Home Valley Station, Western Australia

As the largest state in the world – and 10 times bigger than the UK – Western Australia can hardly be called a hidden gem, but it is less well known than the east. For many first-timers keen to see Sydney and the Great Barrier Reef, a trip to Uluru and the Red Centre is often as far west as they venture.

But Western Australia has a vast amount to offer, both to tourists on their second visits or those just looking for something different.

It’s not hard to find operators selling the state. They include Australia specialists Austravel, Qantas, Anzcro and APT, while the luxury end of the market is well covered by the likes of Bridge & Wickers and Cox & Kings.

In November, Tourism Western Australia ran a fam trip to promote the highlights of the state. Wexas’s Dave Ward, who has already started selling more trips in the state, says: “I really enjoyed the natural landscapes and sense of space. I’d recommend people go before the secret gets out!”

Perth and the southwest

Though sunny Perth is growing quickly – tell gap-year clients the state capital is currently one of the easiest places for Brits to find work – it still retains the friendly, personal feel of a smaller city. And it boasts the double whammy of a gorgeous coastline and river frontage.

STA Travel’s Kim Lindsay, who attended the fam, loved the city. She says: “It has a tranquillity a bit like Brisbane’s, but when you visit Cottesloe surf beach, it feels more like Sydney. The Kings Park gardens are high up in the centre of the city and offer amazing views.”

Just a short ferry ride from the city centre, car-free Rottnest Island is a lovely day trip, home to secluded beaches and quokkas, the small marsupials found only in this area. Recommend a cruise inland along the Swan river, stopping to taste wines in local vineyards, and perhaps a visit to Caversham Wildlife Park to feed kangaroos and koalas.

Just 20 minutes north of Perth, the laid-back coastal town of Fremantle is a charming place to while away a day, full of funky boutique breweries, and seafood fresh from the harbour. It’s an arty place too, with crafts, jewellery and fashion on sale in the local markets.

South of Perth lies Rockingham, where highlights include the chance to swim with wild dolphins and visit Penguin Island, home to 1,200 little penguins.

Around four hours south of Perth is Margaret River, in an area best known for its vineyards and with a slow pace well suited to mature travellers. As well as sampling wines at the area’s many excellent cellar doors – or chocolate, fudge and ice-cream made by local artisans – there are plenty of places for walking, in particular along sections of the Bibbulmun Track, which passes through coastal and forest landscapes.

Cottlesloe Beach, Perth, Western Australia
Cottlesloe Beach, Perth

The coral coast

Marine wildlife and nature are the attractions of this beautiful coastline, which stretches north from Perth. Monkey Mia is most famous for the dolphins that swim right into the shore.

To the far north lies Ningaloo Marine Park, home to a stunning reef which is accessible from the beach and less busy than the Great Barrier. Here, visitors can swim among bright corals, 500 species of tropical fish, manta rays and, famously, whale sharks.

Many visitors stop at the Pinnacles, a limestone rock formation north of Perth, and visit the Kalbarri National Park, where they can photograph or trek the steep, red-rock gorges.

Hurried visitors will appreciate the new Qantas flights between Perth and Exmouth, the gateway to Ningaloo, which started operating three times a week in March. In December, two new hotels will open in the area – Assured Marina Studios in Exmouth Marina Village, and Bayview Coral Bay, the first four-star in Coral Bay.

Broome and Kimberley

Adventurous types who like getting off the beaten track will love Western Australia’s wild north. The gateway is chilled-out Broome, home to the 13-mile Cable Beach, and a friendly nightlife scene.

Beyond the city, visitors hit wilderness on a grand scale, from the striped rocks of the Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park to the vast Lake Argyle. They can drive the deserted Gibb River Road, or take a helicopter over mountain ranges.

Guests often stay on cattle stations such as Home Valley, an Aboriginal-owned operation spanning 1.4 million hectares of wilderness and offering luxury and basic accommodation, and activities such as trekking, riding, fishing and cattle-mustering.

Some visitors twin the Kimberley region with Northern Territory’s Top End, rather than with the rest of Western Australia. Orion Expedition Cruises offers sailings in the Kimberley and run between Darwin and Broome.

Sample packages

Qantas Holidays offers a four-night Southwest Wanderer self-drive itinerary visiting Perth, Margaret River, Pemberton and Albany, including accommodation and five days’ car hire in a Group B vehicle from £320. 
Book it: Qantas Holidays agent site, 020 8222 9124

Austravel offers an eight-day Gibb River Road and Bungle Bungles Adventure from £2,409, including four-wheel-drive travel, most meals, tours and accommodation.
Book it: austravel.com, 0800 032 5492