Western Australia

May 1st, 2001 Features, Scoop Traveller

Wineries

The state’s famous Margaret River wine region is one of the finest wine producing areas in the world and a favourite holiday playground among Perth and WA locals.

But it isn’t the only vineyard-rich region in WA. South of temperate Perth along the state’s south and west coasts, the air is cool, the soil rich in nutrients and the rainfall consistent. The Great Southern and Heartlands are also home to export-quality Semillons, chardonnays and merlots.

Many of the great wineries have luxurious accommodation and sumptuous restaurants that feature local produce prepared to perfection. Guesthouses and B&B’s nestled among them are great places to get away from it all.

Tours

WA is a big, big state. Long tours are by their nature fairly all-encompassing and include accommodation and meals. You can travel from anywhere to just about anywhere else. Perth is home to hundreds of tour operators that can fly or drive you all over the state, and if you’re based in a smaller regional centre, you can jump on a coach, plane, helicopter or boat to the local attractions.

The favourite destinations like Wave Rock, the Pinnacles, the Bungle Bungles, archipelagos off the Kimberley and Esperance coasts, wineries, Monkey Mia, the karri forests and the Swan River are just the tip of the iceberg — WA is home to some of the world’s famous natural treasures.

Nightlife

WA’s nightlife is a blend of city and country. Every town has a pub full of character and some are historical artefacts in themselves. WA has a long tradition of the finest wines and brews, and you can enjoy them just about anywhere.

The focus of nightlife is centred in Perth and particularly, Northbridge. Nightclubs and pubs feature the latest music, live bands and comedy acts. Some of Australia’s hippest nightclubs jostle for attention along James Street, pouring throbbing techno music onto passing punters. Outside town, some great clubs and pubs are scattered throughout the suburbs.

Perth’s two world class venues — the Burswood Dome and Perth Entertainment Centre — feature international acts of every walk of life.

Eating out

With so many cultures and climates in WA, we’re blessed with gastronomic diversity, and the restaurants and eateries across WA are the best place to enjoy them. From the south, condiments, jams, chutneys and wines are produced and sold locally, and on the coast and far north, the best seafood in the water is farmed, fished and trawled.

There’s a strong Asian influence in the far north, which has a history of Asian immigration to the pearling trade, and in the far south the emphasis is on fine wine, fresh barbecues and contemporary Australian cuisine.

And if you can’t find the sort of food you’re looking for in Perth city and surrounds, you’re too picky — the best of every culture and nation is represented.

Accommodation

From the five star resort hotels in Perth’s CBD to the campground in the far flung reaches of the north Kimberley, accommodation in WA offers the best access to our sights and attractions.

Backpackers from all over Europe hear great things about WA and the roadhouses and hostels that cater to them provide the cheapest stopover accommodation even for locals discovering their home state.

Motels and caravan parks sit on beachfronts everywhere and guesthouses and lodges look over forested valleys where you can sit in your spa in the cool mountain air with a glass of wine.

Arts and events

The annual five week Perth International Arts Festival is one of Australia’s best known arts events with local, national and international acts performing at indoor and outdoor venues around Perth.

The annual Leeuwin Estate Concert is held on one of WA’s best wineries and has attracted world famous acts to its gorgeous open-air venue in recent years.

The Wet Dreams Masters Surfing in Margaret River is now a Six-Star World Qualifying series event and the Heineken Classic in the Swan Valley is a huge golfing event every year.

Don’t miss the Telstra Rally, which sends motor muscle roaring around Langley Park in the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Attractions

Many international travellers feel their holiday’s complete after swimming with Monkey Mia’s dolphins and cruising the Swan, but you could spend years poking into every corner of WA not see everything.

Stand on any coast at the right time of year and you might see whales swimming past. Swim near the Ningaloo Reef and you’ll see whale sharks.

Every town including Perth is full of both settlement and ancient history and heritage. The beaches are wide (sometimes by miles) and desert is full of relics from the gold boom of yesteryear.

WA is home to several world famous sights such as Wave Rock, the Pinnacles, the endless desert grandeur and deep gorges of the Kimberley, the gigantic karri forests and the Margaret River wine region.

Services

Holiday near any beach and there’s a hire business who can kit you out with a canoe or surf ski, dune buggy or surfboard and even teach you how to use them.

Public transport is clean, cheap and safe inside Perth’s metro area, and there are hundreds of vehicle hire companies for going further afield.

To plan your itinerary or know what to see when you travel, there are regional tourism centres all over the state that are full of information on what to see and do, and if you’re based in Perth, the Western Australian Tourism Centre is a great place to start and collect ideas.

Local Weather

In a state that could encompass several European countries, there’s a huge range of climates. In the tropical far north Kimberley the notion of a blazing fireplace overlooking a misty morning valley is as ridiculous as a dawn swim in the middle of winter in Busselton.

Go anywhere north of the Outback Coast area and there are two seasons — wet and dry. If you travel throughout the southwest and hinterland, you’ll notice distinctive seasons with each greening or harvest of grapes or wheat.

Thankfully our summers are warm everywhere and WA is the perfect place for a holiday of swimming, fishing, diving and snorkelling, even along the far southern coasts of Albany and Esperance.

Summer

The best place to be in summer in WA is outdoors, whether it’s in the water or just enjoying the sunshine in a park or reserve. Get active, go extreme if you want to, but cover up with sunscreen — the sun all over Western Australia is very harsh.

The far north is lashed with tropical storms and even the odd cyclone that drenches the parched land and cuts off access, restricting travel. If Perth is baking, we all hope for the famous Fremantle Doctor to blow in.

Autumn

A lot of people find WA is at its best when the blazing summer is dying off. The tropics are green and alive, roads are opened up and peak season kicks off.

Down south, it’s the best time to trawl the wineries for a taste and few bottles from the cellar door sales. It’s the time to spend the days swimming and sightseeing and the nights having a barbeque or a scrumptious dinner out sampling the local seafood and produce.

Winter

The south takes on its charming character. Go gallery and winery-hopping or snuggle up by a fire at your lodge or at a restaurant. Put on some Wellies and go fishing off the coast.

Take a break from the rain at a cosy retreat down south or in the Perth Hills, or escape the cold altogether by going up to the far north where the dry season means endless blue skies and warm sunshine.

Very occasionally, they see snow on the ground at the tips of the Stirling Ranges, but WA is a warm weather state even in winter.

Spring

All across the wheatbelt, hinterland, tropics and goldfields, the state comes into a bloom of colour as the wildflowers come out and locals celebrate them with showings and festivals.

Most of the state is moderate and fresh after winter chills, and it’s still very cool down south at night. It’s a lovely time to travel along the south coast wineries and beaches or the outback coast and goldfields before the heat returns.

The rains start to build across the outback and north again and tourism to the area slows down.

Things to do

Enjoy the great outdoors. Swim or fish anywhere in the state, from Broome’s eighty mile beach to Esperance. Dive on pristine reefs like Ningaloo or underneath the two kilometre long Busselton jetty

Fly over the scenic north wilderness or balloon over the fields of the heartlands. Tour through the Goldfields and explore a historic ghost town. Surf the south coast or visit the famous wineries of the south west.

Sit for hours on a trendy coffee strip in Subiaco, Perth or Northbridge or watch a movie under the stars at an open-air cinema. Cruise the Swan River or Mandurah Estuary.

Get swept up in the sporting life of WA. Try your drive on one of the dozens of world-class resort golf courses in Perth or all over the state. If you’re a watcher rather than a player, make sure you’re around for the Heineken Classic Golf Tournament, Australia Cup Grand Prix and the Wet Dreams Masters Surf Tournament. See the cricket at the WACA or barrack for your colours at Perth’s footy ovals.

The cultural and artistic world is a huge part of WA leisure. The Perth International Arts Festival is WA’s cultural event of the year and includes indoor and outdoor performances from around the world. See an aria or concerto at the Perth Concert Hall or show in the 100 year old His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth, home to the WA ballet and the West Australian Opera.

Experience the difference of climates from one end of WA to the other. Feel the cool air among the karri tops on the Tree Top Walk at Walpole, then the heavy heat at the top end as thunderclouds billow on the horizon. Ride in a camel train along the sparkling flat beaches of Broome and fly over the striped Bungle Bungles or the Dampier archipelago.

Swim with whale sharks, dolphins or dugongs at Ningaloo Reef or Monkey Mia. Hop on a 4WD tour bus and watch the sun set over the Pinnacles. Watch the wild Great Southern Ocean mercilessly batter the granite coast of Albany.

About the Region

When the Dutch landed near modern-day Exmouth and Dirk Hartog left a pewter plate commemorating the discovery and calling Australia ‘New Holland’, the Noongyar Aborigines who had lived here for 40,000 years numbered between 50,000 and 100,000.

After more landings by powers all over Europe, most of whom moved on disinterestedly after reporting inhospitable conditions, Captain James Stirling settled and founded Australia’s first free settlement colony in the mid 1820’s.

After the discovery of gold (in the Goldfields) and iron ore (in the Pilbara), WA’s population skyrocketed from the few collections of farmers and timber merchants to prospectors hoping to strike it rich. Today, minerals-mining is one of WA’s biggest industries. Gold and iron ore are still mined, together with diamonds and natural gas.

Mostly taken up by the Australian desert, WA is a warm weather state with little arable land and the population has mostly grown around what little fertile soil there is in the south. The wheatbelt the extends east from the Darling Range contains the concentration of the state’s grain and sheep farms, and beyond is the sort of land Australia is known around the world for — huge desert pastoral stations home to cattle and livestock.

Most of WA that isn’t associated with tourism or primary produce services the mining industry. Logging, an early industry in the south, remains a contentious political issue, and smaller industries of fishing and pearling give the state a little economic diversity.

Somewhat overlooked by the business, cultural and social interests of the east, WA has in fact made more of an impact on Australia than most people realise. It contains more millionaires per capita of any Australian population, has been the home of the first woman in the State parliament (Edith Cowan) and had Australia’s first female premier (Carmen Lawrence). The mining and agricultural industries are significant exporters when most other states are producing far less raw goods and products and the standard of living is comparatively high.

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So vast that it can’t be captured in one breath, WA is home to some of the most remote wilderness on earth, some of the most spectacular natural wonders and unique wildlife to be found anywhere. Our cities are open and our outback is immense and untamed.

Asia has closer economic links with WA than the rest of Australia does — it’s also geographically closer and cheaper to reach by air. Bound by the Indian and Great Southern Oceans and the Timor Sea, all of which contain some of the rarest (but best known) marine life in the world, WA’s coastline is more than 12,500 km.

It comprises about a third of Australia’s total surface area (over 2.5 million square kilometres) and encompasses so many landforms, moods of weather, wildlife and geological make-ups it could be an entire continent in itself, from the windy plains and deep forests of the south to the endless red desert of the goldfields, uninhabited archipelagos that stretch into the distance and the cyclonic fury of storms that pummel the tropical north.

One of the world’s most isolated capitals but with a level of technological and cultural sophistication to rival even the European and American metropolis’, we’re renowned for our abundance of space, proximity to nature and accessibility to some of the world’s best sightseeing. Everyone who comes here leaves believing Western Australians are laid back and friendly.

A vibrant primary producer and export economy and great diversity and attractions such as the tropics, ancient unspoiled coastline, dolphins at Monkey Mia, European settler heritage, Ningaloo Reef, harsh Goldfields desert, Pinnacles, Wave Rock, famous wineries and all Perth has to offer make WA Australia’s biggest secret.


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