Horace Greeley popularized the phrase, “Go west, young man.” While the west of the United States is well known globally, some might say Western Australia (WA) doesn’t quite have the same je ne sais quoi. Well they’d be wrong, and they should be shipped off to the nearest convict colony as punishment. We still do that, right?
Western Australia is the sort of place you’ll be able to name drop in hipster cafes to impress your chino-wearing, moustache-twirling friends. It’s one of Australia’s best kept secrets. Here are five reasons why any serious globetrotter should put the wide expanse of Western Australia in their travel plans.
1. There’s wine, and then there’s Margaret River wine
If you’re a wine aficionado, you might never leave the place they call Margaret River. A four-hour drive south of Perth, this region focuses on the premium wine market; while it produces 3% of Australia’s wine, it accounts for 20% of the top end. Margaret River is now recognized as one of the world’s great wine regions. What’s that, café friends? You haven’t tried the 2011 Devil’s Lair Shiraz Tempranillo? I feel like I don’t even know you anymore.
Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.
2. What a quokka is
The quokka is a small marsupial that is found only on the islands just off the coast of Western Australia – in particular, Rottnest Island. Actually, they were once mistaken for giant rat. In fact, Rottnest Island is named in Dutch for this mistake – “rotte nest”.
If you find yourself needing to drop an obscure animal into the conversation, go with a quokka. It sounds made up, it looks like a cross between a rat and a cat, and some Australian rugby union players once tried to swing them by their tails, (an unfortunate but true story).
Australia’s quokka. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.
3. Where Australia’s whitest beach is
If you’re looking for beautiful beaches, you’d be best served to avoid the tourist trap that is Bondi Beach on the east, and instead head across the Nullarbor Plain to WA.
Lucky Bay, near Esperance, is officially Australia’s whitest beach. When you throw in Cottesloe, Turquoise Bay, Cable Beach, and many others, it’s hard to argue that this might be the best region in the world to throw down a towel. And the kicker? You’ll find a fraction of the people there.
Lucky Bay in Western Australia. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.
4. The world’s longest golf course is in WA
Bet you didn’t see that one coming. While China’s Jade Dragon clocks in at 7,700m, the Nullarbor Links course in Western and South Australia is – wait for it – 1,365km (848 miles) long.
“Fie on you!” your coffee-sipping friends will viciously exclaim, as they ridicule your “fact”. The course is able to span such lengths because it’s set along the Eyre Highway, and there is a fair bit of driving (golf pun!) between each hole – an average of 66km (41 miles). The course uses artificial grass for tees and greens, but the rest is the natural desert, so I wouldn’t bring your best clubs.
Hole 6 at Nullarbor Links. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.
5. Shark Bay is only a name
What we mean is that Shark Bay is actually two bays. The sharks are still there, but it’s the flora and fauna that make this UNESCO World Heritage site worth visiting. Enter the marine stromatolites, rock-like structures built by blue-green algae and similar to life forms that existed on Earth over three billion years ago, giving us a unique perspective into our past. If you prefer your animal and plant life a little more dynamic, you’ll find a third of Australia’s bird species here, from the emu to the zebra finch, and over a hundred species of reptile and amphibians. Plus, can you turn down the chance to say you swam in Shark Bay?
Shark Bay in Western Australia. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.
So while the “backpacker trail” of Sydney and the Gold Coast has been walked and overwalked, you’ll find Western Australia is more than worth a visit; it demands a visit. Sip your latte, look up, and tell your friends that everywhere else in Australia is so passé.