Western Australia has its finger in a number of different pies.
The Swan Valley ticks off wine country, the Margaret River region scores a point for breweries and distilleries. And both combined present a sensational yet unpretentious culinary front. The entire way along the coast from Broome in the north to Esperance in the states south west, picturesque beaches showcase extraordinary natural phenomena formed over thousands of years. Likewise, further inland in the Golden Outback, wave rock would be the most intriguing geological landmark in the state if it weren’t for the utterly gargantuan monolith, Mount Augustus, twice the size of Uluru. This state has no shortage of great WA holiday destinations.
Combine these elements with a work hard-play hard lifestyle, and Western Australia truly sets itself apart from the rest. But before you book any flights or start compiling your itinerary, we must reiterate the sheer size of the state. 2.5 million square kilometres. Keep in mind, the population of WA is only around 2.6 million, giving each resident a spacious square kilometre each. In reality though, more than 90% of Western Australians live in the south west corner, which means when you get off the beaten path, there’s nothing but wide open spaces, fresh air and a true sense of Aussie adventure.
Exploring the best WA holiday destinations in the road trip state
So now you know there’s a lot of ground to cover, you can begin carving out your route. The most popular (and for good reason) is the almost 4,000-kilometre journey from Perth to Broome along the breathtaking Coral Coast Highway. The journey allows for pit stops in places like Monkey Mia, where friendly bottle-nosed dolphins swim through the shallows around swimmers’ feet, and Karijini National Park where bright red cliffs meet deep blue water in gorges so huge you can’t even begin to grasp the size.
If the outback is calling your name, the Great Gibb River Road might be the route for you. Traversing the battered landscape of the Kimberley, this iconic outback road trip explores one of our continent’s last great frontiers. The 700-kilometre stretch of unsealed road between Kununurra and Fitzroy Crossing in the state’s northern tip covers bone-dry flatlands split open by gorges, ancient trees twisted into bonsai arrangements and red earth that sets fire to the sky in lurid sunsets every evening.
For a slightly smaller undertaking, heading south from Perth towards Albany offers up a few days of relaxed exploration, visiting a 400-year-old tingle tree forest, a handful of gourmet producers and cellar doors in Denmark, and some unbeatable whale watching opportunities (if you time it right).
Things to do in Perth, Western Australia
Perth has managed to perfect the balance between trendy and accessible over the years in ways that other cities which will not be named (Melbourne) have not. It’s a place where food, wine, craft beer, coffee, music, art and culture come together to create a city that is both vibrant and unpretentious. Whenever a new trend pops up around the country and everyone goes mad for it, there’s a good chance someone in Perth has been doing it for years and hasn’t felt the need to do a big song and dance about it (or maybe they did and we just weren’t listening).
Perth CBD is nothing like those on the eastern seaboard. It’s quiet, leafy and rarely exceeds five storeys. The shopping strip on Hay Street and its adjoining alleyways create a buzzing shopping precinct with a handful of gourmet bakeries and higher-end fast food outlets. In the evening, Northbridge becomes a hive of activity where burger joints and trendy eateries spill out onto the street and patrons stroll from one hip cocktail bars to another.
In nearby Fremantle, live music and markets fill the spaces that aren’t already occupied by artisan boutiques and galleries. Home to Little Creatures brewery, pioneers of the craft beer movement in WA, Fremantle is dotted with cafes and heritage pubs. And all along the coast, fish and chip shops can be found across the road from nearly every beach, offering a quick, cheap meal to enjoy as the sun sets out to sea. If I had to choose one though, Cottesloe would be my pick.
Food and wine in Western Australia
The state is home to nine distinct wine growing regions, though you’ll be forgiven for only recognising two on the list. WA’s oldest wine growing region, vintners in the Swan Valley have been producing quality wine since the early 1800s, but that doesn’t mean they’re stuck in the past. The region boasts award-winning wineries on both ends of the spectrum, from early operations like Houghton Wines which was established just four years after Western Australia was colonised, to newcomers like Sittella who were named the best small producer of the year a few seasons back with a highly sought-after cooking and wine pairing workshops with the onsite cellar door restaurant’s Head Chef. Before you go tasting all that wine, you’ll want to line your stomach with some goodies from local producers like Mondo Nougat and The Cheese Barrel.
Three hours south of Perth, Margaret River is well known not just for its food and wine, but as an important stop of the World Surfing Tour. The event brings visitors from all over the world to this down-to-earth coastal region. The well-established surf culture, alternative art scene, untamed pockets of nature and abundance of delicious produce combine to make Margaret River the perfect destination for a relaxed foodie escape. Spoil your sweet tooth at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, slurp back a signature cab sav from Cullen Wines and sleep off your food coma at the luxurious and eco-friendly Olio Bello glamping experience.
If you find your stomach rumbling on the Coral Coast, take a detour along the Carnarvon Fruit Loop. The region is often referred to as the food bowl of Western Australia, producing tropical fruits, temperate climate veggies and succulent seafood. The land is well nurtured by the complex ecosystems that thrive along the Gascoyne River, yielding a diverse range of top-shelf produce.
Western Australia holiday ideas for adventure seekers
If it’s an adrenaline spike you seek, Western Australia delivers the goods. Up north in the Kimberley region, a high-speed jet boat ride through Horizontal Falls should do the trick. On the southern coastline, a scenic flight over Lake Hillier, affectionately known as the Pink Lake, will satisfy your predilection for heights. You’ll find plenty more ways to get your heart racing in WA. Here’s where you should start.
If jumping out of a plane over Rottnest Island isn’t for you, an epic animal encounter might be more your style. If that’s the case, jumping in the deep blue off the coast of Ningaloo Reef to swim with whale sharks should be at the top of your list. The extraordinary creatures that frequent the coast of WA are some of the biggest of their kind in the world. A little further south, Monkey Mia presents plenty of opportunities to swim with dolphins as the bottle-nosed beauties are notoriously playful and comfortable around humans.
And of course, you can’t pass up the opportunity to see the world’s most adorable animal (no bias whatsoever), just off the coast of Perth. The quokkas on Rottnest Island will steal your heart and possibly your lunch if you leave it laying around. These little guys have no natural predators on the island which is why they come across friendly and accustomed to human contact, but please do give them space. You might really want to take that iconic “quokka selfie,” but consider how distressing it would be to have someone much larger and scarier than you thrust a giant iPhone in your face.
Indigenous history and culture in Western Australia
With such an enormous land mass comprised of varied landscapes and ecosystems, Western Australia’s Indigenous past runs deep with an enduring connection to the land. All throughout the state, members of our country’s First People offer opportunities for us to learn about this ancient land through experiences such as foraging for bush tucker, fishing, learning about natural medicines and decoding rock engravings from one of the world’s oldest surviving cultures.
In the town of Kununurra in the eastern Kimberley, Waringarri Aboriginal Arts helps some of the areas most promising artists explore, develop and share their work. From paper and canvas to fabrics and crockery, the artists tell their stories through traditional indigenous artistic methods passed down over generations.
Western Australia’s National Parks house some of the most well-preserved Indigenous art in the country, dating back 60,000 years. The Gyorn Gyorn Paintings in the Northern Kimberley are at least fives times older than the Egyptian pyramids, spread across 50,000 square kilometres of wilderness.
It is a true privilege to witness how Aboriginal spirituality and Dreamtime stories are celebrated and passed on today through music, dance and special ceremonies. Various Indigenous cultural centres around the state allow visitors to see it first hand. Mowanjum Art and Culture Centre in Derby along the Gibb River Road hosts an annual festival that brings artists, musicians and storytellers together for one of the biggest celebrations of Aboriginal heritage in the country.
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