In Part Two of her two-part guide, Penny Thomas shares a mighty list of things to see and do in WA, beyond Perth, for when friends and family come to visit
Cue the joyous airport reunions, because travelling for the sole purpose of visiting friends and family is back on the agenda now that WA’s borders have reopened.
And after months and even years of being apart, it’s almost guaranteed these out-of-towners will be looking to spend as much quality time with you as possible. So it’s time to get the spare bedroom tidy and put your hosting cap back on, because a soon-to-be house guest could call you at any moment to announce they have plans to visit.
Regardless of how excited, worried or nervous the prospect of hosting someone for an extended period of time makes you feel, there is no need to panic. You know your backyard better than you think. And even if you don’t, there are so many wonderful and amazing things to see and do here — WA is a place that practically sells itself.
But if you’re still scratching your head and wondering what to do, then you’re in luck because this two-part guide is filled with practical and useful travel suggestions for when your friends or family come to visit.
Preparation is key
When visiting friends and relatives come to stay, we instantly become quasi-tour guides, desperately seeking out fun and interesting ways to show off the place we call home. And while there is no denying this can be stressful, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be. Because with a little planning, you’re bound to have a good time exploring WA.
To help you get on the right track from the outset, here are some key points to consider before your guest arrives:
- Before your friend or relative arrives, think about what things they (and you) might like to do.
- Run your ideas past them and make sure you haven’t missed anything they want to see.
- Don’t forget to discuss the general budget, because this will dictate a lot of the future steps including where you can travel to and for how long.
- Decide on a destination and determine the length of the trip. For longer trips, think about the logistics involved in getting from place to place.
- Choose your approximate travel dates. And remember to check whether or not it’s a good, busy or bad time of year to visit that particular destination.
- Before going ahead with booking any necessities like transport, accommodation and tours, check with your travel companion and get their OK. Once you’re given a thumbs up, go ahead and book your trip. Just remember to read the fine print and get travel insurance.
- From there, I recommend putting all of the information pertaining to your trip into a document that you can print for you and your friend. AKA, an itinerary. And if you really want to impress your guest, include a suggested packing list within the itinerary, so they know what to bring.
Where to go and what to see?
Western Australia is a place bursting with incredible destinations — the only question is, which ones should you pick to add to your upcoming itinerary?
Having recently covered a range of things to see and do around Perth in part one of this guide, it’s time to stretch our legs and look further afield. From seeing ancient Aboriginal rock art in the State’s North West, to experiencing the incredible gourmet food and wine offering in the State’s South West, WA has a mind-boggling choice of stand-out locations and something for every stripe of traveller.
BROOME AND THE NORTH WEST
Rugged and remote, with beautiful landscapes and a history that dates back tens of thousands of years, the North West region of WA is an incredibly special place, unlike anywhere else on Earth. A lot of people visit Broome every year, whether it’s just to enjoy the spectacular sights of the Kimberley, or to begin a huge four-wheel-drive adventure to Cape Leveque and the Gibb River Road.
From Perth, there are a number of different ways to get to Broome, you can either fly to the region, drive yourself or get on a bus.
- If you’re squeezed for time, you’re better off flying to Broome with multiple flights leaving daily from Perth during the peak season.
- For those with extra time up their sleeve, the drive from Perth to Broome is 2241km. And although Google says it will take just over 23 hours to do, most people will allow for three days to complete the drive.
- Another easy way to travel to Broome is with a guided tour or on a charter bus. This allows you to sit back and relax on the journey. Plus you can meet like-minded visitors and explore sights you may not be able to access, or potentially miss altogether if doing your own thing.
Although Broome was once a sleepy outback town, it has now established itself as being a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination, and is considered to be one of the most luxurious places to holiday in Australia. Lying at the base of the Kimberley, it’s an excellent place to begin an epic adventure with your friend or relative, because you can easily hire campers, cars, 4WDs and camping gear here. You can also take in the amazing sights from around the region on a scenic flight from Broome, or cruise the waters off Cable Beach on one of the many sunset cruises available.
- Plan your visit to coincide with Staircase to the Moon (between March and November), the races (between May and August) or the Shinju Matsuri Festival (late August/early September).
- Broome’s three main areas are Chinatown in the heart of old Broome, Town Beach and Cable Beach. Getting around is easy, with regular bus services and day tours of Broome and surrounds. Vehicle and bicycle hire are also available.
- Broome’s food and drink scene is as diverse as its multicultural past — Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malay, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Mexican, Italian and of course Australian pub grub. Whether it’s fine dining or a food van, Broome has it all.
- A wide range of accommodation is available in Broome from resorts, hotels and motels, self-contained apartments and a number of caravan parks.
Things to do
- Visit Cable Beach for a swim, stroll or even a camel ride at sunset.
- Check out the historic Chinatown area which is centred around Carnarvon Street and Dampier Terrace.
- Discover Broome’s heritage on a bus or walking tour, and follow the Jetty to Jetty and Chinatown walking trails.
- Fall in love with an Australian South Sea pearl in the pearl showrooms, and find out more about this beautiful gem.
- Visit the weekend Courthouse Markets for delicious food and locally made goods.
- Enjoy an incredible view of the Staircase to the Moon, which appears along the shores of Roebuck Bay and at the Mangrove Hotel, accompanied by night markets for these special evenings during the dry season.
- At the southern end of Cable beach, discover the amazing coastal vistas and spectacular red cliffs of Gantheaume Point. And seek out dinosaur footprints at very low tide.
EXPLORE MORE . . . of the North West
Wander the Warlu Way | 12-day self-drive itinerary
The Warlu Way connects iconic sites, such as Karijini and Millstream-Chichester national parks, the Pilbara coast and Murujuga National Park. The 12-day adventure follows the way of the Warlu (a Dreamtime sea serpent), leading you 2480km from sapphire seas to the lush oases, soaring gorges, rugged ranges and ancient Aboriginal art of North West.
On this self-drive journey, you’ll be given the opportunity to stop at places like Onslow and the Mackerel Islands, Karratha and the Dampier Archipelago, Cossack and Port Hedland, and mining towns such as Newman, Tom Price and Paraburdoo. And of course, one of the main highlights of this trip is Karijini National Park, which hosts some of the most spectacular sights you’ll ever see.
There is no right or wrong way to do the Warlu Way, meaning you can choose to start the journey in any major towns in the Pilbara area, including Onslow, Karratha, Tom Price, Newman or Port Hedland. From there, you can follow either the Coastal, Inland, Manuwarra-Red Dog Highway or East Pilbara Geoheritage routes, or link them together to loop back to your departure point.
For more information, visit australiasnorthwest.com/warlu-way
Gibb River Road | 12-day self-drive itinerary
The Gibb is a 660km track that is accessible between April and October (depending on the weather). Renowned for being a great 4WD adventure, the self-drive journey starts in Derby, an easy two-hour drive on a sealed road from Broome.
The drive includes some of the most spectacular places within the Kimberley, such as Bell Gorge, Lake Argyle, El Questro Wilderness Park and the Bungle Bungle Range at Purnululu National Park. Throughout the 12-day road trip, you’ll get the opportunity to explore pristine waterholes and stunning gorges, see freshwater crocodiles and even take a scenic flight over cascading waterfalls.
The Gibb River Road is not a drive for the faint-hearted. It can be an unforgiving journey if you’re not prepared, so make sure the 4WD is packed with water, food and emergency supplies. A 4WD vehicle is required for this route, which should only be done during the dry season. And even if you are travelling between April and October, call into the Derby or Kununurra Visitor Centre beforehand to get up-to-date details of road conditions.
For more information, visit australiasnorthwest.com/plan/itineraries/gibb-river-road-self-drive-road-trip
Great Northern Highway | 10-day self-drive itinerary
If you don’t have a 4WD but are eager to explore the beauty of the North West, opt for this sealed road trip from Kununurra to Broome. Dubbed the gateway to the East Kimberley, you’ll start your journey in scenic Kununurra before heading further inland to the smaller towns of Warmun, Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. On the way you’ll view the famous Wolfe Creek Crater, the heritage-listed Purnululu National Park, spectacular wildlife and plenty of hidden gorges, chasms and waterholes.
For more information visit, australiasnorthwest.com/plan/itineraries/great-northern-highway-itinerary.
EXMOUTH AND THE CORAL COAST
Brimming with adventure, the welcoming coastal town of Exmouth is a great base from which to discover some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. A 13-hour drive or two-hour flight from Perth, Exmouth is the gateway to the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Marine Park, the world’s largest fringing reef.
- The best time to visit is between March to October. This is due to the weather being dry, mild heat and the majority of seasonal experiences/tours happen between these months.
- Commonly referred to as Australia’s whale shark capital, Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef is a hotspot for divers and snorkellers, offering some of the most unforgettable encounters you’ll ever experience.
- The Ningaloo Reef currently has the world’s highest rate of whale shark swim numbers and accessibility of interaction, making Ningaloo one of the best places in the world to swim with the giant fish.
- From March to August each year, you can join a whale shark tour and get the opportunity to swim alongside one of the gentle giants of the sea.
- There are plenty of great places to stay around Exmouth, with luxury resorts right on the beachfront, holiday houses, glamping options and plenty of caravan parks to choose from.
Things to do
- Take the opportunity to swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo.
- Go diving at Exmouth’s Navy Pier, which is one of the top-10 dive sites in Australia, and considered to be one of the best shore-based dive spots in the world. About 200 species of marine life inhabit the water beneath the pier. Night dives are equally amazing and are offered to advanced divers when tides are conducive. Dives can only be undertaken with Dive Ningaloo, the sole licensed operator. Being a US military area, your passport is required for entry.
- Spend an afternoon at the beautiful Turquoise beach, where you can swim and snorkel right out to the colourful reef.
- Head to the Ningaloo Aquarium and Discovery Centre, which is located within Exmouth’s new state-of-the-art visitor, research, education and community hub.
- Visit the historic Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, which is more than 100 years old.
- Once you have had your fill of subaquatic adventures, head to Cape Range National Park, a nature lover’s paradise on the west side of North West Cape.
EXPLORE MORE... of the Coral Coast
The Coral Coast Highway | 12-day self-drive itinerary
Stretching 1200km from Perth to Exmouth, this drive clings to the coast as it winds north, taking in Jurien Bay for sea lions and Kalbarri for birdlife before reaching two UNESCO World Heritage areas: Shark Bay, famous for its dolphins and dugongs; and Ningaloo Reef, where you can spot the big three of whale sharks, humpback whales and manta rays.
Overnight stops along the way will be fuelled by lobster shacks and rum tastings, while daytime adventures will include a flight over the shimmering pink waters of Hutt Lagoon, a sky walk over the dramatic gorges of Kalbarri National Park, and ancient stories and bush craft with an Aboriginal guide in Monkey Mia.
For more information, visit australiascoralcoast.com/plan-your-visit/itineraries/ultimate-self-drive-road-trip
The Indian Ocean Drive | four-day self-drive itinerary
The Indian Ocean Drive offers a scenic journey to the coastal towns of Cervantes, Jurien Bay, Green Head, Leeman, Dongara and Port Denison, and is a great trip for people wanting a shorter break, with plenty of things to see and do on the coast and inland.
For more information, visit australiascoralcoast.com/plan-your-visit/itineraries/4-day-indian-ocean-drive.
Self-guided wildflower weekend | two or three-day self-drive itinerary
Explore the coastal and inland towns of Cervantes, Jurien Bay, Badgingarra and Eneabba as you and your guest spend a weekend wildflower hunting. On your travels, you’ll get to stop at Western Flora Caravan Park, Badgingarra National Park, Lesueur National Park and Nambung National Park. You can easily do this trip in a two or three-day loop, staying overnight at Jurien Bay or Cervantes.
For more information, visit australiascoralcoast.com/plan-your-visit/itineraries/wildflowers/4-day
ESPERANCE AND THE GOLDEN OUTBACK
Esperance and its surrounds are a visual delight, on land and from the air. Situated within WA’s Golden Outback, Esperance is home to a string of stunning beaches and the natural wonders, including Cape Le Grand National Park, Cape Arid National Park and the islands of the Recherche Archipelago. It’s also where you’ll find kangaroos hanging out on the beach at Lucky Bay, seemingly waiting to be in your perfect holiday photos.
- With its own small domestic airport, you can fly into Esperance from Perth, with daily flights from Rex Airlines. You can also collect a hire-car from the airport, which is about a 20-minute from town.
- Alternatively you can drive to Esperance from Perth, on a journey that takes about seven-and-a-half hours.
- While you can visit Esperance at any time of year, the best time to go is between November and March.
- The best way to experience Esperance is to stay at Lucky Bay Campground. With camp sites that overlook the whole beach and kangaroos wandering around, it’s a very special camping experience.
- For something a little more luxurious, stay at Esperance Chalet Village. Their cute A-frame chalets are popular for girls’ getaways, while the log cabins provide the perfect setting for a more romantic getaway.
- You will need to buy a National Parks Pass to visit Lucky Bay in the Cape Le Grand National Park.
Things to do
- Visit Lucky Bay and see for yourself why it is regularly put at the top of Australia’s best beach lists.
- Venture beyond the beach and you’ll find some excellent walking tracks, many offering sweeping views of the wildlife-rich Recherche Archipelago. Be sure to keep an eye out for migrating whales between July and October.
- Fly over a bubble-gum pink lake on a scenic flight with Fly Esperance. The 80-minute flight includes highlights of Cape Le Grand and Cape Arid national parks.
- Eat at the waterfront Taylor St Quarters. Once the site of a hospital, the building now houses a chic restaurant and bar on the esplanade, serving contemporary Australian cuisine.
- Pop by Lucky Bay Brewing and taste the collection of locally brewed beers like the Sandy Hook Barley Pale Ale and the Lockdown Dark Lager. The brewery has play equipment for kids, and serves up delicious woodfired pizzas and nachos too.
- Discover what lives beneath the water’s surface on a half-day trip through the Recherche Archipelago with Esperance Island Cruises.
- Explore Woody Island on a day-trip by boat or helicopter.
- Hike up Frenchman Peak.
- Appreciate the magic turquoise waters and white sands of Lucky Bay from above with Helispirit.
EXPLORE MORE...of the Golden Outback
Golden Quest Discovery Trail | five-day self-drive itinerary
From quirky outback pubs dripping with charisma, to wide open landscapes that’ll steal away your breath, the Golden Quest Discovery Trail begins in Coolgardie and finishes in Kalgoorlie, with 25 sites for you to stop at along the way. Best enjoyed in a 4WD, the trail leads you from the mind-blowing buzz of one of the largest open-cut gold mines on Earth, to the striking beauty of the Antony Gormley statues at Lake Ballard. This journey can be enjoyed all year round however if you’re travelling between the months of August and October, after good winter rains, the landscapes of the Wheatbelt and Goldfields will dazzle you with a spectacular display of wildflowers.
One of the best things about this trail that is has its own guidebook. Pick up a printed copy of Golden Quest Discovery Trail Guidebook for $39.95 from centres around the Goldfields, or download a digital version for $29.95 from goldenquesttrail.com. For more information, visit australiasgoldenoutback.com/the-golden-quest-discovery-trail
The Road to the Rock | nine-day self-drive itinerary
If you and your guest are looking for a rugged, authentic outback escape, with some great 4WD trails, then add this road trip to the list. Taking you from Perth to Mt Augustus and back, on the nine-day journey you’ll weave your way through gorgeous country towns, historical sites, station stays, carpets of wildflowers (in spring) and the world’s biggest rock, Mt Augustus. For more information, visit australiasgoldenoutback.com/page/road-rock
Wave Rock and Wildflower Trail | five-day self-drive itinerary
Escape the ordinary and lose yourself in the jaw-dropping glory of nature on this journey across the Golden Outback. From August to October, a colourful sea of spring wildflowers — more than 12,000 species in total — will enliven your senses as you make your way along this 749km, five-day trail to the awe-inspiring wonder that is Wave Rock. The journey begins in Perth, and takes you to York, Bruce Rock, Hyden, Culin and Corrigin.
For more information, visit australiasgoldenoutback.com/page/wave-rock-wildflower-trail
MARGARET RIVER AND THE SOUTH WEST
Bursting with epic experiences and breathtaking landscapes, Margaret River and the South West region take the phrase “world-class” to a whole new level.
In a single day, you can relax with a glass of the region’s world-renowned wine, matched with local truffles and freshwater rock lobster, and experience some of the natural treasures that make the South West one of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots. Watch humpback whales on their annual migration. Find hidden gems in ancient caves. Climb the Granite Skywalk near Albany. Take a postcard-perfect snap of Greens Pool while in Denmark. Or stroll through forests of timber giants, discovering rare flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth.
- Margaret River is a three-hour drive from Perth, making it a great self-drive destination.
- There are plenty of rental car options from Perth, as well as public transport, tours, flights, cruises and airports in Albany and Busselton-Margaret River.
- Visit Margaret River during summer to take advantage of the warmer weather. Or go during the cooler months in winter for a gourmet experience, or whale watching. In spring, the region comes alive with waves of wildflowers blooming across paddocks in vibrant colours.
- Margaret River and the South West region have oodles of accommodation options available, but it’s best to book somewhere as soon as possible.
Things to do
- Catch the train to the end of the Busselton Jetty, the longest wooden piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, and delve below the surface at the Underwater Observatory to discover crystal-clear waters and colourful sea life.
- Taste the region’s premium drops on a winery, distillery or brewery tour, or go at your own pace with a self-drive cellar door hop. Keep the foodie adventure rolling with a long table lunch or wine pairing experience.
- Take a guided hike along all or part of the 124km-long Cape to Cape Track to experience beautiful wildflowers and magnificent coastline along the way. From June to early December, spot migrating whales off shore.
- Take a tour of the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia, Cape Leeuwin and experience life as a lightkeeper in the new interactive interpretive centre at The Lightkeeper’s Cottage.
- Join a whale watching tour from Augusta (June to September) or Busselton and Dunsborough (September to December) to spot migrating humpback, southern right and even blue whales up close.
- Go underground on a tour to explore the magic of the region’s four ancient limestone caves – Jewel, Lake, Mammoth and Ngilgi.
EXPLORE MORE... of the South West
The South West Edge | 12-day self-drive itinerary
This epic road trip that will take you through wine regions, towering forests and along the rugged coastline of the South West before heading back to Perth via the Golden Outback. Throughout the journey you’ll stop at places such as Bunbury, Pemberton, Margaret River, the Walpole-Nornalup National Park, Denmark, Albany and Esperance.
For more information, visit thesouthwestedge.com.au
Villages in the Valley Road Trip | four-day self-drive itinerary
Travelling through the towns of Balingup, Nannup and Bridgetown, this four-day adventure showcases the spectacular scenery and warm country hospitality of the South West region, and begins just two-and-a-half hours drive from Perth. Between towns, winding country roads crisscross rolling green hills and stands of ancient jarrah, marri and karri forest. The beautiful Blackwood River is the ribbon that ties this stunning patchwork region together.
For more info, visit australiassouthwest.com/blog/villages-in-the-valley