Wildlife, wine and windswept coastline all await you outside of Perth.
By Leah Dobihal
As Australia’s largest state, Western Australia is home to a diverse range of landscapes, wildlife and culinary experiences. Head north to discover dramatic red coastline and fringing coral reef, or set your sights to the south for exquisite wine and kangaroo-covered beaches. There’s an exciting experience calling no matter which direction you turn.
The stunning limestone formations known as the Pinnacles are near Cervantes on the Turquoise Coast, 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Perth. A crayfishing town, Cervantes is the gateway to Nambung National Park, which contains the Pinnacles Loop – a four-kilometre (2.5-mile) road that can be driven or walked in about an hour. The Pinnacles Desert contains thousands of striking limestone pillars set against shifting golden sands. The park, with its otherworldly landscape, can be visited all year round, but there's a bonus in spring, when the wildflowers and wattles are in bloom. Visit at dawn to see the shadows cast by the unusual formations, or experience the eerie landscape at sunset, when the colours change with the moving sun. Don’t forget to look up to see a stunning view of the Milky Way and Western Australia’s star-filled sky.
Western Australia’s Coral Coast stretches for more than 1,100 kilometres (683 miles), so there’s an endless supply of adventure to be had. Consider a road trip up the coast from Perth, stopping at Monkey Mia, where you can feed wild dolphins, and Kalbarri National Park, home to rugged red cliffs and bright blue waters. The most exhilarating experiences of the Coral Coast lie in Exmouth, the gateway to the fringing coral of Ningaloo Reef. Here, you can swim with some massive yet gentle local residents - whale sharks. After such an exciting encounter, rest easy at Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort. Other highlights along the way include the blazing orange shores of Francois Peron National Park and the thriving local Aboriginal culture near Shark Bay.
Margaret River, a three-hour drive south of Perth, is a relatively young wine region, with vines first planted in 1967. But its wines are world-class, with cabernet and chardonnay considered regional strengths. Stand-out wineries include Vasse Felix, Howard Park and Leeuwin Estate. The region offers some serious adventure, too. Head to Margaret River Surf School to ride the waves, rock climb and cave crawl with Margaret River Climbing Co, or zipline through majestic forests. Indulge in the region’s amazing accommodation, including the charming Cape Lodge country house and the serene Injidup Spa Retreat.
Western Australia’s south west corner
The south west corner of Australia encompasses some of the country’s most breathtaking nature and is best explored on a road trip. Make your first stop Denmark, just under five hours from Perth, to experience top-notch food, Aboriginal cultural and the striking Greens Pool. Esperance, an idyllic town 7.5 hours from Perth, is home to turquoise waters, white sand and off-shore islands. A star attraction here is the bizarre but beautiful Lake Hillier, a bright pink lake in the Recherche Archipelago. You can see it on a cruise or scenic flight. Don’t miss Lucky Bay at Cape Le Grand National Park, a one-hour drive from Esperance, where you’ll find cute kangaroos relaxing on the soft sand.
While many of Western Australia’s stunning destinations lie along the coast, there’s something incredible to discover when you put the ocean in your rearview mirror. Drive just under four hours inland to find a wave unlike any you’ve seen by the sea. Wave Rock is a granite cliff that rises 15 metres (49 feet) from the outback plain. Its resemblance to a breaking wave is impressive thanks to millions of years of erosion. Nearby, explore Mulka’s Caves, which contain ancient Aboriginal rock art, and Hippo’s Yawn, a rock formation shaped like its name.