Travel: Go west to Australia’s state of bliss

Skyline of Perth (Getty Images/iStock)
Skyline of Perth (Getty Images/iStock)

NEW SOUTH WALES has Sydney and its Opera House and Queensland has the Great Barrier Reef, but one Australian state for me knocks the socks off all the others for a holiday and that is glorious Western Australia.

As a travel writer I’ve been lucky to visit the land down under half a dozen times and it’s always Western Australia I’m desperate to get back to most.

Getting there is a breeze these days, with great value flights with Etihad from Edinburgh via Abu Dhabi.

The journey is that bit shorter too as Perth is about four hours less flight time than Australia’s East Coast.

Perth is nothing like the original back in Scotland. It’s nothing like Sydney or Melbourne, either.

The most remote state capital in the world has a brash New World identity of its own and a confidence resulting from the huge mineral deposits the state boasts in abundance.

My late uncle emigrated from Argyll to Perth in the ’50s. He loved the sweeping white sand beaches, the superb seafood and the great outdoors lifestyle.

It’s hard not to fall for this sun-drenched culture, especially if you head to Little Creatures. More than just a brewery producing the state’s acclaimed beer, it is symbolic of Perth and neighbouring Freemantle’s way of life.

Families are more than welcome, the superb food is served up by beaming waiting staff and there is lashings of outdoor space by the ocean.

Freemantle actually makes an ideal alternative base to the city proper.

It has its own beaches and plenty of historic architecture that dates back to the days when Queen Victoria was on the throne.

You can also catch a wee ferry out to Rottnest Island, which is great for walking and cycling. The island is home to the cute quokka, a wallaby-like marsupial.

Margaret river winery

Exploring further south I recommend a few days in Margaret River, the finest winelands in Australia.

The area is brilliantly set-up for visitors, with many vineyards not only sporting shops and offering free tastings, but also world-class restaurants brimming with fresh local produce.

The first Margaret River wines were only conjured up in the early ’70s, but the region, with its cooler climate and ocean breezes, has caught up fast.

If you’re a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay you will be in heaven.

My favourite winery is Vasse Felix. Enjoy a free tasting here before lunch with a view overlooking the vines the vintage in your glass hailed from.

Margaret River’s coastline is impressive, all starched white beaches and booming surf that attracts surfers, but a much more dramatic, wildlife rich littoral awaits north of Perth.

Snorkelling

Ningaloo is the best place to come face-to-face with the largest species of shark in the world, the mighty whale shark.

A number of operators offer day trips out to view these awesome (and perfectly safe!) leviathans, but I recommend spending a night or two on a live aboard vessel.

This let me to not only snorkel with the whale sharks – one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever enjoyed – but also of time to spot dolphins and whales.

On my cruise with Sail Ningaloo (sailningaloo.com.au) we got very close to a pod of humpback whales, so close we could hear them spouting.

Freemantle Waterfront

Further north still – Western Australia is vast, covering around a third of the country – we come to Broome, a famous and famously remote resort.

Its highlight is the huge expanse of Cable Beach, which extends its welcoming sandy arms for 22km.

There is plenty of space for everyone and the romance of enjoying a camel safari as you savour Australia’s finest sunsets.

Broome’s heritage as a pearl diving centre is also intriguing with museums and cultural attractions recalling the days when the town buzzed with divers.

As you recline on Cable Beach savouring the sun melting into the Indian Ocean in a collage of fiery reds and deep oranges, you can toast the scene.

With a crisp Chardonnay from the Margaret River, of course, and congratulate yourself on discovering the Australian state that overflows with attractions, from towns and cities, through to epic wildlife and world class wines.

The Facts

You can fly from Edinburgh to Perth, via Abu Dhabi, with Etihad Airways who offer return economy fares from under £600.

Business class beds are also available.

For more info on Australia, see www.australia.com

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