There’s something magical about travelling and flying. Maybe it’s the sense of wonder that you are off to a new destination. Or maybe it’s that sense of anticipation when you’re revisiting somewhere familiar with a sense of nostalgia. Finding the familiar in the new and new in the familiar, that is the dance of our journeys – Rose Febo.
Long have we sought out foreign lands to learn how others live to experience a different culture and to expand as human beings. For the love of Travel is a phrase that perfectly summarises human curiosity and our desire to explore.
As I venture across this vast continent from Brisbane over to Perth, Western Australia I am filled with a sense of wonder and excitement for my first trip in 2022. This time flying I am struck by the silence with everyone wearing masks, as I buckle in for my five-hour flight. I would highly recommend travelling business class to Perth, as the seats in economy class seem to be shrinking or is it just me? I‘m looking forward to checking in to the DoubleTree by Hilton and hope there’s a welcome drink in my room – wishful thinking?
The wonders of Western Australia are endless, with 20 000 kilometres of pristine coastline, the world’s oldest minerals and a host of natural treasures found nowhere else on earth. Its indigenous history dates back more than 40 000 years – making it one of the world’s oldest living cultures.
The state is split between five distinctive regions, Destination Perth; Australia’s South West, Australia’s North West; Australia’s Coral Coast and Australia’s Golden Outback. From a thriving capital city, lively calendar of events, whale sharks, horizontal waterfalls, Australia’s whitest sand beach, towering timber forests and award-winning wine regions, WA has it all. What’s more, with its varied climate – Mediterranean conditions in the south through to the northern tropics, you’ll always find summer somewhere in Western Australia.
Arriving in Perth with a complimentary transfer, I check into my hotel, where I’m offered a warm DoubleTree cookie on arrival. Set on the Swan River waterfront, the Doubletree by Hilton Perth Waterfront hotel is next to Elizabeth Quay entertainment precinct, and the iconic Bell Tower. Quayside paths are on their doorstep, and they are 10 minutes from downtown Perth and Kings Park and Botanic Garden. I decide to take in views from the rooftop pool and bar, and enjoy a light lunch and glass of wine as I soaked in the Perth skyline.
Visitors to Perth often remark on the friendly, laidback environment that welcomes them. Perth is the only capital city in Australia where you can choose to either explore a world-class wine region, picnic in one of Australia’s oldest conservation areas or watch the sunset over the ocean, all within 30 minutes from the city. And with more hours of sunshine than any other capital city in Australia, whichever activity you choose, chances are that there will be a blue sky overhead. It’s no wonder Perth has been voted as one of the world’s most liveable cities.
A visit to one of the world’s largest inner-city park, Kings Park and Botanic Gardens, is a must for any visitor to Perth. Enjoy lunch at one of the restaurants or cafes, or pack a picnic and enjoy the breath-taking views over the city skyline and the Swan River. An Indigenous tour of the park provides a fascinating insight into life before European settlement. The options are endless.
The beach plays an integral role in Perth’s culture and with 19 in the metropolitan area to choose from, it’s easy to soak up the sun and relax. Try surfing at Scarborough Beach, or watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean from Cottesloe Beach. Head to the Perth Cultural Centre to visit the State’s key arts, cultural and educational institutions in the inner city Northbridge. Enjoy visiting the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Western Australia Museum, State Library of Western Australia and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts to name a few.
Need some nightlife? You’ll find Perth has a lively and original music and arts scene. Northbridge, Leederville, Subiaco, Mt Lawley and Fremantle are full of bars and restaurants, pubs and clubs. Fremantle is considered the best-preserved example of a 19th-century port streetscape in the world, with its world-famous heritage buildings and a fascinating maritime and convict history. Soak up the laidback ambience, chill-out in a street café, enjoy fish and chips fresh off the boat at the Fishing Boat Harbour; or a cleansing pale-ale at an award-winning microbrewery. Unfortunately, my stay in Perth was short-lived as my ‘mystery itinerary was revealed at our welcome function held at the icon Odyssea beachfront restaurant, where I watched a mesmerising sunset and took in the tranquil coastline that stretched before me.
4am check-out and with a boxed breakfast pack, we departed for an early morning flight to Kalgoorlie! I’d been assigned to the Kangaroos team and I was ready to Wander out West and explore Australia’s Golden Outback! At 5.00 am Perth airport is a sea of high-viz and FIFO workers – this is the heart of Australia’s working-class!
We arrived at Kalgoorlie-Boulder, or Kalgoorlie as it is more commonly known the hub of the Western Australian Goldfields and the largest city in the Australian Outback. From wild beginnings as a gold rush town full of fortune-seekers, it has grown into a bustling twin city with a distinctive character. Rich with history, heritage and complimented by a dynamic and cosmopolitan vibe, Kalgoorlie offers a unique adventure. A one hour flight, day and drive or train journey from Perth, this active mining town with wide streets, grand old buildings, turn of the century architecture, and the distinctive red outback, complete with ghost towns, makes this area fascinating for visitors.
Kalgoorlie remains one of the most important mining areas in the world, with several large mining operations located in and around the City, including the huge Super Pit which can be seen from space! Visitors to Kalgoorlie can embark on a mind-boggling Super Pit tour, which I highly recommend. In a city as rich in history as it is in gold, visitors can also marvel at the city and impressive array of heritage buildings including the magnificent Kalgoorlie and Boulder Town Halls, Grand hotels, outback pubs, and shop fronts and private homes. A visit to Hannans North Tourist Mine, the Goldfields War Museum and the Museum of the Goldfields also offers a fascinating insight into the area and colourful past. Lesser known, Kalgoorlie has a vibrant arts community on display and is best enjoyed through Heartwalk, a public art project in the heart of the CBD, and the Goldfields Art Centre.
Kalgoorlie Tours & Charters are the leading tour operator in the Goldfields, with a long history in providing extraordinary touring experience. We throw on a high visibility vest and safety glasses and set off on a tour of Australia’s largest gold-producing mine, the Super Pit, from the safety of a mine-spec bus. We marvel at the size of the CAT 793 haul trucks and experience the breathtaking view of the Super Pit from Harvey Hut, viewing the old miner’s shafts and modern mining machinery at work in the pit. Alternatively, you can set off on a 3 hour Gold Town Discovery Tour, uncovering the hidden secrets of Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s past and present and visiting intriguing and unique places that inspire a sense of awe. Surprisingly this experience was incredibly enjoyable and so interesting!
Arriving back at the Visitor Centre we meet local tour guide and artist Linda Rae for an intriguing and unexpected Street Art Walking Tour. We wander through the CBD uncovering a treasure trail of murals and public artworks from the perspective of a practising Goldfields artist. This was a real hidden gem experience and one I would highly suggest seeking out if you’re ever in town. Our tour ends back at the Kalgoorlie Hotel for a welcomed, farewell drink.
The iconic Palace Hotel is a historic building in the heart of Kalgoorlie, offering accommodation, meals and drinks 7 days a week. The hotel boasts magnificent examples of early Goldfields architecture, and is home to the famous Herbert Hoover mirror. Relax in the old world surroundings of Hoover’s Cafe and Lounge Bar for breakfast, morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea, sit back in the Balcony Bar Restaurant for a light evening meal or dinner, or dance the night away in Gold Bar! After enjoying a delightful evening meal, we headed to The Exchange for a drink after dinner and I learn about the famous Kalgoorlie ‘skimpies’ (female bar staff who proudly wear a bikini or lingerie) serving drinks at this traditional outback pub.
A friendly Goldfields welcome awaited us at Ibis Styles Kalgoorlie. Ideally located in the centre of town and a short drive from the airport, the hotel offers comfortable non-smoking rooms. Ibis Styles Kalgoorlie features 24-hour reception, a bar, restaurant, outdoor pool, guest laundry, room service during restaurant hours and complimentary parking. Guest rooms are tastefully appointed and spacious and feature a variety of convenient in-room amenities.
After breakfast we departed for our day’s drive through the golden outback to the coastal town of Esperance via Norseman. The gateway to Western Australia, Norseman is a welcoming sight after crossing the Nullarbor from the east. The town is surrounded by beautiful, dense eucalypt bushland, with ancient rock outcrops and large salt lakes nearby. Enjoy the breathtaking views from Beacon Hill, feast on a barbeque at Dundas Rocks, or view the historical collection, which unfortunately was closed on our particular visit.
We finally arrive in Esperance – a beach and nature lover’s dream, this coastal town is blessed with squeaky-clean white beaches, vivid turquoise waters, dramatic granite outcrops, untouched islands, and pristine bushlands and wildflower country. Only a one-and-a-half-hour flight or eight-hour drive south-east from Perth, Esperance is an ideal holiday location. Many attractions are easily accessible, with plenty of guided tour options, but a four-wheel drive is a must if you seek your own adventure off the beaten track.
Its most famous beauty spot is Lucky Bay, Australia’s whitest beach – even the kangaroos can’t resist lounging in the sun here! And just as awe-inspiring is the stunning seascape created by the 110 islands of the Recherche Archipelago beyond. The calm and clear waters of Blue Haven Beach and Twilight Cove, just a short drive from town, are idyllic and inviting spots for swimming and snorkelling. Locals say the lagoon just east of West Beach is worth a snorkel too.
Check out the arts centre and art galleries, making time to drop into the museum to view what’s left of the NASA Skylab after it slammed back down to Earth on July 12th 1979, near Balladonia. Or visit Esperance Stonehenge, a life-size replica of the UK original on the way to Cape Le Grand. A good choice of hotels, motels, apartments, B&Bs, chalets and backpackers is available in Esperance. Or, for something a little closer to nature, hop on a ferry bound for Woody Island and pitch your tent or stay in a safari hut.
We stopped for lunch and beer tasting at Lucky Bay Brewing – a microbrewery with a difference-making the most genuinely local craft beer in Australia. Lucky Bay Brewing is part of the West Australian farming community in the heart of the Esperance region, which grows loads of premium barley for malt. Lucky Bay Brewing want to make beers using local grains. Here, Nigel the owner, explains how they ventured into the world of beer science and after years of beer crafting pioneered how to create tasty craft beers using up to 75% raw barley – meaning they source the barley direct from local farmers. Lucky Bay Brewing is the first and only brewery in Australia to do so. Raw barley does not need the water, energy or food miles that malted barley does to be produced. It comes directly from the farm up the road to Lucky Bay Brewing into your beer. So it’s local and environmentally friendly = true Aussie beer! Lucky Bay Brewing uses pure ingredients, fresh rainwater, real hops and no preservatives with the premium local barley to bring brews you will want to savour to the last drop, just like the local beaches.
We later depart for a scenic drive to Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park and have time to soak up the scenery and complete some more corporate challenge activities.
Cape Le Grand National Park
There aren’t too many places in Australia where kangaroos sunbake on the beach, but at Cape Le Grand National Park this is just one of the many natural highs on offer. This pristine park near Esperance is known for its stunning scenery and idyllic beaches where you can go swimming, bushwalking, fishing and camping. The landscape changes from massive granite outcrops to freshwater pools and unbelievably white sandy beaches with views over many islands. Lucky Bay is home to a colony of friendly kangaroos which are often seen soaking up the sun.
It also offers a great campsite and picnic area. With beachside views and a tranquil atmosphere, this is camping at its best. There are many excellent bushwalking trails through the park which traverse the rugged coast and beaches – enjoy the views and then stop off for a refreshing dip in the ocean. In spring Cape Le Grand National Park bursts into colour as wildflowers bloom, including groves of banksia.
Later that afternoon we arrive at gorgeous Esperance Chalet Village and check into our shabby-chic accommodation. Esperance Chalet Village is a unique bush coastal estate containing a collection of laid back self-contained cabins, chalets and shacks. All individually styled, the accommodation offers an idyllic hideaway located on the edge of town at picturesque Bandy Creek.
Nestled around mature trees, within walking distance to pristine beaches, and a short 5km bike ride or drive to the heart of Esperance’s town centre, Esperance Chalet Village is a peaceful holiday base to enjoy stunning natural attractions like Cape Le Grand National Park and Lucky Bay.
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast with a delicious selection of items available in the communal kitchen, from eggs and fresh bread to muesli and berries. We then meet our driver/pilot for the morning before we departed on our scenic flight of Lake Hillier & Cape Le Grand National Park with Fly Esperance.
We set off to discover the amazing colourful lakes of the Recherche Archipelago combined with the clear, turquoise waters of Cape Le Grand National Park contrasted by the whitest sand beaches in Australia. This Amazing 1.5 hour Scenic Flight over some of Australia’s most beautiful coastline, featured Cape Le Grand National Park and of course the surreal coloured lakes of the Recherche Archipelago.
Sights along the way included:
Esperance town and the new Jetty, Woody Island, Cape Le Grand National Park, Frenchman Peak, Lucky Bay, Duke of Orleans Bay, Wharton Beach, Yokinup Bay, Cape Arid, The beautiful Lake Hillier, Migrating Whales (July-October) – we did spot a Whale out of season which was spectacular!
We arrive at Esperance Farm Experience for our tour of this working farm and a delicious lunch with Farmer Renae and her friendly farm friends. Escape the wind of Esperance and join us on a three-hour personalised tour of a working farm. Seasonally based and individualised to meet the interests of the group, this is an interesting insight into farming and sustainability. Esperance Farm Experience provides an opportunity for participants to see, touch and taste life on Oake Marsh Farm – a mixed farming enterprise.
Concluding our experience at Esperance Farm, we depart for our cultural walking tour starting at Dempster Head (the Rotary Lookout). We meet local indigenous tour guides, Julie and Wanika, and their charming Mother for a Dabungool Cultural Experience. Dubungool delivers cultural awareness, education and experiences in Kepa Kurl Nyungah Boodja (Esperance) region and is a unique experience to learn about their culture. The guides love to teach and share their Cultural knowledge with the Community and Emerging Leaders. We learn about the native botanicals, and animals and hear about the stories and legends of the Dreamtime.
Now it’s time to take a scenic drive along the spectacular Great Ocean Drive, a 40-kilometre circular loop drive taking in some of the most beautiful coastal scenery Australia has to offer. The sheltered, pristine beaches with their crystal clear waters and snow-white sands, including the popular Twilight Beach, are ideal for family swimming, surfing, windsurfing and fishing.
Also included in the drive is the Rotary lookout, the Western Power wind farms, Observatory Point and the unique Pink Lake. A walking and cycling trail from the Rotary lookout to Salmon Beach is a pleasant way to see the sights. In the late afternoon, we soak in the sun setting which is spectacular and an experience not to be missed.
After another hearty communal breakfast, we bid farewell to Esperance and fly by to Perth.
Upon arrival in Perth our guide Monique was eagerly waiting in arrivals for us. She escorted us on a very merry tour of the Bickley Valley and a delicious tapas lunch. We learn that the bourgeoning new bar and foodie scene in and around Perth was beginning to explode in 2013 and Monique has created an experience of it all, from bars, cafes, restaurants, wineries, cider houses, breweries and more, on an enjoyable private minibus tour. I recommend spoiling yourself and spending a delightful day out in the Perth Hills tasting quality wines and cider whilst revelling in the visual beauty of the Bickley and Carmel Valley.
Later that afternoon we finally arrive at the Intercontinental Perth and check into our rooms. With a very short time to refresh and we prepare for our final evening and for the farewell evening function – Wander Out West gala dinner at Fraser’s in Kings Park, with killer views of Perth’s city lights.
After a delightful night of celebration, we were transferred back to the indulgent Intercontinental, Perth. Wrapped in layers of luxury found along the King Street precinct, you can admire the elegant 20th-century architecture of the surrounding buildings or explore the charming laneways just waiting to be discovered. This is life at InterContinental Perth City Centre, a place where sophistication is balanced with comfort and rich heritage of global excellence is tailored with local cultural wisdom. Within the hotel, there’s a feeling of warmth with a personalised champagne welcome, memorable dining experiences and a residential design.
After a delicious breakfast, and a warm cup of freshly brewed coffee, it was off to the airport to catch our flight back home to Brisbane. Farewelling Perth I was grateful for the experience to see more of our great southern land and to learn so much I didn’t know about Australia’s Golden Outback!