Rugged, captivating and inspiring, WA’s outback is home to the Earth’s oldest rocks, World Heritage-listed landscapes, ancient cultures, vast skies by day and spectacular stargazing by night. Here’s our W ‘A’ list of outback experiences:
• Happy campers. WA’s size, climate and range of experiences mean you’ll find a perfect spot for camping and caravanning at any time of year. More than 100 national parks and reserves are spread across the State, and many of their campsites can be booked online. Sites and facilities for camping, caravans and recreational vehicles are expanding throughout WA, meaning you have more options than ever to wake up to a million-dollar view – such as kangaroos on the beach at the recently upgraded Lucky Bay Campground near Esperance – without breaking your budget. Stress even less and arrive to find your tent already set up with ‘glamping’ options such as Soul Camping and WA Wilderness, or add a touch of luxury in deluxe safari tents or bungalow style accommodation at the new Discovery – Rottnest Island, Olio Bello glamping in Margaret River, Sal Salis at Ningaloo Reef and Broome’s Ramada Eco Beach Resort, for example.
• Super stars. See why WA is a stargazer’s mecca and why it’s part of the world’s largest radio-telescope project. With lots of space and few people, very little artificial light intrudes into the night sky – showcasing the Milky Way in high-definition clarity. You don’t have to travel far from Perth for clear skies, with photographers capturing spectacular starlight images over the Pinnacles’ eerie limestone formations. You can pitch a tent and enjoy meteor showers at Karijini National Park in the Pilbara, join an Astro Tour with local astronomer Greg Quicke in Broome, or soak up the stars and the sea along the Shark Bay coast or the Kimberley’s Dampier Peninsula.
• The last frontier? The Kimberley, in WA’s far north, is one of the world’s last true wilderness areas. A land of spectacular natural beauty, the region is home to the Bungle Bungle Range’s unique beehive formations, in the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park, and Australia’s only Horizontal Falls at Talbot Bay. A four-wheel-drive adventure on the epic Gibb River Road, spanning 660 kilometres from Derby to Kununurra, will reward you with gorges, waterfalls, station stays and Aboriginal experiences. Short on time? Get a bird’s eye view of the majestic landscape on the Kimberley Aerial Highway – a series of remote landing strips dotted throughout the region. Complete your Kimberley adventure in the tropical pearling town of Broome, where the outback meets the ocean.
• Gold, ghosts and Gormley. Head into the heart of gold country at Kalgoorlie, where you’ll find charming colonial buildings, fascinating gold-rush history and the Super Pit lookout over Australia’s biggest working open cut gold mine – 1.5 kilometres across and 600 metres deep. Driving the 965 kilometre Golden Quest Discovery Trail takes you from Coolgardie to Laverton past legendary country pubs, the fascinating Gwalia ghost town, the former home of 31st US President Herbert Hoover and the world’s largest and most unusual outdoor gallery Inside Australia, where 51 life-sized sculptures created by Antony Gormley are dotted across the salt flats of Lake Ballard.
• Wildflower show. WA is home to one of the world’s largest collection of wildflowers, with more than 12,000 species – 60 per cent of which aren’t found anywhere else on Earth. From June in the north to November in the south, WA’s wildflowers create colourful carpets so vast that they have even been detected from space in high-rainfall years. In early spring in the Golden Outback and Coral Coast regions, you’ll be surrounded by stunning blankets of everlastings while trying to find the unique wreath leschenaultia. In the North West, vibrant floral shades contrast with the dusty red earth and golden spinifex grass, and the South West is home to delicate orchids.
• Station stays. For a whip-cracking, authentic taste of outback life, stay onsite at some of WA’s huge sheep and cattle stations where you can see skilled stockmen in action at a muster and experience genuine rural hospitality. Accommodation options range from rustic shearing quarters or a swag under the stars, to the luxury of glamping and grand homesteads. Many of WA’s outback stations welcome visitors – from Home Valley and El Questro in the Kimberley, to Wooleen Station in the Murchison and Bullara between Coral Bay and Exmouth.
• Offbeat and extreme. WA’s outback has many claims to fame – the world’s biggest rock (Mt Augustus, more than twice the size of Uluru), oldest rocks (4.4 billion year old zircon found at Jack Hills) and largest outdoor gallery (Antony Gormley’s sculptures at Lake Ballard’s Inside Australia exhibition); cattle stations the size of small European countries; Australia’s only two Horizontal Falls; the world’s longest golf course (the 1,365 kilometre Nullarbor Links, starting in Kalgoorlie); 130-million-year-old dinosaur footprints at Broome; and three World Heritage listed areas (Shark Bay, Ningaloo Reef and Purnululu National Park). You’ll also find quirky experiences and characters, from the touching tribute to man’s best friend at the Corrigin Dog Cemetery, equestrian art along the Tin Horse Highway near Kulin and spooky ghost towns in the Goldfields and Wheatbelt north and east of Perth.
• Join the outback event circuit. Get caught up in the community spirit at cultural, food and sporting events all over WA throughout the year. The multi-award-winning Ord Valley Muster is a true WA original – a series of music, comedy and cultural events that celebrate the east Kimberley’s landscapes and cultures. Horseracing action happens at the Kulin Bush Races and at multiple regional locations through the Country Cup, or see a different kind of race at Yalgoo’s Emu Cup and Goo Fest, where locals dress as the iconic birds; the Kickstarters Gascoyne Dash, a rugged motorsport challenge between Carnarvon and Gascoyne Junction; the Leonora Gift sprint along the dusty main street; the Gibb Challenge Kimberley cycling adventure; and the Mullewa Muster and Rodeo.