Exploring Western Australia (Part 2/2 : Highlights beyond Perth)

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Dolphin discovery centre, Bunbury

  • The discovery centre itself was pretty basic with some marine life displays and guided tours. There’s a beach in front of the centre and the staffs will ring the bell whenever dolphins’ are spotted near the beach.
  • The main highlight of the centre is the “Swim encounter” and “Dolphin eco-cruise”.
  • In the swim encounter, you’ll get to take a boat out to search and swim with the dolphins (though I didn’t try this).
  • I’ve done the “Dolphin Eco-cruise” twice and it’s a nice way to see dolphins up-close without getting wet. The cruise boat will bring you to certain areas where dolphins are known to gather and if you’re lucky, the dolphins will come right next to the boat and interact with it. Sometimes jumping out of the water! Tour duration ~1.5hrs.
  • http://dolphindiscovery.com.au

 


 

 

Busselton Jetty (& Underwater Observatory), Busselton

  • The longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. This jetty always the “main” attraction whenever I travel south from Perth. It’s also one of the most popular poster boys for Western Australia.
  • An excellent place to take some really great photos. The stretch of beach on both sides of the jetty offers good spots for photography.
  • The jetty stretches ~2km out to the sea and there’s a fare-payable mini-train service that ply the entire length of the jetty (running at certain intervals only). It takes ~20minutes to travel by train to the end of the jetty. This train ride never fails to entertain the kids.
  • At the end of the jetty, there’s an underwater observatory (entry fee required). I’ve visited the underwater observatory once (in 2005) and don’t remember it as fantastic.
  • Tickets for the train and underwater observatory can be purchased at the visitor centre located at the beginning of the jetty.
  • For those looking for a dip in the sea, there’s an “enclosed” section of the beach in front of the jetty which offers a great place for a swim. Various amenities are located nearby (e.g. toilets, eateries).
  • http://www.busseltonjetty.com.au

 


 

 

Margaret River/Augusta:

 

Winery tours

  • Due to its climate and soil condition, Margaret River is renowned for its wine. There are numerous vineyards/wineries around the region.
  • Most if not all of the wineries offers tours of their facilities, and the tours will almost certainly end with free tasting of their wines for obvious reasons.
  • Some of the larger wineries have beautifully sculptured grounds and in-house restaurants, which help to give visitors a better overall experience.
  • I’ve visited the Leeuwin Estate winery (click here) in 2005 and was impressed by it’s grounds. It offers guided tours of it’s winery, bringing you behind the scenes with the guide giving a detailed explanation of the entire winery process. As expected at the end of the tour, there’s a free tasting session. Do expect to spend ~1-2hours for the entire visit.
  • For Leeuwin Estate, they even have an open ground with a stage that hosts open-air concerts on a regular basis! Previous performers include Diana Ross, Tom Jones, kd lang, STING, Simply Red etc.
  • https://www.margaretriver.com/what-to-do/2-wineries

 

Cave experiences

  • There’s currently 3-4 limestone caves in the region that are open to public via guided tours. For those whom have never visited such limestone caves before, Margaret River is a good place to experience them.
  • For more details, visit the official Margaret River website (click here).

 

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

“Historic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is situated at the most south westerly tip of Australia, standing at the point where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet – 8 kilometres south of Augusta.” (source: www.margaretriver.com)

  • A mere 52km (~40minutes) drive from Margaret River town. Cape Leeuwin lighthouse is situated on a relatively scenic area just south of Augusta.
  • The key “selling point” of the lighthouse is that it’s situated at the point where the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean meets; at least that’s what the brochures/websites say.
  • Personally, I felt this point is over-emphasized. When you’re there, as much as you’ll like to believe, there’s nothing in the ocean that will indicate the “meeting” of the oceans. All you’ll get to see is a signboard that points at the direction of both oceans (at least that was what I saw when there in 2005).
  • However, the coastal area surrounding the lighthouse does offer some spectacular views, though the lighthouse itself is nothing amazing.
  • When I last visited in 2005, I remembered entry to the site is free. However, it appears that nowadays there’s a small fee for entry. The management also conducts “climb the tower” tours that last ~30minutes each.
  • Overall, the lighthouse is worth visiting. Be prepared to spend ~1hour on the grounds exploring the coastal areas and taking photos of the great coastal views. Do note that the winds are typically strong; so a good and sturdy tripod is essential!
  • http://www.capeleeuwinlighthouse.com

 


 

 

Walpole/Denmark:

 

Valley of Giants (Tree Top walk and Ancient Empire)

  • Situated between the towns of Walpole and Denmark. The Valley of Giants is ~250-270km (3.5hrs) from Augusta/Busselton/Bunbury and ~100km (1.5hrs) from Albany.
  • The name “Valley of Giants” came about from the large red tingle trees found in the region, some as old as 400 years.
  • Valley of Giants consists of 2 attractions (Tree Top Walk and Ancient Empire) linked by a walkway. The Tree Top Walk requires entry fees while the Ancient Empire is free.
  • The Tree Top Walk is a 600-metre trail which brings you up to 40metres above ground; amongst the canopy of the forest. The metal trail does not have steps and the gradient is not steep, making it an easy stroll for children and seniors alike.
  • The Ancient Empire is boardwalk at ground level, which will let you experience the giant tingle trees up close.
  • Though nothing too fascinating (unless you’re a dendrologist!), the Valley of Giants is worth visiting least because it serves as a resting point for the long journey between Albany and the western towns of Augusta/Busselton/Bunbury.
  • http://valleyofthegiants.com.au

 


 

 

Albany :

 

Albany Wind Farm

  • Without doubt, the main reason why i visit Albany time and again! The coastal views are EXCELLENT! Some of the photos that I’ve taken here are amongst the most scenic of all photos that I’ve ever taken in Australia.
  • Very near to Albany city centre; only a 10-15minutes drive away. It’s along the Frenchman Bay road; which also leads to Whale World and the Gap/Natural Bridge (see below). Driving along Frenchman Bay road, just look out for signs leading to the farm.
  • It’s not a particularly big wind farm; the official website says there’s only 18 turbines (click here), though i don’t remember counting 18 when i was there. There’s a reasonably big carpark complete with an information board, rain shelter and toilets. The area is open to public at all times and no fees are required.
  • From the carpark, there’s a short trail that leads to one of the turbines, so you’ll be able to get up close. There’s also a small “hill” by the carpark that you could easily walk up to have a better view of the area.
  • Ironically, the BEST views in the area are not of the turbines. Rather, it’s off the coast right beside the farm.
  • There are a number of boardwalks beside the carpark that leads to the coast, which is just a few steps away. From these boardwalks, you could have the most magnificent view of the coast.
  • In addition, there are a couple of stairs along the boardwalks that lead down to the beach. The boardwalks and the beach are typically deserted. I hardly ever saw anyone there, which is actually great because you wouldn’t want to have other people photo bombing your shot.
  • In summary, this is definitely THE place that you’ll not want to miss if you’re in Albany. Trust me!

 

Dog Rock

  • A rock right in the middle of town that incidentally has the shape of a dog.
  • It seems that there’s a few “legend” to the origin of the rock; none of them which could be verified.
  • To me, there’s nothing impressive/special about the rock, though if you’re in the area there’s no harm making a short detour to take a quick photo.
Dog Rock @2005
Dog Rock @2005

 

Whale World

  • Whaling was Albany’s (and Australia’s) earliest industry. Settlers in the region started whaling as early as 1826 (details).
  • Whale World is on the site of the previously Cheynes Beach Whaling Station, which started it’s whaling operations in 1952. When it closed in 1978, it was the last operating whaling station in the country.
  • Whale World has managed to preserve a number of excellent exhibits and information about it’s whaling past. There are an impressive number of artifacts, information and even a restored whale chaser which you could board and explore.
  • Overall, this is a great attraction for entire families. There’s something to do for everyone; even slides/swings for the kids. I would greatly recommend this to anyone visiting Albany.
  • It’s a short 15minutes drive from Albany city centre. Right at the end of Frenchman Bay road.
  • website (click here)

 

Gap and Natural Bridge

  • The Torndirrup National Park (situated along Frenchman Bay road; between the Albany Wind Farm and Whale World) offers some unique wave-carved coastal features, including the more popular Gap and Natural Bridge. (details: click here)
  • The granite coast offers many impressive sheer cliffs and outcrops. One could walk near to the edge of the cliffs and observe the thunderous waves pounding on the granite walls and feel the strong coastal winds.
  • HOWEVER, it must be mentioned that due to the unpredictable strong winds and waves, the area is extremely dangerous. Lifes have been lost in the area and visitors should exercise the greatest caution and avoid going too near to the cliffs.
  • The Gap and Natural Bridge are just two of the more unique features, which are sculptured by the waves. Both are located in close proximity. The road leading to the carpark is clearly labeled.
  • Although it’s nothing too spectacular, the Gap and Natural Bridge nevertheless is worth spending ~30-45minutes for a quick visit since it’s very near to the more interesting attractions of Albany Wind Farm and Whale World.

 


 

 

Esperance, Western Australia

“The beach paradise”

  • IF you have additional 3-4days to spare, consider driving east (along coast) from Albany to Esperance (5hours). Though not a big town, Esperance has an extremely good collection of swimming beaches; the sea is relatively calm and absolutely pristine. Perfectly suited for swimming and young kids.
  • I personally find the beaches here some of the BEST that i’ve seen in Australia. As a further prove of its beauty, it’s the place where even locals (from as far as Perth) would go to spend their holidays.
  • Along the esplanade, you could find a helicopter tour company, an ice cream van and a mobile cafe. There’s a small jetty at one end of the beach (near to the yacht club) where kids and young adults are seen doing jetty jumps. Sensing that it’s safe, i gave it a try and it was really fun!
  • Right beside the port, there’s a hill with a lookout on it (Rotary Lookout). The lookout offers some great 360degree view of the entire town.
  • Most of the best beaches in Esperance are located outside the town area (south-west of town) and can be accessed within 10-15minutes via a coastal road (Twilight Beach road). With so many pristine beaches in this area, you’ll be sure to spend a lot of time doing “beach-hopping”.
  • For the return journey, the inland highway would lead you back to Perth in 7-8hrs (via Wave Rocks, Hyden).

 

For Part 1 of the blog, Click Here.

 


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