8 Cultural Experiences You Can Only Have in Western Australia

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May 01, 2018

by BRIDGET DE MAINE, Online Writer

Is it any wonder that Australia’s largest state holds some of the country’s most unique experiences? With over 2.6 million square kilometres of varied landscapes spanning arid wilderness, unrivalled sweeps of coast and an Indigenous history exceeding a staggering 40,000 years, Western Australia is a living museum ripe for exploration. Here are eight unique cultural experiences that can only be found in this sea-fringed state.

Catch a flick under the stars at Sun Pictures in Broome

Boasting an impressive claim to fame as the “world’s oldest open-air cinema in operation”, this wonderfully weathered, corrugated-iron building is just as charming as its exterior suggests. Offering open-air film showings year round, a visit to Sun Pictures isn’t just your average evening at the flicks – there’s a history in excess of a century to experience by stepping inside.

Marvel at Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu

Still standing in all their striped glory despite their advanced age of 350 million years old, the imposing “Bungle Bungles” in the World Heritage listed Purnululu National Park are distinctive in colour, shape and history. The Gija and Jaru people have revered these piles of vibrantly banded karst sandstone for some 40,000 years and since their widespread discovery 25 years ago, have come to be appreciated beyond their traditional custodians. 

Step back in time on the Burrup Peninsula in Pilbara

Although the official World Heritage status of rock art that rests on the Burrup – also known as the Murujuga – Peninsula is yet to be officiated, there’s no denying the beauty and cultural significance of the ancient, intricate carvings. At an estimate, the area holds more than one million petroglyphs – or rock carvings – that predate the Egyptian pyramids some five times over. Typically depicting local produce such as fish and turtles, the art hints at what life was like in the region some 40,000 years ago, pre-Ice Age. If you’d like a well-heeled guide to accompany you, Ngurrangga Tours takes curious visitors to the site. 

Admire contemporary creativity at Rediscover in Bunbury

With a population of just over 30,000, the quiet, coastal city of Bunbury could be forgiven for embracing a slow outlook on life. Back in 2014, however, an artists’ collective changed the face of the town, literally. Transforming business exteriors, electrical boxes or simply underappreciated walls, the annual Re.Discover festival, generally held in April, invites artists to reimagine the streetscape with their works, creating a trail of riotous colour best appreciated by meandering around the town.

Grab a souvenir from Mermaid Leather, Esperance

As the only fish and shark leather tannery in the country, a visit to the Mermaid Leather factory in the north of Esperance is almost guaranteed to result in a one-of-a-kind purchase. Developed more than 25 years ago by the founding McDermott brothers, the unique method of tanning fish skins destined for waste from swimmers such as queen and pink snapper or gummy and bronze whaler sharks has produced unique accessories from wallets to “leather” handbags.

Forage for bush tucker in Margaret River

The Wadandi people of the Margaret River region traditionally follow a six-season rotation when it comes to food gathering. As such, the schedule of the fascinating Djiljit Coastal Fishing Experience from Cape Cultural Tours will depend on which season your visit falls in – the common thread being the opportunity to explore how foraging is influenced by the seasons, how to catch your next meal and how to best prepare it. After that, your only job is to sample your work, with a local WA beer in hand and the natural beauty of Margaret River as your dining room.

See the natural beauty of the state in the Kimberley

Temptingly off grid some 16 hours’ drive east of Broome, the remote reaches of the Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary allows visitors a glimpse into an ancient landscape virtually untouched by civilisation. The almost 312,000 hectares of wildlife sanctuary – owned by the non-profit organisation Australian Wildlife Conservatory – is right in the beating, isolated heart of the rugged Kimberley, where more than 200 species of birds, almost 100 reptiles and 35 species of mammal roam the savannah grasslands and rushing, resplendent gorges. Accommodation at the on-site Mornington Wilderness Camp comes in a few forms: pitching your own tent or bunking in one of the spacious safari tents equipped with a private balcony and mini bar.

Wander amongst an outdoor gallery in Lake Ballard

Drive five hours north of gold-mining town Kalgoorlie and you’ll happen upon Australia’s largest outdoor gallery, set on the expansive Lake Ballard salt lake. The nearby town of Menzies served as inspiration for artist Antony Gormley and his sprawling artwork “Inside Australia” – more than 50 sculptures cut from laser scans of the nearby town’s residents. Spread across 10 square kilometres of the ethereal salt lake, visitors are free to explore the stick-like figures in the recommended two or three hours, or, if you’ve been captivated, you can even camp onsite.

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