Towns like Augusta feel far from the bussle of Perth and airbrushed chic of Margaret River. Hunkered down on the precise point where the Indian and Southern oceans meet, it’s a one-pelican town. Pizzas are available on Friday and Saturday nights between 5 and 8pm if you order a week in advance. Sweet-and-sour kangaroo is on the menu in the Augusta Moon Chinese Restaurant. Checkout girls waltz with liquor-store boys in the last fish-and-chip shop before the Antarctic. In the town’s lone bar you’ll find weatherbeaten fishermen in ludicrously short shorts bream-boasting over Emu Bitters, conversations about the price of breeding ostrich and a jukebox that, regardless how politely you ask it to play your selection, will substitute AC/DC.
Footy is the major sport in Perth, so get into the spirit and cheer on either of the local teams, the West Coast Eagles or the Fremantle Dockers, at weekly AFL games at Subiaco Oval. Games are so popular that they often sell out well in advance, so plan to purchase your tickets a couple of weeks before the game.
In a country as sun-and-sand-crazy as Australia, Perth makes a legitimate claim as having the best beaches. Cottesloe Beach is Perth’s most famous, with a shaded grassy knoll and plenty of sunseekers in the sand. The only nude beach in Perth is Swanbourne, and it’s perfect for sunbathing with its steep sandy shoreline, secluded from the nearby beaches. The current on all of Perth’s beaches is quite strong as they’re all on the open ocean, so swim only in the designated areas when a lifeguard is on duty.
Take a drive outside the city to see some of the region’s fascinating and beautiful natural rock formations. Wave Rock, near Hyden east of Perth is a giant rock formation that looks like a large breaking wave. To the north, visit Cervantes, the 'Turquoise Coast' rock formation of thousands of limestone pillars rising out of yellow sand in the middle of the Pinnacles Desert, in the Nambung National Park.
The seaside town of Exmouth, on the tip of Ningaloo Reef, is home to 260 kilometres of nearly untouched barrier reef and a wealth of wildlife. Whatever you do you’re sure to encounter some of its 220 species of coral, whale sharks, humpback whales and 500 species of tropical fish. There are deserted desert islands from which to snorkel and dive and dugongs and rare sea turtles to view if you venture out by sea kayak. And endless beaches to explore in all directions. And dramatic gorges to scale in Yardie Creek. And open waters to sail beyond Exmouth Gulf. And still all of the North West and the rugged interior of the Golden Outback of this state to explore.
You’re never far from the wilderness in Perth. It’s possible to see semi-wild kangaroos right in the city center. Visit Pinnaroo Valley Memorial Park and you’ll find lots of kangaroos grazing and hopping about. The Park is actually a natural bushland cemetery with no monuments to leave the area in as open and natural a state as possible. The kangaroos certainly enjoy it.
Less than three hours fom Perth, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and cabernet lure oenophiles south to Margaret River. The picturesque town — think Ontario's Niagara-on-the-Lake with an Australian accent — is crammed with artisan stores, galleries, boutiques, upscale dining and places to sample the area’s wines and ports. But if you think Australia’s South West region is all about grapes and groves, you’ll need to expand your palate. The area’s rugged, rural side is a stark contrast but makes a perfect pairing for the sophisticated wine scene that’s grown up between the gum and karri forests. Kangaroos lope about paddocks, and kookaburras scrawk like demented monkeys in the jarrah trees. You might round a corner and encounter a field of two dozen kangaroos or reach a crossroads and see two emu lope off into the dusty distance.
If you have longer to linger around these parts, perhaps the most captivating part of Western Australia is north of Perth. The Coral Coast stretches to the tip of the Ningaloo Reef, almost 1,300 kilometres of turquoise waters and dazzlingly white sands, punctuated by characterful towns and the occasional strange rock formation. You can reach Ningaloo via a short flight to nearby Learmonth, but taking the ocean road makes for an incredible road trip. Just a couple of hours outside Perth is the lunar landscape of the Pinnacles, a proliferation of otherworldly yellow rock spires that jut up out of the hot, flat desertscape of Nambung National Park, raucous pink parrots bobbing on top. Seeing this place where desert meets ocean is quite something.
Continue on up the ocean highway to surfing hotspot and lobster port Geraldton, on the Batavia Coast, where the Moresby Range backdrops intense sunsets and offshore the 122 Abrolhos Islands offer unparalled fishing and bird-watching opportunities. Further north again, friendly schools of bottlenose dolphins, rare burrowing frogs and white fairy wrens are among the hundreds of varieties of birds and beasts that await at Monkey Mia and Shark Bay. Dramatic blow holes and steep cliffs keep you on your guard in lush Carnarvon, while inland banana plantations stretch as far as the eye can see.