Suffer no delusions: Western Australia is unlike any other place in Australia, or any other place in the world, for that matter. First of all, not only is Western Australia the biggest state in Australia, it’s also bigger than most countries (it would rank tenth in the worth if it were a country), which means you could spend weeks here and still not get to see everything.
This country-within-a-country is so varied in what it offers up that there’s no short explanation for it, but this Golden State can certainly be described in just one word: magnificent.
There’s also not that many people living in the state, with most choosing to live in the southwest corner, centred at Perth. These two facts help to create a uniquely frontier experience. The residents are definitely independent because of the distance to the other population centres, and the state’s mining wealth means it’s not dependent on the East Coast.
Perth’s an Australian hidden treasure with a culture all its own, cultivated by its relative isolation from its compatriots on the other coast. It’s a laid back, sunny city that’s focused on all the best things in life. To learn more about this amazing city, go ahead and visit our Perth page.
Fremantle is about 20km away from Perth on the mouth of the Swan River, but while in Fremantle it may seem like worlds apart. ‘Freo,’ as it’s affectionately called, is a bohemian and eco-friendly town with lots to enjoy, from the museums and historic buildings to pubs and hipster coffee houses.
Big draws include the Western Australian Maritime Museum, which examines the relationship between the state and the sea, the Arts Centre & History Museum, which houses concerts and arts classes and also explores the history of the town as a convict centre, and the Old Fremantle Prison, which still dominates the town as a reminder of its rather harsh past. Walk around the town examining all of the gold-rush era buildings, and enjoy a walk around the Fremantle Markets on weekends. No matter what you decide to do, Fremantle is definitely the place to do it.
– Where to stay: The great thing about Fremantle is that, no matter where you are in town, there’s always somewhere to stay. There are plenty of budget accommodations in town, and if you don’t find one you’re really in love with, Perth is just a train or bus ride away. There are YHA is in both towns if you’re looking out for those, as well.
• Examine Western Australia’s relationship with the sea at the Western Australian Maritime Museum, and take a tour of the submarine HMAS Ovens, part of the Australian Navy’s fleet from the late 1960s all the way up to 1997.
• On the flip side, take a look at the many ways ships had unfortunate ends at the Maritime Museum Shipwrecks Galleries, which includes an in-depth look at the recover of the famous ship Batavia.
• Head to the Fremantle Markets on weekends, scooping up souvenirs and fresh produce among the many different items for sale.
• Visit Arthur Head, home to Western Australia’s first hanging, and then walk about town looking at the many gold-rush era buildings, like the Samson House and St John’s Anglican Church, for an in-depth look at the history of this fine town. Pass by the Bon Scott sculpture, a tribute to the lead singer of AC/DC, on the way.
• Swim in the sheltered and safe South Beach, which is a fantastic place to just lay down and relax after a long day of touring.
Heading out of the Perth-Fremantle metropolitan area, you’ll be able to see how Western Australians kick back and relax in style. You can head to Rottnest Island, a favourite for Perth locals and a car-free outdoor paradise (just make sure to check the calendar and the island for schoolies).
Heading north, you can experience the best in kitesurfing and windsurfing spots on the windswept beaches, especially around the town of Lancelin, or head to Yanchep National Park for a bushwalk, a trip to the koala compound, or an exploration of Crystal Cave. South of Perth, you’ll be able to see some amazing wildlife at Penguin Island, home to some of the cutest little things you’ll ever see, and Seal Island, home to a large colony of Australian sea lions.
Head further south to the once-sleepy town of Mandurah and the small but vibrant Dwellingup, great as a base for many outdoor activities
– Where to stay: The area around Perth is incredibly kind to backpackers; most of the towns around the area offer a number of budget accommodations. The accommodations on Rottnest Island tend to fill up rather quickly and the prices soar in peak season, so be mindful of that when you book. Otherwise, there’s a YHA in Lancelin. There’s not as many budget places south of Perth, but they’re all accessible from Perth city.
• Swim, cycle, snorkel, dive, or do just about any other outdoor activity on Rottnest Island. Surfing is big at Salmon and Stark Bays while swimmers love the protection that The Basin gives them.
• Satisfy your need for adrenalin by heading north to Lancelin, home to many surf schools, windsurfers, and kitesurfers. You can also head out on a tour of the nearby sand dunes by 4WD.
• Head for a tour of Penguin and Seal Islands by way of glass-bottom boat, then head into the town of Mandurah for a dolphin-spotting cruise.
• Hike or cycle on the many trails around Dwellingup; the Bibbulmun Track and the Munda Biddi Track can both be accessed from the town.
• Visit Yalgorup National Park, a set of fantastic wetlands, lakes and sand dunes. It’s a great place to birdwatch, because of the many migrating waterbirds that call this place a temporary home.
The South and Southwest Coasts are full of patchwork farmland, lush green forests, white sandy beaches, and some of the friendliest locals around. You’ll get to see bottlenose dolphins swim up and down the coast while you sip on wines in the areas surrounding the town of Bunbury and up and down the far southwest.
While on the South Coast it’s Albany that shines brightest, its historic buildings mixing nicely with cosmopolitan development in the oldest European settlement in the state. Of course there’s other fantastic places to visit in the South Coast besides Albury. Esperance is fantastically low-key while the national parks of Porongurup and Stirling Range are great for bushwalks and biking.
You can find just about everything here, from whale-watching off of Albany to wine-tasting tours around Margaret River (a good place to find seasonal harvest work too!) and surfing off the coast of Yallingup. There’s so much to do here that it’s not uncommon to spend several days in the region. Grab your sunnies and get going!
– Where to stay: There is no shortage of budget accommodations in the many towns sprinked along the South Coast – there are no less than seven YHA-sponsored hostels in the region, and while you may consider staying in Perth, keep in mind that the South Coast is almost six hours away from the city.
• Head out for a dive along one of many popular dive spots, especially off of Four Mile Reef off the coast of Busselton, and off the coasts of Albany and Esperance.
• Spot the bottlenose dolphins while you take a cruise of the area around Bunbury, making a visit to the Dolphin Discovery Centre afterwards. Or, if you’re looking for great whale-watching, cruises from nearby Dunsborough or Augusta will definitely hit the spot.
• Surf the southwest in a Western Australian tradition, with incredibly powerful reef breaks between Capes Naturaliste and Leeuwin, and great surf spots off of Ocean Beach in Denmark.
• Take the Tree Top Walk all the way up to 40m, and see just how big the tingle trees are, along the South Coast Highway just east of Walpole.
• Go for a bushwalk in the several national parks in this region, including but not limited to Porongurup and Stirling Range National Parks.
The midlands and the coastal region north of Perth don’t usually see many backpackers, but its here where nature really takes centre stage. These cute little towns can be seen best by train, and the Transwa Prospector shuttles passangers between the capital and the Goldfields town of Kalgoorie. From Perth, you’ll pass such towns as Cunderdin and its pub, Kellerberrin and the International Artspace Kellerberrin Australia, a cutting-edge art museum with temporary exhibitions, and Merredin and its tours of the town, and the nearby wildflowers and granite rock formations.
Closer to the shore, towns like Geraldton seek to satisfy with their museums, art galleries, and craft centres, not to mention their great windsurfing and angling spots. While places like Kalbarri offer great views and national parks and towns like Monkey Mia offer up the best in water sports. All this and more are available when you come and visit this amazing part of WA!
– Where to stay: If you’re planning on taking the Prospector from Perth to Kalgoorie, you can choose to stay at any one of the towns along the route, allthough Kellerbin may be your best bet. If you’re planning on heading up the coast, Geraldton is the chief city in the area, and most of the good budget accommodations can be found there.
• Take the Prospector, a Transwa train that allows you to see some of the towns in the Wheatbelt while you’re travelling to Kalgoorlie.
• Tour the many wildflower plains, with the 8000 wildflower species spread over all through the state. Coastal national parks, like Fitzgerald River and Kalbarri, are great places to tour these amazing works of natural beauty.
• Visit the town of Kalbarri and head to its national park, and then afterwards, head to the Murchison River for a unique pelican feeding.
• Learn all about one of the most diverse ecosystems in the state at Shark Bay by heading to the World Heritage Discovery Centre, which also examines the Indigenous people who have lived here and the explorers that have ventured here.
• Feed the dolphins that swim up to the shore at Monkey Mia, and then afterwards head out on Aboriginal heritage walks, sailing, diving, and…most interestingly…camel rides.
Sure, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most impressive places to see in the entire world, but that doesn’t mean you should instantly write off Western Australia’s impressive reef system. In fact, the Coral Coast is a fantastic place for some great dives, and because it’s pretty much right up against the shore it’s far more accessible than its eastern counterpart.
From the major town of Exmouth visitors can sojourn into the Ningaloo Marine Park for dives, surf waves, and glass-bottom boat tours. From Exmouth you can easily reach great parks on land as well, including the Cape Range National Park, rich in roos, emus, echidnas, and lizards living around amazing limestone canyons and gorges, and Karijini National Park, home to amazing waterfalls and swimming holes, not to mention beautiful wildflowers.
There’s certainly so much to do up in this part of Western Australia; just make sure you take all necessary equipment with you!
– Where to stay: Exmouth is the central town to everything in the region, and the town certainly holds its own as a major tourist destination, with a bunch of budget accommodations to boot. Make sure to to book early, especially between the months of April and October.
• Visit Coral Bay, home to an incredibly nice (and safe to swim) beach, Main Beach, where you can swim in an enclosure as well as snorkel and kayak.
• Take a whale-watching, shark-watching or dolphin-watching tour with one of the many companies that operate out of Exmouth.
• Head out for a dive or a snorkel trip in Ningaloo Marine Park, with a variety of coal, whalf sharks, humpback whales, manta rays, turtles, and dugongs.
• Visit the canyons and gorges that make up the Cape Range National Park, and perhaps stay the night at one of the many camping grounds located along the coast.
• Go for a bushwalk in Karijini National Park’s northern edge, enjoying the many swimming holes that are located along the trails. Just be careful not to over-exert yourself.
The Kimberley Region’s a vast and rugged place holding some of the best scenery throughout the country, and it’s a place of vast differences, the Dry and its semi-arid plains giving way to the Wet and its flooded roads and rainforests. You’ll be exploring an area three times the size of England and you’ll need a 4WD to see it all.
The town of Broome is a good place to start, with a real outback charm mixing with fine Australian cuisine that changes just as much as the region depending on the season. It also boasts some fanastic beaches – from the blue water at Cable Beach to the tiny and not-nearly-as-crowded Town Beach. A heap of national parks, craters, and gravel roads make this amazing region one to visit.
Travelling inland, you’ll realise just how desolate this area really is. With the exception of the towns of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and Coolgardie, you’ll be driving and driving with what seems like no end in sight. You’ll be able to see the history behind the gold rush in Coolgardie and the Goldfields Museum, and you’ll also be able to see just how incredibly Kalgoorlie really is, a town of broad, tree-lined streets in the middle of the desert.
Visit the Western Australian Museum Kalgoorlie-Boulder to see the history of this region unfold, and then head up to the Super Pit lookout for a great look into this area’s rich and colourful past.
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