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The outsider’s guide to…Perth and Western Australia

Featured Image by Alan Lam

Western Australia takes up around a third of the mainland Australian continent. Yet despite its vast size, it is still a state that remains unknown and untraveled by many who make the long trip Down Under. Only approximately 2.5 million people live in Western Australia – and 92% of them inhabit its south-west corner. So what exactly is going on out there?

Well…hundreds of thousands of miles of paradise beaches, lonely outback, mountain ranges, dramatic gorges, hidden waterfalls, ancient history and unique wildlife habitats, to be exact. Yep – Western Australia is the road-tripper’s dream. So hire a car in Australia and hit the open road, before everyone else gets there first.

 

Perth

Perth is the obvious starting point for most people who travel to WA. And as far as cities go, it’s pretty much got the lot. Perth isn’t known for its fast paced lifestyle; instead, the western capital deals more in the relaxed side of life, due mainly to its fantastic beaches and hot weather. There’s more to this city than sunning and surfing however; this is the place to go in Western Australia for fascinating museums, shopping and art. Hire a car in Perth and start your journey off here. Just make sure you get your fill of socialising in while you can – it might be a while before you see a crowd again.

Don’t miss: Kings Park, one of the largest inner-city parks in the world, and Freemantle, a bustling port known for its laid back, artistic vibe.

 

Image by Rob Chandler
Image by Rob Chandler

 

Monkey Mia and Shark Bay

Leave Perth, drive north for about 10 hours, then turn left. That’s the way to Shark Bay, and as much as the miles of wilderness might start to feel monotonous, you will be rewarded tenfold when you get your first glimpse of the Indian Ocean peeking over the deep red sand of the outback. The highlight here is Monkey Mia, a calm spot on the peninsula where dolphins naturally congregate in the bay every morning for a breakfast of fish, provided by local conservationists and volunteers.

 

Image by Eulinky
Image by Eulinky

 

Bear in mind this part of WA pretty much does what it says on the tin – this is nature’s territory, and you’re sharing the space with some amazing species of wildlife. And yes, you guessed it – that includes sharks. Be respectful of your surroundings and ask locals for advice on swimming spots.

  • Don’t miss: Wula Guda Nyinda Eco Adventures is a must-see tour that offers a fascinating glimpse into the nature and heritage of this unspoilt paradise. Get to grips with the real Australia with expert guide Darren ‘Capes’ Capewell, as he helps visitors understand the spiritual connection between this ancient land and the local Aboriginal people.

 

Image by Robert Young
Image by Robert Young

 

Exmouth and Coral Bay

A few hours north of Shark Bay, just over the Tropic of Capricorn (yes, there’s a sign where you can get the obligatory photograph) turn off towards the ocean again to Coral Bay. Very slightly bigger and more bustling than Monkey Mia, this is another idyllic spot, this time located on the Ningaloo Reef (the quieter cousin of the east coast’s Great Barrier Reef). What makes this spot extra special is the coral that starts right at the water’s edge. No fancy diving equipment needed here – have a paddle and dunk your head in to see this stunning underwater world first-hand.

 

Image by Phillie Casablanca
Image by Phillie Casablanca

 

  • Don’t miss: Take a whale shark tour from Coral Bay or nearby Exmouth. It could be your only chance to swim with the largest fish in the sea – this gentle giant is very elusive and only arrives on the Ningaloo Reef from April to July every year.

 

Image by Christian Steen
Image by Christian Steen

 

The Kimberley

In the north of Western Australia lies the Kimberley, a rugged and beautiful region that is home to gorges, wetlands and a huge host of wildlife (including the unforgiving saltwater crocodile). Towns such as Broome are worth a stopover to see a sunset on the famous Cable Beach; but the real attractions of the Kimberly lie in the landscape. Described by Tourism Western Australia as one of the last true wilderness areas on earth, this is the road trip to end all road trips.

 

Image by NeilsPhotography
Image by NeilsPhotography

 

  • Don’t miss: The Bungle Bungles, a huge range of curious beehive dome-shaped mountains. Despite being over 350 million years old, the range remained unknown to all except the local inhabitants until 1983.
Image by NeilsPhotography
Image by NeilsPhotography

 

Margaret River

If dusty outback adventures sounds a bit dry and dirty for your liking, there is still a place for you in Western Australia. We’re going south of Perth now to Margaret River, a town known for its renowned surf breaks and surrounding wine region. The climate is a little more tolerable than that of the searing desert as well. With Mediterranean-style weather and Aussie hospitality, this region brings you the best of both worlds.

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