WA’s national parks, state forests and marine parks provide visitors with the opportunity to interact with some of the world’s most diverse and unique flora, fauna and landscapes. Here’s our W ‘A’ list of nature-based experiences.
• Ningaloo Reef. Easily accessible from shore, you don’t need to travel by boat to snorkel this World Heritage listed underwater wonderland. The massive fringing reef is home to brilliantly coloured coral and tropical fish, sea turtles and manta rays, plus one of the world’s top shore dives at Exmouth’s Navy Pier. From March to July each year, you can swim with the world’s largest fish – the gentle whale shark – and swim with humpback whales during their annual migration between August and November.
• Bungle Bungle Range. In the Kimberley, another World Heritage gem, Purnululu National Park, is home to the breathtaking Bungle Bungle Range – a cluster of giant, beehive-like striped mounds, 350 million years in the making. Helicopter flights offer breathtaking views, and you can explore the park’s long narrow chasms and hidden gorges on foot, keeping an eye out for native animals and 130 unique bird species. Take a four-wheel-drive journey or fly into Purnululu from Broome or Kununurra, with the option of bush camping or safari/bungalow accommodation.
• Shark Bay. Awarded World Heritage status for its outstanding natural beauty, biological diversity, fascinating ecology and unique insights into the Earth’s history, Shark Bay is where you’ll find one of the world’s largest dugong populations and Monkey Mia’s friendly dolphins. You can experience pristine waters and one of only two beaches in the world formed entirely of tiny white shells, or time travel with the oldest living fossils – the stromatolites at Hamelin Pool – for a glimpse of life on Earth over 3,500 million years ago.
• Valley of the Giants. Experience some of the tallest timber on Earth at canopy level – 40 metres above ground – at the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, near Walpole in the South West. One of the first walk trails of its kind in the world, the 600 metre walkway extends through the majestic and ancient red tingle forest where you can find western grey kangaroos, bandicoots, woylies, quokkas and possums.
• Karijini National Park. Two billion years in the making, Karijini in the North West is home to massive gorges, crystal-clear rock pools and waterfalls, as well as rock wallabies, red kangaroos, echidnas, dragons and huge termite mounds. Explore tunnels of marbled rock, clamber over boulders, squeeze through narrow tunnels, paddle through waterways and descend deep into ancient chasms. Stay overnight at the unique Karijini Eco Retreat.
• Stop and smell the wildflowers. It’s a staggering sight to behold – more than 12,000 species of wildflowers in bloom, more than half of which are found nowhere else on Earth. WA is home to the world’s biggest wildflower collection and you can enjoy the glorious carpets of colour and curious blooms for six months. The season begins in June in the north, and sweeps down the State to finish with a flurry on the south coast in November.
• Kalbarri National Park. Known for its colourful river gorges, the popular Mid West coastal getaway of Kalbarri will become even more of a drawcard when two new skywalks open in 2018. Providing stunning vistas of the Murchison River Gorge, the 100 metre high skywalks will extend 12 and 20 metres beyond the gorge rim at the Inyaka Wookai Watju (West Loop).
• Lucky Bay. Kangaroos on the beach? You’ll see them at Lucky Bay, on the south-east coast, which is also Australia’s whitest beach. The surrounding Cape Le Grand National Park is known for its stunning scenery and idyllic coast, where the landscape changes from massive granite outcrops to freshwater pools and unbelievably white sandy beaches. Enjoy swimming, bushwalking, fishing and camping, or take a breathtaking scenic flight over the bubblegum pink Lake Hillier near Esperance.
• Kings Park and Botanic Garden. One of the largest inner-city parks in the world, this 400 hectare expanse of bushland, parks and botanical gardens is a short walk or bus ride from central Perth. Add in children’s naturebased play areas, an art gallery, restaurants and monuments to the State’s history, and it’s easy to see why Kings Park is the most popular visitor destination in WA.
• The Pinnacles. The lunar-like Pinnacles form one of Australia’s most unique and fascinating natural landscapes. Formed over millions of years, thousands of tall limestone spires rise eerily from the yellow desert sands of Nambung National Park, changing colours in different lights. Two hours’ drive north of Perth, the Pinnacles can be visited as a day trip from Perth city, or stay longer in the picturesque fishing town of Cervantes.
• Fitzgerald River National Park. One of only a handful of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, this 300,000 hectare national park is WA’s own lost world – three-quarters of its 1,800 species of plants are found nowhere else on Earth, and share the environment with 84 bird species, 22 mammal species and more than 50 reptile and frog species. Located on the south coast, it is a perfect spot for bushwalking, wildflower spotting, canoeing, fishing and whale watching.
• Whale watching. WA has one of the longest whale-watching seasons in the world, with tours operating from May to December, from the Kimberley in the north to Esperance in the south. Humpback, southern right and the rare blue whale can be seen, as well as the southern hemisphere’s largest pod of orcas (killer whales) off Bremer Bay. WA boasts the largest population of humpback whales in the world – an estimated 30,000 – and visitors can also swim with the gentle giants at Ningaloo Reef from August to November.
• Horizontal Falls. Talbot Bay in the Kimberley is home to Australia’s only horizontal waterfalls, created when massive tidal movements squeeze water through narrow cliff passages. Aerial tours from Broome and Derby enable you to circle the phenomenon from above, alongside other scenic wonders of the Buccaneer Archipelago, where turquoise blue water contrasts with rugged red cliffs. You can also land and see the falls up close by boat, with the option of staying overnight on a houseboat.