The impression you’re left with after having visited the largest state of Australia is: It’s huge!
On Lonely Planet’s top 10 list of countries you should visit in 2016, Australia is one of them. If you haven’t been there yet, go! We went there in 2007 and had such an amazing trip, that we decided to go back down under the following year for more. We really fell in love with this country. With the people and their no worries attitude, the incredible wildlife, the food and drinks (i.e. the Tasmanian cider) and all the little details along the way.
The cheapest flights sent us to Perth in the west, so we started from there. Maybe that’s why we really like the huge state of Western Australia.
Here are some of our experiences:
We never planned to actually go here. Our destination was Margaret River, known for its vineyards, but there were no available accommodation, so we ended up in Denmark and stayed three days. A small hippie town on the south coast, where vineyards are situated on the hill and you can bicycle from farm to farm and taste wine, cheese and other treats. The small vineyards here only sell their wine on the farm and in addition, produce for example cheese or citrus fruits.
Before coming to Denmark, we passed the Valley of the Giants in Walpole, where the tall, old karri and tingle trees are reaching into the sky. Not quite the Redwoods in the US, but we were still very impressed.
Top left: Galah birds in the trees. Top right: Creative post boxes in Denmark. Bottom left: In a small zoo in Denmark we sa wthis little dingo puppy. He didn’t really find us any interesting. Bottom right: Valley of the Giants’ huge trees.
It was an Irish family name that made us stop here. From Perth we boarded the eternally long Indian Pacific train, which would take us to Adelaide. But before we went that far, we jumped off in Kalgoorlie and stayed there for three nights. Oh, this place is a man’s world! This is an old gold rush town that today has one of the largest open cast mines – The Super pit. A few brothels still exist and in the bars you find barmaids– “skimpies” – in their underwear.
The streets are wide from the old days when camel trains needed room to turn around. Kalgoorlie really appears as an old western town.
It was the Irishman Paddy Hannan who discovered the first gold nuggets in this rough landscape, attracting more people and leading to what became a little town in the middle of nowhere. Kalgoorlie is also known as Hannan’s town. Here you find Hannan’s Street, Hannan’s Hotel and previously there was a Hannan’s beer here too
The main city in the West became the starting and finishing point of our Australian journeys. The city is not too big and is easy to find your way around. Still, we have never really come to any conclusion about what we thought of Perth.
‘Watch out for the quokkas’ a sign said when we stepped off the ferry. We did not really understand what a Quokka was before a small animal that looked like a cross between a rat and squirrel sat in front of us begging. We didn’t give it anything, but got a close first encounter with the cute little creature. Rottnest Island is a lovely day trip from Perth when the weather is good. Rent a bike, find a private little cove on one of the many sandy beaches and have a long lazy day.
It’s a sort of forest of phallic symbols, created by nature. Erosion has created all these weird poles sticking up out of the red sands on the windswept west coast. It is located in Nambung National Park, and it was here we saw our first kangaroos on our first trip down under.
The people who live in this area are called ‘Windies’. We bought fish and chips from the local chippy in the little village of Cervantes and went with a tailwind to the B & B where we were staying.
Not really that exciting. Dolphins come here regularly to get food, and there is ongoing research on their behaviour. The area is gorgeous and typical Western Australia – deserted. The fuel tank ‘low’ light began to glow red when we drove here, which made the road trip a little nerve wrecking. The road seemed endless, but fortunately we found the fuel pump in time, in what is Australia’s most westerly town – Denham.
A little ‘down the street’ we took off towards Monkey Mia, where the dolphins are. Had it not been for the strong wind, lying on the beach could have been nice.
This is where we went to do some diving (Open Water for Joe and Advanced for me), but because of the strong wind, we could not go out every day for our dives. We ended up staying eleven days in this small town, where emus strutted the streets and the days strolled by. The days we did not dive at Ningaloo Reef (which is a very good alternative to the Great Barrier in the east coast), we went hiking in the Yardie Gorge, spent some lazy hours on a lovely beach north of Exmouth or snorkelled on the reef in the incredibly beautiful Turquoise Bay. If diving is not your thing, this place is actually more than good enough for snorkelling, also, it is so beautiful here that you will pinch your arm making sure its real.
Karijini National Park
If we had four-wheel drive while here, we would have explored more of this area. With the campervan we had to settle with Dales Gorge and no complaints! We were happy to see this area of the National Park. Bloodwood trees (Bunara), bright red dragonflies, beautiful waterfalls, the rusty-red stone that is millions of years old and a delicious final bath down in the Circular Pool.
We’d have loved to spend some more time here. Perhaps ride camels at sunset on the beach. Instead, we parked at a campsite where we had two palm trees and the turquoise sea as our view. We bought big juicy shrimps in Coles and cooled down our over heated bodies with a cold beer.
As we drove on towards the Northern Territory the next day we sniffled slightly as we passed the turning into the Gibb River Road (A big dream of ours. Next time, when the Land Rover is with us …). Soon we began to see the first boab trees.
This is one of Australia’s largest artificial freshwater lakes. We arrived here in the afternoon after a long, hot day on the road towards Darwin. The lake is one of the last stops before the border into the Northern Territory. We drove across the dam over the River Ord, where we found a lovely park and peered anxiously down the river to see if we saw some crocodiles – you don’t go swimming there. At night we slept with all our doors open, like all the others at the campsite. It was a warm night and we were too tired to fully take in the huge state we had driven through.
Western Australia is so incredibly huge, that you need plenty of time to travel around here. It sure helps to have your own vehicle. The endless, dead straight roads from south to north may seem tedious, but there is always something to see. Bushfires, road trains thundering by (and you stay well clear of them), clouds and changing weather, eagles in the sky, a lone dingo who has found something to eat, emus who cannot decide whether to cross the road or not until just before you drive past them.
Don’t think we have ever seen so many dead animals along the road. Luckily we have seen an incredible number of live animals as well: kangaroos, eagles, dolphins, dingo, snakes, lizards, chatty galahs and cockatoos. Not to mention life under water. Ningaloo Reef gave us some amazing experiences when we dived there.
Never have we seen so much “nothing”, but the desolate landscape still has something beautiful about it. It is the change of colours as the sun goes down, the rusty red earth and the ancient mountains. The huge, empty sky offers a tremendous sight when the moon is hidden. The starry night sky you can see here is amazing!
There is so much space! One feels so free. As long as you have water in the cooler and petrol in the tank that is.
If you have the time and the opportunity – grab it. Western Australia rocks!