February 16, 2023
6 mins Read
Covering more than 1200 kilometres from Perth to Albany and onto Esperance and then back again, The South West Edge is one truly epic route. These are our top 12 things to see and do along the way.
The South West Edge begins and or ends in Perth so grab a camera, get down to quokka height and say “cheese”. It’s not hard to find a furry friend to snap a selfie with, as there are more than 10,000 of the smiley little marsupials covering Rottnest Island. To be safe, head to the bakery’s alfresco area or the beachside Hotel Rottnest. While you’re there, grab a pint and soak up the sunshine while overlooking the calm water of Thomson Bay.
Those with a soft spot for dolphins should make a beeline for Bunbury, where you can come within metres of the creatures on a fully guided dolphin swim. The team at the Dolphin Discovery Centre will kit you up with a drysuit and snorkelling gear before boating into Koombana Bay to find a pod. Slip into the water and watch them playfully swim around, clicking and whistling as they go.
At 1.8 kilometres, the Busselton Jetty is the southern hemisphere’s longest timber-piled jetty. Get a true feel for the magnitude of the pier with a casual stroll down to the ocean end; alternatively, tired legs can hop aboard the solar-powered jetty train. At the end you’ll find an underwater observatory, where you can watch fish and octopuses darting about the coral-covered pylons eight metres below the surface.
There are hundreds of cellar doors along The South West Edge, so it would be remiss to not stop by at least one (maybe five?) of them. Start where wine making began for the Margaret River region with a stop at Vasse Felix. Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are their main claims to fame, along with their restaurant winning the 2021 WA Good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year title. Other options worth considering include Leeuwin Estate (check out the art gallery as well), Voyager Estate (the gardens are a thing of beauty) or Swings and Roundabouts.
Manjimup sits at the heart of WA’s most prosperous farming region, its fertile soils bearing everything from creamy avocados to succulent cherries. The town is also truffle central. All gourmands should prioritise a visit to Manjimup, if for nothing else than hunting for your own chunk of black gold. Head out onto the farm with Truffle Hill or Australian Truffle Traders, then follow the truffle dogs between the oaks to unearth the world’s most expensive fungi.
It doesn’t get more peaceful than a wander through the canopies of Walpole’s giant tingle trees. Suspended 40 metres above the ground, the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk meanders its way through the ancient tingle forest, giving you exclusive access to a rarely seen angle of the towering plants. Complete the walk above before tackling the short forest-floor track to see them from below.
Get a birds-eye view of the churning Southern Ocean at The Gap in Albany. A cantilevered lookout platform juts 10 metres out into the natural granite channel, giving you the perfect view of the 40-metre high chasm. Feel the spray as the water surges in and smashes against the coastal granite. There’s a much drier and calmer experience at nearby Natural Bridge, a rock formation suspended over rushing whitewash.
It’s hard to beat the view from the top of the 670-metre high Granite Skywalk. Hugging the upper edge of Castle Rock – a giant granite boulder atop a peak in Porongorup National Park – the skywalk looks out to the Albany coast in the south and Stirling Range to the north. You’ll face a rock scramble and ladder climb on the way up, but the challenge is worth it for the vista at the summit.
Bremer Bay, a small town halfway between Albany and Esperance, is the only place in Australia you can see orcas in their natural habitat. A pod of more than 150 of the apex predators feeds on the rich marine life 37 kilometres offshore every January to April. Unlike the migrating humpback whales the orcas aren’t visible from shore, so the best way to see them is on an orca expedition with Naturaliste Charters.
Lucky Bay has sand so white and fine it squeaks underfoot, as well as water so clear it appears a brilliant shade of blue. It’s the stuff of a Maldivian dream. But the Esperance beach is world renowned for more than just its beauty, as it’s garnered a reputation for its friendly resident kangaroos too. Find them sunbathing on the beach from around mid-morning, and don’t be surprised if they come over for a closer look.
Nature photographers – both green and established – will be tickled pink at a flyover of Lake Hillier, to the south-east of Esperance. The beta carotene-rich bubblegum-hued lake is on Middle Island, the largest of the 105 islands in the Recherche Archipelago. It’s quite the spectacle, flanked by lush green scrub, a white sandy bay and the deep blue Southern Ocean.
Known as Katter Kich to the Noongar people of the south-west, Hyden’s Wave Rock is a feat of nature. The 15-metre high rock has been shaped by eroding winds and rain to appear like a breaking wave; its striped face is a product of mineral-rich water trickling down post-rain. It makes a striking landscape photo, but most can’t resist standing at the base, bracing themselves, and getting a snap ‘surfing’ the phenomenon.
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South West WA is so beautiful. In fact the whole of WA is very beautiful, almost as beautiful as Queensland !