10 Reasons to Fall in Love with Western Australia

My husband, Leon, and I spent a lot of time planning to visit Australia in the summer of 2016, but we kept mulling over the countless places to visit. Sydney was at the top of our list, but three weeks in the country’s most popular city was overkill. I wanted to see the outback. Australia is known for its vast red desert that’s home to some of the world’s rarest of species and natural phenomena. I wanted to trek through gorges and go bushwalking; Leon wanted to explore city life. However, we didn’t want to skip the pristine beaches and marine life that’s made Australia famous over the years. After researching these different places, we realized that Western Australia offers all of these options. From gorges to the outback to the coast, here are 10 reasons to fall in love with Western Australia.

Broome

camels at sunset
Riding camels along Cable Beach at sunset in Broome, WA.
Broome was the first city Leon and I stopped in during our trip through Western Australia, and we really wish we’d had more time to explore. Unfortunately, since we were using miles to fly everywhere, flight schedules limited our options and we only got to spend half a day in Broome. Had we been given more time, we would have taken more advantage of the many adventurous activities offered to us.

Broome is a small town in theory (about 14000 inhabitants), and it’s remote location in the Kimberley region of WA has drawn many people to its natural wonders and pearling industry. However, one thing to remember is that everything is spread apart. The bus from our hostel was $4 AUD each way just to Cable Beach a few km down the road, and cabs cost upwards of $25 AUD each way. To cover all that in half a day would have broken the bank and made us quite exhausted. Instead, we decided to check out Cable Beach and were very happy with our decision. We ended our hectic travel day by watching one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.

Karijini National Park

hamersley gorge
Hamersley Gorge in Karijini offers easier hiking trails, but doesn’t skimp on the views.
How do I begin to talk about Karijini National Park? It was like walking back in time to before the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Leon and I visited during Australia’s winter, which left us with cool weather and clear skies. For three days, we camped at Karijini Eco Retreat and suffered from cramped necks every night while we stared up at the Milky Way. During the day, we hiked into some of the steepest canyons I’ve ever saw, making for some interesting stories. (Did I mention that heights scare the bejesus out of Leon?)

spa pool
Spa Pool at Hamersley Gorge.

Make sure you’re in shape for some class V hiking trails because those are the ones that lead to the most beautiful and remote spots. Don’t try to tackle these hikes if you don’t have the physical constitution. You’ll only be putting yourself and others in danger.

Be ready for a break from technology. The closest place with cell phone service is an hour outside of the national park, and WiFi is essentially unheard of within these parts. However, after a day of adjustment, you start to really love the silence. No news reports, no text message notifications, and no staring into your cell phone screens for endless amounts of time. Instead, you’ll be treated to great conversation with the locals and grade A adventure. Take a risk and shut off for a few days. (Check out this great National Geographic article about how nature results in physiologic changes to your brain.)

Exmouth

exmouth lighthouse
Vlamingh lighthouse was a WWII landing site located in the North West Cape.
Thirty minutes away from Turquoise Bay and the gateway to the Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth is where Australians come to escape. Our tour guide explained that Australians frequently dream of owning a caravan and driving off at a moment’s notice. (Hence the reason for the multitude of caravans along this peninsular region of Western Australia.)

While visiting Vlamingh Lighthouse, one of the most beautiful moments was being able to watch pods of humpback whales and their infants breaching in the distance. Surfers sit at the water’s edge during sunset, getting as close as possible while watching a phenomenal show. Exmouth is yet another gem found in Western Australia.

Galahs

exmouth galahs
Galahs sit perched in a tree at a caravan park in Exmouth, WA.
Native to Australia, galahs are beautiful, pink and grey birds that are also known as rose-breasted cockatoos.

Honestly, I don’t have any cool and fun knowledge about galahs. I could look up facts on Wikipedia and claim them as my own, but where would that get any of us? And why must we always offer evidence for things that we merely enjoy?

I’ve listed galahs on here because they were so much fun to watch. They interact gently with each other, preening and caressing one another as they rest under the shade from the strong Australian sun. When you see them for yourselves, you’ll understand what I mean. Enjoy observing a species that is native to Australia.

Turquoise Bay

turquoise bay
Enjoying the soft, white sand and crystal blue waters in Turquoise Bay.
Turquoise Bay is so aptly named for the color of the water. Sitting on the Indian Ocean, thirty minutes away from Exmouth, this is the gateway to the Ningaloo Reef. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, which takes about an hour to get to by boat, the Ningaloo Reef is a fringing reef. It grows off the shore right along the coastline. In other words, you can literally walk into the ocean and step on to the reef. Combined with the clear water in the Indian Ocean and easy accessibility, snorkeling or diving in the Ningaloo Reef cannot be missed when visiting Western Australia.
snorkeling
Snorkeling along Ningaloo Reef in Turquoise Bay
Be sure to consult with a tour guide or lifeguard about the water conditions. I grew up in South Florida and I’m used to rough rip currents, but nothing could prepare me for what I experienced in Australia. The tides in Turquoise Bay generally flow parallel to the shoreline, but can change and flow in a western direction out to sea. Normally, snorkeling is fun when the tide carries you while floating along the reef and watching the marine life. However, on this day, the tide was so strong that I got knocked into some coral. (I was fine, just a small bruise.) In situations like this, remember to stay calm, turn on your back, and wave your arm to signal for help. The lifeguards in Australia are the best in the world, so you’ll be in good hands.

Coral Bay

coral bay beer
Enjoying a cold beer during sunset in Coral Bay.
Coral Bay…is a single street. No kidding, it’s one street. Our hostel was at the start of the street and the beach was at the end of the street. Just to give you an idea of how small this town is, their current population is 190.

If there’s anything that I’ve learned in my life, don’t underestimate anything based solely on its size. This town offers A LOT to do. There are so many activities in Coral Bay, including snorkeling with humpback whales, whale sharks, manta rays, and other marine life. We went on a snorkeling trip with Ningaloo Reef Dive, and the crew was amazing. So friendly and knowledgeable, they made us feel safe and excited while participating in something extraordinary. While we weren’t able to swim with whale sharks (we just missed the season), we were the first group to successfully get in the water with humpback whales and take part in a study investigating human-whale behavioral interaction. The beaches were some of the best in Western Australia, and we saw yet another beautiful sunset.

Monkey Mia

playful dolphins
Watching dolphins play in their natural environment.
Watching dolphins play in the ocean at Monkey Mia was so satisfying. As someone who grew up in South Florida, I’ve been given the chance to see marine life here and there, but I’ve never seen them up close. Located in Shark Bay Marine Park, a World Heritage Site, these dolphins have come up to the shore in Monkey Mia for more than 50 years.

For several decades, the dolphins interacted more closely with visitors. However, as when anyone gets too close to animals in nature, it usually leads to harmful effects. The rangers now ensure that only 3 people get to feed the dolphins and do not allow any physical contact.

dolphins monkey mia
Bottlenose dolphins coming close to the shore in Monkey Mia.
While some people complained that the park rangers were too strict, I really enjoyed observing these majestic animals in their natural environment. When you give animals their space and approach them cautiously, they’re more inclined to trust you and show off their natural behavior. Once they started jumping and playing with each other, I was so happy that I started squealing with glee. Australians are very protective of their wildlife and environment, which is a something that every country should practice.

Kalbarri National Park

kalbarri national park
Spending time along the coastal cliffs of Kalbarri National Park.
Kalbarri National Park is famous around the internet for people sitting inside Nature’s Window, a natural rock arch that frames the Murchison river perfectly and lets people look down into the gorges. However, we were on our way to our hostel and our tour had fallen far behind its day’s itinerary. (Like anywhere else, prepare yourself for unexpected events to alter your plans while traveling through Western Australia.) Instead of traveling into the depths of the park, we stuck to the coastal cliffs. We weren’t disappointed. We watched the sun set while humpback whales played in the distance.

kalbarri canola fields
Frolicking through canola fields in Kalbarri National Park.

There’s a class II hike that leads down to the ocean’s edge and you can climb the limestone rocks to get different views of the coast. Be careful, as the rocks are very old and have been known to fall apart.

One thing about traveling is that you won’t always get to see the things that are popular on Instagram or Pinterest. I had high hopes of visiting Nature’s Window, but ended up being even more excited by the coastal cliffs, and even walking through the canola fields that you find as you enter the park. Enjoy everything that happens on your trip because it could be even more special than you expected.

The Pinnacles

pinnacles nambung
Wandering through the ancient desert sculptures in Nambung National Park.
If you ever thought that you’d seen everything, you haven’t seen Nambung National Park. This park is home to the pinnacles, ancient desert sculptures that sit close to the small fishing town of Cervantes and 3 hours north of Perth. I felt like I was walking through a natural cemetery. These limestone pillars extend for acres and acres of land, varying in size and shape. As you walk deeper into this chilling display, try to get to a higher vantage point where you’ll see the pinnacles contrasted against the sand dunes on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other side.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife in Australia protects the Pinnacles. It remains one of the most unusual natural displays of geological evolution in the world. For this reason, I have to put in a disclaimer that you should not climb the pillars. They are billions of years old; imagine how you would like someone climbing on your back if you were that old. All joking aside, they are fragile objects that Australia works hard to keep and protect. In fact, until 1934 this park was relatively unknown. Let’s try to keep them here for as long as possible.

Fremantle

fremantle
Lonely Planet voted Fremantle as one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2016.
Fremantle was such a pleasant surprise, and shouldn’t be missed when visiting Perth. In fact, Lonely Planet listed Fremantle as one of the top 10 cities to visit in 2016. Easily reached by train and car, it’s approximately 25 minutes outside of downtown Perth.

Fremantle is an old Victorian town that has since become home to local breweries, markets, artists, and musicians. It’s common to see people entertaining large groups of crowds around the town. Unlike large cities where you feel inundated with buskers, Fremantle feels more laid back and everyone has fun interacting with the locals. The Fremantle Market was one of the best I’ve ever seen and you should include it on your list of things to do during your visit. Weekends are busy since locals like to picnic on the green and children run around on the shore. Leon and I visited the Maritime Museum which is home to the remains of the Batavia, a shipwreck that occurred in 1629. (The museum includes free entry, although they encourage donations.)

musician in fremantle
A local musician plays at the Fremantle Market. Not only did I tip him for letting me take his picture, but also because he played the Game of Thrones theme song so beautifully.

Lonely Planet hit the nail on the head when it included this city on its top 10 list. Fremantle is a combination of beautiful, interesting, and relaxing. It just gives you one more reason to fall in love with Western Australia.

10 Reasons to Fall in Love with Western Australia

If you’re ever planning on visiting Australia, you should definitely include Western Australia as part of your itinerary. As you can see, it includes everything that you could imagine when you plan your dream trip to Australia. Frequent flights to southeast Asia are available due to Western Australia’s close proximity to this part of the world, and could be included in a bi-continental trip. From the outback to the coast to city life, you’re definitely going to fall in love with Western Australia.

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