Kookaburras laugh at me from downtown gum trees as I slip off the little black stilettos that saw me through a five-star, local-wine-paired tasting luncheon of aboriginal-influenced cuisine at Perth’s uber-chic rooftop Wildflower Restaurant.
Americans do not include Western Australia normally on their itinerary, which is a shame since it has a lot to offer. It is a six hour plane ride from Sydney, which adds to your travel expense. This state is a destination on its own, and worthy of two or three weeks to explore what it has to offer. There are only 1,500,000 people in the state, which is one third the size of Australia. It is large enough to take Alaska, California and Oregon into its borders. Its coastline stretches 13,000 miles along the Indian Ocean. It has more millionaires than anywhere else in the world, because of the mining industry. It also has huge million acre ranches, a fantastic wine region, the best surfing in the country, and a great barrier reef the Ningaloo, which is better I think than the reef in Queensland because it is close to shore.
I once spent four weeks on a bus, on my own, taking a tour through the entire state, so I could see if it was worth sending anyone there. It was a great experience. I was one foreigner with 27 retired Aussies aged 72 to 94 who took a bus trip each year to take a break . I stayed in some tiny hamlets, in unique little hotels, and ate Barramundi (white fish) every night. It is certainly the path less traveled. On each of my visits I have covered a different region, and it is very different to the rest of the Australia.
Australia lost 25 percent of its men in World War II and was desperate for immigrants. In the 1950’s, I think half my class at graduate school emigrated to the land down under. Britain called it the brain drain due to so many young people leaving, and I think 99 percent of them ended up in Perth. For ten pounds, (U.S. $14 ) you got a six week cruise, with your belongings, and many people were also given land.
You will find lots of British people there on holiday, visiting relatives who emigrated after the war.
One in four people own a boat, so there are lots of expert sailors. Because of the tropical climate, they have many keen tennis players and golfers. With magnificent beaches, surfing is popular.
Perth, the state’s capital, is jumping. Hotels are usually full not with tourists, but with business people from around the world. There are some outstanding restaurants and good shopping. Thanks to the wave of development, Perth has risen to the top of Australia’s hot list. The New York Times ranked Perth as one of the world’s top cities to visit, and Chicago Tribune voted Perth one of the best cities for solo travelers. Freemantle, just 30 minutes from Perth, is the port city, and does a roaring trade in anything to do with boats. It has become a very popular port of call in the cruise industry. The Ritz Carlton Hotel chain has announced that it will build a luxury hotel in the city. Starwood and Hilton are also going to build new properties. There were very few five star luxury hotels at one time. This is changing.
South of Perth is the Margaret River region where the shoreline gives way to the vineyards of over 215 wine producers and more than 95 cellar doors.
This state is synonymous with wildlife, boasting an impressive diversity of native fauna. Swim up to frolicking wild dolphins in Rockingham, and see whales and penguins. The wild flowers are most spectacular, with over 12,000 different species with 100,000 flowers to view during the season, which is July through September, and some species which require more warmth bloom in the late spring, during the months of October and November. The Kings Park Botanical Gardens are very unique if you are interested in plants, with over 150 different species of orchids.
I recommend a few days in Perth, and then go explore one of the five distinct regions of the state, such as the Kimberley’s, take a cruise from Broome to Darwin, or take a camping safari, which is a wonderful experience. You’ll find wild rivers, lots of wildlife, and adventure opportunities galore.