The south west of Western Australia is a region full of contrast: from limestone cliffs, to stunning Karri forests to pristine beaches to fine wine and food. There is literally something for everyone in this spectacular part of WA.
Here are some of my favourite things to do and places to go in the south west and great southern:
The Cape to Cape track:
The Cape to Cape track runs 135 kilometres from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south. It offers some of the most stunning scenery in the region, much of which is only accessible on foot.
We hiked a 42 kilometre section of the track with Walk into Luxury, and they organised everything, from accommodation to tours and meals at stunning restaurants.
The epic scenery is absolutely worth the walk, and changes constantly, from limestone cliffs to caves to pristine beaches. If you really want to get a unique perspective of the WA coastline, this is the way to do it!
Treetop Walk, Walpole:
A huge walkway has been built among the canopy of the tingle trees, which at its highest point, is 40 metres above the forest floor, offering some stunning views.
One thing to know about the walkway is that it’s designed to move a lot, which can be a little disconcerting at first. But once you get past that, it’s an amazing experience being among the beautiful trees, some of which are hundreds of years old.
National ANZAC Centre, Albany:
The centre is perched on a hill above King George Sound, where more than 41,000 Australians and New Zealanders left Albany in convoys, bound for the First World War.
The best thing about the ANZAC Centre is that it’s very interactive. Each person is given a card at the beginning of their tour, so that they can follow that person’s journey through the war.
There are also dozens of interactive displays, which allow you to access audio commentary relating to the displays. The displays also contain unique artefacts and rare images and film, which really bring the stories to life.
The Gap, Albany:
A new viewing platform opened at the end of 2015 has made the Gap more accessible, and allows you to view the pounding southern ocean without any concern about being swept off the rocks.
Boranup Forest, Boranup:
The towering Karri trees in the Boranup Forest provide a stunning backdrop for hiking. Some of the trees are over 60 metres tall, and the forest is home to an amazing amount of birds and wildlife.
Ngilgi Cave, Dunsborough:
There are several caves to go exploring in, including Lake, Jewel and Mammoth caves. But my favourite is Ngilgi (pron NIL-gee) which is about a 10 minute drive from Dunsborough. According to the Aboriginal dreaming story, the good spirit Ngilgi chased the bad spirit, Wolgine, out of the cave, but had to stay behind to make sure that it never returned. Because the good spirit still lives in the cave, the Aboriginal people believe it’s a place of safety.
Busselton Jetty, Busselton:
It’s the 1.841 kilometre icon of Busselton, and is the longest timber jetty in the Southern hemisphere.
The jetty offers endless recreation options: you can walk it, train it, jump off it, swim under it, canoe/kayak/standup paddle board next to it, dive beneath it, fish off it, and now you can even WALK on the sea floor underneath it! (For the full story on Busselton, see here).
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches in the south west. For a nice swim, I love Bunker Bay, which is quite protected and doesn’t generally get too rough. For snorkeling, the Canal Rocks south channel is a fairyland, but only on a perfect day. For sunset, I don’t think you can go past Hamelin Bay, which is on the way to Augusta and has its own resident friendly manta rays. For surfing, there’s the main break at Margaret River and Cowaramup Bay. For exploring rock pools, Redgate beach is heaps of fun.
By far one of the most beautiful beaches in the state, Greens Pool lies on the edge of William Bay National Park near Denmark. But, be warned, even though it looks inviting, the southern ocean is freezing at any time of year! (For ideas on a weekend in Denmark, see here).
Wineries/restaurants, Margaret River:
There are almost 200 wineries in the Margaret River region, and choosing a favourite is impossible. But there are some which keep us going back, both for their sensational wines, and stellar food. Here are five of my favourites:
Wills Domain was a fairly recent discovery for us. The degustation lunch was impeccable, each course more like a work of art than a mere meal, and the wine list was exceptional. Best of all, it was all served up with some stunning vineyard views!
Aravina Estate is set on a stunning property with a Hamptons vibe. Apart from the spectacular food and wine, there’s also heaps to do on the property, including a homewares shop, a surf gallery and heaps of lawn for outdoor games.
Fishbone restaurant: As a vegetarian who absolutely cannot stand seaweed, Japanese food is my least favourite cuisine. But, despite my limitations, the food we’ve had at Fishbone has been fresh, light and delicious in every way. The gyozas are my personal recommendation!
Cullens started as a family winery 40 years ago and has won many awards for its wines since then. The winery is known for its biodynamic viticulture and environmental practices, as well as its rustic and delicious food.
Wise Winery has an extensive wine list, and you can try as many as you like before sitting down to lunch. The outdoor decking has beautiful views over the bush all the way to the glinting blue of Geographe Bay. The menu is full of modern Australian dishes, with a big emphasis on local produce.
There is an enormous range of accommodation in the south west, from rustic cottages to five star resorts. Here are some of my favourites:
Indjidup Spa Retreat is a Small Luxury Hotel of the World, and it more than deserves its place among this list of exclusive accommodation. The villas are stunning, decorated in neutral tones with spectacular ocean views and individual plunge pools.
Bunker Bay is a five star resort, situated on the stretch of coastline of the same name. It’s surrounded by forest and has lovely views across the tree tops to the ocean. The self contained villas are gorgeous, with high ceilings, limestone walls and luxurious bathrooms. The infinity pool looks like it’s pouring into the tree tops, with the sparkling ocean beyond.
Forest Rise is a serene bush property in Yelverton, with 10 rammed earth and timber chalets dotted throughout the forest which offer peace and seclusion. The gorgeous chalets are surrounded by nature and wildlife, with several bush walking trails around the property.
Margaret River Stone Cottages are set on a private property, about a 20 minute drive south of the town. The cottages are exceptionally cosy, with a pot belly fireplace which creates the perfect place to sit with a glass of red wine in winter. And best of all, you can take your four legged friends to stay with you!
Anytime of year is a great time to visit WA's southwest. Summer months are from December-March.
Busselton is only a 2 1/2 hour drive south of Perth, using the Forest Highway. Margaret River is about 3 1/2 hours drive.
If you need travel insurance for your trip to WA's southwest, you can get a quote from insurer Fastcover here.