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Western Australia

Photo by Robert Young

Western Australia destinations

Around Western Australia

Broome

Perth

Western Australia

Western Australia (WA) is often mocked as Wait Awhile. Yes, the pace is slower than some of our eastern cities and as we have an exceedingly high concentration of natural resources, more operating mines than the rest of Australia combined and a high per capita number of self-made millionaires, it’s no wonder our eastern counterparts think we’re cashed-up bogans. That is until they discover the streets aren’t lined with FIFOs, aka Fly-in Fly-out miners. Instead, they’re captivated by our natural beauty, cosmopolitan city, surrounding tourist precincts, endless blue skies and breathtaking coastline stretching for 12,000 kilometres. So why wouldn’t you want to wait awhile and explore this vast state?

In just 30 minutes east of the city, you’ll hit the Swan Valley, WA’s oldest wine region and recently named Australia’s First Humane Food Region; just follow the scenic 32 kilometre trail of over 150 of gourmet and arty attractions. To the east the Avon Valley heaves with rapids, charming villages Toodyay, York and New Norcia, Australia’s only monastic town. Head for the hills to John Forest National Park teeming with wildlife and picnic spots in the Australian scrub. Head over to Mundaring, the starting point for the Bibbulmun Track, a trekkers dream, which winds through forests for almost 1,000km to Albany, past Dwellingup in the Peel and Hotham regions, where Lane Poole Reserve is one of those special spots the locals prefer no-one else knew about.

Arrive by ferry or in style aboard a luxury yacht or charter plane to Rottnest Island; where many a WA childhood memory has been created. More nostalgia abounds whenever the words “down south” are uttered to any local. Of course they’ll know you’re referring to the Margaret River region which is three hours from Perth spanning from Busselton to Augusta and includes the area of Yallingup, which is the aboriginal meaning for “place of love,” and famed for its Cape to Cape track, caving, surfing, wine, food and artists.

Continue further south and into the Southern Forest region through Manjimup for their prized truffles, wooded town of Pemberton and all the way down to the coast to William Bay National Park for the obscenely gorgeous Green’s Pool and Elephant Rock. While in vicinity of Denmark follow scenic drives through vineyards and fresh produce outlets to Albany, where Australian and New Zealand troops sailed from to meet their fate in WW1. Of course today there is little sign of turmoil, and although history is never forgotten, particularly at the National ANZAC Centre in Albany, holiday makers gorge on wine, cuisine and adventure.

It would be worth the 500 kilometre journey to frolic in the world’s whitest beaches in the world at Esperance, as well as national parks, a replica of Stonehenge, which is as eerie as the original, and the pink Lake Hillier.

Few can resist the turquoise and ochre hues of The Kimberley in WA’s north, not to mention Broome’s multiculturalism instigated by the pearling industry; there’s even an annual pearl festival in September named Shinju Matsuri. Many come for Cable Beach, mangoes, adventure while others venture further north to Cape Leveque only to be overwhelmed with feelings of never wanting to leave. The state of Western Australia is certainly big enough to turn that dream into a reality.

Also see Melanie Ball’s Bushwalking Western Australia itinerary.


Where To Go

Around Western Australia

Broome

Fremantle

Margaret River

Perth

The Kimberley

When To Go

Western Australia generally has a year-round mild climate likened to the Mediterranean temperatures in summer reaching in excess of 40°C and as low as 0°C in winter. Due to the state’s enormous size there are several climate zones. Perth is the sunniest capital city in Australia and the southwest has mild wet winters and hot, dry summers, and February is usually the hottest month of the year with the afternoon sea breeze known as the “Fremantle Doctor” providing relief. As rainfall is relatively low but at its highest between May and September, outdoor activities are possible during most of the months of the year.

Perth experiences the same seasons as the rest of the country Summer (Dec-Feb), Autumn (March-May), Winter (June-August) and Spring (Sept-Nov)

Perth is closer to Asia than to the Eastern States and at least a weekend is required to enjoy the city. However the state is vast and there are long distances between highlights, for example its about a three hour drive to Margaret River and nine hours to Monkey Mia. Public transport is reasonable but for trips outside of the city and not along the train route, hiring a car is essential.

High and Low Season

High season (Dec-Mar)
Shoulder season (Apr, May, Sept-Nov)
Low season (Jun-Aug)

Events and Holidays

Public Holidays include:

January 1: New Year’s Day
January 26:      Australia Day
March 7: Labour Day
March/April: Good Friday and Easter Monday
April 25: Anzac Day
June 6: Western Australia Day
26 September: Queen’s Birthday
December 25: Christmas Day
December 26: Boxing Day

Perth hosts hundreds of year round festivals and here are just a few highlights:

Perth Comedy Festival, 22 April 2016
Perth Winter Arts Festival 2016, June – August 2016
Truffle Kerfuffle, Manjimup 24 -26 June 2016
Shinju Matsuri Festival, Broome 11-18 September 2016
Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster, 13-22 May 2016
Avon Descent, Avon Valley 6-7 August, 2016
Fremantle Festival, 28 October -7 November 2016
Rottnest Island Carnivale, 29 October 2016
Blues at Bridgetown, 11-13 November 2016
Margaret River Gourmet Escape, 18-20 November 2016
Hopman Cup, January 2017
Fringe World Festival, January – February 2017
Perth International Arts Festival, Feb-Mar 2017
Smokin’ in the City, 22-23 April 2017

Time Zone

Australia has several time zones, and some states observe Daylight Saving during summer months.

Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) covers Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Victoria and Tasmania.
Central Standard Time (CST) covers the Northern Territory and South Australia, and is 30 minutes behind AEST.
Western Standard Time (WST) covers Western Australia, and is two hours behind AEST.

Daylight Saving time, when the clocks are turned forward one hour, runs in all states except Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, from the first Sunday in October to the first Sunday in April.

What it Costs

Prices in Perth are deemed as high but are generally in line with most capital cities.

Accommodation prices peak during the high season and school holidays 9-25 April, 2-17 July, 24 Sept-9 Oct and 16 Dec-31 Jan 2017.

ATMS are widely available and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.

Midrange hotels cost $150-250 per night and $250 for a standard room in a high end hotel with some prices exceeding $1000  for a splurge.

Restaurants range from $10-$15 for starters up to $35-$40 for a main. Chinatown in Northbridge offers some of the best and cheapest eating options.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $AU.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $20-70 per person
$$$ => Tickets $70 per person

Sleep
$ => Rooms less than $200 for a double
$$ => Rooms $205-300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double

Eat
$ => $1-$35 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $35-$80 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $80 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $20-$50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $50 per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.

 Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping, and the major companies like Hertz, Budget, Avis and Europcar all operate around Australia, alongside smaller local companies that are worth investigating.

There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

Ride-sharing company Uber is relatively new to Australia and is currently under scrutiny by state governments where it operates.  It currently operates in Sydney, Canberra (from Oct, Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula and Geelong in Victoria, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Rides are ordered through a smart phone app, it’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to Australia goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical —Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.

Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Standard medical and travel insurance is advisable for travel to Australia. Divers including the Great Barrier Reef or other Australian diving destinations should also ensure they have the appropriate insurance.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

If you have pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.

For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.

Exchange Rates and Currency

Currency

Australian dollars come in $1 and $ coins, and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes.  Each is a different colour, so they are easy to tell apart. Other coins are 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents. The $1 and $2 coins are gold, all the others are silver.

Prices sometimes end in a variant of 1 or 2 cents (for example, 52 cents or $1.78), a relic from the days before 1-cent and 2-cent pieces were phased out.  In these cases, prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents, so 52 cents rounds down to 50 cents, and 78 cents rounds up to 80 cents.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

Tipping is always appreciated, but is not widely practiced or expected in Australia. It is usual to tip around 10% to 15% or round up to the nearest A$10 for a substantial meal in a restaurant, but certainly not mandatory. Some taxi passengers round up to the nearest round figure in a cab, but it’s okay to insist on every bit of change back. Tipping hotel porters and housemaids is sometimes done, but no one tips bar staff, barbers, massage therapists and spa employees or hairdressers.

Other costs:

Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and chemist shops (pharmacies/drugstores) will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.

Transportation

Without a car it can be tricky getting around as public transport is limited. However, the Midland train line covers the areas between Midland, City and Fremantle well and extends as far south as Mandurah and north to Joondalup.

The roads are very good and clearly sign posted and within about 30 minutes you can get pretty much anywhere. The freeway is to be avoided during week day peak hour as traffic comes to a standstill from 7.30-9.30am and 4.30-6.30pm Monday to Friday.

Taxis and Uber are plentiful and reliable.

Hints, Tips and FAQs

Tips

‘Tips’ for testing purposes.

FAQs

‘FAQs’ for testing purposes.

Trip Ideas

Itinerary 1

Perth in Three Days