Explore Perth, the world’s most isolated city yet Australia’s fourth-largest.
Discover Broome and the Kimberly Region. Broome, founded as a pearling town, is now a popular tourist destination where you can sit back on faded pastel deckchairs beneath a blazing sunset and catch a film at the world’s oldest surviving outdoor theatre, Sun Pictures. Take the kids to stunning Cable Beach, voted one of the world’s top five for its gentle clean blue waters and white sand. It’s also 22km long, so if you find the main area too crowded, just keep trekking (or driving – yes, they drive on the beaches up here!) and soon enough you’ll find a deserted spot. If you’re still here as the sun goes down, take one of the daily sunset camel rides. Just be aware that box jellyfish make the waters unsafe Nov–March.
But Broome is really a gateway to the Kimberly, a nature-lovers’ mecca where the journey is part of the destination – many places are hard to access, with rugged roads and aeons between landmarks. Its natural wonders are too many too mention individually; among highlights are the 350-million-year-old bungle bungle rocks in Purnululu National Park, the phenomenal Mitchell Falls, and the eastern shores of Roebuck Bay, where a full moon reflected on the exposed mudflats from the outgoing tide creates the ‘Staircase to Heaven’ – a stunning and life-affirming place to spend an evening with the family, with a craft and food market set up to make the most of the phenomenon.
Take the Golden Quest Discovery Trail – a self-drive adventure through the Goldfields, spanning around 965km and tracing the gold-producing history of Western Australia. Guided by a book, map and audio CDs, you visit the gold-rush towns with their balconied pubs and 1800s architecture, feel the eerie still of real ghost-towns and pass through desert studded with tiny bright wildflowers like exclamations of hope in an arid world. The tour also includes Lake Ballard – a million-year-old salt lake and the site of Antony Gormley’s Inside Australia sculptures: casts of the bodies of 51 local residents set over 10km2 of the salt plains. The bodies appear and disappear as you travel – a strangely intimate yet otherworldly experience.
Explore the Coral Coast, where you can expect quiet nights of fish-and-chip suppers and stars as the only lights that stay on past 10pm. Starting in the north, Ningaloo Reef is 250km of coral reef containing more than 200 different types of coral, plus marine life including sea turtles, the usual rainbow tribes of fish, and between March and June mighty whale sharks weighing 15 tons and measuring 18m in length (don’t fear – Australia may be home to many terrifying animals but whale sharks are gentle giants lethal only to plankton). Ningaloo Reef is especially suited to children as sometimes the reef is so close to the shore it can be explored by snorkelling straight off the beach. Camp or find a room at the sleepy retro town of Coral Bay just south of Exmouth.
Still on the Coral Coast, the Shark Bay World Heritage Area is home to the famous friendly bottlenose dolphins of Monkey Mia, who’ve been making daily visits to the shallow shores of the bay since the 1960s – you pay an entry fee to visit and can feed the dolphins fish provided by rangers. Stay a night or two either locally or in the nearby fishing town of Denham.
Still heading south along the Coral Coast, The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park – a mere 250km from Perth (culture! coffee! fashion!) – are the limestone deposits from a sea that receded around 30,000 years ago.