Top 10 FREE Things To Do In Western Australia

My home state has some of the best undiscovered and undeveloped land in the country. I’m a little biased, sure – but I think you can all appreciate the following FREE things to check out over here in the West.

BIBBULMAN TRACK: The Bibb (as it’s known) is one of the world’s great long distance walks, stretching over 1000kms from the suburbs of Kalamunda in Perth’s hills all the way to historic Albany in the great south of the state. The track takes you through towering karri and tingle forest, over giant granite boulders and across breathtaking coastal scenes. There are a wide range of experiences on offer, from an eight week epic adventure staying in 49 campsites along the way, to day walks staying in comfort in quaint country towns. The track passes through beautiful spots, like Dwellingup, coal mining Collie, Walpole and Denmark. The campsites are well appointed, with sleeping shelters, pit toilets and rainwater tanks. The track is well marked with yellow triangular markers symbolising the rainbow serpent of the Aboriginal Dreamtime.

humpback-whale-breachingWHALE WATCHING: To get this for free, you’ll need to do it from land. You can go on the charter services out on the water, but these are expensive – although the view is much better! The fact remains that good ol’ WA has the world’s longest whale watching season, and lands in the path of the annual migration of humpback, southern right and the rare blue whales. The season begins in May and ends in December, and the whales will travel up the coast of WA hugging the continental shelf. In some areas, whales play close to the shore, and you can clearly see them from set vantage points. The best time to view is at midday, when the sun is directly overhead. Best places to spot whales are Flinders Bay, Augusta, and King George Sound (Albany), where they ironically get spotted just meters from the old whaling station. In the north of the state, best spots are Exmouth and Kalbarri. During September and December, humpbacks take a rest in the coastal waters off the capital – Perth.

DIAMOND TREE LOOKOUT: Not for the faint hearted, the gruelling 51 meter climb to the top of the world’s only wooden tree top tower rewards you with panoramic views of the beautiful Karri forests of the state’s south near Manjimup. Explore the forest and the surrounding area, perhaps have a picnic at one of the many spots dotted through the area. There are plenty of easy walk trails in the area, and if you manage to time your visit for the wildflower display (September – November), you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic display of colour.

Cottesloe Beach sunsets, Perth

Cottesloe Beach sunsets, Perth

HIT THE BEACH: I’ve said it before, but WA really has the most beautiful beaches in the country – maybe even the world. Suburban beaches are vast expanses of white sand, protrolled and protected by the Surf Lifesavers in their yellow and red outfits. Lucky Bay is officially Australia’s whitest beach, the sand is so clean it squeaks when you walk on it. World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef  lies at the shoreline of the Coral Coast, surrounded by qwhite beaches. My favourite – Turquoise Bay. Suburban Perth surfer seekers should head to Scarborough Beach and Trigg, in the northern suburbs of the city. The gnarliest waves in the south can be found at Surfers Point, near Margaret River. If you’re chasing wind, head north of the city by about an hour and a half to Lancelin, where you will find Windsurfers Beach. Remember though – the Aussie sun is HOT, so slip, slop, slap.

WANDER THE WILDFLOWERS: Certain parts of the state are renowned all over the world for the display of wildflowers, and come spring the roads are chock full of people escaping the city to go see them. From Perth, get in the car and head north for a picnic with the white, pink and yellow everlastings. Seek the Wreath Flower  on the Coral Coast, or go hunting for orchids in the south west. If time is not on your side though, you can take a wander through Perth’s King’s Park Botanic Gardens, and see the entire state on display in one place.

Margaret River wineries, Western Australia

Margaret River wineries, Western Australia

WINE TASTING: WA wine is renowned all over the world for its distinctive notes, and premium quality. There are nine sensational regions to discover, including internationally acclaimed Margaret River and the Great Southern. Venture off the well known trails and you’ll discover there are many more bottled treasures to taste. The majority of the regions can be found in the state’s south west – with it’s Mediterranean climate and rich fertile soils it has the perfect environment for growing premium grape vines. Margaret River produces outstanding chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and semillon white varieties, and wonderfully full bodied cabernet sauvignon reds. Located approximately three hours south of Perth, it’s a pretty wonderful weekend getaway. The cooler climate Great Southern region produces light rieslings and rich cabernets. The oldest wine region in WA is located just a short 45 min drive from the city of Perth, in the pretty Swan Valley. On the banks of the Swan River, you can indulge all your senses, with family run fresh produce and cheesemakers sitting between various vineyards and cellar doors. The Swan Valley is also home to award winning restaurants, boutique breweries and chocolate makers. If wine is your thing (and it’s definitely mine!) I suggest you check out the Wines of Western Australia.

Kangaroo_1786273cWILDLIFE SPOTTING: Our cousins from England get inexplicable joy in the sighting of kangaroo. I’ll never understand it. They’re literally everywhere, except in densely built up areas. Best spots for wildlife spotting are Whiteman Park, Apex Park, Avon Valley and Prevally Park in the south. Alternatively, Perth Zoo has a wonderful Australian animal set up, complete with koala, echidna, wombat and of course – the kangaroo.

LOCAL GALLERIES: WA’s art scene is far from emerging – it’s emerged. So much so that there is actually a coastal art trail, if you’re keen you can wind your way down south toward Margaret River, and stop in at Busselton, Bunbury, Dunsborough and Yallingup. Between the breweries and wineries there are some truly spectacular local artists showcasing their work in small local galleries. Keep your eyes out for the signs.

Melbourne’s Secret Bars

As I write, I’m sitting in Tullamarine Airport nursing a hideous hangover. In fact, I might even still be drunk from last night’s “research.” Just so you all know how much I sacrifice to bring you all this wisdom, I feel like someone is slicing my eyeballs open and then getting in there with a sledgehammer and pouding on my skull. But the good news is, I’ve been doing some research, and I have a list of all the cool secret bars in Melbourne. I know, I’m the best.

Sister BellaSISTER BELLA

Location: 22 Drewery Place (Enter via Sniders Lane), CBD

Locals in Melbourne will tell you that all the cool bars are down unremarkable laneways. This certainly holds true for Sister Bella, a bar with no outdoor signage because they are a bar that gives zero fucks. Once you walk down one alleyway covered in street art and turn down a smaller alleyway (also covered in street art), you’ll find a tiny door behind some bins. Keep an eye out for the “What goes up must come down” wall at the end (featured image). Sister Bella features a range of cocktails, weeknight specials, and delicious cheap pizza to boot. Because carbs and cheese are perfectly matched with a big night out.

HIHOU

Location: Level 1, 1 Flinders Lane, CBD

In an awesome twist that any Japanese speaker would be expecting, Hihou literally means “secret treasure”. The ultimate in secret venues, to gain entry you have to ring a doorbell on an unmarked door. It has a sleek Japanese décor, with low lighting and low seating. It’s got all the usual drinks, but if you’re looking for something particularly Japanese you can choose between variations of sake, umeshu (plum wine) and Japanese whisky. Sitting by the floor-to-ceiling windows on the far side of the bar gives you beautiful night time views of Treasury Gardens.

THE ALCHEMIST

Location: 361 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy

Unlike the novel that shares its name, The Alchemist isn’t well-known by everyone – it’s another Melbourne secret. I found it through a friend of a friend. Charming baroque couches and satin draperies are hidden beyond a just-visible sign on Brunswick Street right in the heart of Fitzroy. Blink and you’ll miss it. But it’s a great place to go if you’re feeling like something different, or want to step back in time. Definitely a bar that sticks with it’s theme, real apothecary items from centuries ago accessorise the place. And the “Periodic Table” on display is a delightfully easy way to pick something when you’re spoilt for choice. The bartenders are adventurous too: ask them to make one of your own inventions and they’ll give it a go.

TYRANNY OF DISTANCE

Location: Union St, near the Chapel St corner, Windsor

I am in love with a bar that serves $4 glasses of bubbles, has friendly waitstaff and does table service so I don’t have to line up with the mob at the bar. These guys also understand that the Brussel sprout is an underrated vegetable, and they know how to do wonderful things with calamari. This is the kind of place that is so chill, you can sit for hours and not realise how long you’ve been drinking. Your waiters will be your mates by the end of the night. 

SAHARA

Location: Level 1, 301 Swanston Street, CBD

With my love of all things Africa, I couldn’t give this a miss. Chances are, even if you’re a Melbourne local, you won’t have even spotted the entrance for Sahara. It’s a tiny staircase in between a bunch of lunch places. Three levels up is the apex – a beautiful rooftop with a bar and seating covered in coloured cushions for a Moroccan feel. Food and drinks are decently priced with specials every night and a super-long happy hour on Thursdays. This is also one of the few places in Melbourne where you can order shisha in a range of flavours – even bubblegum!

 

sahara