Guide to Australia


Your Tour, Travel & Vacation Guide to Adventures in Australia!




WESTERN AUSTRALIA


Many West Australians will think nothing of journeying a thousand kilometres for a few days' fishing. First impressions of the State for visitors are daunting -it is over 1400 km from the border at Eucla to the State capital, yet the same distance north from Perth will only reach Onslow on the mid-north coast, with another 1800 km to get to the northernmost settlements of the State at Kununurra and Wyndham.

 

Taking up over a massive 2.5 million sq. km, Western Australia is by far the largest State in Australia, occupying more than a third of the mainland, and has enough attractions and plenty of delights to keep the most jaded traveller happy and contented. The State also has a sense of newness 'almost rawness' about it, a vitality that transcends its boom-and-bust mineral-based economy, and an open, friendly, independent, outdoor lifestyle; it feels different from the rest of Australia.

 

The Pinnacles in Western Australia, Australia

 

With a population of about 1.8 million people -over 1.2 million of which live in Perth, the State is very sparsely populated. Over 90 per cent of the population lives in the more temperate south-west, so once you head inland, there are only a handful of towns that have more than a thousand people, and all those towns owe their livelihood and prosperity to mining.

 

In the south-west of the State, the Mediterranean climate and relatively high rainfall mean prosperous farming land, forests of tall trees, and delightful rivers and streams; there is a lushness and verdancy here not found anywhere else in Western Australia.

 

This area is, in the main, rolling hills and plains, but two mountain ranges -the Stirling and the Porongurup have created a unique habitat, complete with their own flora and, to a lesser degree, some unique fauna. The Darling Ranges behind Perth are little more than a line of hills bordering what was once a swampy sand plain.

 

Vast areas of the State are uninhabited, with much of it being classed as semi-desert or desert. The Great Victoria, Gibson, Little Sandy and the Great Sandy deserts stretch from near the southern coast all the way to the north-west coast north of Port Hedland, and to the southern edges of The Kimberley, making up two-thirds of the State.

 

But it would be quite wrong to write this desert country off as uninteresting and always the same. Here, in this vastness, subtle changes take place continually; nothing is the same for long. Vast stretches of spinifex country eventually give way to mallee and mulga, changing yet again to gentle desert oak-dotted plains, or low, red-raw rocky ranges marked by the occasional vivid ghost gum.

 

Kalgoorlie Super Pit in Western Australia - Australia's largest open-cut gold mine

Among this desert and semi-desert country are the two other 'mountainous' regions of Western Australia: the tallest in the State is Mount Meharry, in the Pilbara region, reaching just 1245 m. In the far north of the State is the rugged Kimberley region, whose highest peak, at 983 m, lies within the Durack Ranges.

 

If there is variety in these desert lands, then the coast offers a real kaleidoscope of habitats, experiences and images. The coastline stretches for over 15,000 km, from Eucla across the western half of the cliff-lined Great Australian Bight, to Esperance and onwards, past hundreds of rocky headlands interspersed with bays of glistening white beaches and turquoise blue water, to Cape Leeuwin. Here the cool waters of the Southern Ocean meet the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean, and it is this ocean that laps the shores of Western Australia all the way north to its meeting with the Timor Sea and the Northern Territory border. Long stretches of sand intermingle with lines of cliffs, small bays, islands and reefs, including the Ningaloo Reef, the second-longest fringing coral reef in Australia (and one more readily accessible than Queensland's Great Barrier Reef).

 

North of Broome, heading along The Kimberley coast, the sea and ocean mix in a virtual battleground, and roaring tides and raging currents have carved great rents into the coast, leaving the coastline littered with dozens of islands and reefs. It is one of the most dangerous coasts in the world, as well as one of the most spectacular coasts.

 

The climate is as varied as the land. The south has hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters -Perth has the mildest climate of any Australian capital, with average summer maximums of about 30 degrees C and winter minimums of around 8 degrees C.

 

The desert country has very hot, dry summers, with the temperatures often in the high forties, and mild, dry winters, with temperatures in the mid-twenties. Marble Bar, in the north-west of the State, is recognised as the hottest place in Australia.

 

The tropics have two seasons: the Wet and the Dry. The Wet is in summer -hot, muggy, and, of course, wet. The temperature is often 30 degrees C or more, and the humidity is high. Occasionally there are tropical cyclones along the coast, and when these move inland they can bring heavy rain to a large area of the State. The Wet means road closures -any dirt roads can stay closed for weeks as they become mud bogs. The Dry, or winter, is mild and sunny. This is the better time to visit the north of the State.

 

The road network through the south-west of the State is well maintained, and in the main it is bitumen capped, but away from settled areas bitumen is reserved for major highways and towns. Only two highways make it to the border in a bitumen state: the Eyre Highway in the south across the Nullarbor, and the Victoria Highway in the north, east of Kununurra. The others are dirt, and in some cases very rough dirt.

 

Once north of either Geraldton (on the coast) or Meekatharra (inland), the only roads that are blacktop are the main North West Coastal Highway, the Great Northern Highway, and a couple of major roads to Tom Price and Exmouth. You will have to travel on gravel roads to experience the delights of the Pilbara, the Gascoyne or The Kimberley -once away from the major mining towns, the roads and tracks are really 4WD standard only.

 

Many of Western Australia's wildlife species have evolved slightly differently from those found in the eastern States. Some of its species, including the State emblem, the numbat, are found only in this State.

 

Western Australia offers the visitor vast expanses and profound tranquility, all of which comes with a diverse range of landscape, flora and fauna. The hugeness of the State and its seasonal differences mean a number of visits, perhaps at varying times of the year, are the best way to experience all the delights of Western Australia.