Highlights of Western Australia

Western Australia highlights bungle bungles Western Australia. A state so big and varied that you could easily mistake it for a country in its own right. From the giant trees of the south, to the harsh desert of the centre, to the rugged coastline and wilderness of the north, and finally to the cosmopolitan delights of Perth, there is something here for everyone.

I have picked my four favourite spots in this wonderful state, each offering something different. It was tough to come up with only four, but after much brow furrowing, here they are:

Purnululu National Park - the “Bungle Bungles”

Purnululu bungle bungle cathedral gorge entrance 2

Where? In the north eastern corner of WA, 250km south of Kununurra
Why? The world heritage listed Purnululu National Park in the Kimberley region of WA is home to the absolutely staggering sandstone formation known as the Bungle Bungles. These are a series of improbably striped orange and grey rocks, towering as much as 580 metres above sea level.

There are domes to wander around, cones to goggle at and chasms to explore. It is a seriously surreal landscape, with the orange and grey rocks set against the deep blue of the outback sky. Truly unmissable.

If you are in the Bungle Bungle area with a bit of time in your hands, you may also want to pop a few hundred kilometres further south and visit the Wolfe Creek meteor crater. Made famous by the horror film, this 875 metre wide crater is worth a visit in its own right.

You can wander the rim, walk down to the crater bed, and wonder as to the immensity of 50,000 tonnes of rock hitting the earth at phenomenal speed.

The southern forests of Western Australia

One of the fire trees in Western Australia. Climb it - if you dare

Where? South Western Australia, around 300km south of Perth
Why? The majesty of the forests with their towering giants is in stark contrast to the outback wildernesses of much of the rest of the state. You can walk amongst these huge trees and drink in the peace of their majesty whilst marvelling at their stature - these are some of the largest examples of trees of their type in the world.

If that all sounds a bit too relaxing and in touch with mother nature for you, you can throw all caution to the wind and climb one of the three fire trees, a challenge fit only for the truly insane with a good head for heights.

The fire trees were established in the 1930’s as a means to quickly detect forest fires. They consist of a simple platform at the top of a seriously high tree, the highest being the platform at the top of the Dave Evans Bicentennial tree, at 68 metres above ground.

The way up these trees is a series of giant metal pegs which are hammered into the tree to form a heart-stoppingly scary spiral stair case. There are no safety features, no floor, and nothing to stop you, other than a sign warning you that you climb at your own risk. I made it to about 25 metres up and the first “breather” platform before, body shaking, I retreated to ground level and safety. Good luck!

The Stirling Ranges

The Castle Rock in the Porongorup Ranges, Western Australia

Where? 337km south west of Perth
Why? If you love hiking and stunning mountain scenery, the compact Sterling ranges are for you. Whilst perhaps not as alpine like (or as high!) as the Victorian Alps, the Stirling Ranges offer some fabulous and easily accessible hiking opportunities.

So much so, in fact, that one of the walks, up Mt. Toolbronup, made the list of my top three day hikes in Australia. As you would expect, the walks are fabulous. Some, like the climb up Bluff Knoll, the highest peak for 1000km in any direction, are pretty tough, but the views from the top are absolutely worth it.

Also in the area is the Porongorup range, a series of peaks formed over 1.2 billion years ago. These offer slightly easier walking options than the Stirling ranges, with the added bonus that you can see the entire Stirling ranges from their peaks, a dramatic silhouette.

The Castle Rock is a highlight here, an incredibly tall chunk of boulder, accessed via a series of fairly scary ladders and stairs, with a rewarding view from the top if you make it!

Ningaloo Reef

Beach of Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Where? The north western tip of WA, near Exmouth
Why? Ningaloo is the worlds only large reef located practically on the beach. At its closest  point, it is a mere one hundred metres from the beach.

Unlike Australia’s other famous reef, which requires some serious boat time to access, you can literally wade into the sea and be getting up close and personal with the marine life in minutes. And the marine life is quite staggering. Turtles, rays and exotic fish will vie with over 250 species of spectacular coral for your attention.

There are a number of highlights along it’s 300km stretch. One of my favourite spots is Turquoise Bay, where you swim out then allow the current to drift you along parallel to the shore to the sand bar at the end, where you can get out, walk back along the beach and start again. Snorkelling without the effort! Does it get any better that? And if snorkelling doesn’t float your boat, then visit anyway for either the whale shark migration or the humpback whales breaching in the bay. It’s a sight you’ll never forget.

Well. What an amazing state. Marine life, beaches, forests, mountains and outback. Western Australia really has it all. And I’ve only scratched the surface. There’s the Gibb River Road, the gorges of Karijini National Park, the trains of Port Hedland (seven kilometre long trains have to be seen to be believed!), the dolphins of Monkey Mia.. the list goes on. There’s even art on a salt lake! If you’re visiting Australia, I urge you to take some time and visit this state. I promise you won’t regret it.

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