Destinations

The wild, wild west: Here’s why you need to visit WA

Tara Harrison

Western Australia is one of Australia’s hottest states.

There are a few reasons for this. First, its expanse across the longitude of Australia means it has everything from majestic outback vistas to wine country, along a near endless sparkling coastline.

In terms of nature, it is the supermodel state of Australia. The recent investment in capital Perth is also bearing fruit, with Qantas’s first direct Australia to London flight now in operation. There’s also international hotel investment, with the COMO hotel group creating one of Australia’s favourite city hotels at The Treasury.

The urban offering of Perth, while respectable, is not the main reason to visit Western Australia however. Other Australian cities are simply bigger and have more to offer. The real gem is the access to nature from Perth.

And that begins with one easy ferry journey of 40 minutes across the ocean to Rottnest Island. This is the home of Australia’s cutest marsupial, the quokka, none too shy of the spotlight or the camera lens.

Quokka

Rottnest Island has maintained a nostalgic 1960s Australian seaside holiday vibe, mainly because there are no cars. The only way to see the island is to cycle it, and it’s lucky there are no other road vehicles, as the views are distracting enough.

The only obstacles are the scattered hills, the quokkas who do not observe road rules and the odd ranger vehicle monitoring the pristine environment. Visitors and their bicycles will take the ferry from a choice of Perth’s ports – Fremantle on our visit.

Bicycling Uphill

The arrival port has a tiny town centre, with a few boutiques of swimwear and a general store as well as a pub with a large and lively beer garden. Tiny chalets accommodate overnighters as well as the lucky few who call this island home.

Once you leave the small town outskirts it’s all sand, rock and scrubland. The white sand beaches here are as beautiful as they look in pictures – visitors’ expectations are as good as guaranteed.

Dreamy Bay, white beach and rocks, island in Indian Ocean, Rottnest Island, Australia, Western Australia, Down Under

We weren’t sure if or how we’d see the quokkas. Was there an area where they congregated? Would they be shy? We shouldn’t have worried, they appeared within minutes. They do seem to be more prominent in areas where there’s human food – around picnic tables and in the town, for instance, but you are guaranteed a sighting.

Come prepared, and pack a picnic to make for one of the best day trips you can have. Cycling and stopping for the odd swim or sunbake at whichever crystalline beach takes your fancy is the order of the day.

The topography of the island is such that many of the cycle paths and roads are high enough to have sweeping vistas of the ocean and shore. Fortunately, there are wooden steps that will take you down into the bay and to the beaches.

And for those who want a nature and wildlife fix and have time while in the west, Ningaloo Reef is now in its peak season for whale sharks. The world’s largest fish likes to call the World Heritage-listed reef its home from March until July each year, and the chance to swim and see them is a bucket list attraction.

Snorkelling Gear Drying on a Wire Fence

Last year was record-breaking in its popularity. Call it the Instagram effect, but word has definitely got out about this incredible destination. Among all the experiences that took place by tourism operators, the whale shark sighting success rate was 94 per cent.

Granted, they are hard to miss, being six to eleven metres long. To be on the safe side, as they are migrating, the highest probability is in the middle of the season rather than at either end of the March to July window. It’s also worth noting that Ningaloo is the world’s largest fringing reef where travellers can go from beach to reef and snorkel immediately. Perfect for the time poor.

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