Whether you’re looking for relaxation, natural beauty, history and culture, great food and drink, fun and exciting new experiences or a combination of all of these things, Australia’s south west region can provide them in abundance. Constantly warm and sunny during the summer, mild and pleasant during the winter, southwest Australia is an enjoyable destination for all seasons and is only a couple of hours’ drive south from Perth.
Whether it’s your first time here or you’re revisiting because you love the place so much, all you need to do is to fix yourself up with a hire car – there’s a lot of southwest Australia to discover – and you’re all set to start exploring one of Australia’s friendliest, most naturally beautiful, culturally and historically rich and most entertaining areas.
Prepare yourself for some fun-packed and memorable experiences as we give you a few ideas of what to do in Australia’s southwest region.
Making the most of the southwest coast
Australia’s southwest region boasts almost twelve hundred kilometres of spectacular coast, featuring endless white-sand beaches lapped by the Indian and Southern Oceans, rocky outcrops and dramatic granite headlands, picturesque turquoise bays and intimate sheltered coves.
The natural response here is simply to crash out and soak up the sun on any one of these countless beautiful beaches before dipping into the sea to cool off. Quite right too, but there are plenty of other things to see and do on the southwest coast of Australia.
Prevelly Park beach in the Margaret River region is an unmissable destination for surfers, with plenty of surf schools at hand for enthusiastic beginners. The adjacent Gnarabup Beach is a good spot for snorkelling and fishing.
Australia’s southwest coast is also a prime location for whale-watching. Along the south coast from Albany to Augusta, numbers of southern right and humpback whales can be seen regularly between August and October, whilst from September to December they can also be seen around Dunsborough on the west coast.
The southwest coast of Australia is also a haven for divers, with at least a dozen spectacular dive spots to choose from and notably at Bunbury, Albany and Dunsborough where there are shipwrecks to explore.
Dunsborough is also the perfect place to sit back and enjoy some of the best coffee in Australia, courtesy of the Yallingup Coffee Roasting Company which sources excellent coffee beans from around the world, roasts them in-house and serves and sells them at its gorgeous al fresco café and store.
Getting close to nature in Australia’s southwest region
Southwest Australia is one of the world’s ten most bio-diverse regions with up to eighty percent of the plant species here found nowhere else on the planet. Happily the region’s unique ecosystems, remarkable natural landscapes and rare plants, trees, birds and wildlife are protected by no fewer that twenty-four National Parks, each of which is remarkable in its own right.
The Tuart Forest National Park features one of the rarest ecosystems on earth and is the largest remaining forest of Tuart trees, a species of the eucalyptus family. Among the many and varied species of birds and animals that can be observed in the forest are rare and endangered species of cockatoo, possum and wallaby.
Southwest Australia’s only mountain range can be explored in Stirling Range National Park, which is also notable for the diversity of its flowers: more than 1,500 species grow here. Numerous walking trails lead into the mountains, whilst four lookout points provide panoramic views of the park’s magnificent landscape.
Nature appreciation can be combined with a little adventurous activity at West Cape Howe National Park where granite cliffs and boulders offer opportunities for rock-climbing and hang-gliding as well as sea fishing. The park is also notable for its open heathland which supports many wildflowers, and for its forests. For a unique bird’s-eye view of the beauty of an ancient Tingle forest, the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk in the stunning Walpole Wilderness National Park between Denmark and Walpole provides an unforgettable opportunity to walk through the canopy of this four-hundred-year old forest at a height of forty metres.
Anyone looking for a real south-western Australia wildlife adventure might consider walking part or all of the spectacular Cape to Cape Track which combines dramatic and beautiful coastal scenery with excursions inland. The chance to see an abundance of unusual indigenous plants and flowers, birds, mammals and reptiles, plus whale and dolphin-spotting opportunities makes the Cape to Cape Track one of the region’s most memorable experiences for nature lovers.
Planning the grape escape
No explanation of what to do in Australia’s southwest region could overlook the fact that one of the country’s foremost wine producing areas, the Margaret River Wine Region, is situated here. Amid stunningly scenic and thriving vineyards at least 150 wineries of all sizes produce a broad variety of wines many of which have won international awards for their quality. Need some help choosing which wineries to visit? Here’s a selection of the best Margaret River wineries for you to try. Alternatively, you could let someone else do the hard work (and driving!) for you and enjoy a superb wine-tasting and river tour with the local Bushtucker Tours.
Prefer a decent beer to wine? It’s no problem: you’ll find at least half a dozen superb boutique breweries in the area. From the German-style craft beers at Wilyabrup’s Duckstein Brewery to the chocolaty rum ’n’ raisin notes of the award-winning Colonial Brewery’s deliciously dark porter you’re guaranteed to find some truly quaffable ales in this neck of south-western Australia.
Non-drinkers needn’t worry either; the Margaret Wine Region offers plenty more indulgent treats! Dedicated chocoholics will find their personal paradise at the award-winning Margaret River Chocolate Company’s store and café. Cheese connoisseurs, meanwhile, won’t want to miss the glorious soft and firm cheeses and yoghurts lovingly produced at The Margaret River Dairy Company.
It’s not just grapes that flourish in southwest Australia’s sunshine and fertile soil; two Margaret River olive farms, Olio Bello and Vasse Virgin grow and press their own olives to create outstanding olive oils and olive oil products of outstanding quality including luxurious soaps and bath and body oils.
If all of the excitement of exploring the Margaret River Wine Region’s charming and characterful towns, its wealth of natural wonders including limestone caves and ancient forests and all the fun things to see and do leaves you hot under the collar, make sure to seek out Simmo’s Ice Cream; voted by USA Today one of the fifteen best ice creams in the world, Simmo’s is a West Australian legend and deservedly so.
Soak up southwest Australia’s history
Australia’s southwest region is littered with fascinating historical landmarks and buildings. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Busselton Jetty. Begun in 1853, this timber jetty is the longest in the southern hemisphere and projects almost two kilometres into the Indian Ocean.
A fascinating glimpse of nineteenth-century life in the region can be found at King Cottage in Bunbury. Built in the 1880s the cottage was occupied by four generations of the King family until the 1920s. Today it is a museum which recreates the home and of a working-class family of the period, using authentic artefacts including clothing, photographs, tools, furnishings, documents and other memorabilia donated by local inhabitants.
Historically southwest Australia has strong connections with the logging and timber industry thanks to its abundant forests and Manjimup Timber Park, a short journey from the town’s centre, explores the history of the local timber trade including the transportation of wood by steam railway. Manjimup remains the centre of southwest Australia’s logging industry, although sustainable forestry now supplies the required timber rather than the ancient native hardwood forests which are now protected.
What else to do in Australia’s southwest region?
When it comes to all of the attractions, activities and experiences that make southwest Australia such a great region to visit, we’ve only just started to scratch the surface here. It’s no exaggeration to say that this friendly, exciting and beautiful region really does have something to please everyone. But the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating so hire yourself a car, take an easy ride down to Australia’s southwest region and experience the good times for yourself.