I recently finished a 10-day tour down the West Coast, from Broome to Perth, with Adventure Tours. I say recently, but since finishing the tour I’ve had ten days in Perth and I’m now four days into a road trip from Darwin to Cairns. I’m sitting outside the Daly Waters Pub in the middle of nowhere, watching wallabies hop across the campsite as I type (don’t worry, I can touch-type, so it is possible for me to do both simultaneously. See, I just wrote that while watching a black kite wheeling above me. Skills.)
*NB. Now twelve days into aforementioned Darwin to Cairns trip.
The coast trip was incredible. I fell in love with Karijini. I saw a landscape exploding with wildflowers. I snorkeled in the Ningaloo Reef. I saw echidnas, and emus, and dolphins (oh my!). I paddled with reef sharks. I saw a dead sea turtle (not so nice, but still morbidly fascinating). I saw my oldest living relatives (stromatolites, baby!). I learnt a new method of friendship-braiding (2020 edit: I now no longer know this method or what it even looks like…). I took more group jumping photos than you could possibly imagine. I played my first ever game of pool. It was an extremely eventful trip.
And just as there are Seven Wonders of the World, I have selected seven wondrous things to do if you’re ever on the West Coast. #westisbest!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Tourism Western Australia, Karijini National Park, or any other human being on the planet. Just saying.
If you can, it’s really worth travelling the West Coast while the wildflowers are in bloom. These start to flower further north in June and sweep down the coast until well into September. Okay, so if you go when they’re at their best you miss the whale sharks, but really, who cares?? Vast swathes of stunning colour, like a carpet of rainbows, that you can skip through in pure bliss to your heart’s content vs. swimming with a bunch of glorified fish who can’t even decide whether they’re whales or sharks. It’s a no brainer in my book, but it’s your call.
6) Kangaroo stew and damper round a fire
This one requires a suitable bush camp spot where you can feel like you’ve got at least a little bit of privacy. We used one just by Hammersley Gorge in Karijini.
It’s a very Australian evening: sitting round a fire, eating kangaroo and damper cooked in a camp oven over some coals, watching the sun set and the stars come out, and realising for the 147th time that day what a special place you’re in.
5) Coral Bay at sunset (and Coral Bay and the Ningaloo Reef generally, of course)
I’ve included this here, not just because it’s a beautiful place for sunset which anyone can enjoy, but because I, personally, will always remember it as one of the funniest nights of the tour.
In a desperate attempt to get a group photo, in the dwindling light, on one of the windiest nights on tour, five of us resorted to lying on top of each other in a sort of pyramid fashion with the camera at ground level on a ten second timer. This was a recipe for both disaster and hilarity. We struggled to find the right position to get us all in, tried to get the flash right, weren’t ready by the time the ten seconds were up, consistently took photos with various members of the group grimacing as we slowly crushed one another to death, and one occasion when we were actually all ready, the wind decided, after waiting an opportune nine seconds, to blow the camera over. I’ve always believed that the wind has the best comic timing of all the weather types. I don’t even remember if we actually got a successful photo in the end. All I remember is laughing so hard I cried.
4) Karaoke in Denham
Denham doesn’t have much going for it except karaoke (sorry if you’re reading this and you live in Denham…). And it just so happened to be a member of our party’s birthday while we were there. Cue our perfectly tuned and choreographed group performance of the Backstreet Boys’ I Want it That Way. ‘Tell me why?’ you ask? Well, why not?
3) Nature’s Window, Kalbarri
Continuing on the music theme, not only is Kalbarri absolutely stunning, but Nature’s Window is that ideal spot you’ve been looking for for your next album cover. Seriously. Look, here’s ours:
Of course, enjoy the view and see the wildlife, but also consider how much money you’ll save using nature as your backdrop rather than hiring a team of designers, specialists, and professional know-it-alls. But I’d get there sharpish, because you know that after this is posted, it’s going to be the place to be.
If you’re not in the music rat race, Nature’s Window is still worth a visit. It’s a very peaceful spot (for now…) and the view is something else. I’m sure Kalbarri would feature a lot more in this list if I’d spent more time there, because the lookouts at the start of the walks were pretty darn spectacular, but, unfortunately, we only had a flying visit. So go explore and tell me what it’s like!
2) Fern Pool, Karijini
There are not words to do Karijini justice; you really have to experience it for yourself. Allow at least three nights to a week to truly appreciate it, because there are quite a few walks, many of which I would happily do multiple times. Fern Pool is part of the Dales Gorge walk, which is a gorgeous hike in itself, and in places reminded me of the ruins of an ancient city. The pool, known as Jubura to the local indigenous people, is right at the end of the walk, past Fortescue Falls. It’s a very peaceful spot – no splashing, jumping, or loud noises because it’s an important Aboriginal site (unfortunately the sign I was reading didn’t go into any more detail) – and wonderful after a long, hot walk.
1) Port Hedland
Port Hedland was by far the highlight of my trip. After everything I’ve said, if you’re planning a trip down the coast, don’t bother, just spend a week in Port Hedland. It’s full of wonderful car parks, architecturally-mesmerising mining accommodation, and… huge piles of salt! I even found a playground with a pretty decent swing in it. If you’re looking for accommodation, look no further than the Pier Hotel, which holds the world record, set in the ‘90s, for the most stabbings in one night (83 if you’re interested).
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m kind of, sort of, definitely pulling your leg. As our guide said to us on entering the town, the one highlight of Port Hedland is leaving it. Built purely for mining purposes, it’s really not the nicest spot in Australia.
My real choice for number one has to be:
And specifically, Hancock Gorge. Kermits Pool right at the end is fricking freezing but so beautiful (I’m still not sure if I went into shock from the scenery or the cold), and the walk to it, especially the clambering Spider Walk, is so much fun.
There’s so much more I could say about this trip, including rewriting Bieber’s Sorry to record the events of the tour for our guide, singing our hearts out to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on the truck, doing gymnastics on the ceiling poles of the Exmouth camp, assessing each other every morning on how homeless we looked that day (and one member of our group in particular – *pointed look*), watching everyone struggle to play a didgeridoo for the first time, and yelling ‘mach mal schneller!’ at each other at every available opportunity just because we could. But these are all rather niche events that would not necessarily occur on every person’s tour down the coast, so I didn’t want to make any promises. The West Coast is amazing, but the group and the guide certainly made the trip for me.