Western Australia

It can get hot in the desert of Western Australia. A sickie is technically a day off work, but is often code for situations such as a very hot day, when the number of sickies seem to increase.

Western Australia, which is Australia’s largest state at 2,525,500 sq. km (975,101 sq. mi.), covers the western third of the mainland. With only 2 million people, there’s a lot of spare space – about two people for every square mile.

The state capital is Perth. The central section of the state (about 4/5 of the state) is desert or at best semi-arid with little population and the primary activity being mining.

The Aboriginal peoples have been in the region for at least 39,000 years. Stone tools have been discovered from that era near Swan Bridge. Despite their incumbency the history of Aboriginal and European relations is rife with abuses. When travelling respect all rules surrounding Aboriginal land and settlements.

To start exploring outside of Perth, you might want to try the Bibbulmun Track. This is a 963 km (598 mi.) marked trail that starts in Kalamunda, a suburb of Perth, and goes to Albany on the south coast. Obviously you wouldn’t take the whole trail at once. There are many day trips to take.

If you want to learn more about the fairy penguins you encountered on Phillip Island Victoria, Penguin Island near Rockingham is a good choice. The island is home to a variety of wildlife and terrific coastal scenery. It is home to the largest colony of fairy penguins on the west coast. The Island Discovery Centre allows a closer look at the animals without disturbing them in the wild.

The south-west of Western Australia is lush and contrasts with much of the state.

Bunbury is famous for the Koombana Bay dolphins. By visiting the Dolphin Discovery Centre, you can learn a great deal about the animals as well as don fins and snorkel and swim with them.

In Yallingup, you will find a surfers paradise and the Ngilgi Cave, which has a stunning display of stalactite, stalagmite, helictite and shawl formations. It was discovered in 1899 and has been a draw for visitors ever since.

Shannon National Park encompasses some of the most magnificent karri tree country in Western Australia’s southern forest. The park is 53,500 hectares (132,201 acres) and includes old growth and new growth karri forests, heathlands and wetlands. Interpretive shelters tell the story of Shannon National Park or as you drive, you can listen to park broadcasts at marked stops on the Great Forest Trees Drive.

Albany was the oldest European settlement in Western Australia, having been founded in 1826, three years before Perth. Whaleworld, at Frenchman Bay, which is 21 km (13 mi.) from Albany is Australia’s premier whaling museum. It takes a hard look at the whaling was a major industry, which only ceased at Frenchman Bay in 1978. You can learn about what humans did to whales while watching them breech off the coast.

Fitzgerald River National Park is a stop for those keen on rare plants and animals. The park surrounds the inlets of the Gairdner, Fitzgerald and Hamersley Rivers, between Bremer Bay and Hopetoun. It is one of the most diverse botanical regions anywhere with in excess of 1800 beautiful and bizarre species of flowering plants, representing about 20% of the total number of plant species in Western Australia.

Not far north of the lush south eastern coastal area of Western Australia, you will find things become arid. If you plan to do your own driving, you will be doubling back to Perth and either taking the Great Northern Highway, which is faster, or the more scenic coastal highway 1.

However, if you plan to drive to the Pilbara area and further north to the Kimberley, you are looking at about 1636 km (1016 mi.) drive. Not exactly an afternoon jaunt. Do not attempt outback roads without consulting the local police.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder is a lively gold mining town that is in conflict over its frontier mining town image – i.e skimpies (barmaids with minimalist clothing), alcohol and brothers – and its rich history in Western Australia.

Assuming you choose the northbound coastal route, you will encounter the Kalbarri National Park. It covers 183,004 hectares (452,212 acres). The park is located on the lower reaches of the Murchison River, which has cut red and white banded gorges for 80 km (56 mi.) as it flows to the ocean. Hawk’s Head and Ross Graham are two recommended view points.

Shark Bay is worth a stop as it’s a world heritage site because of its zoological importance. The area’s habitats on peninsulas and islands are isolated from the disturbances. For example, the stromatolites in Hamelin Pool, represent the oldest form of life on earth. They were in existence about 3,500 million years ago. Hamelin Pool contains the most diverse and abundant examples of stromatolite forms in the world.

Ningaloo Marine Park near Exmouth provides some amazing opportunities including, from March to June, the chance to observer whale sharks, which are plankton eating sharks that are 18 m (54 ft.) long and weighing in at 40,000 kg (88,000 lbs.)

The Kimberley region, which is located at the northern extreme of Western Australia, has an hot monsoonal climate with average annual rainfall ranging from 500 to 1500 mm (20 – 60 in.). However, there is a long dry season from April to November.

Broome is a key town in the Kimberly region and is famous for his history of pearling and its famous white sand Cable Beach. For those of you keen on bird-watching, Roebuck Bay and 80 Mile Beach see about 850,000 trans-equatorial migrant wading birds that winter or pass through the region.

If you are interested in space, the Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater, which is near Halls Creek, is the second largest crater in the world that has yielded fragments of a meteorite. Although long known to Aboriginal people, the crater was only discovered by Europeans in 1947.

As you can tell, the variety of experiences one can have in Western Australia is huge.