#1: Outback odysseys – The Kimberley, Western Australia Ah, the Kimberley. So out of reach is this mythical land, in terms of both distance and financial means, that it may as well be Australia’s Shangri-la. To really appreciate the region’s many treasures – its boab tree-dotted coast of striking red rock, the wondrously impossible Horizontal Falls, the mystical human forms depicted in the rock art at Wary Bay, and such spectacular waterfalls as Kings Cascades – you need to get to it all quickly by boat. Cruises up this way tend to start north of $10,000, but there is hope for those of us who didn’t make it big on cryptocurrencies this year; you can always roll out a swag on the deck of Ahoy Buccaneers’ yacht, or book a cabin, for a more reasonable ticket to this far-flung corner of ours.
#2: Camping spot – Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park, Western Australia Camp at Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park to take a photo that makes Australia look like a surreal dream: a pristine white sand beach and turquoise water beyond that appears near luminous, a colour typical of the beaches on the south coast of Western Australia. Oh, and kangaroos lounge on the sand surveying it all sunbathing. An hour’s drive from Esperance, the campsite overlooks the perfect crescent of the bay and when you’re not soaking up the sun with the roos there are some great coastal bush walks; keep an eye out for migrating whales, moving between the many islands just off the coast here. Really though, once you’ve managed to stop taking photos of them, it’s all about doing what the kangaroos do: nothing much at all.
#2: Alternative capital – Fremantle, Western Australia Eat : Port city Fremantle is known for its precincts of late Victorian and early Edwardian buildings that were spared the wrecking ball when the (wheat and gold) glory days ended and economic activity shifted to Perth. A wander down the lively stretch of South Terrace known as Cappuccino Strip provides a great snapshot of this. Stop for coffee, of course, but also restaurants, pubs and breweries and the nearby Fremantle Markets. Drink: Fremantle’s iconic Little Creatures Brewery is based out of a huge waterfront shed that was once a crocodile farm. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, perhaps the lure of a pale ale and pizza in the buzzy Great Hall or in the sunny backyard will do the trick. Play: Housed in a former asylum built by convicts, today the Fremantle Arts Centre is a contemporary cultural space. It hosts exhibitions such as Revealed Exhibition: New and Emerging WA Aboriginal Artists (until 21 May), talks and gigs – from local musicians to big-ticket international acts – across its ample grounds.
#2: Idyllic island – Rottnest Island, Western Australia Sitting just off the coast from Perth, Rottnest Island is a protected nature reserve that offers up pristine waters and natural beauty by the bucket-load. Activities range from snorkelling to walking to surfing (try Strickland Bay), and a few more besides, but the things everyone visiting the island wants to know about, and see up close, are the quokkas. So, here are a few fast facts to wow your fellow ferry passengers with when you’re next there:
- The island got its name when Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh dubbed it ‘Rotte Nest’ or ‘rat’s nest’ thinking quokkas were rodents.
- They are in fact small macropods, belonging to the kangaroo and wallaby family.
- There are between 10,000 to 12,000 quokkas on Rottnest Island; they breed in late summer, have a gestation period of just 27 days and produce one joey per pregnancy.
- They are crazy cute!
#2: Foodie favourite – Margaret River, Western Australia When it comes to food regions they don’t come much more fabled than the Margaret River, three hours from Perth. With delightful towns like Dunsborough, Busselton and Yallingup to recommend it, the area could easily rest on its laurels as a sun-drenched summer holiday Mecca. But the stunning coastal scenery plays second fiddle to the food, wine, and boutique brews. With so much on offer, we ask a WA native, our art director Anita Jokovich, for some help: Do: Check out an exhibition at Yallingup’s The Studio Gallery and then enjoy a rosé in the accompanying bistro. thestudiogallery.com.au See: Swim in the lagoon at Yallingup Beach, or go for a surf at Smiths Beach; you can’t go wrong along this stunning coastline. Eat: The recently opened Yarri Restaurant is a must, courtesy of renowned chef Aaron Carr.
#3: Rural town – Esperance, Western Australia How to spend a perfect day in Western Australia’s south-coast gem of Esperance, according to the team behind its coolest caravan coffee van, Coffee Cat. You’ll find it stationed on the Tanker Jetty Headland. AM: Start the day with a Dukes single-origin long black or Bonsoy flat white from Coffee Cat, made more enjoyable by the great view of the Esperance Bay. Wander along the foreshore to town central and pick up a warm croissant with Nutella from Downtown Espresso Bar. It's now time to get in the Landcruiser and drive along Wylie Bay beach. Maybe the conditions will be good for a body surf? Continue driving the beach and arrive at Cape Le Grand National Park. Climb Frenchman Peak for a spectacular view of the Bay of Isles’ many islands. PM: For Lunch there is no better place for a barbecue than Hellfire Bay, only 10 minutes’drive from the base of Frenchman Peak. If it’s a warm day in the afternoon we need another swim. Wharton Beach is the place: the wind is offshore when the classic Esperance sea breeze is in and that’s most summer afternoons. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset. It’s back to Esperance for dinner and the Taylor St Quarters are pouring the cocktails. Scan the menu for seasonal treats: scallops, chargrilled octopus for us, or maybe the pork belly.
#3: Camping spot – Mitchell Falls, Mitchell River National Park, Western Australia Some campsites are positioned within walking distance of this country’s most remarkable natural wonders, making these places accessible to all. Mitchell Falls campground is just a five-hour loop walk to its namesake, deep within Mitchell River National Park in the Kimberley. You’ll find a spectacular gorge of red sandstone and a series of pools connected by waterfalls for some of the best wild swimming you can do in Australia. Don’t swim below the falls however as the largest reptile in the world – prehistoric-looking saltwater crocs – can pass through here. And since you’ve saved loads by sleeping under canvas, it may mean you have the budget to take a scenic flight over it all with Aviair, which can arrange a transfer from the campground to Mitchell Plateau Airstrip, under an hour’s drive away. Here you’ll board a helicopter to be whisked up to the falls before landing nearby to do the walk in style.
#5: Coastal haunt – Bussleton, Western Australia Busselton is more than the gateway to the Margaret River region and its famous 1.8-kilometre-long jetty – which, should be noted, has an excellent underwater observatory accessed by a mini train. Not only is this city blessed with a beautiful waterfront; calm, white-sand beaches; superb whale watching; and a lively foreshore with beachside cycle paths (you can ride all the way to Dunsborough), it’s also a buzzing cultural hub with a great food and wine scene. Some stand-outs include the Artgeo Cultural Complex, a museum and gallery based in the 19th-century courthouse; the 1936-built Fire Station which is now a small bar with organic and natural wines and beers from local producers; and The Shed (Thursday to Sunday), fresh food markets where you’ll find local cheesemongers, fruit and vegie growers, artisan bakers and the like, as well as a host of food trucks as part of ‘Eat Street’. Busselton also has a bursting calendar of events, which has earned it the title of ‘Events Capital of WA’. Here, some happenings to keep an eye on. 1–4 June: Jazz by the Bay: A diverse line-up of localand international jazz artists play in a variety of venues around the region. 22–26 August: CinefestOZ Film Festival: Film screenings and immersive experiences such as red carpet premieres, short film sets, and ‘in conversation’ lunches at local wineries and breweries. January 2019: Festival of Busselton: A festival of all things fun for all the family: an outdoor cinema, sandcastle competition, log chopping, a pet parade and more. 9–10 February 2019: Busselton Jetty Swim: Two days of entertainment including free concerts, fun runs and food stalls culminate in the main event: a 3.6-kilometre swim around the jetty. 23 February – 3 March 2019: Busselton Fringe Festival: This vibrant nine-day event includes a host of talented artists and performers taking to stages across the city. Comedy, cabaret, burlesque, film and family shows are among the many acts.
#6: Neighbourhood – Leederville, Western Australia This Perth suburb is small but it packs a serious punch when it comes to eating, drinking and making merry. The main drag of Oxford Street, and the offshoot of Newcastle Street, present cafe after restaurant after bar after concept store as you walk their length, offering up everything from South American-influenced drinks (The Blue Flamingo) to serious coffee (Pixel Coffee Brewers) to tapas (The Meatball Bar, Pinchos and Duende) to vinyl (Black Records and Urban Records). In fact, the precinct’s eclectic mix of food and drink, its close proximity to the CBD (it’s less than four kilometres or an easy 10-minute drive), and its friendly disposition might just make this the ultimate hood in which to hang out in.
#7: Foodie favourite – Swan Valley, Western Australia Five things you probably didn’t know about Western Australia’s Swan Valley:
- It’s ridiculously handy to Perth; with gorgeous vistas of rolling hills and endless grape vines stretching on for as far as the eye can see, the Swan Valley is only around 30 minutes’ drive from Perth, making it a perfect getaway.
- It is WA’s oldest wine region, having celebrated the 180th anniversary of the planting of the first vines in 2014; the first commercial vintage was released in 1834.
- There are more than 40 wineries scattered throughout the valley, including names like Sandalford, Houghtons and Mandoon Estate.
- It is Australia’s first and only Humane Food Region, with a commitment to humane farming practices and the welfare of animals.
- The 32-kilometre Food & Wine Trail is a self-guided tour that takes in 150 restaurants, wineries, breweries, cafes, art galleries and distilleries.
#8: Idyllic island – Houtman Abrolhos, Western Australia Consisting of 122 islands stretching across 100 kilometres of Indian Ocean off the coast of WA, the Houtman Abrolhos Islands are clustered into three main groups: the Wallabi Group, Easter Group and Pelsaert Group. The reefs that proliferate here are rich with sealife, while the islands harbour large breeding colonies of seabirds and sea lions. But while their remote location encourages life, it also takes it away: many ships have been wrecked on the reefs here over the centuries, the most notable being the Batavia in 1629. The ship came to a tragic end on Morning Reef in the Wallabi group, and the story of the survivors making it to land only to turn on each other is famous. It is possible to dive the wreck site but it’s only for experienced divers. Charter cruises running from three to nine days are available out of Geraldton if you really want to immerse yourself in the rugged beauty of these largely undiscovered gems.
#10: The burbs – Kalamunda, Western Australia If the worth of a suburb is measured by the talent and passion of the people who choose to be there, then Kalamunda’s cachet is on the up and up. Located in the eastern suburbs of Perth, at the very edge of the metropolitan area, the location saw significant development in the post-war era, especially during the ’60s and ’70s, and now boasts a population of over 62,000 people, including a few significant transplants from the CBD: two of the headlining eateries here, Mason & Bird and Chatford & Co Cafe, are helmed by ex-Rockpool Bar & Grill Perth alumni. At Chatford & Co Cafe it’s ex-head pastry chef, Gavin Chater, while over at Mason & Bird, former Rockpool managers Matt Nguyen and Jaclyn Noel have teamed up with Brad Johnston.
#10: Top secret spot – Toodyay, Western Australia Where? Located on the Avon River, about 85 kilometres north-east of Perth. What? Having been first settled by Europeans back in 1836, there are lots of lovely remnants of the colourful history of the town which are now a drawcard for in-the-know day-trippers from Perth, and out-of-towners lucky enough to stumble across it. Why? It turns out that Toodyay is home to the oldest emu farm in the world, Free Range Emu Farm, where you can see emus, nests and chicks in their enclosed but natural setting, and watch the incubation and hatching process in season.