The thing which hits you about W.A is how vast it is. If it was an independent country it would be in the top ten largest countries in the world and at 2,600,000 square kilometres it is the second largest county subdivision on the planet, way ahead of Alaska and Texas. Western Australia gives new meaning to the term 'outback'. Much of the state is inaccessible to the average tourist and those parts which can be reached require lots of planning and preparation. Four wheel drives (SUVs) are essential anywhere even slightly off the beaten track, as is a rudimentary knowledge of how to fix things if you break down.
But don't despair! If, like David and I, you don't want to see the state on an organised tour and your knowledge of fixing cars stops at changing a tyre (actually I don't think I even know how to do that), there is a quiet little corner of W.A which is relatively populated and easy to travel in. I am talking about the south-west; from Perth around the coast to Esperance. Here you will find good roads, plenty of accommodation, friendly locals and beautiful scenery - perfect for a safe easy road trip.
|The Gap at Torndirrup National Park, Albany|
Perth to Esperance - A road trip itinerary
Perth - 4 nights
With a population of just over two million people, Perth is small enough to be easy to visit and large enough to have lots of things to see and do. There is a good range of international hotels within easy walking distance of most of the city sights. Driving and parking is hassle free and the public transport network is easy to use.
Things to see and do: -
- Kings Park, the largest city park in the world. Visit during the wildlfower festival (September) if you can.
- Elizabeth Quay Precinct, between Barrack St and William St in the city. This is cosmopolitan Perth at its most vibrant, with cafes, restaurants, and loads of interesting outdoor spaces. My favourite is Spanda a 29m tall sculpture which looks for all the world like a giant paperclip.
- Fremantle. Strictly speaking Fremantle is a separate city but it is right next to Perth and easy to get to either by road, train or river cruise. Click here for a photo tour of Fremantle by a friend and fellow blogger Rhonda, of Albom Adventures.
- Rottnest Island. If you are pushed for time, this is the sight I would miss. People seem to love it or hate it in equal measure. Click on the link for my impressions of the island.
|Spanda - aka the giant paperclip.|
|Elizabeth Quay pedestrian bridge|
Margaret River - 2 nights
Margaret River is 3 hours by car south of Perth. This is wine country, where the main attraction is sitting back and enjoying a slow, gourmet lunch with a nice glass of red. Last time David and I stayed at Margaret River we had lunch at Leeuwin Estate and it was one of the most enjoyable meals I have ever had. If the gnocchi is still on the menu, I can highly recommend it.
Things to see and do:-
- Call in at Busselton Jetty, the longest timber piled jetty in the southern hemisphere. The jetty has an underwater observatory 1.7 kms from the shore where visitors can see the coral and marine life of the jetty's artificial reef. Visibility varies according to weather conditions. Unfortunately the day we were there visibility was so poor we couldn't justify the fairly pricey cost. If you want to get an idea of what you can see click here for a live web-cam. Don't forget the time difference. If all you see is black, it may be the middle of the night in W.A.
- Watch out for whales. Between September and December migrating humpbacks can be seen in Geographe Bay. Take a tour from Busselton or head out to Cape Naturalist Lighthouse for a chance to spot them from shore.
Albany - 3 nights
Civilisation doesn't quite stop at Albany but it certainly slows down. East of here you leave the more populated corner of the state and begin to appreciate just how empty Western Australia is. Even if it wasn't such a lovely town to spend a few nights in you would want to stop in Albany before making the final five hour push through to Esperance.
Things to see and do:-
- Between Margaret River and Albany call in at the forests around Pemberton, Walpole and Denmark, home to some of the world's tallest trees. If you have a good head for heights you can even climb a few of these majestic giants.
- Visit the Gap, the Natural Bridge and the Blowholes at Torndirrup National Park and marvel at the power of the Great Southern Ocean.
- Visit the National ANZAC Centre and learn the story of the ANZACs many of whom saw Australia for the last time as their troop ships sailed away from Albany's harbour.
- Watch out for whales from June to October. If you are lucky you might see them from the shore. The best whale watching experience I have ever had was pure luck, just standing on the shore at Albany.
- Drive out along Frenchman Bay Road toward Vancouver Peninsula and look for kangaroos laying around in people's front gardens.
For more things to see and do in Albany see my blog post - 7 things to do in Amazing Albany
Esperance - 3 nights
Esperance is the end of the line. The sealed road stops just east of the town at Cape Le Grand National Park. Esperance is famous for its pink lakes, sunbathing kangaroos and beautiful beaches. Unfortunately, the only easily accessible pink lake has not been pink for many years and the sunbathing kangaroos don't always co-operate, but the beaches are absolutely stunning and the town has a living on the edge of the world feel which makes it great fun to visit.
Things to see and do: -
- Drive out to Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park. Lucky Bay is famous for its whiter than white sand and kangaroos who like to hang around on the beach. We didn't see any kangaroos when we were there but the beach and surrounds were well worth the drive out.
- Keep an eye out for wildflowers. Western Australia has 12,000 species of wildflowers over 60% of which are found nowhere else on the planet. We saw wildflowers by the side of the road during our whole south-west Australia road trip but nowhere were they as prolific as between Albany and Esperance.
- Walk or cycle the Great Ocean Way path from Esperance Bay to Twilight Beach for birds eye views of the most stunning beaches I have ever seen.
- Visit Stonehenge. This is a bit of a weird one but David and I loved it. Esperance Stonehenge is a full sized granite replica of the famous neolithic monument. Unlike the real thing you can walk right up to it.
For more about Esperance read my blog post - Esperance: Pink lakes and sunbathing kangaroos.
|Looking down from the Great Ocean Way path|
The return trip to Perth - 1 night
Esperance is 8 hours by car from Perth via state route 40. Almost exactly half way along is Wave Rock, a 15 m high, 110 m granite cliff shaped like a giant wave. The nearby town of Hyden is probably as good a place as any to stop for the night on your return trip. David and I drove back to Perth via Albany. David isn't a great fan of rock formations and I wasn't consulted until it was too late to change our accommodation reservations. As a result, I am no expert on either Wave Rock or Hyden. I can guess that Hyden's motels are likely to be fairly basic, but this is the outback after all and getting away from the luxuries of modern city life is all part of the experience.
|I couldn't finish this post without a photo of some of W.A's wildlife. Western Australia is a great place to see kangaroos and emus in the wild. These kangaroos were just hanging around in someone's front yard on the outskirts of Albany.|
Click on the titles below for other posts from our road trip in Western Australia: -
- Wildflowers in Western Australia: Kings Park, Perth
- Rottnest Island
- Fraser Suites, Perth - a review
- The National ANZAC Centre, Albany
- Albany Harbourside Apartments: self-contained accommodation in Albany
- 7 things to do in Amazing Albany.
- Esperance: Pink lakes and sunbathing kangaroos
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