Western Australia Travel Guide

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Perth - The city has silver skyscrapers glinting under a blue sky, a youthful, energetic outdoor vibrancy, and the sparkling ocean and glorious white beaches are just a bus ride from downtown. Perth likes to boast it gets more sunshine than any other city in Australia, some 300 days a year. Wander through the impressively restored historic warehouses, museums, and working docks of bustling Fremantle, stock up at the plentiful Aboriginal art at souvenir stores, visit some great art galleries and museums, eat at some of the country's best restaurants, go snorkeling and sea kayaking with wild sea lions, bushwalk through a 400-hectare park in the middle of the city, and pedal your bike to a great snorkeling spot on Rottnest Island, a miniature reef resort 19km offshore.

The Swan Valley - Located 20km NE of Perth, twenty minutes from the city center, is the Swan Valley. Home to two of Australia's biggest wine labels. There are 30 or so wineries, along with a wildlife park, antiques shops, a few galleries, several good restaurants, and Australia's best golf resort. Several companies run day tours or day cruises from Perth, and local companies run tours by black cab or Rolls Royce. The winery at Sandalford Caversham Estate runs its own upscale cruise from Perth daily, that includes a 2-hour winery tour, three-course lunch matched to wines, wine tasting en route and at the winery, souvenir wine glass, and a wine-education kit.

Albany - This is a historic seaport on the southern coast of Western Australia. The climate is temperate in summer, and the nearby mountain ranges, the Stirlings and the Porongurups, are both about 37km from Albany. They offer magnificent climbs, spectacular views and beautiful wildflowers. There are said to be almost 1000 species of wildflowers in these ranges, with more than 3500 varieties within a 48km radius of Albany. The Porongurups have many easy and short walks so the climb is not restricted to serious bushwalkers. On the coast near Albany are the blowholes, where in rough weather the force of the water sends spurts of air and water through cracks in the rocks. Well worth a visit are the Residency Museum, the Old Gaol, and the Old Farm on Strawberry Hill. The stone building is one of the oldest in the state. Visitors should not miss Dog Rock, a granite outcrop that looks like the enormous head of a bloodhound sniffing the breeze, in Middleton Road. It is Albany's unofficial mascot and, after Gundagai, the most photographed 'dog' in Australia.

Mandurah - A popular holiday resort 60km south of Fremantle. The name comes form an Aboriginal word mandjar, meaning variously 'trading place', 'watering place' or 'meeting place of tribes'. The main attraction of the resort is Peel Inlet, where waters of the Murray, Serpentine and Harvey rivers all enter the sea. This is an enormous inland waterway with over 150km of shoreline. Peel Inlet is a wonderland of bird life and the fishing is excellent. Lakes Clifton and Preston lie 20km to the south, and are long and narrow and run parallel to the coast. They are a favourite spot for birdwatchers. Other activities on offer include boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, crabbing and Cray fishing.

Beaches

Cable Beach - Located in Broome, this is a very popular beach in the area. It has 26km of glorious white sand, camels loping along the sand, stunning sunsets, excellent surf, and an exotic appeal. The only time to swim here is June through September, when deadly marine stingers are not around.

Cottesloe Beach - Perth has 19 great beaches, but this petite crescent is the prettiest. After you have checked out the scene, join the fashionable set for brunch in the Indiana Tea House, a mock-Edwardian bathhouse fronting the sea. Surfers should rather head to Scarborough and Trigg, because this is more of a swimming beach. It has safe swimming and a small surf break, with couple of good cafes nearby.

Scarborough - Scarborough's white sands stretch for miles from the base of the Hotel Rendezvous Observation City, Perth. Swimming is generally safe, and surfers are always guaranteed a wave, although inexperienced swimmers should take a rain check when the surf is rough. The busy shopping precinct across the road means there is always somewhere to buy lunch and drinks.

Outdoors

Kings Park and Botanic Garden - This 400-hectare hilltop park of botanic gardens and bush land is a place where visitors can inspect weird and wonderful Western Australian flora, get to know the solitude of the bush, and bike, hike, or drive an extensive network of roads and trails. Visiting the spring wildflower displays (which peak in Sept-Oct) is a highlight for many. There are barbecue and picnic facilities, several extensive playgrounds, bikes for rent (behind the Visitor Information Centre), tearooms, and the incomparable Fraser's restaurant. Pick up self-guiding maps from the Visitor Information Centre, or join one of the daily free, guided walks leaving from opposite the flower clock on Fraser Avenue.

Margaret River - Here is a place where there is a constant round of events for the traveler, mainly centered on the wineries. One major attraction is the Leeuwin Estate Winery, which also houses a splendid art gallery, the marron farm which specializes in freshwater crayfish and the wineries at Cowaramup and Willyabrup are all worth visiting.

Monkey Mia - Monkey Mia has developed popularity due to the sheltered wading depth waters of Shark Bay, where it has become possible through encouragement to feed the wild dolphins. The National Parks are watchful and helpful instructing on hand feeding procedures to protect these beautiful creatures. Feeding started in the 1960's when a woman from one of the fishing camps began feeding one of the dolphins from a boat. Other dolphins soon appeared also wanting to be fed.

The dolphins average 4m in length and have the ability to keep pace with the fastest craft. These Monkey Mia dolphins remain wild and have not been trained to perform, but have a natural affinity to humans who show them care.

Moving around

Before you plan a driving tour of this state, consider the distances and the mostly flat, monotonous countryside. The Southwest forests make pretty driving, elsewhere, you should fly, unless you want to count sheep in all those paddocks you will be driving past. If you do hit the road, remember that Western Australia is largely devoid of people, gas stations (keep the gas tank full), and emergency help. Road trains and wildlife pose a road threat more so here than in any other state. Avoid driving at night, dusk, and dawn.

Skywest is the state's major regional airline, with Qantas also providing services to smaller centers. Greyhound Pioneer is the only interstate coach company serving Western Australia. It travels the highway from Adelaide over to Perth, then up the coast to Broome and across to Darwin; it also travels the remote inland Newman Highway calling at Outback mining towns.

The only train to Western Australia from outside the state is the Indian Pacific , from Sydney via Adelaide and Kalgoorlie to Perth. Inside the state, long-distance trains run only in the southern third. They are operated by WAGR from Perth to Bunbury, south of Perth, Northam an hour or so eastward in the Avon Valley, and Kalgoorlie. WAGR also runs coach services to the Southwest and the southern coast. All major car- and motor-home-rental companies have offices in Perth.

National festival and holidays

Festival of Perth - Every year around February/March the festival offers entertainment in the form of music, drama, dance, visual art and films. It is a month of "low-brow arts" at venues all over the city.

West Week - Taking place every year, early in June, this festival is held to celebrate Western Australia's foundation. There are historical re-enactments, arts and crafts exhibitions, concerts and sporting events on offer.

Bindoon Rock Festival - Taking place in Bindoon each February, this is Western Australia's answer to Woodstock or Reading, with some visiting overseas bands.

Shinju Matsuri Festival - Held every August in Broome, this is probably the most remote big festival. It does not stop the town from being packed for this Oriental-themed pearl festival. Make a note of attending this festival if you are in the area during August.

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