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It’s only when you drink in Western Australia’s sights, sounds – and sands – that you see why many praise its coastline, deserts and national parks as the most spectacular in the country. Drive in any direction from Perth and you’ll be swiftly startled by the eye-popping natural wonders of WA. A high-quality holiday problem? Narrowing down spots to visit.
If coastal camping, swimming with gentle whale sharks and hiking ancient limestone ranges sounds like heaven, consider Exmouth and the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef. You can take a two-hour flight from Perth, but that would mean missing the wondrous locations en route. You need up to 11 days to drive this trail, but put any highlights you miss on your west coast bucket list. After experiencing WA, you’ll certainly have one.
White sands, pink lakes and red rock
Out of Perth, you’ll be quickly struck by the lack of crowds and the vast and varied landscapes. Ninety minutes north in Lancelin, the sand is so white you’ll need shades. The cyan water of the 4WD-accessible beach will draw you in for a dip. Further north in Nambung National Park, you’ll be intrigued by the thousands of limestone pillars that form the Pinnacles. These unique desert structures are a sight to behold in the golden light of sunset.
Up through Geraldton and another two hours on, you’ll hit the astonishing gorges of Kalbarri National Park, sculpted from red rock by the Murchison River. Walk, tour, climb, kayak and fish as your heart desires, but don’t miss The Loop trail and the famous rippled Nature’s Window formation. Nearby, bacteria-ridden salt granules in Port Gregory’s Pink Lake create a striking, ethereal flamingo hue.
Fun with fossils, shells and dorsal fins
Three hours up the road, Shark Bay World Heritage area reveals ancient stromatolites (living fossils) at Hamelin Pool. At Shell Beach, tiptoe over a stretch formed from billions of shells.
Spend time by (or in) the luminous water at Monkey Mia. A few lucky punters are selected to feed the bottlenose dolphins that come to shore every day. A tip: an eye-catching outfit will improve your chances. Board a catamaran to meet more marine life, including turtles and dugongs.
Pack your snorkel, surfboard and walking sandals
Pass through Carnavon (a cultural and culinary hotspot) to hit the southern end of Ningaloo Reef. Along the dazzling Ningaloo coast, you can swim, dive, fish, surf, 4WD and snorkel off the beach. Famed local reef breaks in Gnaraloo can be tricky to get to, but worth it, so the surfers say.
At Coral Bay en route to Exmouth, serene, sparkling water offers snorkeling access to Ningaloo’s coral gardens. East coast folk say this is every bit as good – or better – than the Great Barrier Reef. Jump aboard a glass-bottom boat to explore the impressive outer reef.
Save the best for last in Exmouth and surrounds
Wildflowers, wildlife, dramatic landscapes and majestic marine life make the Exmouth region an escape like no other. Charming Exmouth is the perfect place to kick back – or to jump in the water with a massive fish. Between March and July, you can swim with gentle whale sharks on the reef. All year, you can snorkel or dive with dolphins, turtles, dugongs and manta rays.
For coastal camping and hiking like you’ve never known, explore Cape Range National Park and the adjacent Ningaloo Marine Park. You’ll find 50 kilometres of brilliant beaches, with cause to stop often. Sandy Bay is a highlight for snorkelling or windsurfing. At the aptly named Turquoise Bay, snorkel the ‘drift loop’ with turtles, reef sharks and countless vivid fish. For more rocky red, take a hike in Yardie Creek canyon. And Vlamingh Head Lighthouse is the spot to be as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean.
Ready, set, explore!
The mind boggles when considering this is only one of many Western Australia itineraries presenting magnificent discoveries at every turn. Once you whet your appetite for WA, it just doesn’t seem so far away.