Discover The West Coast Massive
Hundreds of thousands of backpackers visit Australia each year, and while huge numbers ‘do’ the much-hyped East Coast, many ignore the West. We think they’re missing out. Here’s our guide to the best places to visit in western Australia.
The modern, vibrant city of Perth is attractively situated between the Indian Ocean and the Darling Range, and offset by the vast yet tranquil Swan River. When astronaut John Glenn flew over Australia in 1962 he was so struck by the glow of Perth – thousands of miles from any other major city – that he named it the City of Lights.
There’s a lot to like about Perth. It has loads of backpacker hostels in the lively Northbridge area; nineteen beaches, some suited for relaxation, and others like Trigg Island and Scarborough great for surfing; the world’s biggest musical instruments, the enormous Swan Bells; camel-riding on the beach; free public transport in the city centre; Aussie rules football – head to Subiaco Oval to catch a game. As if that wasn’t enough, Perth is also the sunniest state capital in the country.
The Ningaloo Reef
Covering 5000 square kilometres around the North West Cape of Oz, the Ningaloo Reef is one of the largest fringing coral reefs in the world. Unlike the Barrier Reef, the Ningaloo Reef is just a short swim from the beach in many places, making it an ideal place to scuba dive and snorkel.
It’s home to underwater wonders like whale sharks (the world’s biggest fish), dolphins, dugongs, manta rays, and turtles. There’s also the possibility of seeing humpback and southern right whales.
The Ningaloo Reef also hosts stunning corals, which have formed beautiful swim-throughs which fill up with thousands of tiny, transparent cardinal fish. One of the best-loved scuba sites is the 300-metre long Navy Pier, its beams and pylons encrusted with coral, and the life that dwells underneath the structure is unbelievable.
Uncover ancient art
Hunt around the Burrup Peninsula, near Dampier, and you can find more than 10,000 ancient Aboriginal rock engravings dating back some 40,000 years. They tell of the daily lives of these early inhabitants, and of the Dreamtime, a place in Aboriginal mythology where the past, present, and future all exist as one.
Wicked rock formations
Western Australia has some of the most weird and wonderful rock formations you’re ever likely to see.
The Nambung National Park, 230km north of Perth, is home to the Pinnacles, thousands of eerie spires of calcified limestone rising from the colourful quartz sand. Some formations are four metres tall, others the size of a finger. This otherworldly landscape is ever-changing as the shifting sands of the surrounding desert bury some spires and expose others. It’s a fantastic spot for even apathetic photographers.
Further north is the vast Kimberly Range, where you’ll find spectacles like the Bungle Bungles. Hundreds of dome-shaped, orange and black banded sandstone formations rise from the middle of hundreds of square miles of remote, rugged wilderness. Some are hundreds of feet high, others no larger than a house.
The best beaches
Western Australia boasts some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and countless great spots for watching the sunset over the ocean. Specific beach highlights include: catching the amazing swell at the little-known surf beach in Lancelin; watching sunbathing kangaroos at Lucky Bay; walking on shores made entirely of shells at the imaginatively named Shell Beach; riding a camel across Western Australia’s most famous seaside spot, Cable Beach, with its blood-red cliffs and 22 kilometres of brilliant white sand.
So when you pitch up in Australia on your gap year, there’s no excuse to ignore the best the West has to offer.