Before arriving in Albany, take a detour to the Granite Skywalk. The Granite Skywalk at Castle Rock is a 3km round trip walk that takes you to a skywalk set into a giant granite boulder perched atop the Porongurup Range. This ancient forest island is home to towering granite peaks, majestic stands of Karri trees and is surrounded by excellent wineries. The area is renowned for its awesome natural beauty, wildflowers, colourful local characters and a huge variety of natural sightseeing attractions.
Next stop: Albany. Here, you’ll find farmers markets, fresh oysters and bespoke spirits, as well some of the most pristine beaches this side of the equator. Visit the striking coast at The Gap and Natural Bridge or step back in time at Albany’s Historic Whaling Station and National ANZAC Centre. Discover native Australian plants and animals at Discovery Bay, keeping an eye out for migrating humpback and southern right whales playing close to shore (June to September). Spend the afternoon sampling delicious seasonal produce, before enjoying dinner at one of the historic town’s restaurants. Overnight in Albany.
A slice between rock-hewed sea cliffs, The Gap is embroiled in an endless dance with the ocean. Whooosh… BANG! What was that? As you ease nearer the edge of The Gap, in Torndirrup National Park, the booming oceanic rumblings will intensify until – CRASH! – suddenly the spectacle reveals itself. A slice between rock-hewed sea cliffs, The Gap is embroiled in an endless dance with the ocean: watch as it sucks in giant pockets of air with each receding wave, then brace as the water returns with a head-first slam into the walls. The viewing platform overhead – high enough to make you dizzy – is the ultimate spot to watch the show; the scale of the cliffs and the force of the ocean put things in humbling perspective. Admire the surrounding coastline, aflame with native wildflowers, and check out The Gap’s equally beautiful counterpart, the rock formation known as Natural Bridge. Afterwards, head into nearby Albany for a meal, or check out the curious sight of Albany Wind Farm – its 12 turbines line the coast in a silent, eerily beautiful ever-moving formation.
Make your way to Bremer Bay, the coastal hamlet that is home to some incredibly unique wildlife. The sheltered waters and bays of Bremer Bay provide the ideal breeding grounds for Southern Right Whales; take a walk to the Point Ann lookout to spot southern right whales come close to shore to calve during winter. The cool temperate waters are also home to rare Leafy and Weedy sea dragons. Ready to take a safari, The Edge style? At Bremer Bay, you can join a charter boat tour from January to April to embark on a journey to one of the most unexplored regions on Earth in search of the largest-known pod of orca in the Southern Hemisphere. Over eight epic hours, you’ll chase pod after pod of these beautifully sleek creatures, who appear with mysterious regularity in a single patch of ocean, some 24 nautical miles offshore. Little is known about the 100-strong population who congregate here, but – like other dolphins – these highly intelligent, sociable creatures certainly know how to put on a show. Watch as they move like torpedoes through the water, splashing and crashing with playful regularity; you might also see sharks, whales, other dolphin species such as bottlenose, common and striped, and seabirds such as the majestic albatross. Overnight in Bremer Bay.
Stop at Ravensthorpe to marvel at the world’s tallest freestanding lollipop on your way to Fitzgerald River National Park. With 20% of Western Australia’s wildflowers found here alone, not to mention the dramatic coastal views, you’ll want to make your way next to the Fitzgerald River National Park. It’s recognised as one of Australia’s largest and most botanically significant national parks, and is renowned for its rugged hinterland, coastal scenery and rare plant species, many unique to the park. In spring, the landscape is dotted with colourful wildflowers including banksias, hakeas, bottlebrush, feather flowers, Quaalup bell and many others. Go bushwalking on one of the trails - including to the top of East Mount Barren - and you might spot endangered native animals like the dibbler, a small marsupial which has recently been rediscovered in the park.
Escape to the peaceful beach town of Hopetoun, nestled on the shores of the beautiful Mary Ann Haven. Flanked by pristine coastline and white beaches, follow the Southern Ocean Road east of town to access breathtaking coastal lookouts and beaches with quiet pools for fishing or swimming, like Mason Bay or Starvation Bay. Overnight in Hopetoun.
Could this be Australia’s most beautiful stretch of road? Don’t answer till you’ve traced Esperance’s famous route for yourself. One dazzling beach after another unfolds along the Great Ocean Drive, while the horizon is splashed with some 105 islands of the Recherche Archipelago, making the route feel a little like island hopping by car. Though it’s only 40 kilometres end to end, you could easily spend a day exploring the many beaches and hidden inlets of this gorgeous drive; stop at Nine Mile Beach to watch colourful windsurfers float across the water’s glassy top, and make time to see Twilight Cove, where you’ll spot spectacular rock formations that curve and loop out of the water. When you finally arrive back in town, head to the local brewery and sip on some refreshments or take a walk along the Esplanade foreshore. Take in the town museums and craft shops and the Rotary Lookout and Walk Trail, before watching a sunset at twilight.
Visit the nearby Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park. It lives up to its name in plenty of ways - translucent water and sand like icing sugar, not to mention sunbaking kangaroos! This pristine park near Esperance is known for its stunning scenery and idyllic beaches where you can go swimming, bushwalking, fishing and camping. The landscape changes from massive granite outcrops to freshwater pools and unbelievable white sandy beaches with views over many islands. Hike up Frenchman Peak or soak up the impressive turquoise ocean views of Hellfire Bay, or explore further afield to Wharton’s Beach (Duke of Orleans) or Condingup. Overnight in Esperance.
The climb to Frenchman Peak in Cape Le Grand National Park is like the trajectory of a firework – short, steep and definitely memorable. It takes just 40 minutes to reach the top of this local icon (though you may take longer if you stop to enjoy the views en route), but it’s no casual stroll. Follow the markers as you curve around the east side of the mountain; the walking path presently turns into something more like a scramble as you navigate the rocky incline on approach to the summit. Arrive to spectacular views stretching over the park, along the coastline and out to the islands at sea; a bonus vantage point, framed by the mouth of a cave-like rock formation, is on offer when you retrace your steps back down the mountain. Make sure you’re wearing appropriate footwear.
Located within Cape Le Grand National Park is Hellfire Bay. This secluded beach nestled between giant, granite rocks, boasts some of the most impressive turquoise ocean views in Western Australia. As this beach is a little less well known than nearby Lucky Bay, you may even be lucky enough to have the entire beach to yourself, making you feel like you’re on your own private island. The Recherche Archipelago sits in the distance, with the silhouettes of islands popping up through the ocean. This scenic bay is a perfect spot to swim in calm conditions followed by a picnic on the sand, with barbeque facilities at hand.
Long, lazy bays, candy-coloured water and sands as soft as fairy floss with Kangaroos lounging on the sand. Cape Le Grand National Park is a chocolate box of natural treats, but the standout attraction is its must-visit star, Lucky Bay. Famous for its troop of resident roos, which can be found on the beach almost all day every day, it’s also a wonderful swimming spot (in fact, its sheltered waters are the reason why Matthew Flinders named this bay “Lucky” when exploring in 1802). Admire the unusual water colour – a translucent iced mint that seems to glow – before a freshwater shower in the sunshine by the walking track.
How pink can a pink lake be? Soar past Lake Hillier and you’ll soon have your answer. There’s no chance of missing this natural spectacle on a scenic flight (you’ll see famous Lucky Bay from above, too). Explore the islands of the Recherche Archipelago on a half day island cruise or take an eco-tour of untamed Woody Island. For a bird’s eye view, take a scenic flight to witness the striking juxtaposition of bubblegum pink Lake Hillier on Middle Island sitting beside the deepest blue ocean. The lake’s hard-to-believe hue is a natural phenomenon resulting from bacteria found in the waters, turning the water a fluorescent pink shade you’ll snap again and again. It’s located on Middle Island, off the Esperance coastline – a spot you can actually explore on foot, if you choose instead to take a helicopter tour. Land by the beach and take the short walk to admire its gem-coloured tones from the on-ground viewing area, cordoned off to protect its precious pH balance. There’s plenty more to see and do – picnic on the beach by an almost 100-year-old shipwreck, spot dolphins and sea lions playing by the foreshore, or hunt for the grave of Matthew Flinders’ right-hand man, said to be buried here. There’s even a set of ruins to be explored, thought to be left by Australia’s first and only pirate, Black Jack.
Return to Perth via Ravensthorpe and Hyden over the next couple of days. See the large scale art installations that feature on the public SILO trail, and be sure to visit the impressive Wave Rock along with Hippos Yawn and Lake Magic. Thought to have formed some 130 million years ago, Wave Rock is entirely natural and measures about 15km (roughly three storeys) in height. It’s the perfect end to your Instagram highlights reel. Overnight in Hyden.
Ready to catch a wave? This one’s a little different to its coastal counterparts. If you’re heading back to Perth via Hyden, you won’t want to miss the infamous Wave Rock. Instagram sensation @JeremyJauncey -(who is also the man behind Insta-juggernaut @beautifuldestinations) took his 600,000 followers to Wave Rock in 2015, declaring it a “Bucket list” location; @LeeAbbamonte – the youngest American to visit every country on Earth – has also been, seen and grammed about it. Thought to have formed some 130 million years ago, Wave Rock is entirely natural and measures about 15m (roughly three storeys) in height.
Head back to Perth via Kulin’s quirky Tin Horse Highway and WA’s oldest inland town, York. Arrive in Perth.