Being a West Australian native, I figured it’s about time I write about my home. Even though I’ve travelled throughout most of the state, there are still a number of places I’ve yet to see (notably the Ningaloo Reef, Broome and further north) but I have a fairly good idea of the ‘must see’ destinations in Western Australia so in no particular order …
12 Must See Destinations in Western Australia
Cape Le Grand National Park
Esperance is a long, long drive from Perth (700kms) but it’s totally worth it to visit nearby Cape Le Grand National Park. You’ll find secluded beaches, turquoise water, white sand the texture of flour and kangaroos sleeping on the beach. One of my biggest travel regrets is running out of film at Lucky Bay (before the days of digital cameras) and not being able to take photos of us sitting next to kangaroos on the beach. If you love the beach and wild landscapes then this is a must see.
Image: Visit Esperance
While most people head to Margaret River to visit the wineries and beaches, I much prefer to head further south to Denmark where you can get incredible food and wine, swim at pristine Green’s Pool, sample fantastic chocolate desserts and local cheese, and pat a koala.
Back in the day (I’m old) anyone could swim at Monkey Mia and the dolphins would just come up to you and swim around you and you could touch them without any problems. Now though it’s strictly controlled (because we give them diseases) and you can’t swim with the dolphins. Instead there are a couple of feedings each morning where everyone lines up along the beach and the park rangers randomly call out people to get knee deep in the water to feed the dolphins. F and I were lucky enough to have that privilege when we went a couple of years ago and even though it is absolutely forbidden to touch the dolphins, F did and then got yelled out by the ranger. Yes, he’s naughty.
So Monkey Mia is a bit of a let down in terms of the dolphins but the great thing is that you can go out on a boat and see some of the rarest creatures on earth, the dugong and the green turtle. Dugongs are gorgeous animals and you’ll probably never see them anywhere else so I highly recommend visiting.
Image: Joel Abroad
Just down the road from Monkey Mia is Shell Beach. It’s a beach made of little shells. It’s stunning.
The Pinnacles are quite eerie if you ask me. Right by the water you have these yellow sand dunes with limestone pillars poking up everywhere. I wouldn’t make a special trip to see them but if you’re passing through definitely stop by to have a look.
Rottnest Island is the little island you can see just off the coast of Perth and is perfect for a day or weekend trip. It’s ideal for quokka spotting and snorkelling. There was a fatal shark attack here a couple of months ago but that is a rare occurrence, I swear!
Kalbarri is a great place to visit for the stunning scenery, in particular the gorges where you can go hiking or kayaking. It’s also a popular fishing destination.
Former whaling town Albany is a great place for whale watching (although there are lots of places along the coast to go whale watching) but I love it for the spectacular Goode Beach (near Frenchman Bay). The sand and water is similar to that at Cape Le Grand’s beaches and it’s calm, secluded and perfect for swimming. The other side of the peninsula is completely wild and while I find the Blow Holes and Natural Bridge to be overrated, I did see a seal swimming and feeding by the shore last time I was there which was pretty cool. Don’t swim in this area unless you have a death wish. Albany is only 400km from Perth so it’s a great option if you don’t have time to go to Esperance.
The port city of Fremantle is the historic centre of Perth. Here you’ll find a lively cafe strip, Fremantle Markets, Fremantle Prison and the best fish and chips in Perth. If you like beer then be sure to head to Little Creatures for a boutique beer or three.
There’s a lot of debate about which is the best beach in Perth but I think it’s safe to say Cottesloe is the most popular. Eating fish and chips on the beach and enjoying a Sunday session at The Cott are must do’s when visiting Perth but personally I prefer the much, much quieter and seaweed/reef free Leighton Beach. If you like surfing head up to Trigg or Scarborough and if you don’t mind getting your gear off then Swanbourne might be the place for you. If you’re staying in Fremantle, South Beach is a great little beach slightly protected from the wind.
Tip #1: Perth is an incredibly windy city so you need to get to the beach before the sea breeze comes in (usually around lunch time) otherwise you risk getting covered in sand. The sea breeze often dies down in the evening.
Tip #2: Shark attacks are extremely rare but there have been a number of fatal attacks in recent years so don’t swim too far out from shore, in particular at dawn and dusk.
Tip #3: Don’t confuse dolphins with sharks.
Perth’s King’s Park is a great place for a picnic, to walk around the botanical gardens and to get a fantastic view Perth city’s skyline. For a even better closer view, head to the South Perth foreshore directly opposite the city.
Unfortunately I have not been to Ningaloo Reef but everyone rave’s about it so it’s definitely on my must see list. At the Ningaloo Reef you can go swimming with whalesharks and manta rays, see rare turtles, humpback whales and tropical fish. It’s a wildlife lover’s paradise.
3 Of The Most Overrated Destinations
While I’m at it, I may as well mention the top ‘don’t bother seeing’ destinations which even though get mentions in guide books, aren’t really worth travelling long (or short) distances for, in my opinion.
Perth Bell Tower
Ok, I admit I haven’t been up the tower but c’mon, it’s a bell, in a tower.
This is how a visit to Wave Rock goes. Drive four and a half hours to the small inland town of Hyden. Take your photo in front of a rock which looks like a wave. Drive four and a half hours back to Perth.
I actually love Kalgoorlie. It’s the heart of the mining industry in Western Australia. A town where fortunes have been made and lost. Where migrants from around the world headed in the 1890s gold rush (including my Italian great grandfather). It’s home to the richest square mile of earth on the planet and to the massive Super Pit. If you’re interested in Australian history, it’s a great place to visit, if not then you’re going to drive 600kms to see a big hole in the ground in 45 degree heat.