic flights. The city sits between the Indian Ocean and the Swan River, lending it low humidity, endless sunshine, and convenience. Aside from a number of beaches, Perth also has a blossoming culture, Kings Park and Botanic Garden, the Perth Cultural Center, museums, shopping arcades, a bustling quay, and dozens of walking trails. Public transportation around the CBD is free, and you have access to ferries to other destinations, such as Rottnest Island, where the quokkas live.No visit to Perth is complete without heading to trendy Fremantle where you can find markets, Aboriginal souvenirs, and Fremantle Prison tours. Soak up the vibrant atmosphere at Fremantle Markets every weekend, and bag yourself some bargains. Food stalls are everywhere, and deli counters are cheap and interesting.
In the very north of Western Australia, Broome is full of history and attractions. The main reason people head to Broome is for the natural phenomenon called the Horizontal Falls, but there is much more than the beautiful scenery. In Broome, the pearling capital of WA, you can visit Cable Beach, the Broome Historical Museum, Douglas Wilderness Park, an outdoor cinema called Sun Pictures, and the Staircase to the Moon. It is a great base for travelers who want to explore the hiking trails and national parks in the Kimberley Region.
One of the best swimming spots in Western Australia would be “Elephant Rocks.” The reason for the name is because the crystalline waters surround rock formations that looks like a herd of elephants seen from above. Whether you are traveling through Western Australia alone or are bringing family and friends, Elephant Rocks and the nearby town of Denmark are perfect for outdoor activities, as well as swimming, snorkeling, and lounging in boundless sunshine.
Though this wonderful car-free natural reserve was mentioned above, it is so spectacular that it needs further explanation. Rottnest Island is home to the friendly marsupials known as quokkas. Famous for their smiling faces, these animals can be seen all over the island and are not so scared of humans. Whilst it is nice to enjoy such interactions, don’t be tempted to feed or touch these little cuties. Quokkas are not the only reason you should head to Rottnest Island. The island is heaven on earth, complete with sandy beaches, coral reefs, the intriguing Rottnest Museum, and the Parker Point Marine Trail. Rottnest is reached by a ferry service which runs regularly from Perth, and on arrival you can rent a bicycle. Other wildlife you can spot include seals lounging on the rocks, and passing whales and dolphins.
Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park
Out on the Duncan Highway in Kununurra is one of the most infamously difficult to reach national parks ever, known as Purnululu or Bungle Bungle. You are going to want to rent a 4WD vehicle to reach this treasure or take a helicopter ride over the beehive-shaped sandstone formations that decorate the landscape. Bungle Bungle National Park also features a number of ancient Aboriginal artifacts and remnants. There are also challenging walking trails that lead to Cathedral Gorge, Echidna Chasm, Piccaninny Gorge, and beyond. Since the national park is also close to the Argyle diamond mine, you might want to see both in one day.
Not only is Ningaloo Reef Marine Park a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also home to the largest fringing reef in the world. Ningaloo Reef runs from Amherst Point to the southern end of Bundegi and makes up some of the stunning Cape Range National Park. As well asswimming with majestic whale sharks, you can meet up to 500 species of fish, manta rays, humpback whales, turtles, and about 300 species of coral. If you’re looking for more than water sports, Cape Range National Park has a number of fishing zones, as well as towering limestone cliffs for climbing. Ningaloo is often said to be more beautiful and pristine than the infamous Great Barrier Reef.
Nambung National Park
2 hours north of Perth is Nambung National Park, where another miraculous sight awaits you. The Pinnacles, which are thousands of limestone columns rising from the shifting sands, are found here. There is something almost martian about the landscape, especially as you view the jagged yellow stones, some towering meters high, amongst the sunset. You can view the Pinnacles either on foot or by car. Be sure to visit the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre while you’re there to learn more about Nambung National Park. You can also head to the nearby town of Cervantes to spend the night, or check out Lake Thetis.
Boranup Karri Forest
As if you needed another reason to hop in a car and take a road trip to the Margaret River Region! The phenomenal Boranup Karri Forest has been called “magnificent” and “breathtaking” by fellow travelers, and if that wasn’t enough of a reason already, you mustn’t miss out on Pemberton, where you can discover a large expanse of inland dunes. For those who seek thrills, be sure to check out the Gloucester Tree within the Boranup Karri Forest. There are reo-bars embedded into the trunk, spiraling up to 60 meters high. If you can make it to the top, you are rewarded with an awe-inspiring view. It is not a climb for the faint hearted though! Be sure to stop by a winery in the Margaret River region, and relax or enjoy a winetasting experience.
A Western Australia road trip would not be complete without a visit to friendly Esperance. A relaxed and charming town known for the kangaroos that lounge on the sand and the great surfing. To see the infamous kangaroos, head to Cape Le Grand, where there are some great campsites if you plan to overnight. Wake up early in the morning and quietly wander to the beach for your best chance of spotting kangaroos! It is also worth hiking up Frenchman’s Peak, a moderate hike with rewarding views. Boats cruise around the many offshore islands, and can also take you to famous Lake Hillier, a lake that is bright pink due to the presence of algae.
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