12 February 2016

Visit Western Australia: great beaches and minimal deadly animals


Don’t worry, not everything in Australia is trying to kill you.

That’s because the things that are mostly all over east. So come to Perth in Western Australia, we have great beaches and minimal deadly animals!

But what exactly is there to do while you’re in Perth? That used to be a question I struggled to answer. After all, isn’t there a reason we are tagged with the disparaging moniker ‘Dullsville’?  But I’ve never been more wrong in my life. What isn’t there to do in Perth? There’s something for everyone.

Morning jogs on the banks of the Swan River are one of the best ways to start the day. If you’re south of the river, Gusto Food is incredibly popular with locals for their post-morning jog coffee and chat with friends, especially on weekends.

Typika in Claremont serves some of the best huevos rancheros in Perth, with coffee which is roasted in house. Next door is Pressed Earth Juices which specialises in cold-pressed juices and raw, vegan food and desserts. Greens 3 is one of my favourites despite its unfortunate resemblance to snot. The Jungle, with pineapple, pear, mint and cucumber is refreshing on a typically hot Perth summer’s day which can sometimes reach 40° or higher.

Historic port city Fremantle is one of the top tourist attractions. The tourist guides will undoubtedly tell you visit the Fremantle Markets and with good reason: this is the best place to get a taste of Fremantle’s laid-back, slightly bohemian vibe. It’s stuffed full of crammed little stores with quirky finds nestled beside fruit and veg stalls with some of the freshest produce around.

Hunt down Dosukoi Ramen in the depths of the Markets, which is notorious for the crowds it attracts. Leave your order and phone number with the staff and wander around the markets until they send you a text when it’s ready. Their chicken karaage, plump juicy morsels of fried chicken, is excellent.

Family-friendly Perth has the perfect place for those with little ones who want to spend the day lazing by the beach (and don’t forget the sunscreen). Cottesloe Beach has a sheltered bay for kids to splash around and tons of space to settle down with a picnic lunch or start a game of beach volleyball or cricket. Leighton Beach, near Fremantle, is relatively calm, has amazing views of the port and Rottnest Island, and the added benefit of being a dog-friendly beach. On windy afternoons, stop by and watch kite surfers in action. Scarborough Beach has always been popular with surfers, but I prefer the surf at nearby Floreat Beach, which also has BBQ facilities – all you need is to do is bring the meat and your mates.

The Aquarium of Western Australia, known as AQWA, has over 40 exhibits which explore more than 12,000km of WA’s coastline. Everything in the State’s oceans, from shipwrecks to deadly animals, can be found in AQWA. The best thing there though has to be their touch pool, where you can pick up starfish, pet sharks and observe colourful little fish and corals.

King’s Park has panoramic views of the city and river. Synergy Parkland on the western side of King’s Park is the best spot for a picnic with the family and free electric barbeques are provided too. (Notice the recurring theme of barbeques.) The kids will love the playground: a 75m long elevated walkway complete with island fort, large-scale replicas of extinct Australian megafauna, and interactive water misting forest.

While there’s a lot to do in Perth itself, it’s also a springboard to other WA adventures.

Rottnest Island is a short ferry ride from Fremantle or Hillary’s Boat Harbour. Rotto, as it’s known to locals, is home to the quokkas, marsupials roughly the size of a cat that look like cross between a beaver and a mini kangaroo. Largely nocturnal, you can still spot them having an opportunistic feed during the day. While they can’t handle human food, that won’t stop them from stealing your food if they can. There’s a $300 (£148) fine if you’re caught touching them, but selfies are fine.

The primary mode of transport on the island is bicycle. There are also shuttle buses going around the island between the main settlement and other main sights. There is a little secluded beach near the Kingston Barracks. Head past the Peacock Inn and there is a little path off to the left that leads straight to the water. Snorkelling, diving and boating are all popular water-based activities. Bring sturdy, comfortable shoes for hiking or opt for a Segway tour if you’re slightly lazy like I am.

A drive down south to the Margaret River region is an unbeatable experience. On the way down, stop and stretch your legs at Busselton Jetty, extending 1.8km into the stunning Geographe Bay. It’s the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and boasts an underwater observatory. Descend 8m to the sea floor and watch the marine life go by. Or take a longer breather and make your way to Busselton Archery Family Fun Park. They offer an outdoor archery range and mini golf. Pop into Simmo’s Icecreamery in Dunsborough to break up the journey and say hi to Edward the emu. He will steal your ice-cream if he can, even though it’s not good for him, so be vigilant.

There are heaps to things to do when you’re down South. It’s definitely worth booking a cave tour – Jewel, Mammoth and Lake Cave are the three most popular ones. For something slightly more unusual, the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is the world’s tallest fire-lookout tree and it towers over the rest of the karri forest at 75m tall. It’s open for visitors to climb to the top, and you get a nifty certificate to prove you did it too.

No trip down South would be complete without visiting at least one winery for lunch. Fresh local produce paired with the best vintages. Yum. Vasse Felix boasts views of the rolling vineyards and the little creek meandering through the grounds from its restaurant. The Leeuwin Estate has expansive grounds and is a popular concert destination in the summer: nothing better than good food, wine and entertainment underneath the stars on a balmy summer night. See if you can spot a wild kangaroo or five in the bush on your drive down or just hanging around. There are miles of pristine coastline for walking, surfing, swimming, fishing, diving, snorkelling… The list goes on. If the South West sounds like paradise that’s because it is.

Western Australia is more than just Perth and the South West region. There’s plenty more to discover in WA, from the Goldfields in the East, and Broome and Cable Beach up North, where you can ride camels on the beach or watch pearl divers at work.

Just keep an eye out for the drop bears.

Wei Tien Sng is a CapX contributor.