Southwest Australia had long been on our bucket list. We were supposed to go there in spring 2020 but Covid threw a spanner in the works back then. In November just past, we finally made it happen. In a week and a half, we went on a round trip that more than lived up to our high expectations. We were introduced to beautiful landscape, unique flora and fauna, and incredibly nice, lively cities. In this blog, we’ll take you on our fantastic round trip in South-West Australia.
In this blog ...
- Perth, starting point of our tour in South Western Australia
- Fremantle, our second stop in South Western Australia
- Visit to Rottnest Island
- Delightful stay in the Margaret River area
- Via the Giants Tree Top Walk back to Perth
- Nambung NP to conclude our tour of South-West Australia
- End of our tour of South Western Australia
- Overview map of South Western Australia round trip
- All practicalities for a round trip through South Western Australia
- Other topics you may be interested in
Perth, starting point of our tour in South Western Australia
We spend the first few days of our stay in South Western Australia in Perth, the capital of Western Australia. As the city is easy to explore on foot, we won’t use a rental car until later. From the airport, we take an Uber to our hotel. The extremely friendly driver talks incessantly. As we pass the city’s main stadium, he mentions that Coldplay is performing over the weekend. He therefore expects big crowds in and around Perth. We are glad we booked our hotel well in advance!
The next day, we take our time to let the city soak in. We have breakfast outside at a charming café where we are again surprised by the friendliness of the people. A little later, we walk through the modern city centre to the banks of the Swan River. We don’t notice the expected, huge crowds because of the pop concert. Instead, we enjoy a wonderfully peaceful city with modern architecture and many beautiful parks. But appearances can be deceiving: in the evening, the sleepy-looking metropolis turns into a bustling city full of super chill bars and restaurants!
Hiking through the nature-rich city of Perth
After an invigorating lunch at the idyllically located The Island, it’s time for a nice walk. We go for one in Kings Park, one of the world’s largest inner-city parks. At the Queen Victoria Memorial in the park, we enjoy stunning views of the city and the Swan River. We then walk through Western Australia’s beautiful botanical gardens. We conclude our long walk in the afternoon at Perth’s magnificent university complex. We meet no students; they have all finished the academic year already. However, we do witness a wedding couple engaged in a photo shoot in the beautiful garden surrounding the main building. What a beautiful place for a wedding!
In the evening, we go for another city walk. This time we do the Christmas Lights Trail; a city walk past creatively lit buildings and objects. Once back at the hotel, we look back on a particularly successful day. We saw so much nice and beautiful stuff. In a separate blog we’ll soon elaborate on our visit to Perth.
Fremantle, our second stop in South Western Australia
Just south of the Swan River is Fremantle, a historic port town that locals say we should definitely visit. This town, also known as Freo, is known for its well-preserved Victorian buildings and charming cobbled streets. Also for its many historical sites and beautiful beaches. Fremantle, we are told, is home to a vibrant café and restaurant culture. Interesting!
Immediately on arrival in the town, it turns out that nothing had been exaggerated: along pretty, old streets are the most beautiful historic buildings. And we see charming little cafés everywhere. We decide to have an early lunch on the roof terrace of one of the old-Victorian buildings. After all, we need to gather strength for a city tour of the many sights! We then stroll down the picturesque High Street to Bathers Beach, one of many fantastic sandy beaches. Here we visit, among other things, the Round House, a former prison built in 1830. It is Western Australia’s oldest building still preserved as such.
We continue our city walk towards the Fremantle Prison, taking in the Fremantle Markets along the way. This market hall is in a beautiful Victorian building. It reminds us somewhat of the usually vibrant market halls in Spain, such as those in Madrid. This market is also a paradise for foodies and artisan lovers. We sample some of the delicious local dishes and buy some fresh produce for later in the afternoon.
Back in time at Fremantle Prison
Next, we arrive at Fremantle’s historic prison. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the city’s main attraction. We are just too late for a guided tour, but fortunately we can enter the museum. Here we get an insight into the hard life of the prisoners who were once held here. We also learn more about the fascinating history of the region. Absolutely worth a visit! In our separate blog about our stay in Perth soon, we will also delve deeper into Fremantle Prison.
Visit to Rottnest Island
Located off the coast of Perth lies the famous Rottnest Island. This enchanting island is known for its pristine beauty and unique flora and fauna. With its crystal-clear waters and truly pearly white sandy beaches, Rottnest Island is a paradise for nature and beach lovers. The island is also a wonderful snorkelling and diving destination.
Today, a long-held wish comes true: by seaplane, we make the crossing from the inland water near Perth to Rottnest Island. Sustainability notwithstanding, we think this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After a brilliant flight and a flawless landing, we reached the island. From the air, we noticed the unprecedentedly beautiful, turquoise sea water. It is a harbinger of the beautiful beaches we will soon get to see on a bike tour. Before that, we first walk to Thomson Bay where we rent our two wheels and stock up on plenty of drinking water.
Bike tour on Rottnest Island
A beautiful 15-kilometre bike ride then takes us past rugged coastlines, lush green forests and many idyllic beaches. It’s so beautiful here, we keep saying. There is, however, something of an infestation of flies. Especially when we occasionally get off our bikes to take a photo, we are besieged. Fortunately, the winged pests leave us alone on the beach itself. From the other side of the island, we take a winding road back to Thomson Bay. In the process, we pass the Wadjemup Lighthouse, which offers panoramic views of the big island.
Part of the day’s schedule is a multi-course lunch at Lontara, a beautiful beachfront restaurant. Delicious food, but it is mainly the pleasant ambiance that really appeals to us. At the restaurant, incidentally, we also meet a so-called quoakka: a small, not particularly shy but cute marsupial. The little animal also comes sniffing around our table. Quoakkas are only found on Rottnest Island.
Besides its natural beauty, Rottnest Island also has a rich history. For instance, the island once served as a penal colony for Aboriginal and European prisoners. Remnants of this turbulent period can still be found. At the end of our visit to the island, we pass some historic buildings. Like the Rottnest Island Settlement. Here we learn more about the island’s fascinating history. It is an interesting conclusion to a fantastic visit to the island.
In a separate blog, we go into detail about what there is to see and experience on Rottnest Island.
Delightful stay in the Margaret River area
Immediately after our visit to Rottnest Island, we set sail south. We spend the night in the vicinity of Bunbury. It is a charming town with a lovely sandy beach on a beautiful bay. Besides cosy little bars, trendy restaurants, boutiques and cafés, there is the Dolphin Discovery Centre. Here you can learn all about dolphins and even see them more or less in the wild! As we want to move on quickly to Margaret River, we skip the dolphin centre. We have a good breakfast on the beach and climb a beautiful viewpoint over the city though.
We continue our drive along the coast to the south. To our right, we see the most beautiful beaches. Every now and then we park the car to stretch our legs and enjoy the amazing, turquoise sea water. At some of these beaches, we see sun-tanned surfers our age braving the waves. They do it so effortlessly that we want to give it a try ourselves.
A little later we reach the town of Margaret, located in a region known for exquisite wines and gastronomic delights. With more than 120 wineries, this is a paradise for wine lovers. There is so much to see in this region that we have booked several nights’ stay there. This gives us enough time to visit some of the vineyards and also to go on beautiful walks and explore a particularly large, impressive cave. You can read more about our stay in Margaret in the separate blog we will publish soon.
Via the Giants Tree Top Walk back to Perth
For a completely different landscape, we set sail for Walpole in the southernmost tip of Western Australia. Walpole is the domain of vast forests and majestic karri trees and red tingle trees. On the way there, we drive through really nice forests. Once in a while, we smell fire. The fire brigade is stoking controlled fires here to protect the forest using ‘firebreaks’ from a possible, devastating forest fire. Indeed, they expect very high temperatures in the coming days and in this part of the world, a forest fire can often lurk around the corner.
One of the highlights of the area around Walpole is the Walpole-Nornalup National Park. The park is part of the larger Walpole Wilderness Area, an international biodiversity hotspot established in 2004. One of the main tourist attractions in this area is the Valley of the Giants. Here you can take a beautiful walk past 70-metre-high red tingle trees. The giant trees have very thick trunks. The hiking trail even runs through some of them! To see the forest from above, a footpath has been built here at a height of 40 metres: the Tree Top Walk. My wife, who is afraid of heights, doesn’t like it at first. Shuffling along, right behind me, she overcomes her fear out of curiosity. Afterwards, she is glad to have seen the beautiful forest from this perspective.
Surprising end to a fun day
The national park has much more to offer than just the Valley of the Giants. But unfortunately, we are already nearing the end of our tour and we still have to return to Perth. That’s why we have only booked one hotel night in Walpole. On our way to the hotel, we pass a sign that says “Valley of the Giants Olives and Wines.”
We decide to stop by, we are in the area after all. Not much later, we arrive at an idyllically located vineyard, bordered by beautiful old trees. The winery is so remote that we expect to be the only passers-by. But nothing could be further from the truth. Once inside, we meet the Swiss owner and an Australian family. We immediately get into an animated conversation and leave the winery only an hour later. With a bottle of Pinot Noir under our arms, that is.
Nambung NP to conclude our tour of South-West Australia
After a nice stay in Walpole, we drive all the way back to Perth via a different route. We have quite a few kilometres to cover, so we cut the drive into several sections. There are plenty of super places to have lunch or enjoy the beautiful scenery. As we take our time on our return journey, we arrive in Perth fairly late but well rested. Here we dive straight into the bustling city centre. Once again, we experience a wonderful and, above all, pleasant evening. We conclude that Perth is a city where we would like to live for a few years.
The next day is devoted to Nambung National Park. According to experts, we should not skip the Pinnacles Desert in that park during our round trip through South-West Australia. Google Maps shows that the drive is about 200 kilometres, and thus also 200 kilometres back. But as it is going to be very hot today, the car ride suits us fine thanks to the relief of the air con. On the way there, we pass through a steppe-like landscape. There is something beautiful and rugged about it, but it is also somewhat monotonous. The unusual, snow-white sand dunes we occasionally pass are a welcome change.
Cervantes and the Pinnacles Desert
In the mood for a coffee, we drive a little further to the village of Cervantes. Since we don’t meet anyone here, the village looks like a soulless ghost town. We enter the – at first sight – only café in the village. It is super busy. Apparently, the whole village has flocked to this café. A friendly staff member explains that due to staff shortages, we will probably have to wait a long time for our cup of coffee. So, we decide to leave and drive straight on to the park.
A little later, we drive into the Pinnacles Desert. Here we find literally thousands of limestone pinnacles of different heights and shapes. These pinnacles are the remains of limestone beds formed by marine organisms. In the golden yellow sand, the pinnacles form a bizarre-looking landscape. Like driving around on a wildly alien planet. Various wild animals seem to be found here, such as kangaroos, emus and several species of birds. We don’t come across them but we still think our visit is absolutely worth the drive! After more than an hour, we leave the park through the interesting information centre.
On our way back to Perth, we pass Yanchep National Park. It is already a bit later in the afternoon, but since the entrance gate is open, we take a look. This national park is known for its many hiking opportunities and other outdoor activities. You can also spot wildlife, such as kangaroos, koalas and colourful birds. And this time we are lucky: at a small park with picnic tables, we find a large group of kangaroos. They willingly allow themselves to be approached up close and photographed. Even the mothers with a youngster. We couldn’t have ended this afternoon better!
End of our tour of South Western Australia
Once back at our hotel, we quickly head out again. This is our last evening in the fine, small-looking metropolis of Perth. Somewhere on the balcony of an old Victorian building, we have a drink. It is still quite warm in the city. But as we realise we will soon be back in the cold and wet Netherlands, we enjoy every minute. A nice moment to look back on a more than fantastic round trip.
Overview map of South Western Australia round trip
All practicalities for a round trip through South Western Australia
The most pleasant temperatures are in November, December, March and April. January and February can be very hot. Incidentally, we also had our first heatwave at the end of November. But because the air was dry, the high temperatures did not bother us at all. If you like to go to the sea besides travelling around, March and April are the most ideal months. The average water temperature is around 23 degrees then. We found the sea freezing cold in November!
The most obvious place to start your tour of South-West Australia is in Perth. After all, this is where you have Western Australia's main international airport. There are several airlines that fly to Perth from the Netherlands with just one stopover. An interesting alternative is to combine your round trip with a visit to Bali. Indeed, from Bali there are many cheap, daily flights directly to Perth.
The round trip described in this blog is around 1,500 kilometres by car. This includes trips from, for example, Margaret to the vineyards. We covered this distance in six days and found it quite doable. Incidentally, the full trip took nine days in total.
As far as we are concerned, none of the sights described in this blog should be missing from your roundtrip. But this part of Australia has so much more to offer. Our advice would therefore be to plan at least two weeks for a roundtrip through South Western Australia. Travel agent TravelEssence, which specialises in unique tours of Australia, can help you get a fantastic, fully customised itinerary.
In theory, it is certainly possible to explore South-West Australia with a motorhome. However, travelling around Australia with a motorhome is still less obvious and comfortable than in countries like the United States, Canada and New Zealand. For more information, read TravelEssence's blog on travelling by campervan in Australia.
A round trip through South-West Australia doesn't necessarily have to be expensive. But of course, everything depends on your wants and needs. The general price level is fairly similar to that in the Netherlands and Belgium. Proportionally, it is especially the flight that makes a holiday in Australia more expensive than the same round trip in, say, Canada.
The answer to this question varies from person to person. Will you go for luxury or basic comfort? In a guesthouse or hotel? Something simple or something unique? We ourselves stayed one night via Airbnb in a guesthouse. The surroundings were boring, but the accommodation was fine and cheap. We also stayed several times in a motel. Not luxurious and often a bit dated, but clean, affordable and fully equipped. Furthermore, we used hotels. Pretty standard but comfortable and not expensive. Looking for something unique, like a cottage in the middle of nature? Then get inspired by TravelEssence's offer.
The range of accommodation on our route: