If fears of quarantining and multiple covid tests are putting you off booking a summer holiday, why not wait and splash out later in the year on a destination that has it all, on the other side of the world: Western Australia. Known as the sunniest region Down Under, you won’t be missing out on the heat, as its capital Perth will just be warming up.
THERE are strong hints the Aussies will reopen their borders in November after being closed since March 2020. Qantas, the national carrier, may have given the game away after announcing it would resume flights at the end of October. The first non-stop flight to take off from London Heathrow to Perth is scheduled on 1st November. As Australia’s covid-19 vaccine rollout started later than other countries, the timing coincides with the government’s plans to have vaccinated most of the population. Australia’s coronavirus cases have remained low due to its abrupt closure of international and state borders. Now, life is almost back to normal in WA, which saw just 950 infections and nine deaths.
A landscape that grabs the attention
The western side of Oz is blessed with natural treasures. There’s the Outback, 7,800 miles of Coral Coastline and beaches, the world’s largest fringing reef, one of the planet’s oldest wildernesses in the Kimberley region and the oldest living life forms on earth known as Stromatolites. WA is also home to the oldest surviving culture, the Aboriginal First Nations People.
If all that wasn’t enough, it’s an award-winning wine region, there are natural pink lakes plus you’ll find kangaroos on the beach and the friendly quokka. If WA lacks anything, it’s foreign tourists and among the first they’ll want to welcome back are Britons who flock in their thousands every year.
After a long 17-hour stint on the plane, you’ll want to stretch your legs. The upshot is that thankfully in WA there is plenty of space to do that.
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The Bungle Bungle
The thing about the Bungle Bungle range is that you can very easily miss it. These sandstone beehives are a long way from anywhere, deep in the East Kimberley region. Known by the First Nations people for thousands of years, it was when they were discovered in the 1980s by a film crew, they became a popular tourist site. Lying 67 miles (108km) from the nearest town Halls Creek, the striped domes in the Purnululu National Park are more than 350 million years old.
The WA government has invested £82.5 million (AUS$150 million) as part of the region’s covid recovery plans. Some of that has gone to holiday hotspot Rottnest Island aka Rotto, famous for its humpback whales and those cute quokkas. Just a short ferry crossing from Fremantle, there’s 63 beaches where you can relax in a deck chair all day or you can grab the snorkel and go for a swim with 135 species of fish, green turtles and stingrays.
Another tourist favourite is Ningaloo Reef Marine Park, which is also benefitting from the regional funding boost. Closer to land than the Great Barrier Reef, in Queensland, Ningaloo is the largest fringing reef in the world and can be reached after a short swim. At 162 miles long (260 kms), the reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. It’s a two-day drive north from Perth or you can stay in the nearby resort town of Exmouth, which is the gateway to the park. The reef has an incredible variety of sea life with 500 spices of fish, dolphins, whales and its regular visitor, the whale shark.
This is the latest cultural landmark that opened in Perth in November 2020. The museum is a restoration of five heritage buildings created to share the boola bardip, which means “many stories” of WA and be a space that sparks discussion about diversity. Inside it recognises Australia’s First Nations. There’s also dinosaurs and a wildlife gallery.
These twin viewing platforms are also a new tourist attraction that opened in June last year. From 100m up (328ft) you can look down on the red, rocky landscape below and across the rim of the Murchison River Gorge. Set on the land of the Nanda Traditional Owners, the sky walk is part of a wider project which sees the government partner up with indigenous Australians.
In the port city of Fremantle, they have preserved the old prison Warders’ Cottages and transformed them into the Warder’s Hotel. For many this is where the story of Australia begins, as a penal colony for British convicts. The limestone cottages were built in 1851 as was the nearby prison which was in use up until 1991 – the prison is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The boutique hotel, which opened in November, is in the centre of Freo next to the iconic Fremantle Markets, first opened in 1897.