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It's somewhat ironic that Australia's eastern states often forget about Western Australia, given that this state could swallow them whole. Of course, forgetfulness only plagues those who have never toured the great state because anyone who has usually counts Western Australia among the most memorable travel experiences of their lives. Everything about it is overwhelming - from the rich, chaotic colour scheme of ancient red earth, white sandy beaches, sparkling turquoise seas and deep green gorges, to the vital culture that encompasses thriving indigenous customs, living outback heritage and a vibrant arts and entertainment scene. With such a vast landmass to cover and so many things to see and do, however, it is important to plan your trip carefully to catch as many highlights as possible.
The capital of Western Australia makes the most of its picture-postcard setting on the banks of the Swan River and offers great weather all year-round to complement its active outdoors lifestyle. The city's free buses help you visit all the CBD's attractions such as the Perth Mint, Swan Bells Bell Tower plus the Perth museum and art gallery. There are also a host of fantastic day tours from Perth to help you catch spectacular sights like The Pinnacles, Boranup Forest, the Swan Valley and Margaret River. While in the city, head to King Street for some retail therapy, take a stroll through Kings Park, then paint the town red at Northbridge. Spend a day fishing, sailing or simply lazing by the Swan River, sculpture hop on the city art trail and board a ferry for a unique perspective on the city skyline. With many wine and fresh produce areas surrounding the city, Perth is renowned for its abundance of dining experiences. Whether it's a romantic waterfront silver-service encounter or a cheap and cheerful pub lunch that takes your fancy, the Perth dining scene will not disappoint.
The Perth coast is made up of 80 kilometres of white beaches, perfect for swimming, snorkelling and surfing. Cottesloe is one of the city's most popular, with towering Norfolk pines and buzzing cafes and pubs. Scarborough's exciting surf and nightlife is a big favourite with young adults, while safe Sorrento is a favourite with families. Fremantle is a fantastic town to embrace the true Western Australian way of life and enjoy a long lunch in an alfresco cafe overlooking the ocean. A short ferry ride from Fremantle is Rottnest Island, where even locals go to the beautiful beaches to snorkel turquoise waters over shipwrecks or go fishing.
Just inland from Perth is the Swan Valley, boasting art galleries and hectares of scenic vineyards. Don't miss the scenic 32 kilometre Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail - a loop that takes in more than 150 wineries, boutique breweries and fabulous restaurants. Driving south brings you to the vibrant city of Mandurah, with great dining by the lights of pretty Mandjar Bay. Relaxed Busselton is a popular family getaway, renowned for its heritage-listed two kilometre long jetty. The beautiful Margaret River offers world-class surf alongside boutique wineries and breweries, gourmet cheese makers, jam producers, olive groves and chocolate factories. Another South West delight is Albany - a colourful town with a dramatic convict history set against a ruggedly beautiful backdrop. The southern forests beckon with magnificent stands of towering karri, marri and tingle, while the southern coast calls with its theatrical cliffs and stunning seasonal show of wildflowers. Every day the South West brings a new discovery for the traveller looking for a taste of it all.
Western Australia's Golden Outback is the place for true Aussie history, heritage and high adventure. Head to the 1890's gold rush country and explore mines and museums, pan for gold or sink a cleansing ale in one of Kalgoorlie's historic pubs. Venturing inland is like stepping into another world where visitors are invited to experience working cattle farms, mining town life and indigenous culture first-hand. Yet the coast also plays host to special gems, like the picturesque town of Esperance, surreal Pink Lake and fields of coastal wildflowers. A visit to the Golden Outback is not complete without taking the time to see one of Australia's most recognisable natural landforms - Wave Rock.
The only thing more evocative than the landscape out here is the vast unimpeded skies - a sea of azure blue by day and an astronomical wonderland by night.
The Indian Ocean teems with marine life and the Coral Coast is one of the best places to appreciate it. An easy two and a half hour drive north of Perth, it is the ultimate in family-friendly holiday destinations because it offers endless appeal for people of all ages. Humpback whales, turtles, dugongs, manta rays and colourful fish seem to put on a show especially for visitors here. Snorkel directly from the beach onto the stunning Ningaloo Reef, where you can swim with the world's biggest fish. Or blow a kiss to the friendly dolphins at Monkey Mia in World Heritage-listed Shark Bay. Inland, marvel at the vibrant colours during wildflower season, or pay a visit to the unique limestone rock formations of The Pinnacles. Sailing, fishing, snorkelling, diving and windsurfing are all ideally suited to conditions on the Coral Coast, but you'd also be forgiven for just sitting back and enjoying the shimmering sea views.
A laid-back pearling town with a fascinating heritage, in many ways Broome epitomises the Western Australian experience: vivid scenery, casual culture and an atmosphere filled with the promise of adventure. The town itself is fascinating; home to many musicians, artists, writers and a diverse multicultural population, there is always something going on. Ride a camel along Cable Beach, visit a working pearl farm, or see the 130 million year old dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point. It is also a great base from which to experience the majesty of the Kimberley on short trips. See the remote coastal wilderness and indigenous communities of beautiful Cape Leveque and the inviting freshwater pools of Windjana Gorge. Visit the original causeway of the old town of Fitzroy Crossing, then venture on to the stunning wildlife sanctuary of Geikie Gorge.
Stretching across more than 420,000 hectares, the Kimberley is one of the last true wilderness frontiers, home to fewer people per square kilometre than almost any other place on earth. Its interior is a rugged paradise of thriving wildlife and thundering waterfalls, while the coast boasts untouched beaches and pristine coral atolls. The untamed and adventurous Kununurra is the gateway to some of WA's most remarkable natural attractions, including the awesome beehive domes of the Bungle Bungle Range, the spectacular inland sea that is Lake Argyle, and the world-renowned El Questro wilderness park and working cattle station which gives a rare glimpse into the heart of this unique region.
The sheer enormity of Western Australia's land mass - 37 times the size of Tasmania - gives rise to a huge diversity of regions and landmarks. There are a wealth of natural wonders to discover and experience, friendly people to meet and tantalising local delicacies to taste but take a little time out to enjoy the relaxed local lifestyle too.
Nature in all its majesty is a major appeal of this enormous state, where the oceans are full of whales and dolphins and the outback is one exciting wildlife documentary after another. An awe-inspiring study of contrasts, the landscape stretches from dry desert-scapes inland to a lush coastline striped with rivers and lakes, set off by majestic forests and one of the most magnificent wildflowers displays in the world.
There are also 75 national parks, many with hiking and biking trails to ensure you get up close and personal with nature. In Kimberley, crocodiles are the long-lease tenants of the rivers and inlets. Watching these ancient creatures in their natural habitat (from alongside an experienced guide, of course) is an adventure you'll never forget. Francois Peron National Park is like a small-scale safari experience - you'll delight in spotting goannas and thorny devils. And on Rottnest Island, an indigenous colony of quokkas regularly charm visitors with their cheeky antics.
Western Australia has an inherently creative culture: body painting, rock art, traditional music and corroboree dances of the indigenous people and cutting-edge visual arts, design and contemporary music scene showcased by a great range of galleries, theatres, museums and live music venues extending well beyond the capital. Several times a year this creativity spills out into the streets, with Australia's biggest street performance festival in Fremantle and the Sculpture by the Sea public arts display being just a couple of iconic events among a seemingly endless calendar of attractions.
On a daily basis, however, Western Australia has a relaxed lifestyle-oriented culture influenced largely by its setting - breathtaking scenery, extensive coastlines and clear skies that encourages outdoor activities with an emphasis on water sports. Whether you want to go surfing, snorkelling, diving, swimming, fishing, trekking, bushwalking and river cruising for yourself or you simply want to watch the experts do it - you'll be spoilt for choice.
Seasoned shoppers will love Western Australia's quality shopping centres and cutting-edge boutiques. In Perth, head to the King Street precinct in the city's historic West End, where you'll find leading fashion houses such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Beaufort Street in Mount Lawley has an eclectic array of boutiques, while the Fremantle Markets will give you a dose of the weird, wacky and the wonderful. If you're in the state's North West, don't leave without splashing out on a pearl from Broome's showrooms.
Western Australia is underpinned by a rich indigenous heritage dating back tens of thousands of years and still surviving today. Australian Aboriginal rock art in the state's North West has been identified as some of the world's oldest painting on record and along with the many educational tours and interpretive centres throughout Western Australia, it tells the story of a rich spiritual history full of intriguing legends.
Evidence of colonial history is also strong in Western Australia, with legacies of early European explorers still seen on its capes and islands. Early settlement centres such as Albany and Perth, along with key historic industrial and wartime hubs like Broome and outback posts built during the spirit of the goldrush, add to the rich historical tapestry of Australia's largest state.
An eclectic range of restaurants, cafes and wineries and fresh produce marry perfectly with this state's multicultural richness, creating a style of cuisine and a love of eating that is uniquely Western Australian. The fresh seafood is irresistible, either fresh from the seafood markets in Perth and Fremantle River or on the plate at the hundreds of first-class eateries. The Coral Coast provides a feast of fresh seasonal fruit and adventurous tastebuds should jump at the chance to try indigenous delicacies such as pearl meat and barramundi in Broome. Lovers of fine wine and gourmet fare will delight in the wine regions of Margaret River and the Swan Valley.
Many people don't know that Margaret River boasts amazing caves as well as its other better-known attributes. Maybe everyone spends too much time at the cafes and cellar doors to find out! But adventurous souls who tire of the wining and dining will be delighted to discover the ancient fossils hidden in Mammoth Cave, the spellbinding sight of the underground tranquil lake in Lake Cave and the amazing 5.8 metre straw stalactite in Jewel Cave. There is also plenty for those who prefer to come out on top - abseiling down Margaret River's sea cliffs is an extraordinary experience and Bluff Knoll near Albany, at more than one kilometre above sea level, is sure to set adrenaline levels soaring.
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