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Western Australia

Photo © Corbybhoy

Travel Guide Oceania Australia Western Australia

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Introduction

Camel ride along Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia

Camel ride along Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia

© All Rights Reserved tamstar

Australia's largest state markets itself as the "Real Australia" and its remote beaches, sandy deserts and vast empty spaces certainly give the claim some credibility. Getting here is all the fun, that is if you don't fly. It's along way from anywhere in central and eastern Australia and although good sealed roads connect Western Australia with the rest of the country, distances are long and many other interior roads are very rough. You can easily spend months here and leave the rest of Australia for what it is, as you won't get bored and you can usually visit most areas withouth the crowds you will face on the eastcoast of the country.

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Geography

Western Australia is Australia's largest state in area, covering the western third of the mainland, and is bordered by South Australia and the Northern Territory. It is, after the Sakha Republic in Russia, the second largest subnational entity (statoid) in the world. A large area of Western Australia is empty, with deserts, outback, sanddunes and barren plains all to be found inland. Much of the state consists of the Nullarbor Plain (south) and the Gibson and Great Victoria Deserts. The Great Sandy Desert even fringes along the coastline in some parts. To the south the coast is less dry and hot and the southwest is the most fertile area of the state and forests and vineyards can all be found here, with huge trees and perfect wines. The Kimberley in the extreme northeast is a rugged beautiful area with deep gorges and great views. This area can be uncomfortably hot during the build up to the rainy season in Oktober and November. This area tends to have much more tropical conditions.

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Regions

GascoyneCarnarvon, Coral Bay, Exmouth, Greenough, Kalbarri, Shark Bay
KimberleyBroome, Derby, Kununurra
PilbaraNewman, Port Hedland, Tom Price, Wittenoom
South WestAugusta, Bridgetown, Bunbury, Busselton, Denmark, Dunsborough, Manjimup, Margaret River, Nannup, Pemberton, Walpole, Yallingup
Perth and surroundings (Peel)Perth, Mandurah, Yanchep, Mundaring
Mid WestCue, Geraldton, Meekatharra, Mount Magnet, Wiluna, Yalgoo
Goldfields-EsperanceCoolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Kambalda, Norseman, Southern Cross
WheatbeltBeverley, Hyden, Northam, Toodyay, York, Dryandra Woodland
Great SouthernAlbany, Esperance

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Cities

Other significant towns and cities include Carnarvon, Coolgardie, Dampier, Esperance, Exmouth, Fremantle, Karratha, Kununurra and the town at the centre of one of Australia's best wine regions, Margaret River.

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Sights and Activities

Deserts

Western Australia largely consists of vast areas of deserts with sandy and rocky terrain.

Great Sandy Desert:
The Great Sandy Desert is located in the northwest of Australia, entirely in Western Australia in between the Pilbara and Kimberley rock formations. It's a rather flat area, bounded by the Little Sandy desert to the south and the Gibson desert to the southwest. To the east is the Tanami desert. There are several seasonal salt lakes like Lake Dora and a great park, Rudall River National Park. It's sparsely populated with scattered Aborigines people living in separate groups. As the term suggest, there are large areas of sandseas (ergs) in some parts. Although it might receive much rain for a desert (usually over the limit over 250 mm), the evaporation is extreme and much higher compared to precipitation. Temperatures are warm to extremely hot yearround and only in the south bordering the Gibson Desert the occasional frost might be possible one a day or so a year, usually in June or July.

Gibson Desert:
The Gibson Desert is located in the central eastern part of Western Australia, south of the Great Sandy desert, east of the Little Sandy desert and north of the Great Victoria desert and is large still pristine area. Lying between Lake Disappointment and Lake Macdonald along the Tropic of Capricorn, it consists of huge areas with sand plains and dunefields and low rocky and gravely ridges. It is very thinly populated, only several groups of Aborigines live here and the climate is harsh with low rainfall, high evaporation and temperatures well over 40 degrees Celsius during the summer months (November to March). Travelling here requires a 4wd vehicle and all the necessary things you need like fuel, food and water. It's a rewarding trip to if you cross the desert along one of the tracks, like the Gunbarrel Highway.

Kimberley Region

The Kimberley is a vast area consisting of rugged ranges, canyons, waterfalls and pristine coastline. Kimberley, one of the 9 regions in Western Australia, is one the most rugged areas of Australia and a popular region for travellers. Most travellers certainly don't come here for its surreal beauty, its wideness, big skies and beautiful gorges, pools and some of the most rewarding 4wd tracks in the country, including the popular Gibb River Road. Towns of interest include Broome, Derby and Kununurra. It also home of the Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles]], a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pinnacles

Pinnacles Desert

Pinnacles Desert

© All Rights Reserved Degolasse

The Pinnacles are located within the Numbung National Park on Australia's west coast near the town of Cervantes. The limestone formations offer exceptional photo opportunities particularly in the late afternoon and early morning when the low sun creates colours and shadows to inspire. Tours to the Pinnacles operate from the nearby town of Cervantes most days.

Other Sights and Activities

  • The Pilbara, a beautiful area with ancients rocks and gorges
  • Wave Rock is an oddly shaped rock near the small town of Hyden. Nearby are also the Hippo's Yawn and The Humps rock formations.
  • Riding camels on Cable Beach, Broome
Camels on Cable Beach Broome

Camels on Cable Beach Broome

© All Rights Reserved LesleyL

  • Get up close and personal with bottlenosed dolphins at Monkey Mia
  • Snorkel with whalesharks at Ningaloo Reef (May to July)
  • Watch the local surf legends prepare for the annual big wave classic the Margaret River Masters
  • Wine tours in the Margaret River region in the South West
  • Outback adventure, with many possibilities to choose from like the Kalgoorlie area.
  • Fantastic drives, either along sealed roads (Eyre Highway and Great Northern Highway) or adventurous tracks (Gunbarrel Highway and Canning Stock Route)
  • Visit the Valley of the Giants and do a Tree Top Walk amongst some of the worlds tallest trees

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Events and Festivals

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Weather

As Western Australia is the only state that spans Australia from south to north, the climate is as diverse as you could imagine.
The north of Western Australia has a tropical climate with hot and humid conditions throughout the year, especially along the coastal areas. Temperatures are around 30 to 35 degrees Celsius yearround and can easily rise to over 40 on some days during the built-up to the rainy season. The heath and humidity makes the months of October and November worse than any other months. Then, from November to April the wet season starts which makes travelling around places like the Kimberley almost impossible and therefore the best period to travel the northern parts of Western Australia is from May to September when temperatures are still around 25 to 35 degrees Celsius during the day, but dry and sunny conditions prevail.
Further to the south, summer temperatures can rise to almost 50 degrees Celsius (November to March), but this applies mainly to the inland areas, the Outback. April to October is a good time to travel here, with pleasant temperatures and usually dry conditions, except some coastal areas along the central Western Austrlia coastline which see some more rain in June and July.
To the south, where the capital Perth is located, summers are warm to hot but winters can be cool or even cold, with occasionally a few degrees below zero, although this doesn't happen every year.
Perth has is best to visit during spring (September-November) and autumn (March-May) with dry and sunny conditions and not too hot.

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Getting There

By Plane

Most travellers arrive by air into Perth Airport. Qantas and Virgin Blue fly from from most major centres into Perth, the state capital. Jetstar also flies into Perth from Melbourne, Adelaide and Cairns. Qantas has international flight to and from Perth. Destinations include Johannesburg (also by South African Airways), Hong Kong (also by Cathay Pacific), Singapore, Denpasar (Bali), Tokyo and Jakarta. Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways are other airlines connecting Perth with destinations in South East Asia. Air Asia now services Perth from Kuala Lumpur and Bali as well, offering low cost flights.

Broome International Airport has some domestic flights, and an international connection to Bali as well.

By Train

The The Indian Pacific train crosses the Nullabor Plain connecting Perth to Adelaide and Sydney. The journey takes 3 nights in either direction, with trains running twice weekly in both directions.

By Car

There are two tarred roads that lead into Western Australia. The first one is the road from the Northern Territory which enters Western Australia just east of Kununnura. From Darwin to Port Hedland this is road number 1. From here, you can go south to Perth via road number 95 which travels inland.
The second one is the road between Adelaide and Perth, which crosses the border just east of Eucla.
Both are in excellent condition and don't require a 4wd. There are however roads which do require a high clearance vehicle, for example the road through the centre which starts just east of Uluru and travels right across the outback desert.

By Bus

Greyhound is the main operator but buses between Perth and Adelaide are history due to the cheap flights. You can however easily travel to and from Broome and other places in the north. There are still even buses from Darwin to Perth, but it's a long way and most travellers won't do this marathon in one go.

By Boat

There are no public services, if you want to go to Western Australia by boat you have to get your own yacht.

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Getting Around

By Plane

Qantas has regular flights between Perth and both Broome and Kalgoorlie. Virgin Blue flies between Perth and Broome as well. Skywest has flights to many smaller towns, including Albany, Esperance, Exmouth, Carnarvon and Kalgoorlie. A few smaller airlines fly to places like Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek, Port Hedland, Kalbarri and Shark Bay.

By Train

There are several rail links in the country, mostly originating and terminting in Perth. These include:

Also, the famous Indian Pacific stops en route to Sydney in several cities and towns within Western Australia.

By Car

Western Australia is most enjoyed with your own car. There are numerous car rental companies in Perth and in other major tourist towns. Although major roads are sealed, some areas including National Parks can only be visited by 4wd or otherwise with an organised trip. There are plenty of companies you could choose to hire a car from, including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty. Car hire is often not available to drivers under 25, or if it is, it's more expensive for younger drivers.

By Bus

Greyhound has services from Perth to the north along the coast all the way to Broome and even further.

By Boat

Again, you need your own boat to get anywhere over water.

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Sleep

References

  1. 1 December 2006 estimate. Source: ABS

Quick Facts

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Capital
Perth
Population
2,081,000 [1]
Time zone
UTC+8 (+9 DST)

Contributors

as well as dr.pepper (2%), KoalaGirl (2%), adamandmeg (2%), soliqa (1%), QantasTeam (1%), Sam I Am (1%)

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Western Australia Travel Helpers

  • bitbythebug

    I lived around WA for almost a year and lived in a few different places including in the outback in a Gibson Desert aboriginal community, a small coastal surf/fishing town, and on an island off the coast of Perth! Did a few road trips down around the South West (awesome!) and up the coast as far as Coral Bay. WA's a big place!

    Ask bitbythebug a question about Western Australia
  • bryannn

    I spent a year in Dampier and Karratha, northern WA.

    Ask bryannn a question about Western Australia

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