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Western Australia From wilderness to wine country

By Ute Junker

Western Australia is Australia's biggest state, covering nearly one-third of the continent. Its capital city, Perth, is home to a vibrant bar culture and breathtaking beaches. Just offshore from Perth is Rottnest Island, home of the cute quokka - a small, furry marsupial that appears to smile in selfies. Western Australia is also where you'll find the acclaimed Margaret River wine region, the ancient Kimberley region, the romantic outback beach town of Broome, and World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef, arguably the best place on Earth to swim with whale sharks.

Map of Western Australia

Go bar hopping in Perth

There is no such thing as an ordinary night out in Perth. You might kick things off at Lot Twenty, once the stable where the town's police horses were kept, before heading to Varnish on King, a sleek basement bar with an encyclopaedic whisky selection. End the night at one of the rooftop bars in Perth, perhaps the elegant terrace at Wildflower atop COMO The Treasury, Perth's most acclaimed boutique hotel.


Fall in love with a quokka

Don't forget your selfie stick when you head to Rottnest Island. Just 19 kilometres (12 miles) off the coast of Perth, this laid-back island is home to Australia's most-photographed marsupial. The quokka – found only on Rottnest – is a furry, cat-sized animal with a cuddly appearance and a tendency to smile. In recent years it has become a social media star, thanks partly to the fact that quokkas are less shy around humans than many other Aussie animals. Remember that it is illegal to touch or feed quokkas, so keep a respectful distance.

Ride a camel along Cable Beach

Not your average country town, Broome is the heart of the Kimberley, an old pearling port where heritage buildings house lively bars and restaurants. The town's pride and joy is the extraordinary Cable Beach, a 22-kilometre (14-mile) stretch of fine white sand washed by tides that rise up to nine metres (30 feet). Don't leave town without treating yourself to a sunset camel ride along the beach as the sun sinks over the ocean.

Dive with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef

Are you up for a swim with the world’s largest fish? Whale sharks, which can grow up to 18 metres (59 feet) in length, visit Ningaloo Reef every year between May and October. Swimming just metres away from these gentle giants is a remarkable experience, but it is not Ningaloo's only attraction. The reef's stunning selection of marine life includes manta rays, humpback whales and colourful corals. 

Discover an outdoor outback art gallery at Lake Ballard

You don't expect to find an open-air art gallery in the outback, but internationally-renowned sculptor Antony Gormley chose the dry salt pan of Lake Ballard as the backdrop for 51 of his eye-catching sculptures. The delicate figures, spread across an area of 10 kilometres (six miles), are striking at any time of day, but appear particularly eerie when the dawn light sweeps across the salt pan.

Drive the Gibb River Road

The Gibb River Road is one of Australia's great road trips: a 660-kilometre (410-mile) journey on red dirt roads through the heart of the Kimberley. Following an old cattle droving trail, the trip from Derby to Kununurra gives you access to some of the most remarkable scenery in Australia, including red rock gorges, dramatic waterfalls and ancient forests of palm trees and pandanus. Along the way, you can sleep at cattle stations, stay in style at luxury lodges such as El Questro Homestead, or enjoy bush camping.

Explore the gorges of the Bungle Bungles

Australia has no shortage of striking rock formations, but the Bungle Bungles, in the East Kimberley, is one of the most remarkable. This collection of tiger-striped sandstone domes is striking when seen from above. To really make the most of the experience, however, you will need to hike through the landscape. Walk through the narrow Echidna Chasm, where the towering walls seem to press in on you, and admire the natural amphitheatre of Cathedral Gorge. Sign up for a guided tour that offers insight into the local Aboriginal culture and you trek through the jaw-dropping landscape.  

Feel small in the tall tree forests

In Western Australia's southern region you'll find forests of enormous karri and tingle trees. At the town of Walpole you can wander past – and even through – 400-year-old specimens on the Ancient Empire Walk, or walk through the canopy on the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk. For a real thrill, try ascending the 61-metre (200-foot) Gloucester Tree at the town of Pemberton, which is so tall it was once used as a fire lookout. The Southern Forests are arguably at their best in spring, when a carpet of wildflowers bursts into bloom, but they're memorable at any time of year.

Sip at some of the best wineries in Australia

The Margaret River region, a three-hour drive from Perth, is known for its premium wine. Here, you can visit some of Australia's renowned wineries, like Vasse Felix and Cullen Wines. Each year, the region also plays host to a Gourmet Escape, a celebration of stunning food and wine. After you've tasted top drops, indulge in the region's more adventurous side. Trek the breathtaking Cape to Cape Walk or head to one of Margaret River's epic surf beaches.

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