by travelephant | Aug 15, 2017 | Australia, Perth
Western Australia is better known for its pristine beaches and warm weather, but there is much more to it than that. The Pinnacles are a great example of WA’s unique offerings. We made it a day trip on its own, or make it an essential stop on your way north along the WA coastline from Perth. We loved seeing The Pinnacles, but it really is a divisive experience. Some love it and others are unfazed by the sights.
The Pinnacles are located halfway between Perth and Geraldton, about a 2 hour drive from either along the coastal highway. You’ll have to pry your eyes away from the beautiful coastal views, but the plus is you will discover one of the most alien landscapes in Australia.
A little background . . .
The Pinnacles are a collection of limestone rock formations, believed to be up to 500,000 years old. However they were only discovered a little over 200 years ago. This suggests that they were formed underground and only became visible when the sands began to erode away.
The yellow pillars reach over 4 metres high and they dot the horizon in all directions. And in the late afternoon sun, the shadows only exacerbate the unusual formation.
Entry to see The Pinnacles costs $12 (for a car with up to 12 people) and there are two options for those interested in a closer inspection. You can drive the 4km track or explore the area on foot. We enjoyed the drive and stopped several times to wander amongst the formations. For walkers, the path is a more manageable 1.2km but it allows you to get closer to the formations, perfect for photographers.
If you’re worried about driving on the sand without a 4WD, we urge you not to stress. The pathway is deceptively good and our front wheel drive van managed to get around it easily. And please don’t feel confined to your vehicle, just like the walking path, feel free to get amongst the rock formations and take plenty of photos.
If you’re still nervous, or want an advance screening, this video shows a little Toyota getting around with no issues.
For photographers, we would advise visiting outside of the midday sun. Early in the morning (before 11am) or later in the afternoon when the light is softer and produces more shadows. The Pinnacles are a desert so it does get hot for much of the year. We advise you to avoid the midday hours during the warmer months.
Australian native flowers are in bloom during spring, July to October. We visited during October and didn’t really notice any, although we weren’t actively looking.
You won’t require a great deal of time to explore The Pinnacles, maybe 90 minutes at the most. If you’re making this a day trip, make use of your time in the area and check out some of the beautiful beaches. Alternatively, Cervantes is a short 20 minute drive away which is perfect for a bite to eat and a relaxing swim. There are some pristine, white sand beaches around the area, but it is a fairly well kept secret.
by travelephant | Jul 31, 2017 | Australia, Perth
As a couple who have spent in excess of 30 combined years living in Perth, we are certainly in a comfortable position to help visitors make the most of their time. A lot of people don’t include Perth and Western Australia in their Australian itinerary, and we can somewhat understand that due to the distance and cost of getting there. After all, it is one of the most isolated cities in the world.
For those who can make the time to visit, we can guarantee you won’t regret it. Perth is one of the world’s most liveable cities and boasts an excellent climate. Compared to the experiences on offer in the rest of Australia’s capital cities, Perth is more akin to Brisbane than Melbourne or Sydney. And this certainly isn’t a bad thing. So expect a laid back time, some of the greatest things to do in Perth require time and minimal effort.
Perth lies on the Swan River and has undergone a much needed revitalisation recently. A redeveloped foreshore and an increase in the numbers of cafes and bars means the city is more alive than ever before. And it is continuing to become less of a ‘big country town’ and develop into a vibrant city.
We’ve prepared a list of the best things to do in and around the Perth metropolitan area, a comprehensive list prepared by locals!
1. Look over the skyline from Kings Park
Kings Park has a stunning location overlooking the Swan River and offers sweeping views of the Perth city skyline and back to the Darling Range. The park covers more than 400 hectares and is the largest inner city park in the southern hemisphere, even larger than New York’s Central Park.
Walk amongst the tree tops on the elevated bridge, or wander the pathways through the botanical gardens. Or prepare a picnic with the family on the grassy areas and let the kids enjoy the playgrounds and open space. Overlooking Perth city is the Botanical Cafe and for those looking for a fine dining experience, Fraser’s Restaurant, but be prepared for the bill.
2. South Perth Foreshore & Elizabeth Quay
The waterfront along the Swan River provides some amazing scenery during both the day and night. Enjoy a picnic on the southern foreshore or enjoy a beer in one of the waterfront pubs on the northern side. Whichever side you start on, cross via the ferry which runs every 10-15 minutes or walk across the Narrows Bridge which will take you about half an hour.
Make sure you stay until the evening, when the lights of Perth come on (usually after a picture perfect sunset) it is a spectacular sight. Make sure you wander along both sides to take in the contrasting views.
And while you’re there, get out on the Swan River. Kayaks, Stand Up Paddle Boards and Catamarans can be hired from Funcats Watersports and make for a great few hours of fun. We have done this a number of times over the years and it’s always enjoyable.
3. Day trip to Rottnest Island
Located just under 20km off the Perth coastline, Rottnest Island is an ideal getaway where you’ll have no trouble relaxing. With so many beautiful beachfront locations, you will want to come here for at least a day! Take the short ferry trip over, we recommend departing from the Barrack Street Jetty in the centre of Perth so you get a free Swan River cruise included in the price.
Firstly, the island is best explored by bicycle, as there are no private cars on the island. Having a bike will also make it much easier to get around the island, the more quiet and private beaches are on the far side of the island, which is a little too far to walk. There are also plenty of amazing reefs, so you’ll want to have packed your snorkelling gear.
Rottnest Island is also home to one of Australia’s cutest animals, the Quokka. They’re friendly and very photogenic. There are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied on the island, so please read our in depth article here.
4. Hit the amazing beaches
Western Australia is blessed with some of the best beaches in the world, we’ve travelled everywhere and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better selection anywhere. The beaches in the Perth metropolitan area won’t disappoint with white sand and warm, clear waters. On top of this, Western Australia offers you beautiful sunsets over the ocean every day of the year. What isn’t there to like? Sharks maybe, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll see any
Catch a sunset at Cottesloe Beach
One of Perth’s most popular beaches, about 15 minutes from Perth CBD. The beach attracts huge crowds over the summer months, which is not so great for those who enjoy a bit of privacy but it has all the offerings. A great selection of pubs and cafes are within a short walk too.
In March, the annual Sculpture by the Sea outdoor exhibition turns the beach into an outdoor art gallery. The exhibition is free, so if you’re in town make sure you check it out.
The waves here can get up to 2 metres, great for surfers but not ideal for those with a young family.
Scarborough Beach offers much the same as Cottesloe but is about a 25 minute drive north of Perth. It does have some great facilities nearby and better surfing conditions if that is more your style. There are also surf schools nearby where you can spend a few hours learning the skills to master the waves.
This is probably our favourite beach in the Perth metropolitan area. About a 25 minute drive south of the CBD, Coogee has very little surf and is much quieter than many other Perth beaches. It is ideal for families and the surf club has a great cafe and pub where you can watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean.
5. Explore the historic Fremantle port
Fremantle is one of the original settlements in Perth and is almost a city of it’s own. Located about a 20 minute drive from Perth city, it is easily accessible by public transport too.
Fremantle is a great mix of everything, from white sand beaches to bars and nightclubs, it has something for everyone. There are a handful of things to head to Fremantle for but you can easily spend a few days here!
For a meal, we would recommend trying Little Creatures Brewery or Cicerello’s located on the boardwalk overlooking the water. Little Creatures offer local produce and beers, while Ciccerello’s is home to some excellent seafood. Both are somewhat expensive, so be prepared.
For those interested in local history, the Fremantle Prison is still standing today and sits on some prime real estate not too far from the centre. There are a variety of tours exploring the prison but the Prison Tunnel Tour would be our recommendation, although you have to be reasonably fit to complete it.
Wander around Fremantle and I’m sure you will find something that takes your fancy. Try to find the markets hidden along the main street to find locals selling everything from handmade goods to fruit & veg to massages.
6. AQWA & Hillary’s Boat Harbour
Hillary’s is a more recent addition to Perth’s metropolitan area, about a 25 minute drive north of Perth. It is loaded with entertaining ways to enjoy yourself whether you are travelling alone or with your family.
First and foremost, Hillary’s features AQWA, the aquarium of Western Australia. Explore the animals that call Australia home and they have a touch pool that the kids love. For those a little braver, we absolutely recommend that you go swimming with the sharks and rays. You’ll appreciate how huge they are up close and it’s a great adrenalin rush. It is a little expensive at $195pp but we loved the experience! And if you do go that way, make sure you take a waterproof camera. Details here: http://www.aqwa.com.au/shop/dive-snorkel-with-sharks/
The nearby marina has an overwater boardwalk with an excellent selection of cafes and bars where you can enjoy the view and sound of the waves. We love to enjoy a mid afternoon ice cream here and then head to the Breakwater for a drink and an early dinner while watching the waves and sunset.
7. Catch a game at one of WA’s great stadiums
Australians in general love our sport. Western Australia is no exception and have teams in a variety of national sports that play year round. And the teams are passionately supported, making game day a great day out. Most popular, and unique to Australia is the AFL, best described as a hybrid between rugby and football.. WA is home to two teams (Fremantle and West Coast) who play out of Burswood (a 5 minute drive from Perth) and have about 35,000 fans at home games.
If the sport of AFL is too foreign to you, Perth is home to the Western Force (rugby) and Perth Glory (football). Both teams draw a decent crowd and have a great atmosphere, whilst playing close to the centre of Perth. The Perth Wildcats (basketball) are one of Western Australia’s most successful sporting teams and their games are always entertaining.
Perth also plays host to the Hopman Cup (tennis) in January each year. 8 mixed teams from around the world come to Perth to play in the tournament.
8. Visit the Swan Valley for lunch and wine tasting
If you don’t have the time to visit Margaret River in WA’s south west (it is highly recommended) then heading out to the Swan Valley is the next best alternative. Whilst Margaret River is a 3hr drive from the city, the Swan Valley is only a half hour trip, or alternatively, there are daily wine tours so no one has to miss out and drive. There are plenty of great wineries here where you can sample wines, craft beers and even cheese or chocolate at the various businesses in the area.
There are some excellent tours that will take you through the valley, starting from $120pp including lunch. We have previously tried the 5 hour afternoon tour with Swan Valley Tours ($140pp) and we stopped at a few wineries, a craft brewery and a visit to the Margaret River Chocolate Factory (in the Swan Valley fyi) which wasn’t bad value.
Of course, nothing will beat picking the best options for you, there are some excellent options depending on your interests. We’ve listed some of our favourites here for you:
Margaret River Chocolate Factory
Lancaster Winery, conveniently opposite the Margaret River Chocolate Factory.
Canefire Distillery, rum specialists.
Of course, there are many more options in the area, in particular a few German breweries if that interests you. Just be prepared that once the samples are gone, additional drinks are Australian prices.
by travelephant | Oct 20, 2016 | Melbourne
It hasn’t been voted the world’s most liveable city for the past 6 years for no good reason. And this doesn’t just relate to the permanent residents of the city, it is an amazing blend of culture, food, scenery & shopping! All the best things you could hope for as a tourist. The only slight negative is that it is an Australian city, and this means it is a little more expensive than other destinations. But it is comparably cheaper than other major Australian cities.
Restaurants, Cafes & Bars
Melbourne has an impressive bar & cafe scene, a collective of all the various cultures and backgrounds that make up the populace. The multitude of small destinations make it impossible to pick a favourite – all we can do is recommend a good bit of bar hopping during your time here. And don’t feel restricted to only heading out over the weekend, most places are open late 7 days a week.
Spend at least a meal or two dining along the Yarra riverfront, there is an almost infinite variety spread over the north and south banks. It is picturesque all hours of the day & evening and affords you an excellent view of the city. I would also advise an evening at Young & Jackson Hotel, the building itself is over 150 years old and it has been a pub for the majority of that, a little piece of Australian history.
Whilst central Melbourne offers a huge selection of eateries, branching out beyond the CBD is equally as rewarding. The suburb of Carlton in particular boasts probably the foodies paradise of Australia, a seemingly unending strip of restaurants, bars & cafes along Lygon Street. This is an area you must make time for – the prices are very reasonable (by Australian standards) and the food & service excellent!
Melbourne is the sporting home of Australia and is among the top sporting cities in the world (previously taken this title for 2006, 2008 & 2010 to date). You’d almost be correct in calling it the religion of the city. Whatever sport takes your fancy, chances are you can find it during the year at one of the many amazing stadiums around the city. For those who are interested, there are many tour companies who cater to your tastes. Alternatively, many of the stadiums are well within walking distance of the CBD.
What time of the year you visit will dictate the sports on offer but year round there is an excellent variety! Please check the comprehensive Victorian sports listing at visitvictoria.com for an up to date list. I’ve prepared a schedule of the bigger sporting events and their regular dates to check yours against.
If you are in town during March – September then you should catch a game of AFL at the MCG or Etihad Stadium. It is only played competitively in Australia and offers something vastly different to other sports, think a cross between soccer & rugby.
The other sporting must do is a day at the horse races. Between Flemington & Caulfield racetracks most weekends are covered from Spring until Autumn, so maybe pack attire more fancy than boardshorts, singlets & flipflops!
Throughout the year there are numerous other world class events, including Formula 1 racing, PGA golf tournaments, football (or soccer) games, the Australian Open tennis championship & much more.
Arts & Culture
Melbourne certainly discerns itself from other Australian cities in this area. There are multiple public galleries (entry fee payable of course!) around the CBD. Our favourite gallery would have to NGV International Gallery, located in Southbank – you will most likely pass it (you CANNOT miss it, it’s HUGE) if you are exploring Melbournes CBD. It boasted an impressive collection for a pair of art amateurs and we certainly enjoyed our time here.
Melbourne offers several other public galleries, get the comprehensive list here, but we didn’t have the time to check them all out!
Beyond the public galleries, Melbourne also offers an unprecedented (we haven’t come across anything similar in our travels!) street art scene. Whilst you can take a tour (see here), it is quite expensive at AU$69 and if you aren’t that fazed, I would recommend stopping by Union Lane to check out the most extensive work for free!
Whilst not something we regularly partake in, Melbourne does offer theatre, musicals & other performing arts on a regular basis. There is plenty of information on what’s on in the Visit Victoria pages.
All the amateur photographers out there needn’t leave their cameras behind. Whilst it doesn’t boast the picturesque, white sand beaches of many Australian destinations (nor the climate to get the swimming gear out of the closet all that often!) it does offer plenty of photo opportunities.
Whether it be the cityscape or looking down the Yarra River it is very visually appealling, particularly when well illuminated late into the night. By day there are many manicured parks & gardens to explore well inside the city limits.
Getting a view of the city can be done by heading to Eureka Tower in Southbank. The entry fee of AU$20 (please check current pricing here) gets you up amongst the clouds and a 360 degree view of the city. The tower is open until 10pm at night, so consider visiting at dusk to view the city in the last light of day and by dark!
Whilst not taking you as high as the Eureka Tower, the Melbourne Star (Melbourne’s equivalent of the London Eye) offers you a look over the CBD and ocean whilst putting on a pretty impressive light show. We did find it a little difficult to get to using the tram service, so allow some time if you plan to check this out.
Inside the CBD, Melbourne offers a FREE tram service. The trams run frequently and all over the CBD area so take advantage of this where possible (see here for the map).
THE CARLTON BREWERY: This didn’t really fit in under any of the categories but we feel it needs a mention. Taking the tour was really a highlight and we would recommend it to everyone with even a slight interest in beer. The tour cost is somewhat subsidised with a cold beer on completion & the lunch menu was decent too!
by travelephant | Aug 20, 2016 | Perth, Rottnest
If you’re planning a visit to Perth for more than a few days, a day on Rottnest Island should absolutely consume at least one of those days. This is a natural island paradise, and was rightly described as such by the first European explorers who stumbled across it. It is a little under 20km off the coast, a 30 minute or 1 hour ferry ride depending on your departure point – I would advise leaving from Perth (Barrack Street Jetty) to take in the sights as you head down the Swan River & out to sea.
One of the stunning beaches of Rottnest Island
Essentially, Rottnest encompasses the best of WA and its almost 13,000 KILOMETRES of coastline into a 19km² island. It is full of amazing white sand beaches, turquoise waters, perfect snorkelling & diving spots and some of Australia’s wonderful wildlife. Even fishing if you’re that way inclined.
Despite its small size, the island can host over 15,000 visitors during the peak periods in summer, although for most of the year it is far quieter than this. If you care to venture away from the main beaches you will find plenty of privacy – even an unofficial nude beach on the far western side. If you plan to see all the sights in one day, I would advise hiring a bike. They can be hired on the island for $30 per day.
NB: There is a bus that traverses the island, but I have NEVER seen it in my many visits to the island!! And I highly doubt the tickets would be cheap.
For those with more time up their sleeves, there is accommodation on the island, but the majority is booked out well in advance and quite expensive during peak summer season. A better (and more economical) idea is to take advantage of the campsite on the island for around AU$35 per night. Let’s be honest, no one needs premium accommodation when you have no intention of staying in your room all day! But ensure you book in advance during summer and peak periods.
Check out the official site for up to date accomodation pricing and availability.
Now, let’s get onto the fun stuff. The immaculate, white sand beaches. On Rottnest you will find as good as you will anywhere else in Australia – this is coming from an Australian who has seen them all! The whole island is surrounded by these beautiful beaches, so if you want a bit of privacy, feel free to grab some water & food and wander to one of the more isolated beaches to enjoy the quiet surrounds.
There is reef surrounding much of the island, giving rise to many great snorkeling & dive locations around the island. There are tour operators who can take you out by boat to check out the best spots, however, we had plenty of joy just off the beach. There are many shipwrecks around the island so go with the tour operator if you would like to check these out. The equipment is all available for hire on the island.
A very happy quokka 🙂
If you can find time to drag yourself away from the beach and water, you MUST check out the local quokkas. These guys can’t be found on the mainland and are VERY friendly and VERY photogenic. Petting them is illegal ($2,000 fine) but they do love a photo and are always happy to smile. Think of a cute cross between a kangaroo & a rat. Or better yet, check out #quokka on Instagram.
One of the highlights of our last few trips to the island has been to unwind with a beer at the end of a hard day of relaxing in the pub, while you watch the sunset and count down until you return to the mainland. I would almost pencil this in as a must do – unless you’ve already visited for lunch! Aside from the pub there are a few cafes and a bakery on the island, although they are all quite close to the dock. So don’t go wandering too far if you haven’t packed any food and water.
Good to know
As with all things tourism related in Australia, a visit to Rottnest Island is expensive. Try to take advantage of discounts offered by booking the ferry tickets in advance. The return trip on the ferry alone will set you back at least $80 per person, so allow for AU$150-200 per person for the day out, including meals and a few beers. However, if your schedule allows, go on a Tuesday. This will save you quite some money as there are specials from $59 including same day return ferry, hire bike and island admission fees ( or AU§39 for same day return ferry ticket only). For details see the RottnestExpress website.
Accommodation is also quite expensive, even pitching a tent on a patch of sand costs $30 per night! It is also notoriously difficult to book in peak season.
Rottnest Island is also the place of choice for high school graduates. So avoid the island during these times if you don’t fancy being surrounded by drunk teenagers.