We haven’t visited WA yet – but after reading this guest post from Keri at Our Globetrotters we can’t wait to head there and explore south-west Australia in particular. Read on for Keri’s top tips and trips in this beautiful corner of the country.
Growing up in Perth, Western Australia, it was almost like an annual pilgrimage as a child to head “down south” for your school holidays. Where exactly down south was is pretty broad! But for the sake of argument, anywhere really along the coast south of Perth, through the Margaret River Region, the Southern Forests, Denmark all the way around to Albany on the southern coast could be classified as “the South”!
South-west Australia is one of the most beautiful, lush, rugged and vibrant corners of the country, often left off people’s Australian itineraries as it’s seen as too far from anywhere. We think it’s one of the most amazing locations in the world for a family holiday and we’re delighted to share with you today a few of our favourite parts.
The spectacular coast of south-west Australia
I am one for rugged beauty and beaches to myself. The south delivers this to its absolute finest! The fierce ways of the Southern Ocean can be spectacular to watch, but a little too much at times for the smaller kids so we try to find gentle inlets too.
Picking a favourite is like asking you to choose between your children! My mum has specifically requested I stop sharing these details as she thinks “us bloggers” are giving away all the secrets! But Green Pool in Williams Bay is pretty well known and irresistibly picturesque (OK I share my absolute favorite’s around Albany here – but don’t tell my mum).
Top tip: ALWAYS have a few towels, buckets & spades, and a change of clothes at the ready! You never know when a quick beach walk will turn into more of a splash!
The south coast of Western Australia has been identified as one of 35 biodiversity hotspots in the world. These hotspots account for a staggering 90% of species on earth, yet account for only 2.3% of the world’s surface. In other words, there’s a load of unique species to be found here!
Whale spotting off the coast in south-west Australia is popular during the annual whale migration period, the cooler winter months. However, for an almost guaranteed viewing during the annual migration periods, why not check out one of the popular whaling boat tours that leave from several spots including Augusta and Dunsborough.
Walking with the stingrays at Hamelin Bay is also a popular past-time. You are more likely to find them in the warmer months, around the time of day the fishing boats are returning with the days catch. Another option is to swim or boat with the dolphins in Bunbury. They are currently undergoing major renovation works of the Dolphin Discovery Centre in 2018 but eco cruises are still running.
There is an animal sanctuary at Discovery Bay in Albany with many native species, or if farm animals keep the kids entertained – along with a healthy selection of kangaroos sharing the field then try the Denmark Animal Farm & Alpaca Stud, the perfect size for smaller children with daily feeding sessions.
TOP TIP: There are many free options, always think about where that cash is going before paying for a wildlife experience
The tall timber
It’s hard not to be impressed hitting the tall forests of Walpole and the surrounding Southern Forests through to Manjimup.
The region has a checkered history between the need for forests and wood and the need to protect the biodiversity of the region. A trip through the region brings much of this to life with plantation and old growth forest.
The region has 24 national parks and had many famous tall trees of mention, including the giant Tingle Tree near Walpole and the Gloucester Tree in Denmark – an old fire lookout station that can be climbed. The most famous attraction in the region is the Valley of the Giants skywalk and Ancient Empire Walk below.
For the kids we can’t leave out a mention of the Timber Park in Manjimup. It has one of the most amazing and beautiful kid’s playgrounds with one of the tallest slides you will ever see!
TOP TIP: If your kids have short attention spans, I’d save your money on the tree top walk. It is one of the regions most loved attractions but comes with a whopping price tag. In the same location you can take the ground level walk around Ancient Empire Walk for free and still admire the giant Tingle Trees from below.
The food and beverage
OK I’ll admit the real reason I love this part of the world so much. I love wine. A lot.
There is an abundance or wineries, not just in the Margaret River region but heading to Great Southern too, the Frankland River district, Porongurups, Mount Barker and especially Denmark and the Scotsdale Road Wine Route. We talk more about family-friendly wineries in Great Southern here.
Another specialty of the region is the boutique breweries, far more than just the beer paddles for tasting (Ok I love craft beer too. A lot). Breweries make wonderful family stop with their amazing picturesque landscapes. There’s always a play park, quite often on weekends you will get live entertainment and a wonderful family vibe. Some favourites include Boston Brewery near Denmark, and in the Margaret River region Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery and Bootleg Brewery are ultra-family friendly.
Now let’s not forget all the other fresh and amazing produce from the region too. Cowanaraup for the Candy Cow sweet shop. Margaret River Ice cream & the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. It’s a real foodies delight, even for kids!
TOP TIP: Remember who’s the skipper! Its easy to get carried away with a glass or three! Best setting your designated driver at the start of the day to void any arguments later! (I still have several years of pregnancy credits to cash in)
Planning your trip “down south”
Make no mistake, it might look like a small corner of south-west Australia, but the region is still massive! You may at a glance think you can cover it in a few days, but trust me, you will need longer, to do it any sort of justice and not spend all day in the car.
The roads are undulating and windy; towns certainly do not connect in straight lines and speed limits vary for the conditions. This makes it a great excuse to explore around small town WA. There are many claims to fame of having the best park or the best stop over, best bakery, you name it – this corner of the world is just thriving for that “quick stop” on the side of the road so plan your day by day progress carefully!
During peak school holiday times and summer you most definitely need to book your accommodation ahead but off-peak, out of school holidays, just see where the day takes you. There are plenty of holiday parks in the region so ideal for pulling up a site for the night or hiring an onsite cabin.
In terms of distances and times, if you drive directly south of Perth Margaret River is 3 hours away. Albany is about 4 ½ hours south east, and between Margaret River and Albany without stops is 4 hours. You will – and must! – get side tracked though and try all the different inlets, small towns and parks.
I hope you will fall in love with south-west Australia as much as we have.
Keri Hedrick – Author’s Bio
I love my little corner of the globe and even though I’m all grown up now and living in Abu Dhabi, UAE of all places, I still fondly call Australia home. I return home with my three kids to stay with the grandparents over our summer (Australian winter) every year where we explore around our neighbourhood in Southern Western Australia.
You can see all our Australian and overseas adventures over on our blog Our Globetrotters – Adventurous Family Travel
If you’ve visited WA and have a story to tell please contact us if you’d also like to write a guest post for us – we’d love to hear from you!
We’ve travelled extensively through Queensland, NSW and Victoria so far with Tasmania next on the list. Tropcial North Queensland has been one of our favourite destinations so far – you can read more about our family adventures in Cairns and beyond here.