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Best places in Western Australia

Western Australia is big. Really big. You could amass France, Spain, Germany, UK, Italy and Scandinavia and not fill half its territory. So expect a lot of everything — big horizons, huge natural diversity and one of the longest coastlines in the world.

Published 29 Mar 2018, 16:00 BST, Updated 14 Jul 2021, 11:33 BST
Bungle Bungle Range.
Bungle Bungle Range.

1 Bungle Bungle Range

Why: See it from the air; see it from the ground — either way, this World Heritage-listed landform is a stunning, unearthly geological conundrum.
What: The Bungle Bungle Range is an area of 174 sq miles populated by thousands of sandstone domes striped like beehives — some taller than London's 590ft Gherkin.
While it's spectacular from the air, don't miss the opportunity to explore by foot. You'll encounter cathedral-sized spaces hollowed out by wind and soaring chasms carved by water. The landscape affords shelter for a variety of creatures including 130 bird species and the rare nailtail wallaby.
True Story: Until 1983, the Bungle Bungle Range was virtually unknown outside of the local Aboriginal people. A documentary team stumbled on it, and brought it to prominence.

2 Rottnest Island

Why: 'Rotto' is a long-time local favourite starting to find its place as one of Australia's great islands.
What: Just 20 miles off Perth, this sand and limestone island feels like another world. The sleepy settlement of Thomson Bay dates back to the 1830s, with its dwellings now converted to cafes and shops. The Basin offers pale sands and reef snorkelling, while the island's 15-mile coastline and cycling track means you're spoiled for choice of activity.
True story: A Dutch explorer took one look at the rampant quokka population and called the island 'nest of rats'. The marsupial's cute puffy-cheeked grin has boomed on social media, leading to a surge in visitor numbers since 2015.

3 Margaret River

Why: Wine. Food. Surf.
What: The Margaret River region is a happy marriage of bushland and beaches, fertile vales and small country towns. Wineries such as Leeuwin Estate and Cape Mentelle are de facto flag bearers, exporting the fine flavour of the place all over the world. To appreciate it properly, you need to take a table among the vines and enjoy a feast of local premium produce — everything from oysters to Wagyu beef and truffles.
The region is also perfect for nature-lovers and active types, with it being home to a flourishing surf scene and a section of the 1,000km Bibbulmun Track walking trail.
True Story: The 153-year old timber pier at Busselton measures just over a mile, the longest in the southern hemisphere.

4 Broome

Why: Pearls give this far-flung frontier town a distinct lustre.
What: A semi-tropical outpost of 16,000 people, Broome enjoys a South Pacific feel with its red soils,
pale blue waters and rusted iron roofs.
Broome has been associated with pearls since the late 19th century. Farmed in local waters, they're for sale in shops along Main Street and their history is explained in the Pearl Lugger restaurant's museum.
Dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point and sunset camel rides on Cable Beach are also highlights.
True Story: Before modern pearl cultivation, it was pearl shell that was most highly prized, used as buttons and watch faces.

5 Esperance

Why: From wildlife to pristine beaches, this south coast secret has much to shout about.
What: A full 7.5 hours' drive from Perth, Esperance often gets overlooked by international visitors. This small coastal town is surrounded by natural treasures, including Australia's whitest sands (according to scientific tests), peerless Lucky Bay and the granite islands of the Recherche Archipelago.
Most of these 105 islands are visited only by sea lions, fur seals and whales. Camping spots are available on Woody Island between September and April.
True Story: Middle Island was the hideout of Australia's only recorded pirate, Black Jack Anderson.

Need to know

Travel to WA
You can fly direct to Perth from the UK, as Qantas began nonstop flights from London in March. There are also plenty of one-stop options via the Middle East and Asia. Perth is well connected with flights to the east coast of Australia.

Travelling within WA
Domestic flights in WA are a sensible way to cover a lot of ground between driving adventures. They can be expensive unless you buy an airline pass when you purchase international flights, which gives you access to lower fares. Qantas and Virgin both offer air passes. Towns with airports generally have car rental agencies.

Best times to visit
Spring and summer (October to March) are best for the Mediterranean climes of the south. Autumn and winter (April to September) are good seasons for the more tropical north. Spring and autumn are the best times for both outback interior and northern coastal areas. January sees Australia's summer school holidays and can make bookings difficult for more popular places.

Follow @MaxAnderson65

Published in the Western Australia guide, free with the May 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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