The south-western corner of Australia is one of the country's most lush and diverse regions, from bush hideaways to world-famous wineries.
Few regions in Australia are better suited to outdoor holidays than south-west WA. If you're into activities such as fishing, hiking, cycling, bird-watching, four-wheel-driving, sailing, kayaking, surfing, rock-climbing or even caving, the options here seem endless.
If, however, you prefer to take it easy with relaxed caravanning among stunning scenery, while enjoying the wildflowers and tasting some of the best wines in the country, you’ve come to the right place as well.
This is a place where worldly-wise travellers spend their retirement, and why not? The climate is perfect most of the year, the setting on the Swan River is superb and its beaches are world class. Throw in some beautiful parks and urban wetlands, and exciting destinations on the doorstep such as Rottnest Island, the Perth Hills and the Swan Valley wineries, and you might find it hard to tear yourself away.
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This is one of Australia’s premium wine-growing areas, so as you might expect, you'll find pretty grapevines, rolling countryside, interesting wineries, wine tasting and great restaurants. But there’s much more to Margaret River than that. Four-wheel-driving and bushwalking abound in this region, so follow the signs to some nearby trails. When you've had your fill of wine, try one of the local microbreweries: Duckstein Brewery, Bootleg Brewery or Bush Shack Brewery, to name a few.
A hop, skip and jump from the vineyards of Margaret River, on the western side of Caves Road, is the dramatic west coast of Australia. A must-see experience is the lookout from the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse in the south-western corner of the country. The rocky scenery and the choppy point at which the Southern and Indian Oceans meet is a spectacular sight. From here, you can undertake a coastal walk along part of the 135km Cape to Cape Track, which follows the coast from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south.
The national park itself is home to winding four-wheel-drive tracks, towering karri trees and native wildlife, and is well worth a day's exploration and a lazy afternoon picnic at one of the many rest stops.
The aptly named Caves Road is a driving route that connects the best of this region's underground attractions. A good place to start exploring is the CaveWorks Eco Centre, which has displays about how caves are formed. Right next to CaveWorks is Lake Cave, which gets its name from the lake inside its main cavern. This is one of several cave options to suit varying energy levels. Most of the caves offer guided tours, while some allow for autonomous walking tours so you can choose your own underground adventure.
Could it be that a party of 51 extraterrestrial beings landed on the remote salt bed of Lake Ballard and were turned to black pillars of salt? Or could it be that in 2003, the Perth International Arts Festival commissioned British sculptor Antony Gormley to produce an installation consisting of 51 carbonised steel statues rendered from the full-body laser scans of citizens of Menzies?
Either way, this unique installation in the WA Goldfields is a must-see, and conjures up many images and stories in the traveller's mind. Travel from the famous mining town of Kalgoorlie to Lake Ballard, following the Golden Quest Discovery Trail, and take in local attractions along the way.