GO WEST

Road trip­ping with Flight Cen­tre in WESTERN AUS­TRALIA

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Promotional Feature -

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

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