Pristine white sand beaches. Red clay earth. Deep blue water, filled with colorful fish and majestic creatures that look almost prehistoric. Tall-tree forests with wildflowers and unique wildlife. This isn’t the set of an exciting adventure film, but it is the site of your next exciting adventure. A trip to Western Australia, filled with hiking, swimming (perhaps with majestic whale sharks!), drinking world-class wine, and soaking in the wild natural beauty of the country’s most thrilling landscapes, will make you and your travel companions the star of your very own adventure story. Below, we’ve rounded up a list of activities that make Western Australia the destination of a lifetime.
Are you ready to dive in?
Swim with Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo, a UNESCO World Heritage site recognized for its biodiversity, is home to one of the world’s largest fringing reefs, Ningaloo Reef, which you can access easily from the beach, making it a great spot to try underwater exploring for the first time. Starting from the towns of Exmouth or Coral Bay, set your sights on an expanse of ocean that is home to 500 species of fish, manta rays, and turtles—visit between March and July and you can swim alongside whale sharks, fish that can grow to nearly 40 feet in length. Humpback whales are also known to make an appearance between August and October!
At Ningaloo Reef, you also have the chance to see what’s under the waves even if swimming isn’t on your to-do list; a glass-bottom boat tour passes over the reef, with all the colors and shapes of the sea just beneath your feet.
Bungle Bungle Range
Any visit to Australia should include some time spent in the country’s famed outback, and the Bungle Bungle Range, in the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park, fits the bill perfectly. The area has been significant to Australia’s Aboriginal peoples for over 20,000 years, and the land itself, made from soft sandstone, is more than 350 million years old.
Scenic flights that begin at Kununurra pass over orange and black stripes of sandstone, and that’s just the beginning. Stargazing here is legendary, and you can do it from one of the park’s two campsites, falling asleep beneath the twinkling sky. For a trip with more creature comforts, stay at the Freshwater Apartments or in a glamping tent—that’s camping in style—at Bungle Bungle Savannah Lodge.
Margaret River—Sublime Food and Wine
Wines from Australia have been dazzling palates for decades now, and just a three-hour drive south of Perth is one of the best-producing wine regions, making it a perfect day trip or weekend escape. The Margaret River region produces more than 20 percent of Australia’s premium wine. In addition to its wine production, the region is known for its caves, tall tree forests, world famous surf breaks, art galleries and top-quality produce. People who live here love wine, and you’re sure to get a good glass at many restaurants or on a tour to some of the region’s wineries, like Cullen Wines, Leeuwin Estate, Vasse Felix, Voyager Estate, Wills Domain, and Xanadu Wines
Surfing is also a big deal here, with dramatic coastlines and high, smooth waves you can dive into or admire from the sandy beaches attached to one of the area’s luxury resorts, like Smiths Beach Resort, Injidup Spa Retreat, and Pullman Bunker Bay.
Just off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island’s 63 stunning beaches, 20 beautiful bays and many coral reefs and wrecks invite you to enjoy some of Australia’s finest swimming spots, snorkel trails and surf breaks. And on dry land, you’ll meet the cutest mini marsupial, found only in Western Australia, the world famous quokka.Today, taking a selfie with a quokka is a rite of passage for visitors.
Beaches toward the island’s West End are a bit more rugged, and also offer the opportunity to spot migrating humpback whales from September to November, plus dolphins and hundreds of fish species. Spend a morning relaxing on one of the island’s scenic beaches such as Geordie Bay or The Basin, and then in the afternoon learn about the island’s rich history during an immersive tour led by an Aboriginal guide.
Broome—The Western Gateway to the Kimberley Wilderness
Broome is where the ocean meets the outback—and where the old and modern worlds of Australia collide. The turquoise waters have long attracted divers from China, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines in search of pearls, and today Shinju Matsuri is a cultural and culinary festival that celebrates the area’s pearl-diving history, complete with gourmet food inspired by the cuisines of the divers themselves. Pearl farms still operate, and make for a fascinating tour, while Cable Beach, set against the backdrop of ochre-red cliffs, is a prime spot for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a sunset camel ride along the shoreline.
Broome is a three-hour flight from Perth, and is also home to an attraction that will delight kids of all ages—ancient dinosaur footprints, etched into the earth at Gantheaume Point.
Esperance, Home to Australia’s Whitest Sand Beach
A bucket-list destination for beach and nature-lovers, a trip to Esperance will find you nestled amongst white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, pristine national parks, dramatic rock formations and untouched islands. It’s about eight hours’ drive or a short 90-minute flight from Perth—and this southern gem is worth the trip.
Share Australia’s whitest beach, Lucky Bay, with friendly sunbathing kangaroos, and then swim, snorkel, fish or four-wheel-drive along the beach. Local favorites include Hellfire Bay, Twilight Beach and Blue Haven. Explore Cape Le Grand National Park to swim, fish, camp or hike, with Frenchman Peak the clear winner for the most spectacular views.
Cruise or fly in a helicopter to the small nature reserve of Woody Island — a great day trip, or stay longer in a glamping hut overlooking the ocean. Spot dolphins, sea eagles and sea lions at play on the boat ride over. Join an eco-tour, swim, snorkel, kayak or just relax on the beach.
Lake Hillier’s bright pink waters, like something out of a fantasy novel, need to be seen to be believed. Esperance offers many unique wildlife encounters you can feel good about, since the local animals are protected by its vast national parks and nature reserves. Whales migrate along the coast from June to October and can be seen on a boat cruise or from shore frolicking in the protected bays.
Gibb River Road, The Kimberley
The Gibb River Road cuts through some of Earth’s most untouched and otherworldly country, from Derby to Kununurra. Originally built for droving cattle across the rugged outback, ‘The Gibb,’ as it’s known by locals, takes in spectacular outback gorges, secluded swimming holes, vast national parks, ancient rock art, and thundering waterfalls.
Accessible between May and October and only by four-wheel drive, you can do the full trip in around 12 days—or as long as you like! Along the way, you’ll meet plenty of friendly locals eager to share their stories, and have many opportunities to get off the dusty red roads, get out of your vehicle and explore the Kimberley on foot.
Choose to stay at a remote wilderness lodge, outback station or luxury homestead, or for the more adventurous, simply camp out under an endless canopy of stars. Highlights include Windjana Gorge, Tunnel Creek, Bell Gorge and the legendary El Questro Wilderness Park to name just a few. And to tick-off your Kimberley bucket-list, from Kununurra, it’s easy to add-on a visit to vast Lake Argyle and the Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park.
The Dampier Peninsula offers a range of activities that let you soak in some of the world’s oldest living cultures. Take an Aboriginal guided tour with the longtime residents of this part of Australia, and learn about their deep connections to the lands, waters and skies. A new campground will open at Djarindjin on the Dampier Peninsula in mid-2022, as part of a wider “Camping with Custodians” initiative. This program encourages visitors to stay at campgrounds owned and run by Aboriginal people, giving travelers the chance to learn not just about the history of the land but also about art, food, and stories that have been passed down for centuries. The area is known as Saltwater Country, and a trip here might see you riding in a four-wheeler through exciting terrain, and then stopping near more of Australia’s famed crystal-clear waters to learn about Aboriginal fishing techniques, complete with the chance to sample some of the day’s catch.
A lake with bubblegum pink waters seems like something out of a fairy tale, but in Western Australia, it’s real! The color of Hutt Lagoon—which also sometimes appears red or even lilac—comes from the water’s high salinity, with the vibrancy changing depending on the season and the time of day.
A charter flight from Kalbarri will showcase the awe-inspiring view, since you’ll see not just the lake but also the deep blue of the Indian Ocean. The lake is best visited on a clear day, with a stop for lunch or an overnight at a beach cottage in the fishing village of Port Gregory. For even more candy-colored magic, a visit between July and September will also give you the chance to see the land surrounding the lake blanketed in wildflowers.
Bremer Bay Orca Expedition
Orcas are some of the world’s most beloved creatures—majestic and strong, they’ve captured the imagination of millions since humans first laid eyes upon them. Visitors can observe orcas up close by taking the Bremer Canyon Orca Expedition Tour led by Naturaliste Charters. Running between January and April, the tour takes place approximately 40 miles off the coast of Bremer Bay. Expect to see a pod of orcas in their natural habitat as they make their annual visit to the area to feed on an abundance of prey. While on the water, there is also a chance to spot sperm whales, pilot whales, blue whales, and a variety of bird species.
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