Western Australia and Perth
Though it may not be at the top of most itineraries, travel to Western Australia is definitely worth the trek. Occupying the western third of the country and stretching from northern to southern coasts, Western Australia (commonly referred to as WA) offers an assortment of experiences for the intrepid traveller.
Touring the entire WA is akin to travelling two-thirds of the way across the United States. The top of Western Australia to the south-western coast spans a distance of over 2,000 miles and the state is roughly bisected by the Tropic of Capricorn.
Obviously this is a big chunk of land and any travel to the area requires careful planning. For those with time, driving through WA is an experience of a lifetime and is a ritual for numerous Aussie families. Bus tours and rail tours are also available but the majority of first time visitors fly between points to save time and to enjoy the spectacular aerial vistas.
Perth is the capital of WA and gateway to the state. It also has the distinction of being the most remote capital in the world and is actually closer to Jakarta, Indonesia than the national capital of Canberra. Perth is a vibrant city with huge parks, broad beaches, a lively arts and culinary scene and has the beautiful Swan River looping the city. Notables sections of the city include the upbeat City Center, the spacious Swan River area, arty East Perth and the cultural hubs of Northbridge and Subiaco.
The port city of Freemantle is a short train, bus or car ride from downtown Perth. Perhaps best remembered as the site of one of the America’s Cup Yachting Races, Freemantle is a great place to learn about the seafaring and pioneering spirit of Western Australia.
From Freemantle or Perth, it is a mere 12-mile ferry ride out to Rottnest Island. Similar in feel to Catalina Island off the southern California coast, Rottnest is a favorite escapist destination for locals and visitors alike.
Located 30-minutes east of Perth, the Swan Valley is Western Australia’s oldest and most visited wine growing district. However, the Margaret River area, south of Perth, is perhaps best known for its growing worldwide wine exports. South of this area on the coast, is Cape Leeuwin where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet.
To the east of the Swan Valley lies the Wheatbelt, an area of golden fields that comes alive between July and November with a dazzling array of colorful wildflowers. The famous Waverock, near the town of Hyden, is an immense escarpment resembling a petrified ocean wave frozen in time.
The vast eastern area, across the Nullabor Desert to the border with South Australia and north, up to the Tropic of Capricorn, is referred to as Australia Golden Outback. A great diversity of natural resources such as gold and precious metals fuelled the settlement of this area and continues today. You can visit the Golden Mile, near Kalgoorie, said to be the richest square mile of gold producing earth in the world.
The coastal area north of Perth, reaching to the start of the Kimberley is referred to as the “Real Outback Australia”. Highlights include Shark Bay World Heritage Marine Park near Denham where visitors can swim with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef, and the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort where it’s possible to swim and interact with wild dolphins.