Western Australia (W.A.) occupies over one third of Australia, yet to this day it remains one of the most overlooked and least visited states in Australia. International visitors rarely manage to make their way to W.A. (there is simply so much to do on the East Coast) and locals often prefer to take that 4-5 hour flight to Bali instead. Well they are missing out…BIG TIME!
W.A. is unlike any other state in Australia. Here, clear blue skies collide with the red dirt road, the beautiful landscapes transport you to the canyons of Arizona, the beach towns are infused with a laid back lifestyle found in the best Asian destinations, and the deserted outback is seeped with signs of prehistoric existence. Wildlife roams the region far and wide, adding colour to the destination. For the adventurous explorers this is an exhilarating state, packed with a bucket list of activities and picture perfect backdrops.
There is no need to dwell on some of W.A.’s famous attractions: the cosmopolitan yet laid back Perth, the vibrant Margaret River region, the bay and beaches of Rottnest Island and Western Australia’s favourite vacation destination – Exmouth. Having now traversed 3,500kms from Perth to Broome myself, I am convinced that the most incredible places and experiences in W.A. are probably the ones you have never heard of before.
Allow me to elaborate with…
8 Incredible Places and Experiences You Can’t Miss in Western Australia
1. Sandboarding in Lancelin
Lancelin is a small fishing town located just 127km north of Perth. There is really not a whole lot there, except for the lovely bay with a local beach and the vast sprawling sand hills that surround the town. Lancelin’s sand dunes are the biggest of its kind in all of Western Australia and is known for its pure soft white silica sand and absolutely no vegetation. The sand dunes are about 2kms long and are considered to be one of Western Australia’s hidden gems for adventure seekers. For an unforgettable afternoon, hire a board in town and spend a few hours on the hills.
2. Sunset at the Pinnacles in Cervantes
Cervantes is another sleepy fishing town along Australia’s Coral Coast that is frequented by visitors looking for a fishing holiday or a relaxed family escape. But its main attraction is undoubtedly Nambung National Park, home of the mythical Pinnacles. The Pinnacles are natural limestone formations, some standing as high as 5 meters, formed approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.
To admire the Pinnacles in all of their glory, visit the park at sunset, leaving yourself enough time to explore the 4.5km Pinnacle walk throughout the national park. Alternatively, you can gain a perspective on the desert from the Pinnacles lookout located at the end of the walk.
3. Hutt Lagoon a.k.a the Pink Lake
You know those BuzzFeed posts that fill your Facebook newsfeed with photos of unbelievable places around the world? Hutt Lagoon, a pink lake near Kalbarri is one of those unbelievable places. It is undeniably one of nature’s most incredible sights. I didn’t believe it existed until we saw it with our own eyes.
It’s not just the bright pink colour colour of the water that makes you question reality, but the strong chemical smell that surrounds it. It looks fake. It smells artificial. But it is 100% natural.
Hutt Lagoon gets its red or pink hue due to the presence of the carotenoid-producing algae Dunaliella salina, a source of ß-carotene, a food-colouring agent and source of vitamin A. The lagoon also contains the world’s largest microalgae production plant and provides a commercial supply of Artemia brine shrimp. Phenomenal!
4. Nature’s Window in Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park is located 485 km north of Perth and consists of the Coastal part, 13 kms of dramatic coastal cliffs, secluded beaches and surf breaks, and the Inland part, 80km Murchison River Gorge. There are dozens of great walks and lookouts in Kalbarri, but its most iconic attraction is the Nature’s Window, a natural rock arch formation that serves as as the perfect frame for the spectacular Murchison River Gorge.
5. Diving/Snorkeling in Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo Reef is Australia’s largest fringing coral reef, stretching 260km along the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Coast. The reef is home to over 200 species of hard coral, 50 soft coral and over 500 species of fish. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef on the East Coast, Ningaloo is one of the only places in the world where you can walk from the beach straight onto a coral reef. Coral Bay and Turquoise Bay inside the Cape Range National Park were our favourite snorkeling spots. Here you can spot schools of fish, turtles, stingrays, and sometimes even reef sharks chilling in the crevices of the corals.
You don’t need to be a certified diver to experience the reef, but if you do get a chance to descend into its crystal clear waters, you won’t be disappointed. We dove at the Lighthouse Bay dive site, which offers a number of fantastic dive sites and is particularly famous for the site called Labyrinth. The site features a turtle cleaning station and Gullivers, that houses a manta rays cleaning station.
6. Swimming with Whalesharks in Exmouth
Ningaloo Reef and particularly Exmouth are one of the few places in the world where you can swim with the biggest fish on the planet. It is impossible to convey the overwhelming feeling of joy and adrenaline that rushes through your body when you come face to face with a whale shark. It is a breathtaking creature in the most literal meaning of the word.
Swimming with these gentle giants was an absolute privilege and an unforgettable lifetime experience. The prices are steep, but the experience is worth every penny!
7. Karijini National Park
We have visited countless national parks in Australia. We’ve seen everything from the lush rainforests in Northern Queensland to the alpine vegetation and jagged Tasmanian wilderness, but none of them are comparable to the phenomenal natural wonder that is the Karijini National Park. It’s a pain in the butt to get to (literally 6 hours of bumpy roads on the way to the park and another 4 hours on the way out), but the scenery in Karijini is out of this world!
Erosion has slowly carved this landscape out of rocks, some of which are over 2,500 million years old, leaving today’s visitor with 8 stunning gorges to explore. Some gorges are easily accessible along a Class 3 (out of 5) trail, while others require visitors to possess great tenacity, experience, and proper hiking gear.
Despite the difficult task of getting to some of the tucked away passages, the views in the end are always beyond spectacular.
8. Sunset on Cable Beach
OK, you probably have heard of Broome and maybe even the Cable Beach, often named as one of the most spectacular beaches in all of Australia! After spending two days in Broome, it was hard not to give it a spot on my list of incredible places in Western Australia.
Cable Beach is 22km long, and offers visitors uncrowded pure white sand and turquoise waters, perfect for paddle boarding, surfing, and other water activities. At low tide, the beach is interspersed with rocks forming small rock pools frequented by octopus and other sea creatures basking in the warm sunlight.
As great as the beach is during the day, it is its sunset that landed it a spot on this list. The sunset here is always amazing. The crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean crashing onto the rock formations at shore reflecting a burst of vibrant orange, red and purple onto the sky. The view is mesmerizing, interrupted only by a passing train of camels that makes you feel like you are thousands miles away from reality.
It takes a certain kind of traveler to traverse through Western Australia. The drives are long and often completely desolate, the weather is harsh for a majority of the year (best time to visit is May-July when the heat subsides), and the outback is unforgiving, but the sights and experiencing awaiting you on the other side of the country are nothing like what you would see on the East Coast.
When I first visited Australia in 2010, W.A. wasn’t even on my radar, but now, having experienced its incredible scenery and grand landscapes, I can’t wait to come back there again.