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Explore The SouthWest

Journey deep into the outback to mining towns packed with history, before reaching the coast with spectacular beaches, forest thrills and marine wildlife adventures.

  • 47
  • 51:33
  • $222
  • 2,082 mi

Created by Jessica Dearsley - July 18th 2017

From the fast-evolving city of Perth, embark on one of Australia's most diverse and spectacular road trips. Look forward to a journey deep into the outback to mining towns packed with history, before returning to the coast to experience spectacular beaches, forest thrills and marine wildlife adventures. All along the route, expect to be sustained by excellent Western Australian food, beer and wine.

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Perth, WA

Perth, the dynamic capital of Western Australia (WA) is definitely a city on the rise. From atop Kings Park, secure a view of the new Elizabeth Quay development linking the Swan River to the CBD, and don't miss negotiating the Federation Walkway, an elevated 200m-plus glass and steel bridge coursing through eucalyptus trees. Ask at the park's visitor centre about tours with Perth's indigenous Noongar people, and down the hill at Elizabeth Quay, look forward to the best of Perth's food trucks parking up for al fresco eats.

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"Federation Walkway" Photo Credit: Kings Park & Botanic Garden

From the collection of food trucks you can partner Texan barbecue or a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich with lucent southern hemisphere light while you consider how you could move here for good. If you’re visiting Perth in March, make sure you time your stay to coincide with the food truck rumble. Paired with displays of local street dance, DJ’s and a pop up bar - special “rumble” cocktails, this is a great fun festival with a fabulous - and delicious - vibe.

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Sneaky Tony's

Next head to Northbridge. Whiskey, gin and rum – specialist bars and secret late night assignations abound around this happening Perth neighbourhood – but to gain access through unmarked laneway doors you'll need some local knowledge.
Discover the weekly secret password for Sneaky Tony's on their Facebook page. Experience Alabama Song's dive bar rock and roll vibe, just follow the guys wearing trucker caps past el cheapo Chinese diners and vintage clothing shops.
For the inevitable late night munchies, order a Flipside burger. And have it delivered upstairs to partner Aussie craft beer at Mechanic's Institute. Of course the unmarked bar has no sign. Welcome to Northbridge.

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"Alabama Song " Photo Credit: Alabama Song at Northbridge Social

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"Flipside Burger Bar " Photo Credit: Flipside Burger Bar

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"Mechanics Institute Bar " Photo Credit: Mechanics' Institute. Small Bar.

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The York Suspension Bridge

Heading east through the Avon Valley, the historic town of York is definitely a hipster-free zone after grungy Northbridge, but there's plenty of interest for an extended lunch stop. Heritage pubs sit on several corners, the sleepy main street is wide enough to accommodate 19th-century bullock trains, and the cafes are filled with a laidback ambience that's quintessentially Australian. Ask the friendly locals about riverside walking tracks, and seek out York's century-old suspension bridge before grabbing an organic smoothie from the funky Jules Cafe.

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"Jules Cafe"

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GoldRush Motel

It's a long haul from York east to Coolgardie – around 450km – so fill up on fuel and load up a playlist with roadtripping songs from iconic Australian acts like Hunters & Collectors, Midnight Oil and Paul Kelly. Out here, it's isolated big sky country, and the sleepy town of Coolgardie is only reached after multiple hours of scrubby vegetation and red dirt. Fuelled by the frenzy of nearby gold strikes, Coolgardie was the third-biggest town in WA in 1898, and boasted six newspapers, three breweries and more than 20 pubs.
Now the more subdued highlights are damn fine pies at the Goldrush Hotel and an interesting local museum. Don't miss the fascinating tale of Modesto Varischetti, the 'Entombed Miner' who spent nine days trapped underground after a flood in 1907.

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Super Pit Gold Mine

The lustrous 19th-century promise of gold also drove the impetuous growth of nearby Kalgoorlie, but unlike Coolgardie, the southern outback's biggest city is still a big and booming mining centre. On the edge of town, the stupendous Super Pit is the end result of more than 120 years of continuous gold extraction. From the edge of one of the planet's biggest opencast mines, massive trucks descending into almost 600m deep resemble mere Matchbox toys, and heading down on a Super Pit tour could be the most interesting two hours you'll ever spend in an old school bus. And unlike the Great Wall of China, the 3.5km-long Super Pit really can be seen from space.

Get ready for another long road trip south to Esperance - a playlist of Perth bands like Tame Impala and The Triffids should make the 400km go faster – but at least there's some of Australia's finest coastal scenery to look forward to at the end of the drive. Journey east to Cape Le Grand National Park. Yes, the silica-white sand at beautiful Hellfire and Lucky Bays really does squeak when you walk on it. And the sea is the most gorgeous turquoise clear blue you’ll be dashing headlong into the surf. Keep your fingers crossed as you might get to see the occasional marsupial sunbathing on the park's beaches.

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"Hellfire Bay, Cape Le Grande National Park " Photo Credit: Parks And Wildlife Service

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"Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grande National Park " Photo Credit: Parks And Wildlife Service

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Lucky Bean Cafe

Even if you don't spy sunbathing kangaroos, you can always recharge with a frothy 'Kangacino' at the Lucky Bean Cafe at Lucky Bay.

From Esperance west to Albany is around 500km – by now you'll have worked out Western Australia is probably the BIGGEST destination you'll ever explore – and our recommendation is to make it even longer with a 120km round trip back to the coast at Bremer Bay. This is the remote Aussie beach you've been dreaming of, so spend a couple of days just chilling staying at the local campground.

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"Bremer Bay Caravan Park" Photo Credit: Bremer Bay Caravan Park

And if you're visiting from January to April, Bremer Bay Canyon Killer Whale Expeditions can take you 60km off the coast into the wild Southern Ocean to see majestic pods of Orca. If your trip brings you here from July to October, however, you can see Southern Right Whales who come to the calm waters of the sheltered bays to calve.

Point Ann

The viewing platform at Point Ann in the Fitzgerald National Park is the perfect place to spot these majestic mammals.

The beaches around the national park are fabulous for swimming and depending on conditions, the surfs great at Peppermint Beach, Blossoms Beach, Bremmer Beach or Native Dog Beach (though there is a big rip here so please be mindful!). And from September to November a most glorious display of wild flowers blossoms into show.

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"Peppermint Beach, Fitzgerald River National Park"

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"Blossoms Beach, Fitzgerald River National Park " Photo Credit: Jerramungup Western Australia Government

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"Native Dog Beach, Fitzgerald River National Park"

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National Anzac Centre

The biggest town on WA's southern coast, historic Albany celebrates a superb location on King George Sound. This was the final landfall for Australian and New Zealand soldiers travelling by troop ships to fight in Europe in WWI, and Albany's National Anzac Centre is a poignant memorial to these ANZAC forces. Be prepared for an intensely moving experience as every visitor to the centre is assigned one of 32 different photo cards remembering actual soldiers and nurses, and their individual and authentic stories unfold as a journey through the museum progresses.

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The Gap

Before continuing west from Albany, head out to the wild and windswept cliffs around Torndirrup National Park. For the third best selfie of the trip, stand high above surging surf on the vertigo-inducing viewing platform at The Gap. From July to October, study the horizon for the telltale flumes of migrating humpback whales.

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Mandalay Beach

For a road trip that's already crammed in plenty of great coastal scenery from Esperance to Albany, the beaches around Denmark are somehow even more spectacular. It will probably just be yourself and your vagabond's thoughts amid the dunes and boardwalks of Mandalay Beach.

Or swim in the superbly sheltered turquoise pools of Elephant Rocks or Greens Pools in William Bay National Park. Elephant Cove, just over the hill from Greens Pool, is accessed by a staircase which leads you onto the beach.

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"Greens Pool, Western Australia" Photo Credit: Western Australia Tourism

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Denmark Bakery

And because you're in Western Australia, there's a tasty menu of local flavours to discover. Must-try around town are the Asian-and Pacific-inspired tapas at Pepper & Salt, a spicy VindaRoo pie at the Denmark Bakery, (sorry, Skippy...)

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Bartholomews Meadery

And make sure you also try the honey-flavoured ice-cream at Bartholomews Meadery near Elephant Rocks.

Walpole's Valley of the Giants sounds like a 1950s B-movie, but negotiating the Tree Top Walk high in the canopy of giant tingle trees is hugely entertaining. If you do suffer from vertigo, be prepared to be a tad challenged as parts of the elevated walkway between massive trees are up to 50 metres above the forest floor. These trees, can be up to 400 years of age and, like redwoods. you can walk through natural tunnels of some of the largest ones. It's a real adrenaline rush, and yes, a hastily snapped pic could be the second best selfie of your trip.

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Gloucester Tree

Heading west from Walpole to the former forestry town of Pemberton, there are more sky-high adventures to take in, and the soaring karri trees of this area are even more exciting. Intrepid travellers can climb the Gloucester Tree (58m) or the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree (68m) (both are fire-lookout trees equipped with spiral metal spike “staircases”), before descending for a well earned tasting of local wines at the Pemberton Wine Centre deep in the shaded confines of Warren National Park. And sorry, but no selfies this time. You definitely need both hands free to safely scale what have been dubbed 'Australia's scariest tourist attractions” and if you can prepare in advance, grab some gloves as the rails can be quite tough on the hands.

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"Dave Evens Bicentennial Tree" Photo Credit: Australia's South West

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"Pemberton Wine Centre " Photo Credit: Unearthed - Pemberton

Welcome to the most southwesterly point in Australia, and the rugged and windswept spot where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet. Definitely sign up for an audio guide to learn about the history of the lighthouse, built in 1869 and WA's tallest, but good luck hearing every second and fourth word as gusting winds straight from the ice of the Antarctic surge in to assail this isolated spot. Definitely pack an extra layer of thermals. Chances are you'll need them here in all but the warmest summer weather. And chances are you’ll get to spot whales swimming out in front of the the lighthouse, as from May to September this is one of the best land based vantage points for spotting these giant nautical mammals.

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Margaret River Region

Now it's time for someone else to do the driving on a tasting tour around one of Australia's premier wine-growing destinations. Wine styles tinged with the salty kiss of the nearby Indian Ocean include great chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, and if you're more of a hops fan, the region is also packed with craft breweries. Try and visit on a Saturday or Sunday when local musicians play in styley garden bars full of thirsty weekenders from Perth.

Fans of locavore and artisan flavours should definitely schedule a tasty visit to Saturday morning's Margaret River Farmers Market – one of Australia's best – and there are also caves to explore and mountain-bike trails to negotiate.

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Yallingup Woodfired Bread

For some of the best sourdough in the land, follow the locals (and your nose) to the hard-to-find, Yallingup Woodfired Bread. Look for the quirky signage to lead you to their hidden bush location.

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Busselton, WA

You've definitely got options at Busselton. Built in 1865, the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere stretches for 1,841m into the waters of the Indian Ocean. Either take a dinky little train to the far end of the timber-piled structure, or walk leisurely along the heritage wooden boards.

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Dive Busselton Jetty

Once you're at the end of the jetty – itself providing great views along the coast across Geographe Bay and west to Cape Naturaliste – descend 8m into the Underwater Observatory to get up close and personal with scores of marine species. If you're really keen on an underwater experience, sign up for a diving or snorkelling trip with Dive Busselton, or don a space-agey, self-contained SeaTREK breathing helmet and get exploring on your own two legs.

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Rockingham, WA

More marine discoveries await around two hours up the coast at Rockingham. From mid-September through to May – the reserve is closed for nesting at other times - catch a ferry, kayak or even swim across to Penguin Island’s white sandy beaches. There are cute little penguins you can see being fed, and other avian attractions include pelicans, oyster catchers and cormorants.

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Rockingham Wild Encounters

If you're after a more intense wildlife experience, check out a dolphin swimming or dolphin watching tour with Rockingham Wild Encounters (also September to May). Fingers and dorsal fins crossed you'll spy sea-lions as well.

Remember when you were scheming how to stay on in Perth for a longer time? Get ready to do it all over again in hip and funky Fremantle. Cool cafes and heritage pubs dot Freo's Victorian-era heritage townscape, adventurous chefs are offering surprising menus in standout restaurants like Bread in Common and Manuka Woodfire Kitchen.

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"Bread In Common " Photo Credit: Bread In Common

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"Manuka Woodfire Kitchen " Photo Credit: Manuka Woodfire Kitchen

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Western Australian Maritime Museum

And there are at least a couple of days of exploring great museums focussed on Fremantle's maritime and convict past. Factor in a cool music scene and good pubs and clubs, and you'll be in no hurry to leave for home.

Now it's finally time for the best selfie of your trip, but you're going to need to leave behind the compelling attractions of Fremantle for at least a day. Catch a zippy fast ferry from Freo across to Rottnest – boats also depart from Perth but the journey is longer – and prepare to be charmed by the quokka marsupial residents of the island. Yes, there's actually part of Instagram dedicated to #quokkaselfies, and no, we don't know why they always look like they're smiling. Please remember these delightful little chaps are wild animals - so be respectful when around them and do not feed them (there are instant fines if you do).