Top 5 Destinations: The West Coast

I can honestly say that this is, by far, the hardest blog of the series to write. Of all the coasts in Australia, the West Coast is an absolute joy to observe.

From the red earth and tropical climate of the north to the white sands, turquoise waters and sunny days in the south, this coast is just beautiful. The number of amazing experiences on offer are mindblowing; swimming with whale sharks, feeding wild dolphins, witnessing Quokkas in their natural habitat, snorkelling the Ningaloo Reef, hiking through national parks…the list goes on and it is EPIC. How am I supposed to choose just five top destinations?

If you missed our first West Coast post ‘Your Guide to Travelling Australia: The West Coast’ then have a read. Quickly! We go through the best time to visit, how long you’ll need to travel and the best form of transport to choose. If you’ve already read this post then I think you’ll already fully understand why it’s so hard to choose just five must-see destinations.

So, I thought to myself “If someone was coming to visit the West Coast for the first time, where would I take them if time and logistics weren’t an issue?”

The result of my pondering is below and I just hope I’ve done it some justice. There’s a reason they say ‘West is Best’ and I could not agree more. I hope you agree!

1. Exmouth & the Ningaloo Reef

The top spot has to go to Exmouth! Exmouth is Australia’s most north-western cape, where turquoise waters meet red outback earth. Exmouth is home to the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Marine Park where you’ll find the world’s largest fringing reef, perfect for snorkelling and diving.

The Ningaloo region (Exmouth, Coral Bay & surrounds) is the eco-adventure capital of Western Australia. There’s plenty of activities to try, like quad bike tours, scenic flights and glass bottom coral viewing boat tours, fishing, diving, swimming, snorkelling and whale watching. Keen divers should head to Navy Pier, voted one of Australia’s top 10 dive sites.

The Ningaloo area is a nature lover’s paradise with year-round wildlife delights. From March to August visitors from all over the world come to swim with Whale Sharks. These gentle giants can grow up to 18m long and Ningaloo is one of the only spots on Earth that they appear regularly in large numbers. Humpback Whales (Aug- Nov) and Manta Rays can also be found at the Ningaloo Reef.

Turtles can frequently be spotted whilst snorkelling, but numbers increase dramatically during Turtle Season (Nov-March). During this time turtles lay their eggs and after approximately 60 days of incubation, the turtles’ hatchlings start appearing out of the sand. Cute!

The town of Exmouth has a variety of accommodation options from lodges, resorts and hotels, to hostels and campsites but if you’re planning to spend most of your time in the water you may prefer to stay in the nearby village of Coral Bay. From here you’ll be able to snorkel just steps from the white sandy beach, as the coral starts right at the water’s edge.

2. Karijini National Park

Situated in the Pilbara region, Karijini is Western Australia’s second biggest national park. Famous for its dramatic creeks, cavernous gorges and cascading waterfalls, Karijini is all about adventure!

There’s so much to see here that you’ll want to stay at least 2 nights. We love Karijini Eco Retreat – a luxury, environmentally friendly glamping resort nestled in the pristine bushland at Joffre Gorge. Alternatively, you can camp under the outback sky at Dales Gorge.

Dales Gorge is on the east side of the Karijini and is home to three of Karijini’s highlights – Fortescue Falls, Circular Pool & Fern Pool. The Gorge Rim walk is the easiest way to experience the Dales Gorge area, from Fortescue Falls to Circular Falls and back again.

Take a refreshing dip under Fortescue Falls, Karijini’s only permanent waterfall, or in the spring-fed Fern Pool. The walk to Circular Pool is longer but worth it to see the stunning amphitheatre-like space, surrounded by lush trees and ferns.

Another sweet swim spot is the natural, heart-shaped “spa pool” at Hamersley Gorge. One of the most recognisable places, and the most photographed, Hamersley Gorge is a striking, ice-blue colour, with natural bubbling waters fed by a gorgeous waterfall.

Possibly the most well-known gorge in Karijini is Hancock Gorge. The hike into Hancock Gorge has been described as a “journey to the centre of the earth” for its steep descent into multi-hued, layered rock.

After descending a ladder into the gorge you’ll enter the famous Spider Walk which narrows to a point where you must walk with arms and legs straddling the gap to move along the walls. This can be challenging, but you’ll be rewarded with a dip in the green coloured water of Kermit’s Pool at the end!

3. Margaret River to Esperance

I’ve cheated a bit here and I have included pretty much the whole South West region. But, this is because, if you’re going to make this trip then I fully recommend committing to the whole caboodle. It’s all perfectly doable in under a week and each location compliments the last just perfectly.

Located just 3 hours, and a World, away from Perth is the Margaret River region, known around the world for its top-quality wine and food. There are more than 120 wineries to explore, as well as craft breweries and distilleries. Wear comfy pants when you spend the day at Margaret River!

If you start heading South East you’ll arrive at one of our favourite spots, the Valley of the Giants. This green paradise is home to the iconic Tree Top Walk, ancient forests and rugged coastline. These giant eucalypts are found nowhere else in Australia (or on Earth!), and some have been standing for more than 400 years.

The famous Tree Top Walk is suspended 40 metres high in the canopy of the ancient tingle forest, giving you a bird’s eye view of some of the biggest timber giants on Earth! The 600m walk trail is the first of its kind, designed to maximise views and minimise the impact.

Carry on travelling South East onto the city of Albany. Albany marks the spot where the first European settlers set foot in Western Australia, and much of their legacy remains today. Like much of WA’s South coast, Albany boasts a beautiful rugged coastline that will take your breath away!

The Albany area has an abundance of pristine, white sandy beaches to explore. Middleton Beach, Emu Point Beach and Fisherman’s Beach are all idyllic spots but Little Beach at Two People’s Bay Nature Reserve is our favourite – with its granite rocks and turquoise waters, it’s picture-perfect.

Last in this region, but certainly not least, is the breathtaking region of Esperance and the interesting geological phenomenon, Wave Rock. Don’t let the name fool you, this rock is nowhere near the ocean. Wave Rock is a multi-coloured granite cliff measuring 15m high, 110m long and shaped like a huge wave!

The town of Esperance is an ideal base to explore a string of stunning beaches and the natural wonders on the south coast of WA, including Cape Le Grand National Park, Cape Arid National Park and the islands of the Recherche Archipelago.

In Esperance, you’ll find the Great Ocean Drive – a 38km loop taking you past stunning beaches, rocky headlands, steep cliffs and hidden ocean pools. From snorkelling, surfing, swimming, bike riding and bushwalking, there’s lots to experience on the way!

The drive includes popular spots like Twilight Cove beach, Rotary lookout and Pink Lake (although not pink anymore, you can read about the lake’s history at the lookout). If you had your heart set on seeing a pink lake, Lake Hillier is closeby and still bubblegum pink, but you’ll need a scenic flight or boat charter to reach it.

Cape Arid National Park is just 120km East of Esperance. Take some time to explore this untouched paradise and camp out under the stars, swim at secluded bays, see colourful wildflowers and go whale watching (seasonal).

Join a full or half-day eco-tour through the Recherche Archipelago – a collection of 100+ islands just 15km off the coast. Woody Island is one of the most popular – where dramatic rocky headlands, sheltered bays and tall eucalypt woodlands provide a haven for wildlife. It’s a great spot for bushwalking, swimming, snorkelling and relaxing.

Now onto one of my favourites! Located within the Cape le Grand National Park, Lucky Bay is Australia’s whitest beach. With its white sand, turquoise waters and resident beach-loving Kangaroos, Lucky Bay is a must-do on your Western Australia adventure!

Lucky Bay is a little slice of heaven, with its white sand and sheltered waters, it’s perfect for snorkelling and wading in the shallows. The best part is that Lucky Bay stretches for 5km, so it’s never too overcrowded! There’s nothing quite like seeing a Kangaroo sunbathing at Lucky Bay – how Australian, right?

Remember not to feed these guys or try to touch them as they are still wild, though if you’re happy to wait for them to approach you, they seem to like the seaweedy areas!

4. Rottnest Island

From Perth it’s just a stone’s throw (or 19km) to the idyllic Rottnest Island! Famous for its pristine beaches, swimming spots and of course, the Quokkas!

To reach Rottnest Island you’ll need to hop aboard a ferry. It’s a 25 min ferry ride from Fremantle, a 45 min ferry ride from Hillarys Boat Harbour or a 90 min ferry from Perth’s Barrack Street Jetty. For an extra special experience treat yourself to a seaplane flight from Perth – experience a water take-off and enjoy panoramic views of Perth City and Fremantle as you fly over Cottesloe Beach, arriving at Rottnest in just 20 mins!

The only motor vehicles permitted on the island are emergency and service vehicles. There’s a handy hop on/hop off bus service but the main way to get around is by bicycle, which you can rent easily on arrival. The island is only 11km long + 4.5km wide making it easy to explore with lots of great trails to follow.

Rottnest Island is known as the home of the adorable Quokka – a fuzzy little marsupial that always appears to be smiling! Apart from a small colony on the mainland, they are found nowhere else on Earth. These little guys are so used to humans that they’ll come right up to you, making it easy to get an epic photo, just remember not to touch or feed them.

Rottnest is also well known for its water-based activities including snorkelling, diving, fishing, surfing, boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing and swimming. With 63 beaches and 20 bays, you’re spoilt for choice – The Basin, Little Parakeet Bay + Pinky Beach are some of the most popular spots and for good reason!

For accommodation @discoveryrottnestisland offers a low-impact glamping experience in fully equipped, luxury eco tents – right up our street!

5. Broome

Now, Broome is by no means last on any list but this was a particularly hard list to compile! Part of the Kimberley region, Broome is famous for its red soil and sandy beaches, set in beautiful contrast against the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean.

The most popular attraction is Cable Beach, where the sunsets are unreal. Its luxury resorts, white sand and surf provide a sensational getaway for those wanting to travel off the beaten path. Join an iconic sunset camel trek, or discover dinosaur footprints, estimated to be 130+ million years old, at nearby Gantheaume Point.

Another must-see in Broome is the natural phenomenon known as ‘Horizontal Falls’, described by Sir David Attenborough himself as ‘one of the greatest wonders of the natural world’.

These are two horizontal waterfalls where the waterfalls sideways from up to 5 metres high, due to a huge volume of water being forced through narrow cliff passages, each time the tide changes direction. Join a scenic flight onboard a sea-plane to see the falls from above with an exhilarating water landing.

Another natural phenomenon occurring in Broome is the famous Staircase to the Moon. From March to October the light from each full moon makes the mudflats at Roebuck Bay look like a set of gleaming stairs, rising into the night sky to meet the moon. Broome also has some fantastic marine life and has the largest known population on earth of rare snubfin dolphins, which can be seen at Roebuck Bay.

The Rowley Shoals is a group of 3 coral reefs 300km from Broome, with untouched coral gardens perfect for snorkeling and diving. Though charter boat trips are around 5 days, these reefs are home to a variety of corals, mollusks, fish and marine life like manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins and whales, it’s worth it for marine lovers!

Going to Australia?

We have more blog posts coming soon and next week we’ll be talking about travelling during the current crisis and why Mindful Travel is more important now, than ever!

You can also check out our Instagram page where we recently undertook a virtual road trip around Australia!

@themindfultravelco

Questions?

We’d love to hear from you! Pop your question or comment in the box below and we’ll tackle it in one of our future blog posts!

You can also contact us via one of our many forms of communication and we’ll get back to you with a personal response.

CONTACT US