Swim with friends
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At the southernmost point of Western Australia’s vast coast, at the bottom of a winding set of timber stairs, is Elephant’s Cove, a sheltered, calm rectangular cove with an aqua sea. The white sand is interrupted only by the colossal, smooth stones at the waters’ edge that look like a herd of pachyderms bathing. Although the water looks tranquil, the area is prone to rips so for a safer swim, make the short walk to nearby Greens Pool.
Uncover the history of pearling in Broome
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Camel riding on Cable Beach might be the go-to Broome experience but the waters off this north-western town are also where luminous, highly sought-after Australian South Sea Pearls are harvested. Explore the spots along the Kimberley coast where these iridescent mineral deposits are formed with one of several tour operators or visit in August, when the town hosts its annual Shinju Matsuri Festival of the Pearl to celebrate its more than 100-year history with this gem.
Swim with the big fish
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The Ningaloo Reef at Coral Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site for a good reason. The clear aqua waters and diversity of marine animals make this remote north-west spot an amazing place to snorkel. You’ll see the local “gentle giants” – majestic manta rays whose graceful wing span can measure up to four metres long, as well as whale sharks, that can grow to 20 metres long, making them the largest known fish in the ocean.
Climb with a difference
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Before spotter planes were employed to look out for bushfires, brave souls climbed some of the region’s tallest karri trees to get above the canopy and make sure the forest was safe. The 250-year-old Gloucester Tree is one in a network of trees once used for bushfire-spotting. No longer used for spotting, the tree is fitted with a spiral of 153 long metal climbing pegs that go 58 metres up the tree. On a clear day you can see for kilometres in any direction.
Visit another world
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The limestone pinnacles, some standing five metres high above the Pinnacles Desert sand, are a strange sight. Formed through a millennia-long process involving the movement and erosion of sand and calcified limestone, thousands of pinnacles now stand across a 190-hectare expanse of dessert. Spend a morning walking the viewing trail and lookout and then visit nearby Cervantes to try some of the town’s famous seafood.
Cool down in hot springs
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Zebedee Hot Springs are a secret spot in the heart of the El Questro Wilderness Park. Set in russet cliffs amid fan-like leaves of the Livistona palms, the springs are made from 26-to 34-degree water gushing from a fault line. Many say mineral hot springs have medicinal properties and can help with good circulation and lowering blood pressure. The springs are only open between 7am and noon so have a dip and finish the day with a gorge walk or river cruise.
Walk atop a forest canopy
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Walpole National Park is sometimes called Valley of the Giants, referring to the towering tingle trees, gums that can grow to 24 metres around and 75 metres high. They form a dense canopy that keeps the forest below cool. Much of the flora found in the Valley of the Giants is unique to this part of the world. Explore the Ancient Empire trail along the forest floor, or take the tree-top walk, a spectacular network of walkways suspended above the canopy.
Enjoy a spot of track work
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The Bibbulmun Track is on every adventurer’s bucket list. It stretches 1000 kilometres from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills to Albany on the south coast. It’s broken into nine shorter sections, making its winding way south through the ancient karri and tingle tree forests. There are experiences for adventurers of all kinds, from those who prefer to stay in a bed and breakfast, to those who camp, carrying everything on their backs.
Feel with art
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When asked why he chose Lake Ballard’s lonely plain for his sculpture installation, Inside Australia, Turner-prize winning artist Antony Gormley said, “I just wanted somewhere with an absolutely flat, more or less 360-degree horizon … it’s an amazing place [in] the middle of the Yilgarn Craton, which is the oldest bit of the surface of the earth.” Gormley’s black steel people, each modelled on a local from Menzies, stand spread across the lonely plain, their shadows growing as the day wears on.
Glamp all night long
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The eerie, striped towers of the Bungle Bungles formed 360 million years ago as sand and gravel were deposited by rivers and weathered into their conical shape. The formations are located in Kimberley’s Purnululu National Park and it’s hard to get a sense of the undulating banding unless you have a bird’s-eye view. Luckily, when you’ve woken from a peaceful night’s sleep in a wilderness lodge, you can hop in a helicopter and see the range from above.
Move like Spiderman
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It’s a short distance from the top of Hancock’s Gorge to Kermit’s cool green swimming hole – just 400 metres – but it takes more than an hour to get there on foot. That’s because the journey is hard-going with ladders and passageways so narrow you have to stretch your arms and legs out to reach either side of the crevasse and make your way along like a Spiderman.
Opt for a modern stay
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The angular design of the Alex Hotel stands out amid the character buildings of this part of Perth’s CBD. There’s a lovely breakfast bar for early birds, a wine bar at night and plenty of communal spaces to socialise as well as secluded spots to hide out with a book. Besides the views of the city, the icing on the cake is the fleet of bicycles available to borrow. Helmets, locks and maps are provided so you can go exploring.
Pamper in private
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Half an hour from Margaret River, a relaxing paradise awaits at Empire Retreat and Spa. Stay in one of the exquisite luxury villas, complete with a fireplace, balcony and daybed from which to enjoy the panoramic views. While it can be tempting to hide away, venture down the boardwalk under the shade of scented gums to the farmhouse where you can book a Renew Ritual: a treatment that includes a bath, massage, facial, a lunch break and a pedicure.
Ride in a helicopter
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On the Kimberley coast, a secluded, secret jewel awaits. Accessible only by air, Berkeley River Lodge is nestled in the abundant greenery surrounding the Berkeley River. There are river cruises, helicopter flights, bush and beach four-wheel drive tours and swims in sparkling gorge pools. The villas are perched on stilts amid the trees and each has an exquisite view of the Timor Sea.
Surf the sand
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Sandboarding on the white dunes at Lancelin is the ultimate cheap adventure. Make sure to pre-book a $12 board and then drive 90 minutes from Perth for a day of sailing down the three-storey high dunes. Confident riders with good balance can ride down standing but a seated ride is just as fun. Four-wheel drives can get you close to the dunes but if you don’t have a truck the dunes are a short walk from the car park.
Serve your own way
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In southern WA, there’s a pretty, family-owned farm where you can stay the night in a 1943 war aircraft. That might not sound so comfortable but the Dakota plane has been completely restored and fitted out as a quaint accommodation option. There are twin beds, a bathroom and kitchen, a seating area and cargo doors that open to a patio that takes advantage of the uninterrupted view of the Stirling Range.
Sip and savour
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Margaret River is one of Australia’s most famous wine regions and the abundance of wineries and cellar doors can make choosing just one an overwhelming task. Amberley is an award-winning vineyard that produces complex, mature versions of the cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays typical of the region. Amberley also produces shiraz, which is a rarity for the area but it’s clearly working: its shiraz has won awards for its bold flavour.
Slow down and smell the wine
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In contrast to the mass production that goes on at some wineries, Cullen’s operation is refreshingly slow. Small batches of wine are made from grapes that are hand-picked according to the astrological calendar. Wines are natural with no yeast or acid added. Stop at the cellar door during a tour of Margaret River or stay a while. The winery has a six-bedroom farmhouse, complete with a baby grand piano. Built from local timber and granite, the farmhouse has sweeping views of neighbouring vineyards.
Snorkel in an outdoor aquarium
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Even though it’s in close proximity to the famous, well-visited Margaret River region, Yallingup is fairly quiet. That’s the beauty of being in such an enormous state. With areas for surfing and still spots for snorkelling, the beach is incredibly diverse. Visit the reef for a snorkelling experience that’s a bit like peering into an aquarium. It’s shallow and crystal clear with thriving marine ecosystems to discover.
Stand-up and sink a paddle
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The Moore River estuary is the spot where fresh water flows into the Indian Ocean. A sandbar separates the river mouth from the sea; the water can surge and it can be tranquil. Hire stand-up paddleboards to explore the river and bring a picnic from the nearby Guilderton General Store to eat on the shore. On your way out, stop at West Coast Honey to buy local nectar and watch bees at work.
Visit the Kailis Australian Pearls boutique in Broome
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Kailis was the first company to open a pearl jewellery store in Broome back in the 1970s, offering beautiful pieces featuring Australian South Sea pearls born in the pristine waters that surround the town. Forty years later, Kailis still only uses pearls that come from the top 10 per cent of the harvest.
Take an art deco tour
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Perth’s network of arcades and laneways was originally built to give people a respite from the heat but the result has been a modern-day maze of inner-city beauty. Original Art Deco and faux Tudor architecture is now home to modern shops and cafes and colourful murals and suspended art installations cement the marriage between old and new. Wander the arcades on your own or join a tour to learn the history behind the beautiful buildings.
Surf the ultimate break
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Yallingup has the best of both worlds: calm clear waters for snorkelling and impressive breaks for surfing. For boogie boarders and beginners, the south end of the beach is best. For experienced surfers, at the north end you’ll find Supertubes, a spot where big waves break over sharp reef in shallow waters.
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The Bridgetown to Nannup section of the Blackwood River is one of the prettiest spots for canoeing and rafting. The high rainfall in this southern region makes for great rushing waters and during winter, the river is especially exciting. This section doesn’t have the dangerous crossings of other parts of the river, just long flowing pools, some moderately challenging rapids and picturesque scenery. Visit in August to watch pro white-water kayakers race by for the Geegelup Cup.
Visit a monastery
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A Spanish monastery in country WA is most unexpected. The town of New Norcia was founded in 1847 by Spanish Benedictine monks and the monastery is still at the heart of the town. The architecture is an incredible mix of Spanish colonial buildings against a backdrop of gumtrees and WA’s wheat belt. There’s an art gallery, museum and a handful of eateries, some of which serve the monk’s famous bread and olive oil.
Take the perfect picture
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Sometimes the simplest spots are the most lovely. The sky-blue Crawley Edge Boathouse sits at the end of a timber boardwalk on Perth’s Swan River. It’s been there since the 1930s and makes a charming, quiet spot to snap a few photos. Bring a picnic and a few bottles of cider from the Ironbark Brewery to enjoy in the nearby Matilda Bay Park.
Travel to the ends of the brewery line
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The Matso’s Broome Brewery is a lot like many craft breweries: creative beers like ginger, chilli or mango are on offer, there’s live music on the weekend and there’s a curry hut. The difference is Matso’s is the most remote brewery in the world. Located in a century-old building in Broome, Matso’s is family owned and you’ll often find one of the three generations of brewers at the bar, taste testing the ale and chatting with customers.
Walk on water
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Before seeing Roebuck Bay, you might imagine such saturated colours could only exist in a Pantone colour book. Crystal azure waters lap at iron-rich red sand and green puffs of sleepy mangroves soak their black gnarled roots in the salty water. This breathtaking spot isn’t just pretty; it’s sacred. The Yawuru people have used the spot for generations to go hunting, fishing and to gather seafood. If it’s between March and October, visit Roebuck Bay at night to see the light illusion called the staircase to the moon.
Tunnel under a prison
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The tunnels under Fremantle Prison weren’t escape routes, they were built by convicts as part of a hard labour program to access a water supply for the prison. The subterranean tunnels are 20 metres underground and access is through an old well. You might find fossils of shells, tree roots and convict graffiti. Some tunnels can be explored on foot, while others you’ll need to hop into a narrow metal boat with a square-cut bow called a punt.
Walk the longest jetty
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At two kilometres long, the Busselton Jetty is the longest in the world. It extends over the still waters of Geographe Bay at the northern gateway to the Margaret River region. It’s so long, it even has its own train. At the end of the jetty, walk down a spiral staircase that leads eight metres below sea level and view the colourful marine life in the underwater observatory.
Watch a western sunrise
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Adventurers take note: to get to Cape Leveque requires a steely stomach as the way in is on 91 kilometres of uneven dirt roads. But once you’re at this remote outpost that faces east, the Kooljaman Resort is a lovely spot to watch the sun rising out of the ocean from the comfort of your bed. The turquoise waters and pristine beach are jellyfish and crocodile free, although occasionally a salty is sighted so watch for advice from the resort.
Witness ancient fossils
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The oldest and largest living fossils are called stromatolites and they can be found at Hamelin Pool. For geologists, Hamelin Pool is a wonder: it’s a living example of how earth might have looked like nearly four billion years ago. Stromatolites are the earliest known life forms on earth and are microbial reefs created by a strain of bacteria. They build up very slowly, which means that one of the metre-tall stromatolites at Hamelin Pool is probably 2000 years old.
Walk with giants
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It’s not every day you stumble upon a dinosaur track and Dampier Peninsula is the only place in Australia where it’s guaranteed you will. Millions of years ago, giant sauropods roamed the land that’s been dubbed the Dinosaur Coast for the incredible diversity of tracks found there. The largest dinosaur track in the world can be seen at Dampier; it measures nearly two metres long.
Take two-wheels off-road
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One thousand metres long, the Munda Biddi track is the longest distance off-road cycling trail in the world. Ride the trail at a leisurely pace or try to beat the record currently held by Perth native Declan von Dietze. The 22-year-old completed the ride in four days, six hours and 39 minutes by riding 20 hours a day and sleeping on the ground at night.
Bushwalk up high
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The Porongurups are the oldest mountain range in the world. The peaks are surrounded by forests of tall karri trees, making it a lovely, sometimes challenging spot for bushwalking. Visit Castle Rock first. It’s a spectacular collection of angular granite stones, the most famous of which is the enormous, precarious-looking Balancing Rock. Farther along the trail is the Granite Skywalk, a suspended walkway that encircles a high rock providing views for kilometres of bushland and farms.
Visit a remote national park
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Millions of years ago, this part of the world was an island surrounded by sea. The geographic isolation means that some plants and animals living in the Cape Range National Park can only be found there. You can also find Australia’s more famous creatures – emus, wallabies, kangaroos, dingoes and lizards. The terrain is varied with rugged limestone mountain ranges and deep canyons in the north and kilometres of pristine beaches on the coast. Watch out while driving; it’s not uncommon to spot an echidna crossing the road.
Wash off in a waterhole
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The Kimberley region is one of the largest, most diverse wilderness frontiers in the world. The terrain is varied and includes vast desert, beautiful coastland, monsoon forests and incredible waterways that feed into the Melaleuca Falls, a set of twin falls that pour down either side of a rust red cliff face. The waters feed into an isolated waterhole that’s only accessible by helicopter.
Tiptoe through the flowers
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In Geraldton, a coastal town just north of Perth, fields of beautiful wildflowers sway in the breeze. July to October are the best months to view the smorgasbord of flowers; dusty lilacs, vibrant pinks and sunny yellows make up some of the 12,000 species of wildflowers found in Geraldton and it’s the largest and most diverse display of wildflowers in the world. The best views are at Chapman River Regional Park and Mills Point Lookout.
Walk through a secret garden
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It’s hard to imagine that a city of two million people could have many secrets but Gwelup Secret Garden is an incredible green space nearby a residential area that feels like another world. Vine-laden trees bend and stretch their boughs over sun-dappled waterways and footpaths. Technically the area is a wetland swamp so the garden gets muddy after heavy rainfall but the rain also turns the foliage an even more vibrant shade of emerald green.
Tour street art
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Bunbury is WA’s third largest city. It was established as a port town in the 1800s but it’s grown into a thriving metropolis with an incredible street art scene. Six Two Three Zero is a street art initiative intent on urban development, social change and community togetherness. Each year, the city invites artists to use Bunbury as their canvas for the Re Discover street art festival. Dramatic abstract and realistic works adorn the city and famous artists like Fintan Magee have participated past festivals.