Many people who visit Australia stick to the continent’s well-worn East Coast—from Melbourne to Sydney, the Gold Coast or up to the Great Barrier Reef. But there’s tremendous value all over the country—and one of those less-traveled places is Western Australia. If your time and budget permit, we suggest flying to Perth (the state’s capital) and renting a car to embark on an extraordinary road trip. Leaving the city behind, you’re soon greeted by expanses of red earth, jarrah trees, and fields of colorful flowers—not to mention some of the best food and wine out there.
There’s a lot to see in WA (it’s over three times the size of Texas) and we drove through just a portion of it. Across the state’s south-westernmost region—from Perth to Cape Leeuwin—you can surf, visit wine country, and do so much more. While the drive itself stretches just under four hours, taking time to wander off course and adventure means this road trip could last as long and far as your imagination allows.
From Leederville to Mt Lawley, there are plenty of areas in the WA capital that warrant a visit. Northbridge is one where you’ll find some of Perth’s most impressive drinking and dining—whether you’re sipping cocktails or grabbing a meat pie and coffee for the road. Start with a wander down Beaufort Street and see where that takes you, but be sure to visit Mary Street Bakery for the burnt honey glazed with Earl Gray crumb doughnuts. Other great options in the area are Shadow Wine Bar, Lot 20 and Bivouac Canteen & Bar.
Located just a 30-minute drive from Perth, Fremantle is a port city that feels much further away. The seaside enclave at Fremantle has a distinctly carefree but historic vibe, thanks in part to its well-preserved architecture. Make your way to the west end of town to see some beautiful Victorian and Edwardian homes, and keep an eye out for the Round House, the oldest intact building in the state. Make sure to visit the Fremantle Markets for shopping and Sweetwater Rooftop Bar for drinks and snacks after a day exploring.
On the way to Margaret River, take a pitstop in Busseltown, but keep in mind that wine country awaits. Margaret River (both a town and the river that runs through it) is known the world over for its remarkable wines—especially big cabernet sauvignons and crisp chardonnays. While reserving visits to cellar doors at wineries like Vasse Felix, Voyager, Leeuwin Estate and Cape Mentelle is one approach, switching off the GPS and getting lost along the red dirt roads can be just as fun. While the Margaret River Farmers Market is a must, also be sure to grab a coffee and breakfast at Blue Ginger—where the focus is on fresh, local ingredients.
Just a 10 minutes’ drive from the town of Margaret River brings you to the coast. Surfer’s Point (considered one of the best surf breaks in the country) plays host to competitions but is also a delight for non-surfers. White Elephant Café offers views of the beach, or you can grab a coffee and head down to the dunes to watch the pros.
Caving in Augusta
Perhaps the greatest surprise about this part of WA is that it’s as beautiful below ground as it is above. There are a number of stunning limestone caves just south of Margaret River, all of which offer the choice between a guided tour or self-led exploration. Each cave offers something different, like the large underground lake at Lake Cave, to the massive chambers of Mammoth Cave, to the delicate stalactites of Jewel Cave. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, keep driving south to the town of Augusta and get the fish and chips at Blue Ocean—a local institution that uses freshly-caught blue cod, an exquisite white fish found only in this part of the world.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
The south-westernmost point of Australia (15 minutes away from Augusta) might not seem like a groundbreaking attraction at first, but there are a historic lighthouse and former military base here worth checking out. After you’ve made your way through the exhibits, walk down to the shoreline beneath the lighthouse—if you’re coming from the US, you’ll find a plaque explaining that this is some of the furthest land on Earth from home. Technically the opposite side of the globe from New York is the middle of the Indian Ocean, but this is the closest you can stand to that point. Now that you’ve made it, look around—the ocean is quite violent here, probably because from where you’re standing, there is nothing south until Antarctica.