Our Travel Experts Share Their Best Kept Local Secrets: WA
Pictured: Sunset from camper at Red Bluff Campsite.
If you’re looking to take a socially distanced getaway, WA is the ideal destination, being one of the least populated states in Australia. Whether exploring by road or by air, and with so much ground to cover, there’s bound to be somewhere new for everyone to explore!
Sure, the wineries of Margaret River and Rottnest Island with everyone’s favourite inhabitant, the Quokka, are always enjoyable, but we asked our local WA-based travel experts where else they love to visit when they get out and about.
Check out their recommendations for a top day trip, long weekend or epic road trip below.
Why not get in touch with us and let one of our Travel Experts to plan and book your next local COVIDsafe getaway? Be it a weekend away or regional road trip - we've got you covered!
Albany & The Great Southern Region
The stunning southern tip of Western Australia is a good 5 hour drive from Perth, so base yourself from Albany for a few days to explore the unspoilt dramatic coastline, ancient forests and mountains in the national parks within the Great Southern Region.
Nick Prest, one of our senior travel managers at FCBT Perth, recently visited and has recommendations for every type of visitor. History buffs can visit the National Anzac Centre museum in Albany to learn more about the Anzacs experience in World War 1, and the adventurous can even dive the HMAS Perth wreckage where much of the machinery and equipment is still intact.
Nature-lovers will be in their element, with a host of national parks to explore. Nick’s picks include Two Peoples Bay National Park and Cheynes Beach for a scenic coastal walk, and also worth a visit is the Porongurup National Park, home to the Granite Skywalk and spectacular views (plus a few wineries and art galleries on the way in).
A must-do, head to the Stirling Range and hike to the summit of Bluff Knoll - the highest place in WA, it even sometimes gets a good dusting of snow! There are plenty of other sensational hikes in the area and it’s also a good place to see wildflowers in the spring, according to Nick.
Where to Stay: With a number of motor-inn style accommodation options to cater for the road trip crowd, Nick found the Ibis Styles Albany (which includes free parking and wifi with it’s rates) an ideal base for his explorations. Farmstays and country retreats are also popular choices to enjoy the rolling landscapes and the surrounds.
For the campers, you can set up in one of a few sites located within Stirling National Park for easy access to Bluff Knoll.
Where to Eat & Drink: The Angus & Co Steakhouse is perfect for refueling after a day of hiking, especially if you’re staying at the Ibis Styles, otherwise take a 5 minute drive into the CBD and you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants as you stroll around.
Karijini National Park
Best accessed for a few nights as part of a longer road trip either from Broome or Port Hedland, Karijini National Park is as far off ‘the beaten track’ as they come. Home to diverse landscapes of epic proportions, Karijini should be on every nature lovers bucket list - you can experience everything from dusty, red plains to towering, ancient escarpment and lush rockpools and waterfalls.
The team at FCBT Perth are all planning to visit the national park whilst WA borders remain closed, with manager Allison Elkington telling us that the best way to truly experience this stunning example of the Aussie outback properly is to camp out under the stars. Her must-do’s include Dales Gorge and Fortescue Falls. You can also pay a visit to the Karijini Visitor Centre to learn about both the geological, and cultural history of the area and the traditional aboriginal owners.
Where to Stay: Being a remote national park, accommodation options are limited and booking ahead is essential for everything. For true campers, Dales Campground near the Gorge in the north has everything you need, otherwise the Karijini Eco Retreat is an ideal choice for those not looking to BYO tent, with deluxe ensuite camping available as well as unpowered campsites.
Where to eat & drink: For the most part you’ll need to BYO everything being so remotely located, although if you’re staying at Karijini Eco Retreat there is a kiosk on site with limited convenience supplies as well as their Alfresco Restaurant when you’re tired of DIY BBQ dinners.
Yallingup & Surrounds
Not even 3 hours south of Perth, the surf town of Yallingup is famed for its picturesque beaches and the rugged beauty of Cape Naturaliste. The beaches, equal to any of their east coast counterparts, provide the ideal backdrop for family-friendly holidays, surfing safaris or some quiet R&R where you can enjoy your locally acquired produce, picked up from one of many farms or wineries within easy reach.
Martin Bovingdon from our Perth sales team loves the laid back vibe, and says that although there’s plenty of beachfront accommodation if you want to enjoy the stunning views, it’s worth checking out some of the more rural properties for something unique - especially if you are travelling with a four-legged pal as he was!
Where to stay: Petra Olive Oil Estate is a working olive oil farm with beautiful self-catering chalets. The surroundings are stunning and the grounds are home to hundreds of Kangaroos. “The best thing is the accommodation is doggo friendly” says Martin.
Where to eat & drink: There are dozens of exceptional fine-dining restaurants in the surrounds such as at Leeuwin Estate in Margaret River, but Martin suggests that Clancy’s Fish Pub just up the road towards Dunsborough offers 'great food and great drinks with a huge beer garden that looks out over some beautiful woodland... also a dog friendly beer garden'.
Martin’s hot tip is the Yallingup Wood Fired Bakery, where you can pick up some lovely fresh bread to pair with some olive oil you can buy from the farm shop at the Petra Estate.
Pictured: Sriracha, Martin's doggo, enjoying her road trip to Yallingup
Ningaloo Marine Park
Admittedly, Ningaloo is not much of a ‘secret’ but if we’re talking our favourite, remote destinations, this one ticks all the boxes. If marine wildlife is your ‘thing’ then a visit to the world-heritage listed Ningaloo Reef should be top of your bucket list, with its abundance of sea life featuring dolphins, manta rays, turtles, dugongs, and, of course, the gentle giants of the sea: Whale sharks.
Depending on what time of year you visit, there are a variety of experiences to suit every taste, but a day trip out on a boat to snorkel with the Whale sharks is by far the most popular. March to August is the best time for spotting the world’s largest fish, and tour places are strictly limited to ensure their protection so be sure to book in early for next year’s season.
There are plenty of other water based activities and trips you can take year round, so you can enjoy the colorful reef and the stunning beaches whenever you visit. Martin highly recommends more adventurous and qualified Scuba divers book a Navy Pier dive with Dive Ningaloo .
"It's regularly voted one of the world's top 10 dive sites and blew my mind!”
Where to eat & drink: Craft beer lovers shouldn’t miss The Whalebone Brewing Company in Exmouth. Further up on the North West Cape is the Beach Shack, great for breakfast or lunch with a view and which Martin says is “a perfect place to set up camp for a lazy morning and dip in the ocean”.
Where to stay: Most people visiting Nigaloo Reef will base themselves in the resort township of Exmouth, on the sheltered western side of the cape, which has plenty of amenities to meet tourist needs.
If staying in town, Martin loves Escape Resort but suggests that if you don't mind being a 15-minute drive out of town, you should stay at Ningaloo Lighthouse Holiday Park. “It's right opposite the beach - head up to the lighthouse at night for epic star gazing!”
Martin's hidden gem, at the very southern end of the Marine Reef Park...
...is the Red Bluff Campsite and Quobba Station. About 1.5 hours drive north of Carnarvon, Martin gushes “I can’t actually can't say how stunning it is here. Take your own food and drink, enjoy the WA coast at its best! They do have a limited number of retreats, bungalows and shacks for rent along-side camping.”