It should probably be no surprise that the country’s largest state, Western Australia, has one of the most impressive collections of sights to see. With so little mass development along the coast or in the harsh central landscapes, some of the country’s best natural sights have been left untouched here.
There are lots of places to visit in Western Australia and the distances between them are enormous. This is not a state where you pop in for a quick trip and see everything.
I would recommend either just concentrating on one region – or giving yourself several months for a proper road trip.
When it comes to the best things to see in Western Australia, you can take your pick of the sort of experience you’re looking for.
Perth and the surrounding regions like Margaret River have a great focus on food and wine, and you can taste some of the best produce in the country.
Along the south coast, there are beautiful beaches and the legacy of some interesting history. If you head up the west coast, you’ll come to some of the most important natural systems on the planet, including two World Heritage Sites.
And then there’s the outback, where there’s a combination of remote towns and dramatic landscapes.
All in all, there is so much to see! Here are my suggestions for the best places to see in Western Australia.
As Australia’s western capital, Perth is famous for its dramatic sunsets over the water… but during the days, it’s also the country’s sunniest major city.
The raw beauty flows in from the landscapes surrounding Perth – the beaches, the Swan River, and the wineries. In recent years, though, the growth in cool new bars and restaurants has given the city an urban hipster feel.
This is on top of cultural attractions like museums and art galleries – and the historic Perth Mint and Fremantle Prison (which is part of a World Heritage Site).
The nearby Swan Valley may not be as famous as Margaret River but, seeing as it’s only 25 minutes from Perth, it’s much easier to reach. Swan Valley is the state’s oldest wine region and has about 70 restaurants and cafes where you can do tastings and try the local produce.
And, of course, how can you visit Perth and not pop over to Rottnest Island to see one of the country’s cutest animals, the Quokka, and take a selfie with these smiley little guys!
Margaret River has truly become an international name and deserves its reputation as one of the world’s top wine regions. There are more than 100 wineries here, producing over 15 per cent of Australia’s premium wine.
From Perth, Margaret River is about three hours away and it’s definitely deserving of more than just a day trip. As well as wine tastings and top restaurants, there are art galleries, craft breweries, and lots of food festivals throughout the year.
Aside from the wine, the Margaret River region is known for its excellent big-wave surfing, although there are also calm beaches for those who just want to relax. There aren’t many places in the world where you can get from a winery to the ocean so quickly.
Inland, there are hardwood forests to explore, ancient limestone caves you walk through, and other adventure activities like canoeing, rock climbing, and mountain biking.
Further along the dramatic coast is Albany, the spot where the first European settlers set foot on the state, and you’ll find remnants of the colonial history here.
But there’s also the heritage of what came after, particularly the whaling industry. The Historic Whaling Station at Discovery Bay is a fascinating site.
One of the most important landmarks in Albany is the National Anzac Centre, the museum that tells the emotional stories of the ANZACs – the first of which left for the First World War from here.
The landscapes around Albany are beautiful but not as harsh as the regions further north in Western Australia. There is good hiking along the coast at Torndirrup National Park, where you’ll find some of the region’s most famous natural attractions, like Natural Bridge and The Gap.
For something a bit lighter, there’s the boardwalk at Ellen Cove and the nearby cafes and beaches – or try some of the oysters and fresh seafood at Emu Point.
Beaches don’t get much better than this, and there’s a good reason why Esperance is famous for its white sand and turquoise water along the vast stretch of coast. The best known is Lucky Bay, which is said to be Australia’s whitest beach. (No, it’s not Cronulla).
Swimming and snorkelling are a great way to spend your time here, but there are also some good surf spots if you’re keen to try the waves. Fishing its pretty popular too.
Although it’s the nature that captures people’s attention at first, it’s also nice to realise that there are galleries and museums here – a fun exhibit is the remains of the NASA Skylab that crashed back to Earth near here.
The locals have also developed a really interesting tourism industry here so there’s plenty to do – Indigenous cultural tours, sand boarding, island cruises, and four-wheel-drive beach safaris.
Oh, and there’s also the famous Pink Lake, which sits just next to the dark blue of the Indian Ocean, with just a thin strip of lush green forest between the two. For photographers, it’s definitely one of the most striking places to visit in Western Australia.
Head north from Esperance and, about 400 kilometres later, you’ll reach Kalgoorlie.
Founded during a gold rush in the 1880s, Kalgoorlie is the biggest city in the Australian outback and offers a true insight into life in the middle of the country.
The city has a rich legacy of architecture from the golden days, and there’s a (perhaps surprisingly) vibrant food and nightlife scene. To see where this all started, you can visit the Super Pit, one of the world’s largest open cut mines.
There’s quite a bit to see here, including the Kalgoorlie-Boulder WA Museum, the Royal Flying Doctor’s Visitor Centre, and Indigenous art galleries. There’s also a large outdoor art gallery at Inside Australia and the ghost town of Gwalia.
If you can time your trip, I would suggest visiting in spring when the dazzling wildflowers fill the land and bring the whole region to life in rich colours.
I used to say that I wanted to go on a trip to explore the Kimberley. It was only when I really started looking into the details that I realised how enormous the Kimberley is (it’s about double the size of the whole of Victoria).
Unless you’ve got a lot of time, you’ll need to break up the region into a couple of trips, so let’s first look at the east.
Kununurra is the gateway to the eastern side of the Kimberley. While there’s not too much to do in this young outback town, you can use it as a base to visit the neighbouring Lake Argyle, the largest manmade lake in the southern hemisphere, with plenty of water activities.
Probably the highlight in the region is the World Heritage Site of Purnululu National Park and the famous Bungle Bungle Range. These orange and black sandstone domes are one of geology’s greatest fascinations and you can explore by foot or do a helicopter trip over the top.
Also in the eastern part of the Kimberley is Gibb River Road, a special 4WD track that takes you through the Australian outback to untouched wilderness, ancient gorges, and epic cattle stations.
Passing through Halls Creek, you’ll also be able to see what remains of the town that boomed when gold was found here but was eventually abandoned.
On the western side of the Kimberley, the main city is Broome.
Broome itself is a charming place, where eco-retreats and chic resorts mix with hostels and camping vans. As the pearling capital of Australia, there’s a blend between the industrial and luxury elements that go with that.
Cable Beach is one of the best things to see in Broome, and the camel rides along the sand are iconic. But there’s also Sun Pictures – the world’s oldest operating outdoor cinema – and the weekly markets.
Not too far from Broome is the Dampier Peninsula, with the stunning red-rock cliffs and a wealth of Indigenous heritage to discover.
You can cruise the 1000 islands of the Buccaneer Archipelago, fly over the incredible Horizontal Falls, or adventure in the Mitchell Plateau where tropical rainforests meet wild escarpments.
Inland, you can also base yourself the outback town of Fitzroy Crossing and use that as a great base for exploration of the nearby Devonian National Parks – Tunnel Creek, Windjana Gorge and Geikie Gorge.
Coming back down the coast, you’ll eventually get to Exmouth, the springboard for one of the most stunning places to visit in Western Australia – Ningaloo Reef.
Listed as a World Heritage Site, Ningaloo Reef is the world’s largest fringing reef and is home to an amazing collection of animals, including dolphins, manta rays, turtles, humpback whales, and the whale shark.
You can experience Ningaloo Reef by snorkelling, diving, or in a glass-bottom boat. The Great Barrier Reef gets all of the attention with tourists normally, but there’s something very special about this place as well.
Exmouth itself is pleasant but there’s not a lot to do in the town. You can use it as a base to go inland and explore the Cape Range National Park, with rugged red gorges and canyons.
Further down the coast, you’ll reach another World Heritage Site, Shark Bay, where the only town with accommodation is Denham.
The natural wonders here are quite incredible and there are lots of ways to explore and experience Shark Bay.
The most famous attraction is Monkey Mia, where wild dolphins come to shore to interact with people in the shallow waters. But Shark Bay is also home to the largest population of dugongs in the world.
There’s Francois Peron National Park, which protects some of Australia’s most important wilderness, and off-shore you can visit Dirk Hartog Island National Park, which has rare animal species.
It’s hard to know how you will fit everything in, because Shark bay also has beautiful beaches, the stromatolites known as the world’s oldest living fossils, fishing, 4WD adventure tracks, and lots of Indigenous heritage activities.
And finally, if you keep going south, a few hours before you reach Perth you will get to Cervantes. It’s another coastal town with stunning beaches and islands, with great snorkelling and fishing.
But the main reason to stop at Cervantes is to use it as your gateway to visit the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park. This unique landscape with the eerie limestone spires rising up from the ground feels like another planet.
Cervantes for founded to support the local cray fishing industry and you can still taste some of the fresh seafood here. There’s a decent range of accommodation and dining options.
Heading south, you can also stop at Lake Thetis to see the collection of stromatolites that have been created in the high salinity levels of the water here.