Australia: Going West

By Anna Vale

Western Australia has much to offer beyond Perth and Fremantle, says Anna Vale.

Mitchell Falls in the untouched wilderness of the Kimberley region. Photo / Kimberley Wilderness Adventures
Mitchell Falls in the untouched wilderness of the Kimberley region. Photo / Kimberley Wilderness Adventures

1. Margaret River

Originally a chilled-out surfie town, Margaret River, a 3-hour drive from Perth, has evolved into a smorgasbord of wineries, boutique breweries, unique accommodation and restaurants overlooking vineyards, forests and surf breaks. But the region is most famous for its wine.

With a Mediterranean climate and nutrient-rich soils, there are more than 220 grape growers or wine producers and 100 cellar doors in the southwest.

Pick up a Cellar Door Pass at the Margaret River Visitor Centre which offers great deals from the region's winemakers.

Once you've worked up an appetite try dining at the Lakeside Restaurant at Cape Lodge, recently voted number eight in the world for food by Conde Nast Traveller magazine.

2. Kimberley Coast

The Kimberley region, in the northwest of the state, is one of the last untouched wilderness areas on earth. To get the best views of the dramatic coastline take one of the many cruises that operate in the area - most departing from Broome.

Try North Star Cruises, the Great Escape Charter Co, or Coral Princess cruise's Oceanic Discoverer.

Most of these luxury, small-boat cruises also have expedition boats so you can really explore the region.

Alternatively take a scenic flight over the rugged landscape - the best way to view the Buccaneer Archipelago and the incredible Horizontal Waterfalls. Or you can keep your feet closer to the ground with a 4WD tour.

Pinnacle Tours runs regular trips deep into the Outback taking in rock formations, Aboriginal art, waterfalls, wildlife, and plant-life.

And while you're in this part of the state spend a little time in Broome. This coastal town has a fascinating pearling history and great restaurants.

To finish take a camel-ride along the 22km of pristine sands on Cable Beach.

3. Swan Valley and Perth Hills

Just 30-minutes' drive from Perth, the Swan Valley and Perth Hills are where the locals go for wineries, restaurants, breweries, distilleries, arts, crafts and road-side stalls laden with fresh local produce.

The Swan River is Western Australia's oldest wine region, now home to more than 40 family-owned vineyards, many of which are still run by the descendants of Croatian and Italian families who came to the area in the early 1920s.

The best way to see them to is to pick up a map and follow the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail, or for something a little more swish, try a Chelmsford Chauffeur Drive VIP tour by Bentley.

4. Ningaloo Reef

If you're a keen diver or snorkeller stunning Ningaloo on the Coral Coast is one of the few places in the world you can swim with whale sharks.

The sharks, which can grow up to 18m long, generally visit the reef between April and July each year, and there are tour operators running swimming or watching trips from Exmouth and Coral Bay.

Later in the year humpback whales are also around the reef, but no matter what time of year you visit there's always a stunning range of underwater wildlife to see.

5. Kalgoorlie

Western Australia's "Golden Outback" is dotted with historic settlements and ghost towns.

Kalgoorlie is filled with historic buildings and hotels, the 100-year-old Racing Round and museums.

More than 100 years after the alluvial discovery, one of the world's biggest open cut mines, the Golden Mile Super Pit, still operates 24 hours a day, producing 800,000 ounces of gold each year.

Stop at the Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame, and try your hand at a little gold panning.

Kalgoorlie is also the starting point for the Nullabor Links, the world's largest golf course. The 18-hole par 72 course spans 1365km, with a hole in each participating town along the Eyre Highway, from Kalgoorlie to Ceduna in South Australia.

Don't forget your golf cart.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air New Zealand offers non-stop flights every week from Auckland to Perth, with connections available from all around New Zealand.

Further information: Seewesternaustralia.com.

- Herald on Sunday

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