Maybe you’ve been to Australia before (or maybe it’s your home) and you want to see more of the country. Sydney? Melbourne? The Gold Coast? Much as you loved them, you’ve probably already seen them and you’re looking for something different. In a country the size of the continental United States, you’ve barely scratched the surface if you’ve stuck with the eastern half of the country. Head west to Perth and the Western Australia coast and you’re really in for an adventure.
It’s impossible to encapsulate all there is to see and do in WA in just a few paragraphs, but you can get an idea of what’s possible by looking at two of the major attractions within a couple of days drive north of Perth:
Just 125 miles or around two and a half hours north of Perth is the charming town of Cervantes. There couldn’t be a better name for this town, because from there, you’ll enter a strange landscape that looks like something the famous author of Don Quixote would write about. Reading about the Pinnacles is like reading a work of fiction. A vast inland beach, it is dotted with strange limestone pillars that jut out of the sand. Just as Don Quixote imagined windmills to be dragons, you may find yourself thinking these pillars are an army of soldiers that have been magically frozen in time.
Located within Nambung National Park just outside of Cervantes, the Pinnacles origins are stranger than fiction. They were formed from seashells over eons of time: that much is known. Exactly how they formed themselves into pinnacles is a matter of debate to this day. You can join in the scientific debate if you like, or you can just visit this surreal landscape and marvel at nature’s handiwork.
Another 132 miles north, Geraldton is a great place to stop over for a night or two. A fairly large town by Western Australia standards, Geraldton is a combination of a thriving fishing town and major tourist center. Thoroughly modern, with a population of around 40,000, it is still small enough to make you feel at home. The city itself is renowned for its great seafood and produce, so you won’t go hungry and you’ll need the fuel for your adventures outside the city limits.
Geraldton needs no introduction to kite and sailboarders. The prevailing winds make it one of the world’s top destinations for enthusiasts of these sports. Other nearby attractions are not as well known, though. For example, about 40 miles off the coast are the remarkable Houtman Abrolhos Islands. A small archipelago of three groups of islands, 122 in all, by far most of the life on these islands is wildlife. They are a major breeding ground for dozens of species of sea birds and the waters are teeming with sea life, including dolphins, sea lions and migratory whales. While the only accommodations on the islands are the huts the rock lobster fishermen occupy during the season, scuba diving and snorkeling trips can be arranged or you can take a popular fly over excursion.
The next leg of your journey is a little longer. It will take about 5 hours to make the 250 mile trip to Denham and Monkey Mia. Situated near the tip of the long, long Peron Peninsula, these two villages on opposite sides of the peninsula will be your jumping off points for your Shark Bay adventure. The two “stars of the show” in Shark Bay are dolphins and dugongs. Dugongs come to the region during the summer months (November to February, roughly) to feed on the seagrass, while dolphins are year around locals. You don’t have to look hard for them, either. Just take a walk out on the short pier in Monkey Mia and you are likely to see a pod of friendly dolphins swim past.
If it’s a little too quiet and remote for you out on the Peron Peninsula, you can always stay in Carnarvon on the mainland coast. There are dozens of Carnarvon accommodations to choose from and there is always something going on in town. Try to take in the Carnarvon Growers and Craft Markets while you’re there.