If you think Queensland is big, think again. Western Australia is an enormous state; a state the size of Alaska and Texas combined but with a population that’s three times smaller than London. The population is so sparse, it feels like a huge, empty space; quite the opposite of travelling around the UK.
I spent a week travelling around Margaret River, Perth and Geraldton with my friend Katie. Whilst I thought I’d covered a pretty decent amount of ground during my trip, looking at the map I can see I barely scratched the surface of what WA has to offer.
Currency: Australian Dollar
State Capital: Perth
Plug Sockets: Type I.
Ease of travel: 5/5 with car 3/5 without
Ease of communication: 5/5
Ease of meeting others: 5/5
General Costs: £££
Perth, the capital of Western Australia, seemed like the sensible place to start our Western Australia trip. This cute little city is full of nice bars, restaurants and high viewpoints over the harbour.
Things to do:
1. Walk around the CBD, or enjoy the free central public transport.
Shops, bars, restaurants – it’s your typical Australian CBD – but the thing I noticed the most was the abundance of what I call ‘faux-old’ buildings (buildings that look like they’ve been built to appear old…but clearly aren’t). ‘London court’ is a good example of some faux-old architecture. Other than that, the wide streets, frequency of footpaths and colourful laneways make the perfect setting for a city stroll.
2. Walk up Jacob’s ladder and gaze at the view over the city
Jacob’s ladder is a 242-stepped climb up the side of Mount Eliza, giving rise to dramatic views over Perth and Swan River.
3. King’s Park
We continued along the path, higher still, making our way to King’s Park for even better panoramic views. We were here over Australia day and the park was filled with people having picnics, music, drinks and general merriment.
View from King's Park
4. Elizabeth Quay
Elizabeth Quay is beautiful, particularly at night. There’s always something going on at the event space, and there’s plenty of restaurants and children’s playgrounds to enjoy.
5. Visit Fremantle
Fremantle is Perth’s “hip and happening” neighbourhood – and this is where we chose to spend the night. With fantastic food, coffee, quirky shops and great nightlife, it was a great place to park ourselves. What was even better was the ferry to Rottnest Island, which leaves from Fremantle port!
Rottnest Island is BY FAR the best thing to do in Perth (even though technically it’s not actually in Perth).
This paradise island is home to stunning beaches and the happiest animal in the world, the quokka. It really is a beautiful place.
There is an abundance of activities to (quite literally) dive into – from snorkelling, bus tours, walks, glass-bottomed boat tours, paddle-boarding – the list go on.
Australia Day Fireworks
Rottnest Island Beaches
We spent two days and one night on the island. We hired bikes and explored the many beautiful beaches, whilst simultaneously trying to spot as many quokkas as possible.
Starting at the visitor centre, we made our way to the bicycle rental shop. The process was super simple – chose your bike, choose your helmet, choose optional extras (basket, bells, etc) and you’re off! In hindsight, the optional padded gel seat would have been a sensible choice.
They provided a map of the island with different cycle routes of varying lengths.
We had initially set out to cycle a loop of the island from Thomson Bay to Crayfish rocks – and back. What we weren’t prepared for however was the blazing hot sun in a completely cloudless sky, huge hills and complete lack of a water fountain en-route.
Unsurprisingly, after around 5km of steep, uphill cycling, we realised we had used up ¾ of our water supply. After a brief discussion (Katie thought we would be fine with our remaining 250mls of water, I had reservations), we decided to take a shortcut back through the centre and into civilisation.
This turned out to be the right decision – not just because we didn’t die of dehydration, but also because the central road we had taken turned out to be the best for quokka-spotting!
We saw SO many adorable, fluffy quokkas!
We set up a camera, ready to pose behind a particularly cute quokka. He was clearly practiced in posing for tourists’ selfies, he knew the drill and stood perfectly still with a big grin on his face until we had taken an Instagram-worthy shot.
After rehydrating, we headed back to the other side of the island, stopping by beautiful beaches and a pink lake! This island is stunning.
Rottnest's stunning coastline
Dinnertime came, and we saw even more quokkas – this time in the restaurant. Despite the ‘quokka gates’ (i.e child proof gates), a few sneaky ones managed to get inside. It causes a bit of mayhem when they get inside because you’re not allowed to touch them, so it was quite funny watching the staff trying to persuade them to leave.
The next day, we spent our time in the Rottnest museum, and lazing on the beaches before heading back to the mainland.
Our next destination was Geraldton, and it was approximately a 2 hour drive. I’m not one for long car journeys so thankfully there were lots of interesting stops along the way,
Perth to Geraldton (Along the Indian Ocean Drive)
The drive from Perth to Geraldton takes approx. 4.5 hours, but don’t fear – there are lots of interesting stops along the way, and if you like seafood – lunch in the Lobster Shack is an absolute must.
Cervantes and the Pinnacles – Nambury National Park
Our first stop was Cervantes (2 hours’ drive) It’s a cute little town and a popular spot for camping and fishing – it’s a nice place to stop and mooch about, but the real gem here are the Pinnacles.
The Pinnacles Desert is one of the many areas of Australia that breathes a strange, detached and disorientated aura – it feels as if you’re suddenly walking on a different planet.
Beautiful tall, spiking rocks emerge from polenta-coloured sand that seems to carry on forever.
Practical tips – the Pinnacles are hot! Even when the coast is breezy and cool, it’s really hot here so come prepared.
To enter – it costs approx. $13 per car and involved driving around a little loop with various stop-off points along the way. There’s also a short walk you can do – but in case it wasn’t obvious before – it really is very hot!
Continuing North from Cervantes, the next stop is Jurien Bay – here are stretches of beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters – if you have time there are plenty of fun things to do here – turquoise safari, scenic flights, skydiving.
Further north again is Greenhead – a small town with a decent takeaway and home to one of my favourite beaches of the trip – Dynamite bay.
Dynamite has more of that perfect white sand, lapping, velvety water of mesmerising turquoise – and to top it off, there’s a boardwalk along to several lookouts.
We spent a few hours walking along the lookouts and dipping our feet in the ocean.
Crystal clear water
Greenough Wildlife and Bird Park
This small, family-run wildlife park is definitely worth a visit if you’re passing. It wasn’t a place we had planned to stop at in advance, but after noticing a small sign on the side of the road, we decided we were a bit sleepy and so stopped to investigate. Here, animals hurt in the wild are taken in, rehabilitated and released back into the wild – or if deemed not fit enough, they stay here to live out their days. With a warm, friendly feel and very much a no–frills attraction, it’s worth a stop.
We saw kangaroos, emus and lots and lots of parrots – say hello and they say g’day back!
We parked ourselves in Geraldton for 2 nights to explore the area. It’s a sleepy town, but decent-sized with a handful of restaurants and boutiques.
There's a few things to do - visit the beach, the Aboriginal art museum.
There are some great brunch places -The Jaffle Shack, Piper Lane Café, Café Fleur.
Hutt Lagoon (aka Pink Lake)
I remember reading an article online years ago titled, ‘top 10 natural sites you have to see in Australia’ and there was a photo of a bubblegum pink lake in Australia. Fast forward 7 years and I get to see it in real life!
This fascinating lake is a 1 hour drive from Geraldton. The drive is a beautiful one; contrasting colours of bright orange fading to yellow and green trees.
The lake is bubblegum pink in parts, frosty white in others, but constantly mesmerising.
Be careful stepping out because the ground of the lake is lined with very fragile sand. Underneath are pools of charcoal-coloured sulphur standing substance.
My feet were completely covered. I’m still not 100% what it was but it actually looked a lot like clay (like the stuff you see in beauty stores). Maybe it made my skin soft? Who knows. However what I do know is that my foot is still attached to my body and therefore – it was not poisonous (that we know yet).
Gregory itself is pretty small, without much going on. It had a nice toilet though. We didn’t stay long.
We thought about continuing north to Kalbarri National Park, but as per usual, ran out of time.
After a relaxing few days eating brunch, walking along beaches and swimming in our Airbnb pool, it was time to head back to Perth. Here, Katie’s part of the holiday was over as she had to head back to Melbourne for work. I carried on south of Perth to Margaret River, heading via a few stops along the way.
Perth to Margaret River Drive
The whole drive takes around 3 hours, however there are LOTS of stops/quick detours.
Black Diamond Lake
This beautiful spot is the site of an abandoned mine, filled with water in the 1950s. It has become famous in recent years thanks to the dazzling shades of blue that stand out when the sun shines.
The lake is stunning and it’s so easy to spend a day lazing here or walking around the surrounding woodlands.
It wasn’t too busy when I visited, there were just a few visitors swimming and bathing on tubes. I took a walk around the lake, taking in the hues from all angles before slipping and cutting my toe on something sharp. Now, I’m usually pretty organised and prepared with a fully-stocked first aid kit, but this time I had forgotten to top it up before leaving, and so although I had enough painkillers and anti-sickness tablets to last several months, I had one small plaster and one alcohol wipe. Frustratingly the alcohol wipe had somehow dried up in its package, and I had dropped the plaster as soon as I took it out of its packaging. I tried applying pressure, but it would not stop bleeding, and was dirty from the soil. After a quick google of the local area, I found an emergency department, and several closed pharmacies and supermarkets. It felt a bit OTT to go to an emergency department for a bleeding toe, but I really needed something to cover it up, so off I went. After a bit of confusion with my Medicare card (being a temporary visitor, I have a green one – clearly not many visitors come to Collie hospital!!) – I was seen immediately – wound cleaned, dressed, and armed with a handful of spare plasters. It was the quickest hospital experience I’ve ever had!
One thing they did advise me on was not to swim in the lake! I actually hadn’t – which turned out to be a good thing as earlier that month there had been a health warning issued that people shouldn’t swim due to the presence of an amoeba that can lead to Amoebic Meningitis! Eep! Apparently this is only a concern when the water temperatures exceed 24 degrees however, so it’s not a year-round threat.
Next stop was Busselton. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting a huge amount – mostly because the towns and cities we’d visited so far had been pretty minimal. Busselton was bustling, however! There was tonnes to do!
Modern eateries facing the beautiful coast, a jetty with a small museum and underwater museum, and lots of water activities.
After a bit of time wandering around, I got back in the car and drove on, this time heading to Injidup Natural Spa.
Injidup Natural Spa
Expect LOTS of rock scrambling here – I would recommend doing this in something other than flip flops (oops!) – the rocks are slippery and the waves are particularly violent. Persevere to the end of the trail and you’ll find yourself surrounded by stunning rockpool formations and a natural wavepool! Bliss!
Western Australia boasts the most beautiful white-sand beaches and the warm waters of the Indian ocean. There are lots ot choose from along the Southwest coast. My favourite beaches were Smith beach and Yallingup Beach.
My home for the weekend. It was a nice little place to stop, and a great base for exploring the Margaret River region. It also seemed to be where most of the working holiday visa people seem to stay when they do their farm work, so I was pretty pleased to find an abundance of cheap eats in addition to the typical Aussie fancy restaurants and boutiques.
The beachfront is beautiful and peaceful, with water that tricks you into thinking it’s a lake - perfect for paddle boarding!
The next day, I decided to do a tour of the region.
Margaret River is famous for delicious wine – and I did really want to go on a wine tour, but also wasn’t convinced I’d enjoy it by myself, and so I opted for a canoe tour in the morning, followed by a solo wine tasting in a wine bar afterwards.
The tour was fantastic – I chose to go with Bushtucker tours. We met at the scenic Margaret River Mouth at Prevelly beach, and selected our canoes. As the only one who didn’t come in a pair, I buddied up with the instructor, and we set off, paddling through the river valley past cliffs and jungle. One of the canoes had clearly been filled by tourists who evidently had never seen a canoe in their lives before. I wonder what they thought they had signed up to. After many, many, many attempts to instruct them on how to steer, they could still only go in one direction – clockwise: a direction they spun around in, again and again. Our instructor eventually gave up and instead tied their canoe to ours, effectively doubling our workout – but at least we were on our way again. Our guide pointed out houses belonging to the first European settlers, along with sites of significance to local Aboriginals. We stopped off halfway for lunch, which is where the ‘bushtucker’ element kicked in. This is not your standard tour lunch!
Here we had a truly Australian meal of wattleseed bread, kangaroo, emu, wild turkey, crocodile, rosella chutney, wild nut pesto, bush tomatoes and Kakadu plum – delicious! I was a bit wary of trying crocodile, but it actually was quite tasty! And yes, it did taste like chicken.
After lunch, we got back into our canoes and headed to shore. I had my first taste of Margaret River wines that afternoon as the instructor presented me with a bottle of red wine to make up for all the extra paddling needed to pull the second canoe! Delicious! That evening I settled in to a cosy wine bar and sampled even more Margaret River wines whilst skyping Paul.
The next day, it was time to head back to Perth. I still had time for one more stop on my way.
This small yet beautiful island is a 5 minute ferry ride from Shoalwater Bay.
The island is home to a penguin rescue centre and around 1000 adorable little blue penguins.
It's a beautiful place to wander and try to spot these tiny penguins in the wild. But it doesn't end there.
I took an optional boat cruise around the islands and spotted dolphins and sea lions too!
And with that, it was time to head to the airport!
Top Tips about Western Australia:
Tips for South Western Australia
As with a lot of Australia, there is a strong early-bird culture here. After dropping Katie off at the airport at 7am, I was shocked to find all the cafes filled with locals brunching – you’d be hard pressed to find an open café before 7am in Glasgow, let me tell you.
Sadly this also means that things tend to close early. If you want to eat dinner, you’d better head out before 8pm, otherwise you’ll find a lot of ‘closed’ signs in the windows.
Distances are FAR between places, so it’s a good idea to factor in meals and petrol when planning a road trip!
The water is incredibly inviting, but there are also lots of sharks, so stick to the safe swimming areas.
Places that look like small towns on the map probably aren’t – you’ll be lucky to find more than a petrol station
As with most of Australia, you need to be shark-aware when swimming in the sea. Western Australia is no dufferent!