Road tripping with Flight Centre in WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Australia’s largest state is ripe for exploring – full of extraordinary wildlife, epic scenery and big adventures, it’s perfect for a road trip
There aren’t many adjectives that do justice to Western Australia. ‘Big’ somehow doesn’t encapsulate the state’s adventure-rich, map-hogging hugeness; ‘diverse’ doesn’t quite nail its impressive spread of activities, and ‘beautiful’ just doesn’t seem to capture the incredible natural scenery that bucks, yawns and ripples across the land.
‘Extraordinary’ fits well, though. Australia’s largest, and arguably loveliest, state is nothing if not extraordinary. The dynamic city of Perth is just the start of it. The state capital makes the perfect jumping off point to begin exploring the region on a road trip. In Western Australia, the wildlife is world-class, the roads are uncrowded and the food and wine are rightly raved about. That’s before we even get to the unspoilt joys of the landscapes themselves.
From white beaches, rusty red wilderness and crashing river gorges to towering forests, ancient sites and wildflower-covered plains, this is a destination primed for forging unforgettable memories on the road – and with Flight Centre, you can tailor-make your Western Australia journey of choice.
ROAD TRIPPING SOUTH
When Qantas launched non-stop flights from Heathrow to Perth in 2018, it threw fresh light on to Western Australia’s buzzing gateway city. You can now board a Dreamliner at lunchtime in London and wake up the next day in Australia’s sunniest state capital. Perth has evolved into a city of art galleries, panoramic parkland and trendy bars and restaurants, with a handsome feel by day and unbuckled nightlife come sundown.
Things to do? Head up to lush Kings Park for views across the Swan River and the city skyline, enjoy one of 19 pristine beaches – all overlooking the Indian Ocean – and take the ferry out to the hidden jewel that is Rottnest Island. Here, you can hire a bike to discover secluded beaches, as well as the quokka, a brighteyed marsupial found only in WA.
Moving on from the city, make Fremantle your first stop. Just a few kilometres south of Perth, ‘Freo’ is much loved by locals, its low-rise streets lined with 19th-century buildings, topnotch cafés and food markets. The town is also a big historical draw, with the Unesco-listed Fremantle Prison granting a raw insight into the convict era.
From here, make the easy drive south to the Margaret River region. A biodiversity hot spot, it’s home to national parks as well as top surf breaks and some of the country’s best wineries. How you choose to enjoy the area is up to you – you might be stand-up paddle-boarding along the river one day and visiting wine estates or joining a whale-watching tour the next. Around 35,000 humpbacks, minke, southern right and blue whales migrate here each year.
Stop off at the dramatic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Australia’s most south-westerly point and
the place where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, then head inland through green countryside and colossal karri pines to reach Pemberton. It’s a fine little town with some great cellar doors, but the real attraction is the surrounding forest, offering great mountain- biking, bushwalking and wild swimming opportunities.
Next up, make the winding drive over to Albany, the state’s oldest European settlement. Another whale-watching hot spot, it sits on a rugged coastline: expect fresh seafood, quiet beaches and wreck diving. From here travellers can either make their way back to Perth or continue on their journey towards Esperance– home of Lucky Bay, which boasts a beach so white, even the kangaroos love to take a dip.
The south-west of Western Australia is one of the great – and largely undiscovered – joys of a trip Down Under, full of epic scenery, rolling farmland and the kind of authentic wildlife encounters that stay with you. And however you choose to spend your time here, you’ll find the welcome as warm as the weather.
ROAD TRIPPING NORTH
Heading south from Perth might deliver rich rewards but so, emphatically, does driving north along the Indian Ocean coast.
Make your first stop Yanchep National Park, with its walking trails, koala colony and resident kangaroos, then move on to Cervantes, known for its delicious rock lobster (crayfish). If you’re making the trip in September or October, you can expect to see swathes of brightly coloured spring wildflowers carpeting the countryside – and regardless of when you’re here, don’t miss the nearby Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park, where thousands of limestone spires create an otherworldly sight.
Continuing north along the coastline, you’ll reach Geraldton, home to pubs, kitesurfing beaches and a strong Yamatji indigenous heritage. Back behind the wheel, stop off at Hutt Lagoon to admire its mindbending pink waters – caused by algae – before the flora and fauna fest continues in Kalbarri, with its sea cliffs, river canyons and
birdlife-filled bushland. Visit Kalbarri NP to marvel at river red gum trees, mighty rock arches and 400-million-year-old sandstone gorges. Here you can hike to lookouts, kayak on the river or even join a fishing charter.
Next up is Shark Bay World Heritage Area, a scenic region best known for the wild dolphins of resort town Monkey Mia. The animals regularly play in the shallows. They don’t have the seas to themselves, though – rays, turtles and dugongs are also regular sights.
Further north, the fertile Carnarvon region makes a fine place to rest for a few days – and not just for the fresh produce on offer. Its other attractions include the Carnarvon Space & Technology Museum, the outback trails of the Gascoyne hinterland and the spray-spouting blowholes along the coast.
By the time you reach Coral Bay – known for its coral gardens and drift-snorkelling – you’re within touching distance of Ningaloo Marine Park, which has become synonymous with whale-shark swimming. Suffice to say that coming face to face with one of these gentle giants, is as epic as it sounds. The Unesco-listed Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing coral reef on the planet, and between March and July, it plays host to the largest aggregation of the world’s biggest fish, as well as orca, humpbacks and giant manta rays. Trips leave from the coastal town of Exmouth, which also boasts the echidnas and emus of Cape Range NP on its doorstep.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA & FLIGHT CENTRE
Exploring Western Australia by road is to witness the power of the place first hand. It’s about absorbing the up-close details– the wine glass in your fingers, the fish swimming past your mask, the wildflowers at your feet – alongside the broader picture.
The trips detailed here are just two of the great routes that the state has to offer – intrepid 4WD drivers will no doubt dream of taking on the fabled Gibb River Road in the Kimberley, for example – but both of them showcase Western Australia’s natural and cultural beauty.
Flight Centre’s multi-awardwinning tailor-made itineraries can help you create your Western Australia Journey. The group has the experience, know-how and understanding of what makes the region so special. Western Australia always makes an impression, but when you’re in the hands of Experts, the experience reaches a whole other level.
Hopping around in WA Kangaroos at Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand NP; ( left) crossing the Pentecost River on the Gibb River Road; ( below) wandering between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin
Karri on exploring Hiking through the Boranup Karri Forest in Leeuwin-naturaliste NP; ( below) state capital Perth is the buzzing gateway to the region
Under Western skies The Milky Way blazes over The Pinnacles, Nambung NP
Whale of a time Swimming with whale sharks in Ningaloo; ( far left) quokkas on Rottnest Island; ( left) strolling the shores of Francois Peron NP