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  • Western Australia

    Western Australia travel guide

    Overview

    The state of Western Australia is big, bold and beautiful, and despite covering one third of Australia has a population of fewer than three million. It has miles of coastline washed by the Indian Ocean and a range of climatic zones from tropical through to temperate. The northern area is raw and harsh; the south is characterised by rolling green pasture; to the west is the ocean; while to the east lie golden wheat fields.

    The true richness of Western Australia lies in its huge mineral deposits: gold, diamonds, iron ore, bauxite, nickel, natural gas and oil provide employment for much of the population. The goldfields of Kalgoorlie still produce a couple of thousand ounces of gold a day. The young and vital state capital, Perth, was built on the mineral wealth of the state and offers a leisurely, beach-orientated lifestyle for its large immigrant population.

    Western Australia is one of the most diverse floral regions in the world, boasting something like 8,000 species of wildflower. Its rugged, rocky coastline has been responsible for plenty of tragedy: more than 700 vessels have come to grief here since the first Dutch sailors arrived on the shores of the state in the 17th century. The varied, sometimes harsh beauty of the landscapes gives Western Australia the allure of frontier country, and the multi-cultural population bears out this feeling. The vastness of the state and sparseness of the population also add a sense of freedom.

    Fremantle

    Despite having been absorbed into Perth's urban sprawl, Fremantle, affectionately known as 'Freo', retains its own strong identity and is a popular destination for day-trippers from Perth. Its harbour was built in 1903 by CY O'Connor, who also constructed the Goldfields pipeline before killing himself on a beach near Fremantle. A bronze statue in CY O'Connor's honour stands in front of the Fremantle Port Authority. The harbour of Fremantle, which is still functionally a separate city rather than part of Perth, has been substantially revamped in recent years and is now filled with outdoor bars and restaurants and has a laid-back, arty character. Freo is a creative, interesting, little port city which has retained a distinct character, and has considerable allure for visitors.

    Fremantle Sunset Fremantle Sunset Daniel Lee
    Kings Park and Botanic Garden

    Comprised of more than 400 hectares (988 acres) of parkland and gardens, Kings Park and Botanic Gardens is one of Perth's most popular attractions for locals and tourists alike. Set on Mt Eliza, the park offers breath-taking views over the city and Swan River, while more than 80 species of birds can be found enjoying the indigenous bushland. Kings Park also features the State War Memorial, the Royal Kings Park Tennis club, and a reservoir, and the streets of the park are lined with trees, each with plaques dedicated to Western Australian men and women who died in WWI and WWII. Kings Park is the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon picnic, sightseeing, walking, cycling or just exploring the various lookout points. During the summer months (December to February), the park hosts a number of events such as outdoor concerts, moonlight cinema and the Kings Park Wildflower festival each spring.

    Address: Fraser Avenue
    Kings Park and Botanic Garden Kings Park and Botanic Garden Mel Patterson
    London Court

    Built in 1937, Perth's London Court is set among modern skyscrapers in the heart of the city. The small pedestrian 'street' is located between the Hay Street Mall and St Georges Terrace, and is reminiscent of the Tudor style buildings of England. Walking through London Court, visitors can experience the charming small shops and cafés as well as the clocks on either end of the lane. London Court is brimming with dozens of small details, which can be easily missed, such as the statues of Sir Walter Raleigh and Dick Whittington, weather vanes, and stairways leading to fantastic viewpoints looking out over the court. London Court is a little taste of England in Australia, making the colonial heritage of the country clear, in a very aesthetically pleasing way.

    Address: Hay Street Mall and St Georges Terrace
    London Court London Court Sheila Thomson

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Perth has a Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. In summer (November to March) temperatures average between 58°F (15°C) and 88°F (31°C), occasionally reaching as high as 105°F (41°C). Luckily the sea breeze known as the 'Fremantle Doctor' somewhat tempers the heat. Rainfall during this period is low, with an average of only three to four days each month receiving rain. Winter in Perth (June to September) is cool without getting unpleasantly cold, generally staying between 46°F (8°C) and 68°F (20°C). This is the wettest time of year, with roughly half the days in each month getting rainfall. Tropical cyclones do hit Perth, however this is very rare.

    Due to its large size, Western Australia has one of the most diverse climates in the country, with the land divided into three main climatic zones: tropical, semi-arid and Mediterranean. The north is tropical, characterised by a sunny dry season (April to September) and a wet season (October to March) with high humidity, heavy rains and thunderstorms. The dry season has ideal temperatures, with hot days and mild evenings. The central part of the state falls within the semi-arid zone and consists mostly of deserts. A temperate, Mediterranean climate characterises the south, where the summers are warm and dry and the winters mild and wet. Perth lies within this zone and the hot summer days are cooled by the strong afternoon sea breezes. Perth has a very low rate of humidity. Winters (June to August) are mild, with the wettest month being July.

    Perth International Airport
    Location: The airport is located seven miles (12km) from Perth's city centre.
    Time: GMT +8.
    Transfer Between Terminals: A free shuttle bus links all four terminals, operating 24 hours a day.
    Getting to the city: Bus 40 runs daily from Terminals 3 and 4 to the Elizabeth Quay Bus Station via the Great Eastern Highway. The journey takes approximately 55 minutes. Bus 380 runs daily from Terminals 1 and 2 to Perth city centre via Elizabeth Quay Bus Station, Belmont Forum Shopping Centre and Victoria Park Transfer Station.
    Car Rental: Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Hertz, Redspot, and Europcar are all represented at the airport.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the terminals, and a trip to central Perth will cost approximately A$43.
    Facilities: Facilities include a selection of bars and restaurants, various retail stores and a duty-free shop. ATMs and bureaux de change are also available. Travellers will also find internet access and an information centre. Access to all terminal facilities is provided for disabled visitors.
    Parking Short-term parking is free for the first 10 minutes, then charged at A$8 for 30 minutes, A$13.40 for 60 minutes, A$19.80 for two hours, up to A$3 per hour thereafter and A$49 per day. Long-term parking is about A$25 per day for the first three days, and A$12 per day thereafter.
    Western Australia

    Perth has a very efficient and convenient public transport system called Transperth, which operates buses, trains and ferries. Passengers can hop from one to the other on a single ticket, and obtain information on all the services at booths set up for this purpose at strategic points like Plaza Arcade, the railway station and bus stations. Buses in the central area are free, covering a number of colour-coded routes, while suburban bus services and trains link to the outer districts day and night. Ferries operate on the Swan River; fares are based on zones and tickets can be bought from newsagents and vending machines. Metered taxis can be hailed in the street in Perth, found at taxi ranks or booked by telephone. All major car hire companies are represented in Perth and driving in the city poses no problems. Cycling is a popular way to get around, and there are numerous designated cycle routes.

    Sunbathe, indulge in some wine tasting, shop for pearls, wander the waterfront of Fremantle, or visit the funfair. These are just some of the many diversions that draw people to enjoy a holiday in Perth, Australia's laid-back, remote western city, which is surrounded by some stunning scenery, including lovely, sandy beaches.

    Perth is packed with attractions to suit everyone, especially food-lovers, who will find more restaurants here per capita than in any other Australian city. With an abundance of fascinating local wildlife and landscapes on its doorstep, Perth has plenty to offer families travelling with kids.

    Pristine sandy beaches mean there's hours of fun in the sun to be had on Perth's family beaches, such as Cottesloe Beach and Leighton Beach, but be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen as the Australian sun can be ruthless. Another great outdoors option is the Kings Park and Botanic Garden where visitors can hike, bike or just relax in the shade with a picnic.

    The Perth Zoo is the perfect place for animal lovers, while the Aquarium of Western Australia is not to be missed either. The Museum of Childhood is great for kids.

    The Perth Sightseeing Pass is useful for those planning to do a lot of sightseeing, and parents should grab a copy of The Parent's Paper, free every month, for ideas on attractions and events for kids.

    Monkey Mia Resort

    At this remarkable resort, situated near the town of Denham, about 525 miles (830km) north of Perth in the Shark Bay Heritage area, visitors have the opportunity to interact with and even hand-feed the local wild dolphins who visit the shore each day. Several bottlenose dolphins regularly visit the beach at Monkey Mia, sometimes up to three times a day, while others who are less tame wait just offshore. Visitors are encouraged to enter the water to gently touch and feed the dolphins, under the watchful eye of local rangers who advise on how best to approach and handle the animals without causing them stress. Monkey Mia also has a Dolphin Information Centre, and offers good bathing at Shell Beach, unique in that it has a four-mile (6km) stretch of tiny white shells stacked up to 33ft (10m) deep. Some of the buildings in the nearby seaside town of Denham are built out of shells from this beach.

    Address: Shark Bay, Denham
    Monkey Mia resort Monkey Mia resort Robert Young
    Karijini National Park

    Karijini is the second largest national park in Western Australia, situated in the Pilbara region. It features breathtaking gorges, crystal clear rock pools, waterfalls and stunning scenery. A system of walking trails designed for hikers of various levels of fitness, from beginner to experienced, have been laid out. There are picnic and camping areas and a visitor information centre with interactive natural and cultural displays. The park boasts 50 varieties of Acacia, Eucalypts and Melaeluca in its gorges, 133 types of bird and 92 species of amphibians and reptiles, not to mention the dingoes. It is situated about 900 miles (1,435km) north of Perth on the Great Northern Highway. Numerous tours into the park operate from Tom Price, Port Hedland, Karratha and Auski.

    Karijini National Park Karijini National Park Michael Theis
    Wildflower Region

    The mid-west section of Western Australia is known as the wildflower region, particularly between late July and early September after the seasonal rains, when the spectacular fields of yellow, pink and white everlasting daisies emerge. The most popular site for wildflower viewing is the Kalbarri National Park, which boasts about 800 species of flowering shrubs. The park is 370 miles (590km) north of Perth near the mid-west town of Geraldton and can be accessed by car from the North West Coastal Highway. A bus service also runs three days a week from Perth to the Kalbarri National Park. World-renowned botanists, photographers and film-makers visit the region for the flowers, particularly around the Eneabba and Arrowsmith River areas. The mid-west is also rich in history and offers visitors a variety of outback experiences and coastal activities.

    Kangaroo Paws, Wildflower Region Kangaroo Paws, Wildflower Region denisbin
    Goldfields

    Goldfields, to the east of Perth, is a region steeped in history and legend, where visitors can see relics of the gold rush and the mines that have made the area famous. It is possible to tour the Super Pit, Australia's biggest open-cut-mine, which is an impressive sight at more than 853ft (260m) deep, one mile (2km) wide and two miles (4km) long. The Super Pit can be found at the edge of the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. It forms part of the 'Golden Mile', reputedly the richest square mile of gold-bearing earth in the world. The total amount of gold recovered from the Super Pit between 1989 and 1999 was incredibly over five million ounces (142-million grams), and the total is still growing. From the lookout near the Pit visitors can watch trucks carry rock up to the refinery from the bottom of the pit, and sometimes witness carefully controlled mine blastings.

    Address: Kalgoorlie
    Goldfields Super Pit Goldfields Super Pit aussiejeff
    Margaret River

    Southwest of Perth, the Margaret River Region is an area characterised by dairy farms and wineries set within a picturesque landscape, and is Western Australia's most popular holiday destination. The area was initially discovered by surfers, but now holidaymakers of all kinds head here by the thousand for the tranquil atmosphere, clean beaches and excellent restaurants, often attached to wineries. The area also has more galleries, craft studios and potteries than the rest of the state put together. Margaret River is also well known for its many caves, some of the best of which are open to visitors and feature extraordinary formations. The spectacular show caves are called Jewel, Lake, Mammoth and Moondyne, with Moondyne offering a thrilling three-hour exploration tour.

    Vineyards in Margaret River Vineyards in Margaret River Robert Young
    Nambung National Park

    Located in the Swan Coastal Plain, just 150 miles (245km) north of Perth, the Nambung National Park is home to one of Australia's most incredible natural attractions - the Pinnacles Desert. One of the Seven Natural Wonders of Oceania, the Pinnacles Desert consists of thousands of limestone pillars, protruding from the yellow desert sand in a variety of shapes and sizes (some reaching 3.5 metres in height). It is a truly unique sight, unlike anything you've ever seen before - an unearthly, unforgettable landscape, best viewed in September and October, when wildflowers bloom, adding colour to the vast desert expanse. Nambung National Park also boasts white-sand beaches and marine life, and picnicking, swimming, fishing, and snorkelling opportunities, making it a stone-cold 'must-see' attraction in the state of Western Australia.

    Address: Pinnacles Drive, Cervantes
    Nambung National Park Nambung National Park fzhuo
    Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk

    A wonderful example of nature-based tourism, the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk is a must for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. The 0.4 mile (about 600m) walk takes place along a specially-constructed boardwalk, 130 feet (40m) above the forest floor, and winds through the heart of a massive karri and tingle tree forest, where walkers are literally surrounded by the forest canopy, in the company of true giants. The walk has a gentle gradient, allowing access for wheelchairs and strollers, and connects with the Ancient Empire boardwalk, a cleverly-designed pathway that brings the grandeur of the 400-year-old trees into sharp relief. Opened in 1996, the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk has already thrilled millions of visitors in its short history - a concrete testament to the uniqueness of the experience it offers.

    Address: Valley Of The Giants, between Walpole and Denmark, in the southwest of Western Australia
    Tree Top Walk, Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, Valley of the Giants Amanda Slater