Western Australia’s magical wonderland awaits – here are 8 experiences not to miss

By Fiona Harper January 30, 2024
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Western Australia is known for its awe-inspiring wilderness and natural wonders, billions of years in the making. Where crystal-clear rockpools form below thundering waterfalls and dreamy ocean sunsets tint the landscape in surreal pink hues. It’s an enchanting place where connecting with the land helps you to reconnect with yourself. It’s untouched. Unspoilt. A place that grounds you, and the red dust-hued wilderness never leaves you.

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In Western Australia you can savour the flavours of the Margaret River Region and wander through world-class vineyards cooled by ocean breezes. Or dive into an enchanting marine wonderland of colour and coral on the world’s largest fringing reef. Take time to breathe in the magic of the Kimberley where ancient stories meld with contrasting colours and textures. Feel the freedom of secluded sandy beaches or float in tranquil swimming holes. Hit the road less travelled and meet friendly locals eager to share their stories, bringing the landscape to life.

Though there are a million dreamlike reasons to experience Western Australia’s natural wonders, its ancient stories and tantalising cuisine, we’ve limited ourselves to eight. For now though, we’re pretty sure you’ll find it hard to stop at eight too.

1. See the wild dolphins of Monkey Mia and view UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef

For more than 50 years, wild bottlenose dolphins have been coming into the shallow waters of Monkey Mia. A daily feeding program is managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service, offering a unique opportunity to see these wondrous creatures in the wild. Take a wildlife cruise in Shark Bay World Heritage Area (Gathaagudu / Gutharraguda) on a purpose-built boat equipped with underwater observation windows, viewing vantage points and a boom net for those keen on ocean immersion.

To the north of Monkey Mia lies Ningaloo Reef (Nyinggulu), given UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011 for its diversity of marine life, striking cave fauna and the spectacular contrast between colourful underwater seascapes and the rugged landscape of Cape Range National Park.

Aerial view of the Ningaloo Reef coastline near the North Mandu campground; Aerial view of Monkey Mia, including the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort. Image credits: Tourism Western Australia

2. Admire the contrasts of Karijini National Park

Karijini National Park in the Pilbara region is part of the Hamersley Range and is Western Australia’s second- largest national park, covering a staggering 6274sq.km. Walking trails wind through the park, offering chances to see the park’s plentiful flora and fauna up close. Look for red kangaroos and rock wallabies. Echidnas and dingoes too. Waterholes and streams lure birdlife including the endemic spinifex pigeon with its prominent head crest.

Over 500 flora species have been documented, some of them extremely rare, across ecosystems which vary from semi-arid to tropical. Between June and September each year grass plains and fields burst into colour as the Pilbara wildflowers bloom. Look for purple mulla mulla, scarlet red Sturt’s desert pea and Wickham’s grevillea, the pink, purple and blue of Ashburton peas and the sunshine-yellow of Karijini wattles.

Natural spa pool located at Hamersley Gorge, Karijini National Park; Joffre Gorge, Karijini National Park. Image credits: Tourism Western Australia

3. Soak in natural thermal springs and hike to Emma Gorge

Geothermal hot springs are the reward for a short walk through a pre-historic forest of livistona and pandanus palms at El Questro. Zebedee Springs is a series of year-round thermal pools and small waterfalls surrounded by a towering, lush rainforest. Feeling energised after your soak? Emma Gorge too rewards hikers with a waterhole fed by a towering droplet waterfall cascading down a 65-metre-tall sheer cliff.

Emma Gorge, El Questro Wilderness Park. Image credit: Tourism Western Australia

4. Watch the sunset over the Bungle Bungle Range

Dotted across 450sq. km, the mammoth domes of the Bungle Bungle Range are the red-carpet poster child for Purnululu National Park. The range commands the attention of nature lovers and photographers from across the globe. Deservedly so. Beehive-shaped massifs rise from river beds and valley floors eroded over 20 million years to construct an awe-inspiring majestic landscape.

The Bungle Bungle Range, Purnululu National Park; Cathedral Gorge, Purnululu National Park. Image credits: Tourism Western Australia

Burbling creeks wind through gorges in the aptly- named natural amphitheatre of Cathedral Gorge, a vast cavern with acoustics to rival the best man-made opera houses. Walking trails follow the natural courses of streams such as Piccaninny Creek. Overhead, the famed orange and black horizontal ‘stripes’, or bands, of the Bungle Bungle domes cast an ochre hue across the landscape.

5. Swim in crystal clear waterholes shaded by paperbark trees

Deep in the heart of the Kimberley, gorges carve a swathe through the landscape, waterholes are filled with fresh water as clear as air and paperbark trees cast a shadow across rocky shorelines. Listen for the call of abundant birdlife lured to Manning Creek while you swim in the cooling water. Hike to another waterhole at Galvans Gorge where the pristine waters of the swimming hole lies beneath boab trees clinging to the sandstone escarpment above. Nearby, the mighty Durack River scribes a twisting route through Emma Gorge and the 2800-odd sprawling square kilometres of El Questro wilderness.

Tunnel Creek National Park (Dimalurru). Image credit: Tourism Western Australia

6. Admire the striking limestone karst of the Pinnacles

A short distance from the sparkling Indian Ocean which lines the Western Australian coast, striking limestone pillars rise from ever-shifting desert sands like golden-hued monoliths. Midway between Perth (Boorloo) and Geraldton (Jambinu), the Pinnacles of Nambung National Park are formed by wind erosion and water corrosion. In this dramatic landscape which resembles a petrified paleolithic garden, some formations stand several metres tall and wide. Speckled with shells, fossils and algal structures, these dense fields of spires are particularly attractive when the sun is low on the horizon and casts elongated shadows across amber sands.

The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park at sunset. Image caption: Tourism Western Australia

7. Admire ancient Aboriginal rock art of the Kimberley

The ancient rock art of the Kimberley, known as Gwion Gwion, were created by ancestors of the Balanggarra people. In 2020, Archaeologists with the Australian Research Council dated Gwion Gwion art to be between 12,000 and 17,000 years old. Wandjina paintings with their typically halo-like headpieces and mouthless faces are mere youngsters at around 4,000 years old.

Some of these galleries are best seen from off the coast, including sites such as Bigge Island where a network of caves are adorned with art created by the Wunambal people, including first contact pieces. See stunning Gwion Gwion and Wandjina art at sites amongst the maze of islands, inlets and peninsula of Swift Bay where art adorned rock overhangs.

Wandjina Aboriginal rock art, near Raft Point; Windjana Gorge, Windjana Gorge National Park. Image credits: Tourism Western Australia

8. Taste the Margaret River Region’s world- famous wines

At the opposite end of the state, the coastal Margaret River Region is all about vines and wines with over 200 vineyards under production. The region’s maritime-influenced climate, soils and geographical landscape conspire alluringly to create ideal grape-growing conditions.

Cellar doors are dotted across the rolling hills between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin, many with tasting rooms and restaurants to entice visitors to linger over tantalising lunches. The region is best known for its world-class Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, though in truth it’s hard to find a less-than-fabulous wine across any of Margaret River’s varietals.

Aerial view of car driving along Point Picquet at Eagle Bay Beach, Dunsborough. Aravina Estate, near Yallingup. Image credits: Tourism Western Australia

Vineyards such as Aravina Estate have created exceptional visitor experiences with winemakers conducting tours that include sampling wines direct from the barrels, or blending your own bottle before receiving a custom label. It’s a unique opportunity to take home your own bottle to share with friends or family.

Are you ready to step outside the everyday in Western Australia?

Get away from the well-known and well-trodden and recharge your spirit as you journey through this otherworldly landscape fringed by 12,500km of coastline, billions of years in the making. Start planning your dreamy Western Australia holiday today.

El Questro Wilderness Park, East Kimberley. Image credit: Tourism Western Australia

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