ALMOST ONE MILLION KILOMETRES OF AUSTRALIAN ROADS BECKON, BUT IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA, OUR LARGEST STATE, YOU WILL FIND THE MOST BEAUTIFUL
Often referred to as Australia’s most Instagrammable road trip, Western Australia’s South West corner is home to ocean-infused surf towns, renowned gourmet regions and tiny towns dwarfed by towering forests filled with centuries-old giants. Our journey starts just south of Perth in Busselton, hugging the coast all the way to Esperance, before looping back through the Golden Outback region to Perth and clocking 1500km over 10 days.
We begin by exploring the Margaret River region. Intending to walk the second longest wooden jetty in the world as our starting point in Busselton, we were easily swayed by the shiny red train that has been taking visitors on the 1.7km ride since 1995. Most tourists opt to visit the aquarium, but we preferred to wander around giant whale murals that decorate its most seaward point, which, during whale season, is a great place to spot the real deal cruising past. Margaret River had my tastebuds salivating at the thought of what lay ahead and we took our time wandering its close-knit community of towns intertwining to offer one exquisite food experience after the next. The choice of more than 150 cellar doors was overwhelming, but we stopped often to be tempted by local wines, cheeses, chocolate and cakes, plus all sorts of amazing fresh produce. Leeuwin Estate holds local legend status as the winery/ entertainment venue that helped put Margaret River on the world map, but for something more boutique, we loved Snake and Herring’s sublime shiraz, which was suggested by local sommeliers. Pack your elastic waist pants!
Stay: The chic Smiths Beach Resort (smithsbeachresort.com.au) has luxury apartments overlooking a quiet stretch of beach at Yallingup.
Eat: Treat yourself at Pullman Bunker Bay’s Half Moon restaurant. Start with the signature strawberry puree, vanilla Galliano, Grey Goose Vodka and lemon muddled marmalade cocktail. Trust the chef with the menu but do leave room for desserts from the French-born chef.
Lighthouses bookend the Cape to Cape drive (which can also be done as a walk if you have five or six days to spare). Start at Cape Naturaliste near Dunsborough and follow the coast to Cape Leeuwin near Augusta, Australia’s most south-westerly point where the Indian and Southern oceans meet. Hamelin Bay is not far from here too, a worthy diversion for an enchanting interlude with giant stingrays that come into shore for a toe nuzzle. Farewelling coastal vistas, we headed south and let the majestic southern forests region unfold around us. Mesmerising karri and tingle trees towering up to 75m dwarf the road and, if you are as brave as my husband was, you can climb the 58m Gloucester tree in Pemberton, the world’s second tallest fire lookout. Or, as I preferred, travel a bit further to the Valley of the Giants in Walpole to wander the safer suspension bridge and drink in canopy views. We spent the next few days exploring Denmark, finding ourselves often at Green Pools, a popular swimming spot with jade-coloured waters dotted with boulders and large flat rocks on which to bask. Elephant Rocks is close by, another Instagram fave where Mother Nature has thrown down her rocks to look like a herd of elephants trudging
their way out to sea.
Stay: Parry Beach Breaks (parrybeachbreaks.com.au) overlooks William Bay, perfect for families with two and three bedroom houses spread out over a private estate, and a 30-minute drive from Denmark.
Eat: Go to Mrs Jones Cafe for delicious local marron risotto or Boston Brewing Company for Philly steaks and a playground for the kids.
We start early with a visit to The Gap and Natural Bridge in Torndirrup National Park to be charged by the might of the Southern Ocean as we stand hovering over the ocean as giant tidal currents smash against the coast. A little further down the road, Little Beach in Two Peoples Nature Reserve is regarded as one of Australia’s best beaches — even us Queensland beach snobs have to agree.
Esperance is easily one of the most exquisite coastlines in Australia, home to sand as white as sugar and seas that look more like Windex than ocean. To take it all in, we cruised the 42km Ocean Highway fringed with postcardperfect beaches. Stairs are a big part of the beach life in Esperance, but for an easy trek with kids that’s protected from wind, Twilight Beach was our favourite. A further hour from Esperance, Cape Le Grand National Park is the undisputed hero of the region with famous beaches including Lucky Bay with its friendly kangaroos and killer conditions for Instagram — white sand, blue water, bikinis and kangaroos! Hellfire Bay and Duke of Orleans Bay are worth the extra miles to discover too. They’re both equally Instaworthy but not as busy. Stay: Esperance Beach Chalets (esperencechalets.com) is the cutest little A-frame village (two log cabins for families) that are a cosy, aesthetic dream. Enjoy the use of kayaks, bikes and hammocks and, when it’s time for dinner, just grab some groceries nearby and sizzle your own on the fire pits.
Visit westernaustralia.com for a range of road-trip itineraries you can customise. Jetstar, Virgin and Qantas operate daily services from all capital cities to Perth. For more adventures go to alittleatlarge.com