Discovering Wine, Wilderness and Wildlife in Western Australia
October 21, 2022
Western Australia (WA) isn’t usually the first place people think of when planning their dream trip ‘Down Under’. It certainly wasn’t my first choice, nor my second. But looking back, it exceeded so many expectations that it clearly should have been first.
Years ago, I didn’t know too much about WA, other than that its capital city is Perth, nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Australian Outback. Thus, I was keen to learn more about Australia’s largest state and see what it had to offer.
For my first trip, I wanted to see the city and experience the wine and culinary scene. I decided to stay in the city for a few days to explore the popular attractions close by, including Kings Park and Elizabeth Quay, and get a feel for the area. I didn’t have a car, but navigating was easy, and I was able to do some tours right from my hotel. My first tour was out to the Pinnacles, which is a national Park with a fascinating landscape located a couple hours outside of the city. wandering through the desert-like atmosphere surrounded by thousands of protruding limestone pillars, the Nambung National Park made me feel like I was on another planet. It might be one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been to!
It was time to try some wine, and I didn’t have to travel far. Just thirty minutes from the CBD, you’ll find Perth’s own local wine region, the Swan Valley, filled with wineries, distilleries, breweries, restaurants, and cafes. Swan Valley is the oldest Wine region in WA and has become a local attraction for those who want to enjoy a fun day out with friends and family. My favorite spot is one of the local gin distilleries, Old Young’s Distillery and tasting room.
My next stop was Margaret River, a town three hours south of Perth where lush timber forests meet some of WA’s best surf breaks. The area is known for its high quality of award-winning wines with over 150 wine producers and 90 cellar doors. As soon as we arrived, we rented some mountain bikes and rode through the trails of Wooditjup National Park. We worked up quite an appetite, so ended the day at one of the many nearby restaurants for some wine and live music. Over the next couple days, I made friends I knew would last a lifetime while tasting some of the finest whites and reds in Australia. My first WA experience was a blast!
Not even a year had passed, and I was back in WA. This time my top priority was a visit to Rottnest Island, the infamous island where Chris Hemsworth took a #QUOKKASELFIE. To my convenience, it was just a quick 30-minute ferry ride from town. With its stunning landscapes, unique wildlife, and laid-back atmosphere, I could have spent a whole week there. In search for the resident quokka, the world’s “happiest marsupial”, we followed the cement paths that meandered through the island ending at one of the many white sand beaches along the coast. The island has 63 beaches and 20 secluded bays, filled with visitors sunbathing and snorkeling during the warmer months of the year. The only vehicles on the island are hop-on hop-off buses for visitors to explore, so you don’t have to worry about crowds of people or traffic. We found our quokka and many of his friends enjoying the day back at the main hub. I finally got my selfie!
City, wine, quokkas… check! I was now ready to explore the “wild west” and take a road trip up north to tick off another bucket list item in Exmouth. From the months of March through August you can witness the world biggest fish swimming through the Ningaloo Marine Park, the whale shark. It’s always been a dream of mine to swim with these gentle ocean giants, so I drove up the coast to experience it once and for all.
The most unique part of Western Australia is the variety of landscapes and contrasts of colors you’ll see throughout the state. The land represents a third of the continent with a combination of remote outback, white sand beaches, timber forests and vast national parks.
As we started the drive north, we passed through the many coastal towns, stopping for photos at any Instagram-worthy spots, including the wildflower fields as well as one of Western Australia’s famous pink lakes, Hutt Lagoon. While best seen by air, you can walk around the lake to try to get a glimpse of its many pink hues. Another 40 minutes and we were at Kalbarri National Park. Here you can spot kangaroos as you hike through the trails along the river gorges. It was the perfect place to stay to break up the long drive before hitting our destination, Exmouth.
The day started out calm, waiting on the back of a boat for the spotter planes to dispatch our local guides. Once they made the signal, we jumped in the water and raced to our positions, ready to dive deep to meet the large fish face to face. And there you see it, a 20-foot whale shark swimming past you, almost close enough to touch. Right when the adrenaline kicks in, you’re back on the boat waiting for your next turn. It was a life changing experience and one that I will never forget!
WA’s national parks and marine reserves are home to many other species, such as penguins, sea lions, orcas, humpback whales and manta rays. Just exploring Ningaloo, we spotted an echidna on the road, swam with turtle’s, manta rays and even came across a few rock wallabies hiding within the limestone ranges and canyons of Cape Range National Park. The abundance of wildlife and wilderness in this coastal region is one of Australia’s best kept secrets.
As there is so much to see in Western Australia, there is always a reason to come back and explore more regions. Whether you’re looking for an epic road trip on the Gibb River Road through the Kimberley region or heading down to the Golden Outback until you hit the beaches of Esperance, you’ll experience a one of a kind adventure along the way.
Feel free to contact me to plan your Western Australia explorations. 619-453-0561 Direct Line, Email Lindsay@otadventures.com