Western Australia is a land of superlatives and extremes. It covers a third of the continent’s total area and is the largest of the Australian states with less than 10 percent of the country’s total population. Endless expanses of white sand beaches, vast deserts, vast fields of wildflowers, rugged canyons, and bizarre rock formations are just some of the state’s stunning natural resources. Western Australia is also famous for its distinctive flora and fauna – the result of its isolation from the rest of the continent by a vast belt of desert.
The state capital, Perth exudes a vibrant sophisticated feel. Thanks to a mining boom, the city is channeling its new-found wealth into its sprouting skyscrapers, glitzy shops, galleries and gourmet restaurants. Away from the city, outback adventures abound. Visitors can four-wheel drive along the Kimberleys’ old drover route on the Gibb River Road , surf big-wave breaks on the Margaret River , bask on the beach with a kangaroo, swim with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef , interact with dolphins, and marvel at the stark beauty of some of the world’s most awe-inspiring wilderness areas.
Read also: Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef
Perhaps not as much Australian capital has changed in recent decades as Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Thanks to the state’s mining boom, Perth is now Australia’s fourth-largest city. Bounded to the west by the Indian Ocean and to the east by the foothills of the Darling Range, Perth sits aside the winding Swan River. Unsurprisingly, water sports such as surfing, swimming and sailing are part of everyday life. Top beaches include Cottesloe, Scarborough, Peppermint Grove, Rockingham and the surf breaks of Trigg Point. In the city center, Perth shows off its newfound wealth in a plethora of high-rise office buildings, gourmet restaurants, glitzy boutiques and galleries. Top attractions includeKings Park and Botanic Garden , home to the Kings’ Park War Memorial, where visitors can admire more than 1,200 species of native plants and a spectacular display of wildflowers in spring. Perth’s Cultural Center includes excellent museums and galleries, and the popular Tudor shopping arcade, London Court, between St. George’s Terrace and Hay Street Mall, sports a clock tower modeled after London’s Big Ben .
About 12 miles northwest of the city center, Hillary’s Boat Harbor, home to the Aquarium of Western Australia , is a large and well-equipped marina filled with shops, restaurants and attractions. Ferries to beautiful Rottnest Island depart from here. Fremantle, at the mouth of the Swan River, is Perth’s port city and a great place to learn about the area’s rich maritime history.
Official Site: https://www.perth.wa.gov.au/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Perth
2 Margaret River
Home to galleries and gourmet restaurants, Margaret River is a much-loved resort town and surfer’s hot spot. This pretty town is located about 3.5 hours south of Perth, making it a popular weekend getaway to the city. Surfers come here for the consistent big-wave breaks and more than 40 surf spots scattered along the coast. Tourists love the region’s beautiful scenery of tall forests and sparkling white-sand beaches. The area is also known for its impressive limestone caves , such as Lake Cave, Jewel Cave and Mammoth Cave, which contain glittering stalactites and prehistoric fossils. Other popular activities include rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking and whale watching.
Official Site: https://www.margaretriver.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Margaret River
3 Broome and the Kimberley
Australia’s pearl capital, multicultural Broome is now a thriving tourist town in the south of the beautiful Kimberley region. One of the city’s main attractions is Cable Beach . Backed by striking red cliffs, this impressive beach stretches for 22 km with beautiful white sand and turquoise water. Visitors can ride camels along the coast at sunset.
The Broome Historical Museum tells the story of the pearl fishery and the many Japanese, Filipino and Malay divers who settled here in search of their fortune. Other attractions include the Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Wildlife Park; Sun Pictures; an outdoor cinema; tours of local pearl farms; and the Stairway to the Moon , a seasonal phenomenon where moonlight creates an optical illusion of stairs leading to the moon. Broome is also a popular base for Kimberley adventures such as the Horizontal Waterfall, Cape Leveque, Gibb River Road, Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park and Mitchell Falls.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Broome
4 Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle)
One of the planet’s best-kept secrets for many years, the remote and spectacular rock formations of Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle) , in the Kimberley, lay hidden from the outside world until 1983. Today, the park enjoyed both National and UNESCO World Heritage Lists. Despite its relatively recent discovery, the Bungle Bungle hillsand surrounding area were home to Aboriginal tribes for thousands of years, and hold remnants of their culture – ceremonial sites, rock paintings and a cemetery, are strictly protected. shaped rock domes of the Bungle Bungle are made of soft sandstone. Because the sandstone can break when touched, access to the rock formations is limited to the dry riverbeds.
Visitors can explore the main attractions on hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Cathedral Gorge, Piccaninny Gorge , and Echidna Chasm are some of the most popular sites. Scenic flights are a great way to appreciate the sheer size of these magnificent buildings. Departing from Halls Creek and Kununurra, the flights usually include a visit to the Argyle diamond mine . Longer tours in off-road vehicles are also available.
Locatie: Duncan Highway, Kununurra, Western
Official site: https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/purnululu
5 Ningaloo Reef Marine Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ningaloo Reef is the world’s largest reef and one of the few places in the world where visitors can swim with whale sharks. The Ningaloo Reef Marine Park extends for approximately 160 miles (260 km) from Amherst Point in the south to Bundegi on Exmouth Gulf in the north, also participating in the coastal area of Cape Range National Park . Easily accessible from the coast, the marine park is home to an incredible diversity of marine life, including manta rays, dugongs, whale sharks, humpback whales, turtles, and more than 500 species of fish and 300 species of coral.
Exmouth is a popular starting point for reef tours. The small fishing port of Coral Bay is also a great base with its long white beaches and ideal conditions for swimming, snorkelling, fishing and boating. There are ample opportunities for divers offshore, with numerous wrecks around Point Cloates. Along the coast, travelers can also explore the rugged limestone cliffs, dunes, and canyons of Cape Range National Park.
6 Rottnest Island
A ferry ride from Perth or Fremantle, Rottnest Island is a car-free nature reserve and a popular spot for an escape from the city. The Dutch navigator Willem de Vlamingh landed on the island in 1696 and called it an earthly paradise. He mistook the small marsupials called quokkas for rats and named the island Rottnest (‘rat’s nest’). Today quokkas still inhabit the island and are only found in Western Australia. Sparkling bays, white-sand beaches and coral reefs along the island’s shores provide excellent opportunities for snorkeling and swimming. Top attractions on the island include the Rottnest Museum, housed in an 1857-era barn and threshing mill, with collections of historical material and shipwreck remains; the Parker Point Marine Trail; and Vlamingh Lookout . Most of the small limestone houses around the harbor were built by convict laborers and are among the oldest buildings in Western Australia. Other activities include hiking trails, tennis, golf, bowling, biking and boat rentals.
Locatie: View Hill, off Digby Road, Rottnest Island
Official Site: https://www.rottnestisland.com/
7 Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park is one of the largest and most beautiful national parks in Western Australia. Over many millions of years, erosion has created deep canyons, up to 100 m deep, with waterfalls and rock pools bordered by lush foliage. A track that traverses Yampire Gorge leads to most of the park’s scenic highlights. The Fortescue Falls , fed by a groundwater river, do not dry up even in the heat of summer. Visitors can explore the Kalamina Gorge and its deep waterholes on foot, while it is possible to hike through the Wittenoom Gorgefor about 30 km, with shaded picnic areas next to natural pools. The park is home to Western Australia’s second highest peak, Mount Bruce, but the best views are from Oxer Lookout stretching across four red-walled gorges. Four-wheel drive is recommended.
Locatie: Great Northern Highway, Karijini
Official Site: https://www.karijini.com/
8 Shark Bay a Monkey Mia
Shark Bay and Monkey Mia
Shark Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to some of the world’s largest and richest seagrass beds. It is also known for its population of dugongs and stromatolites, mats of algae, which are among the oldest life forms on Earth. Rimmed by beautiful beaches ( Shell Beach is a favourite), Denham is the main town in Shark Bay and the most westerly town on the Australian continent. But the most famous tourist attractions in Shark Bay are the Monkey Mia dolphins, about 25 km from Denham. Each morning, rangers select a few visitors to hand-feed these friendly dolphins in their natural habitat. The dolphins became accustomed to humans in the 1960s when fishermen threw the remains of their catch into the sea. Aside from dolphin watching, visitors can enjoy swimming in the beautiful coves, fishing, kayaking, four wheel drive adventures, Aboriginal cultural tours and camel riding.
Official site: https://www.sharkbay.org.au/
9 Esperance Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park
Enchanting beaches, turquoise seas, islands, lagoons, wildflowers, wildlife and easy access to spectacular national parks make Esperance Bay a nature lover’s paradise. One of the region’s top attractions is Lucky Bay in the spectacular Cape le Grand National Park. Set against the islands of the Recherche Archipelago , this dazzling stretch of sand has a reputation as Australia’s whitest beach. Kangaroos are often spotted on the river banks. Snorkeling, surfing, fishing and beach safaris are all popular activities along this pristine coastline.
Walkers and cyclists love the Great Ocean Drive , which runs from Esperance to beautiful Twilight Beach . Oddly enough, the region even offers its own mini-replica of Stonehenge. Also in the area are Cape Arid, Fitzgerald River and Stokes National Parks popular excursions, famous for their beautiful coastal scenery, diverse wildlife and fantastic hiking trails.
10 The Pinnacles
In Nambung National Park , about 2 hours from Perth, the Pinnacles are thousands of limestone columns rising from a moonlike landscape of yellow sand. These bizarre rock formations range in height from a few centimeters to 4 m. Controversy persists, but it appears that a process of chemical change due to wind and water erosion has washed away the softer sandstones, leaving the harder limestone exposed . Visitors can explore these odd-looking rocky outcrops via a scenic drive or hiking trail. The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Center displays exhibits on the park.
Location: Pinnacles Drive, via Nambung National Park, Cervantes
11 Gibb River Road, The Kimberley
Cutting through the heart of the Kimberley, Gibb River Road is legendary among outback adventures. “The Gibb”, as it is called, is an old cattle toboggan run running 600 km from the north east Derby short of Wyndham . Recommended for 4WD vehicles, the road takes you past rugged red-rock canyons, outback cattle stations, aboriginal communities, crocodile-filled rivers, savannah and beautiful mountain ranges. Travelers along this route can camp or stay at one of the region’s remote stations. El Questro is one of the most famous. During the rainy season, from November to March, the road is usually closed due to flooding.
12 Wave Rock
The famous Wave Rock is an extraordinary rock formation of banded granite, 15 m high, in the shape of a wave about to break. Rainwater reacting with various chemicals in the rock has created a series of vertical stripes in shades of gray, red and ocher. Other curious granite outcrops lie in the vicinity. An 80 km circuit from Hyden has three interesting examples: the humps , the King Rocks , and the Gnamma Hole . Bates Cave , north of Hyden, has Aboriginal petroglyphs and handprints.
Official site: https://www.waverock.com.au/