Welcome to Western Australia
With 12,000km of rugged coastline, colossal karri trees that tower ninety metres and a rock, Mt Augustus, that is the largest in the world, WA is where the big things are. Mt Augustus is larger than Uluru and has the same amazing colour spectrum as its more famous counterpart. Depending on what time of day you visit, it can be red, green, blue or orange. And that’s without eating a hash cookie.
It’s all about length (how many times have we heard that, fellas?) in this part of the world. The Nullarbor Plain, a desolate expanse of desert that takes days to drive across, is 2,700km long. Eye-spy fans will soon get bored: sky, sand and space – lots of it. Away from the desert plain, along the coast, you’ll find the world’s largest fish: the whale shark. These harmless creatures can measure up to thirteen metres. Something a little longer than that is the Bibbulmun Track, a 1,000km trail which snakes through some of the state’s most serene wilderness. It’ll take you six to eight weeks to walk, unless your name is Nicki Rehn who ran the entire thing in twenty days.
Just to ram the point home about WA’s obsession with length, this massive state has the longest stretch of railway in the world. The Trans-Australian Railway has a section of track without a bend for 478km between the tiny settlements of
Ooldea and Loongana. Unsurprisingly then, WA holds the record for the longest railway train in the world, an absolute mammoth that pulled 648 carriages at once.
For ladies who like bling, up north you’ll find the Argyle diamond mine, the world’s largest, and Broome is the pearling capital of the world. WA also has the largest concentration of rock art in the world at the Burrup Peninsula in the Pilbara region. There are more than 10,000 ancient rock engravings here. In nearby Marble Bar, not long ago they had 160 consecutive days where the temperature was over 37°C.
With the surfing beaches and wine region of Margaret River just south of Perth, the gorge-etched country of the Kimberley in the north and the aquatic fairyland of the Ningaloo Reef on the west coast, WA’s attractions are as spread out as they are numerous. Because of its size and remoteness, WA isn’t overrun with tourism. It is, however, overrun with beauty and a variety of landscapes to suit all
WA General Info
GMT plus 8 hours. Western Australia operates on Western Standard Time (WST)
Western Australia is so large it extends into different climatic zones.
The north of the state is warm and dry while it’s cool and wet in south. The year round average of 23°C guarantees comfortable weather no matter what time of year you visit
Tel: 1300 361 351 Web: www.westernaustralia.com
Safari Pete’s WA ‘Don't miss’ list
Spending a sunny Sunday afternoon in a pub by the beach is a Perth institution. Try the Cottesloe Beach Hotel (104 Marine Pde), the Ocean Beach Hotel (140 Marine Pde, Cottesloe Beach), Caves House (Yallingup Beach Rd, Yallingup), the Stamford Arms (The Esplanade, Scarborough) or the Indi Bar (27 Hastings St, Scarborough).
Head to the World Heritage–listed Monkey Mia and swim with wild dolphins – a true ‘shiver shake’ moment. www.monkeymia.com.au
WA has some of the best beaches in the world on which to catch some waves. Hire a board and have a surf lesson if you’re a novice. Surfing is popular at Scarborough or head to Margaret River for one of the world’s longest surf breaks.
There are few experiences to rival diving or snorkelling with a whale shark. Head up to Exmouth where sharks come right to the edge of the coral reef from July to November.
Welcome to the most isolated capital city in the world. Not to be confused with the country’s capital, Canberra, Perth is the chief city of WA. Vitamin D is all the rage here – Perth gets eight hours of sunshine, on average, every day. And between 12pm and 3pm each day if it’s a little hot then the Fremantle Doctor will cool you down. Forget men in white coats stretching rubber gloves ominously over their hands, the Doctor is the nickname for the breeze that blows into the city virtually every day of the year. It’s caused by a major temperature difference between land and sea, and takes its name because it comes from Fremantle and it brings relief.
Perth has the largest inner city park in the world. Kings Park blooms with over 2,500 Western Australian plant species. October is the most colourful time of year to visit what was the first park in the world to be designated for public use. Perth is also the only city in the world where aircraft can land in the CBD. Some of these may be private jets, because the city has the highest population of self-made millionaires in the world.
Located on the banks of the Swan and Canning rivers, Perth is a modern cosmopolitan city yet it doesn’t feel too busy or big. It’s full of expats, is young, friendly, clean and easy to get around. There are also more cafes per capita here than in any other city in the world. Don’t miss the trendy suburb of Northbridge, a hipster paradise of café’s, restaurants and boutique stores. Not far away from the city centre you’ll find the popular backpacker party hangout of Scarborough and also Cottesloe. Further afield there is Rottnest Island and historic Fremantle. Don’t be surprised if you wind up staying here for longer than you intended.
Which way Cobber ?
When you fly into Perth (or, more sadly, are leaving), the best service to and from Perth Airport is the CONNECT Perth Airport Shuttle, (1300 666 806).
Perth’s transport organisation, Transperth, operates buses, trains and ferries. The two main bus stations in the city are at Wellington St and Mounts Bay Rd. Perth has four train lines (to Fremantle, Armadale, Midland and Currambine) that all leave from the Wellington St Station. The Perth to Fremantle ferry cruises along the Swan River and takes about seventy-five minutes.
En route are great views and commentary. The ferry also operates from Perth to South Perth every twenty to thirty minutes. Ferries depart from Barrack St Jetty.
All-day passes can be used on trains, buses and ferries to all destinations. For all public transport enquiries, visit Plaza Arcade in the city. For timetables and ticket prices log onto www.transperth.wa.gov.au or call 13 62 13.
Where to crash in Perth
Located in the city centre, this hostel has an Internet lounge, a courtyard and a twenty-four hour reception. There is also a restaurant onsite. www.yha.com.au
These guys have affordable single, double, triple and family rooms available, with an onsite cafe and 24 hour reception. Linen supplied and free luggage storage.
This hostel is based in Beaufort Street café district - a short walking distance from central Perth and the Northbridge nightlife, less than 1km from the Perth City Centre, it has Single, double twin, family rooms & 4-8 bed dorms, and all rooms have en-suites, free breakfast, free coffee & tea, swimming pool and loads of activities, a great vibe www.billabongresort.com.au
Situated in the heart of Northbridge, They have 24 hour access., this place is only minutes from the city. www.perthbritannia.com
With the façade of a castle, you could well be forgiven for thinking you’re stepping back into medieval times. The modern interior boasts a café, pool table and it’s two minutes away from train and bus stations. They also have a secure car park. www.theoldswanbarracks.com
Stepping into this hostel is like stepping into Asia. The place is decorated with art pieces and curios including carved stone Buddhas and water features. They offer free breakfast, free tea and coffee and cater for more discerning travellers. www.bambu.net.au
These guys have a pool table and a BBQ area. www.emperorscrown.com.au
These guys have cable TV, 24 hour internet, a huge kitchen and a lounge room. www.backpackersinternationalperth.com
This hostel provides free parking, lock-up wardrobes and has a large kitchen and living area. There is a supermarket next door and they are only a five-minute walk to a gym and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. www.spinnersbackpackers.com.au
This place is set in a restored Federation-style house close to the centre of Perth. It has polished wooden floorboards in the dorm rooms and is close to historic Hyde Park. www.witchs-hat.com.
A quick walk to the city centre and the nightlife of Northbridge, this place is wheelchair friendly and has a pool table and swimming pool. www.haystbackpackers.com
This place revolves around the Xander Bar which is located in the basement. Come here to play music, juggle and have a drink. They now offer a free light breakfast and often have free passes to Perth hotspots. www.1201east.com.au
If you fancy taking a more autonomous approach to travelling, then these guys have cars for hire or sale. They also offer free city tours, bike rental and have a licensed bar lounge. www.planetinn.com.au
This hostel is set inside a converted fire station and has an outdoor cinema, free Internet access, free Playstation and Wii, free pool table and free tea and coffee. They have a BBQ and monthly theme parties. For those staying in Fremantle a little while, they offer job assistance. www.old-firestation.net
Located on a quiet side street, these guys are minutes from the town centre.
They have BBQ nights, free tea and coffee and you can hire bikes.
Located 200 metres from Fremantle’s cappuccino strip and the markets, these guys have a courtyard, a BBQ and a bike hire facility. www.piratesbackpackers.com.au
With an Xbox room, movie room and Internet facilities, you might be tempted to stay inside. Lucky they offer free surfboard rental and are right on the beautiful Cottlesloe beach. www.oceanbeachbackpackers.com
Pete’s Primo Pastimes
Just when you thought WA had run out of the world’s largest things, (Hillary’s Boat Harbour, 91 Southside Dr, Hillarys) has Australia’s largest aquarium and underwater tunnel. It also has the world’s largest collection of WA marine life. The aquarium is divided into five distinct regions in which there are living coral reefs and giant sharks. www.aqwa.com.au; 08 9447 7500.
After seeing all of that marine life you may want to take the plunge yourself. Perth has some. Swim in the calm bay waters at Crawley, go surfing at Scarborough or venture to Carnac Island for some seclusion. Alternatively, you can drop your togs and let it all hang out at Perth’s popular, unofficial nude beach at Swanbourne. It’s twenty minutes by car from downtown Perth and there’s a rifle range at the back of the beach, so watch out on firing days. It’s only tolerated as a balls-out, tits-a-swinging beach because it’s on army land. Those camouflaged generals and their binoculars!
There are more impressive specimens on display at the (James St, Northbridge) – three million in fact. The museum is a gallery of WA archaeological and anthropological exhibits and artefacts. There are a range of
travelling and permanent exhibitions. Entry is by donation.
www.museum.wa.gov.au; 08 9212 3700.
Another place with a huge variety of specimens – these ones botanic – is , which is a mixture of bush and parkland approximately 1.5km from the CBD. Located next to Swan River, it has fantastic views of the city and is home to permanent public art. It also hosts various events throughout the year. www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/kings-park
Perth is a flat city and has several great around Swan River and Kings Park. Log onto www.bikeperth.com.au, a community website which provides information about cycling events, stories and bike rides you can do throughout the city.
There may be no Quasimodo, but the recently erected(Barrack Sq, Riverside Dr) contains the twelve bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields from 14th century England. This distinctive structure looks like a Dalek’s appendage and from the top of it there are great views of the city and Kings Park. Inside, you can listen to bells and see carefully restored clocks from all over the world.
www.ringmybells.com.au; 08 6210 0444.
You can grab a wide range of cheap food in Perth’s food halls.is located near the corner of William St and you’ll find the Hay St Mall and the in the Carillon Arcade. Northbridge is the
entertainment district of Perth and has ethnic restaurants to suit all budgets. Oxford St in Leederville is the place to go for a latte and the Subiaco near Rokeby Rd has a number of good eateries.
If you like eating with your hands, then head to (1303 Hay St) for some tasty tapas. If chopsticks are your weapon of choice, (323 Hay St) is the place to jump on the sushi train (there’s also a branch in Hay St Mall). Seafood is the order of the day at (Mends St Jetty, Mends St, South Perth) where you’ll perch on a waterfront table, slice into some salmon and slurp a cocktail. (91-93 Barrack St) offers authentic, flavoursome Korean food and Nine Mary’s Restaurant (16 Milligan St) is the place to go for an infusion of Indian spices at reasonable prices. If souvlakis have you salivating, head to (449 Charles St, North Perth) for a reasonably priced feed. Good honest pub grub is served up at (300 Murray St), from sausages to Yorkshire pudding – it also has British beers on tap. And for a slice of Italy (Shop 21, 60 Royal St, East Perth) may be small but its flavours are large. Safari Pete’s favourite is the chicken breast stuffed with fig, goat’s cheese and pistachio. Mama Mia!
For a full list of Perth’s restaurants, cafes and eateries, log onto
One of Safari Pete’s favourite watering holes is the (40 Mews Rd, Fremantle), a large boutique beer hall with six beer vats. Sometimes you may spot brewing maestros at work as you can see the brewing area from where you drink. Fremantle has a good nightlife scene, particularly on the weekend. To check out local bands head to the suburbs.
(corner James and William Streets) is reputedly the most
photographed hotel in WA and has a balcony and several areas to enjoy your beer.
(53 Lake St, Northbridge), a UK-themed pub, and (205 James St, Northbridge) are both popular with travellers on weeknights. (Beaufort St, Mount Lawley) is a top spot with $8 jugs on Wednesdays and $10 pizza plus a pint on Sundays.
For all news on bands and gigs around Perth, grab the lift-out in the Western Australian called Revue. The weekly Xpress and Hype Magazine also list gigs and entertainment around Perth.
Just a short distance from Perth, Freo is a vibrant port full of character and charm. The picturesque town is renowned for its cafes, nightlife, market and harbour. Fremantle is very easy to get to from Perth by bus, train or ferry. There are also good museums and markets as well as a thriving arts and music scene.
Surrounding the city, the Perth Hills are a forty-five minute drive from the CBD and abound with activities including horse and bike riding, bushwalking and visiting wineries. There are a variety of events in the hills, such as markets and truffle shows.
Known as WA’s oldest wine region and self-proclaimed ‘valley of taste’, Swan Valley is situated twenty-five minutes northeast of Perth. While you’re enjoying the scenery you may see a pink bus driving around the place. Safari Pete’s advice is to jump aboard and titillate your tastebuds. Pink Bus Tours will take you on a valley adventure where you’ll taste nougat, cheese, olives, ice cream and chocolate. Drink wine at a variety of cellar doors and visit breweries to taste beer and cider. Once you’ve done that, soak it up with some lavender scones complete with jam and cream and sip a cup of coffee from Yahava Coffee Works. Pink Bus offers full and half day tours. www.swanvalleywa.com/pinkbustours;
0422 844 117.
Lazing 19km off the coast of Fremantle, Rottnest is home to the rat-like Aussie animals called quokkas. Originally set up as a prison for Aborigines in the 19th century, nowadays Rottnest is a popular destination for travellers with its beautiful beaches, coral reefs and crystal clear waters. Hotel Rottnest is the island’s favourite drinking spot and looks back across the ocean towards Perth. You can get to Rottnest Island by ferry from Perth or Fremantle. www.rottnestisland.com
Perth to Broome
With over 2,300km of road to cover, if you have time restrictions then you’ll have to put your foot on the gas. But this scenic stretch of untouched (and uncrowded) coast deserves to be taken slowly. Speed demons can do it in just over a week, but Safari Pete suggests you take a month or so to savour the flavour of this delicious drive.
If driving this amazing coast if not to your liking, you might want to have a look at some other transport options. Integrity Coachlines offer a hop on/hop off service on the West Coast that will get you to the good bits of this rugged frontier coast, all at a very competitive price.
One of your first stops may be the in Nambung National Park (230km north of Perth), a series of bizarre needle-like rock formations set in a lunar landscape. Further north, the Kalbarri is a rugged coastline with a stunning series of gorges and national parks.
After you’ve sent yourself dizzy in the Useless Loop, head to in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area to swim with bottlenose dolphins.
When Safari Pete’s in the area he stays at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort and has a swim in the pool and relaxes his muscles in an artesian spring hot tub. Share a snag on the BBQ and have a swing on the tennis court.
Then join the Safari-meister for a beer in the bar and some entertainment. www.monkeymia.com.au.
Nearby is the most westerly town in Australia and home to dugong (sea cows, similar to manatees) and has some great snorkelling and beachcombing.
Bay Lodge - 113 Knight Terrace, Denham; Ph: 1800 812 780
Waterfront accommodation with crystal clear pool, BBQ and outdoor dining facilities and air conditioned rooms. www.baylodge.info
Along the edge of , a marine marvel with over 220 species of coral, you’ll find the chilled-out haven of If you have a hammock then string it up on one of the amazing beaches because chances are you’ll be hanging around for a while. Located just fifty metres from the reef, Coral Bay is a great base from which to explore Ningaloo, Australia’s largest fringing coral reef at 260km long. It is also the third most diverse reef system in the world. One of the best things about Ningaloo is its accessibility, not to mention its abundance of marine life.
Heading further north and veering inland, you hit the where you’ll find the twenty highest peaks in WA, including Mt Meharry (1,249 metres) which is the highest. The gorge-etched Karijini National Park is a place to pretend you’re a rabbit by running around various rocky tunnels. Safari Pete’s favourite is Hancock Gorge which passes rock pools and involves descending a ladder. Have a swim at Fortescue Falls and a picnic at Dales Gorge.
Once you’ve torn yourself away from Karijini, head back out to the coast and north to Unless steel buildings and mining turn you on then keep on driving until you reach the solitude of Eighty Mile Beach. where you can watch the sunrise and set, or fish. This is the last stop before you reach , Australia’s pearling capital and a place with tropical beaches and the feel of a frontier town with an oriental twist. When you’re not lazing around in hammocks under a clear blue sky, check out the markets and take a camel ride along Cable Beach before watching the sunset at Gantheaume Point.
Perth to the SA Border
Two hours from Perth you’ll find Western Australia’s second largest town and the southwest’s dolphin capital, Here you can do some dolphin spotting and at the right time of year you can even swim with them. Head to Koombana Bay in the mornings for sightings. Fifty-three kilometres down the road is the popular holiday destination of , the main town on the South West Cape. Nearby you’ll find which has some brilliant surfing beaches and good scuba diving. Perched on sea cliffs, also has good surf and the stunning Ngilgi Caves. With a great social pulse, is WA’s best known wine region and has amazing beaches and ample opportunity to gorge on cheese and chocolate. Wash these down with a glass of wine.
is Australia’s most south-westerly point, has spectacular sunsets and is where the Indian and Southern oceans meet. Whale spotters should pack their binoculars and bunker down at where you can also canoe and cave. is a beautiful timber town surrounded by giant karri trees and is a good base from which to explore the five national parks in the vicinity. There are plenty of rainforest walks and waterfalls, and in Gloucester National Park you’ll find the colossal 61-metre Gloucester tree. Those of you feeling like Tarzan can climb the tree using a series of pegs. Also worth visiting is the wilderness of the and which has isolated bushwalks and gives you the chance to walk sections of the 1,000km Bibbulmun Track.
From Pemberton it’s an hour and half to where an amazing treetop walk takes you thirty-eight metres above the ground. From the woods to the sea, two hours on the road will see you at stunning William Bay. Do the Elephant Rocks walk or relax at Greens Pool. Just down the road from Walpole is , one of WA’s most picturesque towns. The surrounding region has breathtaking coastline and a relaxed, alternative ambience. Continuing along the coastal road, is one of the largest cities in WA and has some great beaches (Safari Pete’s favourite is Middle Beach), as well as good nightlife and plenty of budget accommodation. Albany was the first settlement in WA and is renowned for its whale watching (July to November). Just south is the rugged Torndirrup National Park which is home to several natural wonders. Among the best are the Gap, an impressive twenty-four-metre drop to the ocean, and the Natural Bridge, an arched block of granite somehow suspended above the swell.
Nullabor Traveller run a 9 day hassle free adventure tour from Perth to Adelaide. For more info check out www.the-traveller.com.au
North and inland from Albany, a worthy detour is to the , an enchanting series of hills with steep walks and amazing views. En route you’ll find the ancient Porongurup Ranges. These granite hills are 1,400 million years old. Also on the way is where there are wineries. Further along the south coast, near you’ll find miles of pristine sandy beaches, crisp blue waters and an abundance of wildlife. There are excellent walking tracks, awesome coastal scenery and activities range from whale watching (August to December) to surfing and diving.
Heading north from Esperance, you can ignore the turn-off at Norseman onto the Eyre Hwy (for now) and detour to , a legendary gold mining town.
In the middle of nowhere, this place is famous for its gold mines and for Kevin ‘Bloody’ Wilson, a foul-mouthed musician who penned Mick the Master Farter and Can’t Say C*nt in Canada. The town itself comprises large pubs, brothels and miners sitting around in their overalls swigging beer.
If you’re interested in visiting the largest open cut mine in Australia, then this is the place for you. Back south and along the Eyre Hwy, it’s time to cross the vast . Derived from the Latin words nullus and arbor meaning ‘no trees’, the Nullarbor is a massive limestone plateau along the edge of which you can see the Great Australian Bight, where sheer cliffs tumble sixty metres into shark infested waters. From May to October you can spot pods of migrating southern right whales.
Sizzling Southwest WA
If awesome surf, majestic forests and a good party scene are what you’re looking for, then this southwest loop is a must. There’s a lot of ground to cover but it’s well worth the hours behind the wheel.
Make an early break out of Perth. From here it’s a four-and-a-half-hour drive south to with lots to check out along the way. Where possible, take the Old Coast Road because the scenery along the coast is better than on the inland track. First stop is Here you can do some dolphin spotting and at the right time of year you can even swim with them. It’s a bit of a detour, but if you’re a keen surfer you’d be foolish not to make a stop at . Just further north are the stunning Ngilgi Caves. Spend what’s left of the day exploring and enjoying Margaret River. With a great social pulse, amazing beaches and loads of great local wine, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
This is a day of natural wonders that’ll take you to where the Indian and Southern oceans meet at : a spectacular sight. Next you’ll be heading into the land of Karri trees, the world’s third largest tree species, also known as the Valley of the Giants. The country town of is a great spot from which to explore the many national parks in the area. There are plenty of rainforest walks and waterfalls. Pemberton is also home to the famous sixty-one metre-high Gloucester Tree, which, if you’re fit enough, you can climb. From here it’s an hour and half to where an amazing treetop walk takes you thirty-eight metres above the ground. From the woods to the sea, two hours on the road will see you at stunning William Bay. Do the Elephant Rocks walk or relax at Greens Pool.
From here it’s an hour’s drive to , one of the largest cities in WA. Albany has some great beaches (Safari Pete’s favourite being Middle Beach), as well as good nightlife and plenty of budget accommodation.
There’s a lot of distance to cover today: a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Albany to Perth, but there are some things to break up the home stretch. A twenty-minute drive south of Albany takes you to , home to several natural wonders.
Among the best are the Gap, an impressive twenty-four-metre drop to the ocean, and the Natural Bridge which is a block of granite suspended above a powerful swell.
is an hour north of Albany. Here there are some lovely wineries to enjoy or, if you’re in the mood to stretch your legs, the Porongurup Range National Park has some great peaks offering awesome views. The park is only fifteen minutes east of Mt Barker. From here it’s around four-and-a-half hours along the Albany Highway back to Perth.