For many Aussies living on the east coast, Western Australia can be sidelined when it comes to choosing a holiday destination.
While we’ll happily sit on a plane for half our adult life to get to Europe or New York, there’s something about the four-hour flight to Perth that makes some of us turn up our noses and proclaim: “TOO FAR”.
Perhaps it’s also because there’s plenty of great stuff to explore on the east coast, and we don’t feel the need to venture further afield.
But with international travel put on hold for the time being, many of us are turning our attention to our own backyard. And so I put it to you: there’s never been a better time to venture to WA and do this road trip, which is one of the best I’ve done, anywhere in the world.
Aerial view of the Coral Coast, Western Australia. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
A while back, three friends and I decided to drive from Perth to Exmouth – otherwise known as Australia’s Coral Coast. All up, our trip was 1270 km or around 13 hours driving. It took us about a week. The purpose of the drive was to snorkel with the whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef, which is a bucket list adventure for many travellers.
The schlep to get there from Perth was simply a means to an end, but like all great road trips, the journey became the most memorable bit. The contrasting colours of arid red desert and sparkling turquoise waters and the abundance of wildflowers and native fauna are seared into my memory.
And the sunsets. Don’t even get me started on the sunsets.
Kangaroos were absolutely everywhere on this trip. The fellas were in Cape Range National Park.Source:Getty Images
It was also memorable because of the peace and quiet, and the wide open spaces. We drove for hours at a time and didn’t see another car – all we saw were clusters of emus or kangaroos, and the unhindered horizon.
That was the real point of difference with road trips I’ve done on the east coast. Getting so much space to yourself is utterly therapeutic. At a time when many of us are prioritising social distancing, this is the ultimate spot for that.
Osprey Bay at Cape Range National Park … it’s not often you get entire beaches to yourself. Especially ones this beautiful. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
We hired a four-wheel drive from Perth airport and in just two hours found ourselves at The Pinnacles. We felt like we were on an entirely different planet.
This area in the Nambung National Park contains thousands of weathered limestone pillars. When we were there you could hear a pin drop, and it felt strangely spiritual. The contrast of the yellow with the blue sky is breathtaking, and you’ll also often find blooming wattle trees and tame kangaroos, black cockatoos and emus milling about the place.
The Pinnacles of Nambung National Park in Western Australia.Source:Getty Images
From here we headed to Geraldton. Highlights around this area include the very Instagrammable pink lagoon at Port Gregory and Kalbarri National Park, where we lazed in the gully by the water and had curious kangaroos watching us the entire time.
There’s also a brand new Skywalk at Kalbarri which is getting rave reviews.
The pink salt lakes in Port Gregory, Western Australia. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
The area between The Pinnacles and Geraldton is also often referred to as Wildflower Country (it’s among the most botanically diverse bush areas in WA). If you time your trip right (late July to early October) you’ll be treated to some truly spectacular vistas.
Spend a few hours lazing and drinking in the beauty of Kalbarri National Park. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
From here you head up to Shark Bay, one of the world’s greatest wilderness treasures.
The spot has been listed as a World Heritage site thanks to its unique combination of wildlife, flora and stunning scenery. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s here you’ll find the much-photographed Monkey Mia area, where dolphins come right up to tourists on the beach … but we’re more blown away by the fact you can see an emu taking a dip:
You never know who you’ll come across when you’re swimming at Monkey Mia. Picture: Tourism WASource:Supplied
Most of the little towns we stayed in so far on this journey were incredibly quiet. We barely saw another soul. But in hindsight, this was perfect as it meant our little crew spent plenty of quality time together, which is really what road trips are all about. It was all very relaxing.
Without the distraction of gaudy “attractions” along the route we played cards until the wee hours, had bloody Marys and fish ‘n’ chips for lunch, and fished each day while watching those spectacular sunsets.
For the final leg of our trip we based ourselves in Coral Bay where there was a little more action, as this is where most international visitors base themselves to swim with the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef.
Swimming with the whale sharks is a highlight for many people who visit this part of the world. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
From here you can explore the Cape Range National Park, and possibly spy some kangaroos hanging out on the beach.
It was around this area that I discovered the best beach I’ve ever visited.
Turquoise Bay … breathtakingly beautiful.Source:Getty Images
I chose not to snorkel with the whale sharks because I am, frankly, terrified of too much open water (thanks a lot, Spielberg). So while my travel companions went off on their whale shark daytrip, I took the 4WD, threw my snorkel in the back and decided to drive up the coast to see what I could find.
I wound up at Turquoise Bay and plonked myself on the dazzling white sand. There wasn’t another person on the beach. I snorkelled for a spell in the crystal clear water and ended up surrounded by sea turtles frolicking in the shallows.
It was so picture-perfect and peaceful and unspoilt that I admit, I teared up. That final day of our trip, spent exploring on my own was one of the most memorable days I’ve ever spent travelling.
Marine turtles on Ningaloo Reef. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images
While our international borders are closed and you have the opportunity to experience this incredible place in relative seclusion as we did, I strongly encourage you to keep an eye out for cheap flights to Perth and put this on your travel agenda.
It’s a truly special part of the world.
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