Western Australia, where you will discover the Kimberley, premium wine regions, pristine coral reefs and unspoiled grandeur
FREE SPIRITED GIANT
AUSTRALIA'S biggest state, Western Australia, expands over the whole western third of the Australian continent. Travellers seeking a fresh, natural holiday with a difference will find no end of enjoyment in the free-spirited west.
Bounded by the Indian and Southern oceans, the Timor Sea and the Red Centre, Western Australia is truly enormous. Its 2.52 million square kilometres make it bigger than the whole of western Europe and nearly four times the size of Texas. This vast expanse is packed with wonders and mostly untouched by settlement. It's an eco-tourist's dream.
Contrasts are astounding in this larger-than-life state. Lush forests flourish in the south-west's Mediterranean climate; dazzling white saltpans dot the interior; big-city sophistication and easy living abounds in Perth; expanses of upright limestone pinnacles resembling Neolithic standing stones lie to the north; rugged canyons traverse tropical savanna regions; far-flung ghost towns and modern mining complexes lie shimmering under endless blue skies.
The state's immense north, a region that includes Drysdale River National Park and Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park, is one of the world's last frontiers.
Heirisson Island, near Perth, is Australia's oldest Aboriginal site, with stone tools and camp-fire charcoal dating back 39,500 years. The first outsiders to make contact with west-coast Aborigines were traders from islands to the north (now Indonesia); then Portuguese in the 15th century, followed by Dutch, French and English navigators. The region was proclaimed a British colony in 1829, attracting 40,000 free settlers initially, then convict labour for a relatively short period from 1850.
Today, Western Australia offers an enormous diversity of experience.
Outside the cities, Western Australia has set aside more than 1,200 national parks and reserves covering 15 million hectares. The cool south-west, with its hardwood forests and pristine beaches, is within easy driving distance of Perth. Forests, beaches, cliffs, lakes and farmlands - plus awesome, spine-tingling surf - provide a real West Australian experience not far from the big city.
FORESTS GIVE WAY TO HEARTLAND
Western Australia's "Southern" region, south of Perth, offers magnificent forests of tall native trees - jarrah, marri, karri and tingle - including four species of rare eucalypts that grow in a small area there and nowhere else on earth.
The Golden Heartlands region of the state is carpeted with wildflowers each spring. It includes The Pinnacles, an area of surreal sandstone pillars, and Wave Rock, a breaking wave suspended in time.
Not far from The Pinnacles is New Norcia, founded in 1846 by Spanish Benedictine monks as an Aboriginal mission, and still undeniably Spanish, with olive trees, Spanish church bells and a collection of 17th- and 18th-century Italian and Spanish paintings.