Discover South West Australia
Taking a road trip around Australia is a massive attraction to this vast country. Consequently, we thought of no better reason than to take the leap and start our own #vanlife experience to discover South West Australia!
Whilst beginning our campervan journey we wanted to ensure we covered all ground of the picturesque and untouched wonders of Western Australia. It is most common to travel North from Perth towards Broome or Darwin, although with as little as 10 days it is easy to also discover South West Australia too.
South West Australia is incredible as it offers idyllic beaches with friendly kangaroos, landmarks older than dinosaurs, drives through beautiful rolling hills and through Tingle Wood forest, which even Robin Hood would envy! This is just a taster of the adventure ahead, read on to find out about the best stops in South West Australia.
If you're also heading North from Perth to Darwin, check out our full guide here.
Perth is the most remote city in the world, which makes it a pretty unique stop whilst visiting Australia.
There are a fair few things to check out whilst in Perth and loads of great eateries too! We’ll be sharing a blog especially for Perth soon but until then...
Top Perth Attractions
Elizabeth Quay and the Bell Tower
London Court which is a lane of shops enclosing a cute little old town vibe within its high storey buildings on either side.
Nostalgia Box is a museum full of awesome throwback video games, which you also get to play at the end!
Kings Park provides visitors with amazing views of the City, particularly at sunset.
The Perth Mint - An actual coin mint manufacturer, which also houses a museum and the worlds largest gold coin, which literally weighs a tonne! Whilst visiting the mint, there is an option to see the making of a gold bar demonstration and to literally find out your body value in gold.
iFLY - This is especially for the daredevils that fancy trying indoor skydiving!
Top Perth Food Places
The food places we tried are written below, which we've now realised were mostly desserts! Those are the best kind of food places though right?!
Nobibi Café - An Instagram heaven! The "fluffy cloud" is an ice cream sundae with a halo of candy floss surrounding it!
The Leaf Indian - This restaurant offers delicious and 100% vegetarian Indian dishes.
Measure Bar - This one is for the more classy dessert treats! (We hope it survived COVID!)
Get Chunky - Get your cookie fix here and add an injection of sauce, if you can handle the sugar shakes!
Baguettes on William Street - Try some delicious vegetarian banh mi on the go.
Sinamon - Your one-stop shop for all the Cinnamon Rolls your heart could desire. All cooked fresh and served warm. Delish! They also have free wifi and a couple of outdoor tables for two if you fancy sticking around a while.
Wave Rock and Hippos Yawn
Wave Rock is a whopping 2,600,000,000 years old. To put that in perspective that's 2,370,000,000 years older than dinosaurs. So whilst you’re in South West Australia, go check it out! Given the age of this attraction, the bottom is very worn from the many people, dinosaurs and cavemen who've tried to catch a wave here. We can confirm it is much harder than it looks!
Hippos Yawn is a rock formation that literally looks like a hippo yawning. It’s a fun little attraction 5 minutes walk away from Wave Rock and certainly worth checking out whilst you are here.
The entry here is $12 per vehicle but we noticed the smaller Hippo’s yawn car park, just a few minutes walk away didn’t have any pay machines. So try parking there first.
As the drive from Perth is around 6 hours, Ravensthorpe is moreover a pit stop than a tourist stop. That being said, we did find 'Yummilicious sweet shack' here, which is a colourful little sweet shop in the heart of Ravensthorpe. South West Australia also has its own silo art trail and one of the seven can be found in Ravensthorpe, take a moment to enjoy the art and get an insta-worthy shot.
Esperance is the next major stop on this South West Australia loop, this beach town is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia!
Take some time to enjoy the esplanade of cafes and restaurants and head out for a drive along the 11-mile ocean drive loop. It is best to go just before sunset, start at the Pink Lake (which is actually not pink anymore) then continue around the loop to end at Twilight beach. Esperance was truly beautiful and a good stop to stock up on foods, ready to visit the first National Park.
Stonehenge?! In Australia?! Yup! This unique attraction is a genuine (and complete) replica of the original British Stonehenge. Unlike the original, however, you’re allowed to climb, hug or kiss the stones! Whatever you like! Which makes it a great experience and a fun stop on your way into the National Park.
Cape Le Grand National Park and Lucky Bay
Cape Le Grand National Park is the first stop which requires a WA National Park Pass. There are three main passes available, a holiday pass or an annual pass are available to buy online, or a day pass is available for $12 upon entry. We also discovered that RAC offers lots of discounts and offers including a discount park pass for members. Definitely an added bonus with an already very good insurance company!
The main attraction is Lucky Bay, aptly named that because if you’re lucky enough, you’ll have a kangaroo visit you on the beach for a stroke and a nosey for any food you may have (which you’re forbidden to give them!).
This was one of our highlights of this South West Australia loop and we’d highly recommend staying for a few days if you have the time.
Where To Stay
Lucky Bay Campgrounds
Lucky Bay campground is the most popular camp in the National Park, which can only be booked online at the affordable cost of $22 per vehicle. Be ready to switch off and enjoy the nature of this beautiful park, because the WiFi provided and mobile signal is very weak in the grounds.
Two Peoples Bay
If you’d prefer to stay in a free camp with beautiful beaches to yourself, we’d recommend a stop at Two People’s Bay.
Where To Stay
Bettys Beach Free Camp
Betty's Beach free campsite was incredible! The facilities were basic with a compost loo and rainwater sink but it still had a mirror and the bins weren’t overflowing. So it’s a tick from us.
Enjoy a sunset on the beach right next to where you are parked and wake up early to enjoy the stunning WA sunrise. Perfect.
Denmark was a pit stop for us but we enjoyed a beautiful hot chocolate in ‘the chocolate lounge’ or the Denmark Chocolate Company as Google likes to call it.
Elephant Rocks and Greens Pool
A quick stop on your way to Albany is Elephant Rocks and Greens Pool. Elephant Rocks is aptly named this because the rocks can be seen to look like a herd of elephants! It’s an enjoyable walk with beautiful views of the coast as you head towards the elephants.
Greens Pool is also a unique bay to check out whilst you’re here. The notable theme around South West Australia is idyllic white sandy beaches and this one doesn’t disappoint. It has boulders in the bay and along the beach, making it a unique place to relax and while some time away.
The Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk is a fun canopy trail leading you to the highest point of the tingle trees at 40 metres above the ground! You’ll also be able to take a walk around the flora and fauna on the ground and learn how the tingle trees base stretched so wide, cars used to drive through them!
Tingle trees are a famous tree in this area of Australia and the drives around here feel like something out of a movie!
Where To Stay
Ayr Sailean Camp Ground
Ayr Sailean campground has the option of a powered or unpowered site, a huge kitchen room with plenty of plugs to use, a fridge, TV and even WIFI. Don’t even get us started on the free washing machines and hot showers! We could have stayed here forever!
This camp is halfway between Elephant Rocks and The Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, so we headed to the treetops the next day, en route towards Albany, our next stop.
Albany is a historic little town, which has its own old town and some interesting history being one of the first Western Australia ports used by the Brits.
The Brig Amity
To learn more about the history of this port town, visit an exact replica of a boat used to ferry the British convicts around. It is free to visit the top deck of The Brig Amity and for $5 visitors can have a full audio-guided tour both above and below deck.
There is another piece of Silo Art here, which you can check out too. If you want to see more silo art, we’d recommend checking out this site to decide on an alternative route from Perth.
Manjimup Truffle & Wine Company
Sometimes it's worth blowing the budget a little to live some luxury! This is also a perfect start to the upcoming wine-ventures around Margaret River. Manjimup is famously one of the largest exporters of truffle in the world. It has a cafe offering plenty of truffle filled options, which we loved during our stop.
As vegetarians on a budget, we opted to share the truffle pizza and the chocolate mousse dessert. Sarah adores having the recommended paired wines too so we opted for the Rosé. The truffle ice cream is incredible, so if only trying one thing, try a dessert with ice cream!
The cellar door here also offers free wine tastings so meander through and enjoy a small tasting. This is required for the dutch courage needed on your next stop…
The Gloucester Tree ℵ
If the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk didn’t fulfil your height scaling desires, we’re sure this will give it a boost! The Gloucester Tree is a whopping 53-metre high tree with prongs swirling around its trunk as a ladder to the top. Originally one of six lookouts used to watch out for forest fires in the area before planes were invented! Now though, it is simply a fun tourist attraction for those wanting to push their fears to the limit!
We were asked to pay $13 to visit this tree, which is the cost of a day pass to the national parks. Ensure you’ve got your Holiday Pass in advance.
Beedulup Falls ℵ
Beedulup Falls is a lovely waterfall to check out on your way towards Margaret River. A boardwalk guides you through to the top so you can watch the water flowing past under you. There are also some toilets here if you need them after the waterfalls!
Where To Stay
Glass Tree Hollow Campground
This was a last-minute stop on our South West Australia loop as it was getting dark. It was the most budget-friendly in the area but being winter it was completely empty. We found it a little scary and couldn’t find the toilets, which we later discovered were inside the forest in front of our van. Even if we'd known, we were never going to venture into the dark forest!
It worked as a pit stop and if there are rangers around, it is a budget-friendly $7.50 pp for the night.
Margaret River is a famous wine region in South West Australia, specialising in Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The region also has some beautiful Shiraz and Sauvignon blanc / Semillon blends too.
We could have visited plenty of wineries here but as we opted for a self-drive tour, we chose the following three wineries.
Cape Mentalle is one of the founding wineries of the region. It has a range of classic wines and the reds are particularly bold, dry and rich. They also had an interesting Zinfandel available which undoubtedly smelt and tasted like Christmas. If it is available during your visit, definitely request to try it as one of your flight options.
The Voyager Estate is a winery moving towards being completely organic, which they hope to have certified in the next couple of years. A walk through the grounds feels very luxurious, as does the building in which the tastings happen. Take time to experience a grand and opulent tasting experience here, especially if you opt for the sit-down experience with a cheeseboard. The wines here are delicious and the cheeses are really tasty too!
If you’re reading this from the UK, you can also order these delicious wines to your door too!
Whilst we wandered around the gift shop in the Voyager Estate, we spotted nougat bars on sale from Margaret River too. As big fans of the chewy and nutty stuff, we thought we’d wind down our wine tastings with some Margaret River nougat. Little did we know, this was also a small family-owned winery offering free wine tastings too!
Of course, we had to oblige one final tasting and it did not disappoint! There was a range of different wines to try and with one range named 'lost the plot,’ it was a very apt final tasting of the day! The winery also had liqueurs and dessert wines to try as well as some delicious nougat of course. Additionally, the couple who own this winery are really friendly and easy-going, even when we visited just 20 minutes before closing!
You can opt to stay here too with beautiful rooms available on the grounds.
If you have a nominated driver…
Vasse Felix is another founding winery in the region and they offer free wine tastings too. Unfortunately, we were getting over the limit and out of time by this point but we’ve heard they’re another excellent winery in the region.
If you’ve visited all four, by this point you’re the cheeky monkey! This is a brewery which makes a small range of beers and a cider to try if you fancy something a little different in the region.
The Non-Alcoholic Activities of Margaret River
Hamelin Bay is a famous bay, which offers tourists the opportunity to get really close to giant manta rays! They are known to visit all year round but can mostly be found in the warmer summer months. We didn’t see any during our visit in July; nevertheless, as it is just 30 mins drive from Margaret River, it should definitely be visited when passing.
The Cape to Cape Track
There's a 135km track which runs from the Leeuwin lighthouse to the Naturaliste lighthouse. It is an iconic 4-day long hike, known to provide beautiful views of turquoise waters, large cliff drops and a great lookout opportunity for dolphins and the passing whales between June and September.
As the weather wasn’t in our favour at this part of our journey we opted out of the hike. Check out this website for some of the best sections of the trail. Alternatively, one part of the track can be found by Hamelin Bay to enjoy a short stroll whilst you search for Manta Rays.
The Margaret River region is also famous for its impressive caves. We’ve heard the Mammoth Cave is the most adventurous. With the use of a helmet and headlamp, you venture in through one end of the cave and walk out of the other!
You’ll find an abundance of caves all spread out along the aptly named Caves Road.
There are lots of different mazes to check out in this area. It really felt like we were back in England with the huge tree forests surrounding us on our drives and stops for caves and maze attractions.
We opted to try the Boranup Forest Maze and were pretty impressed by how hard it was! There was a small honesty box asking for $5 for adults and $3 for children. Try not to use the cheats way or at least find your way back out without using it! We still found it hard to get out even after cheating our way in!
Where To Stay
After Pemberton, all campgrounds were quite expensive compared to the ones we’d been using previously. Particularly after our free stay at Betty's beach, we struggled to pay the tripled prices around this region. As an alternative, we opted for some not-so-legit campgrounds in the area so we can't share them with you here. That being said, a 24-hour drive-thru could be a great pit stop if you need a ‘short’ break...
Margaret River Tourist Park
Had we opted to stay in a campsite, our research showed this to be the top campsite in the area for price and facilities - especially as it has a pool too!
Bunbury and Busselton
The Busselton Jetty is the largest accessible jetty in the South Hemisphere, which is an impressive 1.8km long. There are two options to travel to the end of the jetty, walking it or taking a small train. We opted to walk it, costing just $4 to enter the Jetty and it takes around 20 minutes to walk to the end.
Aside from scaling one of the longest jetty's in the world, there is also an underwater observatory. Located 8 metres below the jetty, here you can check out the marine life underneath.
The Dolphin Discovery Centre is a cool little hub where over the years dolphins regularly stop to visit the bay. It is also free to watch these beautiful dolphins playing in the morning when they are most active.
Bunbury is a marine sanctuary for the dolphins, which also has an interesting aboriginal story to explain the dolphin's regular visits. As the story goes, a group of ladies from a tribe nearby were so hungry they were wailing and tapping sticks which attracted the dolphins in and so they continue to come today!
The interpretive centre is an excellent interactive centre for both kids and adults alike. A small entry fee provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about the marine life in WA and watch the volunteers feed the various marine life from octopus to pufferfish, eel, a turtle and even a baby shark! It was a lot of fun and definitely worth the time to go and check out.
Monkey Mia also provides a similar experience, which costs $18 per person and has hundreds of guests watching a dolphin feed over the time slots in the morning. We'd highly recommend visiting Bunbury instead for a more natural and less touristic experience.
Bunnings is a large warehouse in Australia for garden and home renovations and they also sell gnomes. Take a moment to buy one now before the next few stops of this journey! It will all make sense soon!
Collie or Rockingham
The following three stops are a little loop around to Collie.
Rockingham has an attraction called Shoal Water Islands Marine Park and Penguin Island, which offers a short boat ride to visit the world’s smallest penguins! We were very excited to visit given our love for record-breaking attractions but sadly, they were renovating the month we were passing. If you choose to visit, please do share with us how it was!
The Apple Fun Park and Donnybrook Fruit farms
The Apple Fun Park is the largest free fun park in Australia and we loved having a quick visit to feel like big kids again!
Donnybrook is also famous for its apples, hence the name of the fun park. We bought some delicious pink ladies from a local farm and at $5 for a big bag it was a great snack for the road. Keep a lookout as the many fruit signs come up really quickly and can be easily missed. There were at least 5 during our journey though so don't be disheartened if you miss the first few!
This is where a gnome will be needed! There is a little town named Gnomesville, which originated in the early 90s from a simple gnome being left under a gumtree next to a roundabout. Soon enough, more locals added gnomes and now you have an entire town of Gnomes stretching as far as the eye can see! There are gnomes of all characters and walks of life; from surfer gnomes, Hells' Gnomegels, Rasta Gnomies to Gnome-vict criminals sentenced to life at Gnomesville penitentiary.
Enjoy some time wandering around the town and finding the best spot for your gnome, we named ours Rodigan and sat him next to his gnome grown friend. Let us know if you find him!
Black Diamond Lake
Black Diamond Lake was once a landmine, which was eventually filled with water and gets its bright blue hue from the limestone underneath. We managed to catch this beauty just as the sun was setting. It was early enough to see the blue hue as well as the incredible reflection of the sun setting in the water. We'd highly recommend sticking around to witness this too. Furthermore, enjoy a full day at the lake taking in the views and bring a boat or a floaty to enjoy a swim in the terrific blue waters.
Stockton Lake is similar to the Black Diamond Lake, as it is also a limestone landmine which now has a beautiful blue hue. You can decide which lake you think is bluer, as we felt it was Black Diamond. This lake also allows guests to take a boat or floaty out so make the most of this free attraction!
The Electric Shovel can’t actually be found on google but we’ve shared the location with you here. This is an active landmine, that looks similar to the Grand Canyon. It is huge and definitely worth checking out whilst you’re in the area. Can you imagine how many of these humongous landmines must be around the world!
Where To Stay
Collie River Valley Tourist Park
We opted to splash the cash on a powered campsite here. It was $35 per vehicle for a powered site. The large kitchen was housed in a huge cabin and a $10 cash deposit was required for the bathroom key.
This was a little expensive for us but when you need power, the low-cost or free campgrounds just won’t do. If you’ve recently had a hot shower though and are full of charge, there is a low-cost campground nearby called Stockton Lake Recreation Area.
"Freo" if you want to talk like a local!
We spent a few days here and have agreed it is one of our favourite towns in Australia! It has a very hippy and laidback vibe with lots of vintage books, record and clothes shops and a little bit of a historic feel too.
Fremantle Key Attractions
Open Friday - Sunday, until 8 pm. This market offers a culmination of stalls comprising of foods, unique arts and crafts, clothes and a large section of fresh fruits and veg. There is something for everyone here!
Rainbow Shipping Containers
A hot spot for Instagrammers everywhere. Fremantle has created an awesome rainbow, made from 9 multi-coloured shipping containers. It is a great photo opportunity at any time of the day or night!
As the convict Brits were shipped over to Perth, there wasn’t anywhere to put them, until they were made to build their own prison! Fremantle prison shares the story of life inside the prison, from the visiting room to the punishments enforced on the convicts inside.
The roundhouse is the first permanent building built in the Swan River Colony, and the oldest building still standing in Western Australia. It's worth checking out for the unique build and the port views from the back. For more information, you can also enter The Roundhouse for a small fee, where helpful volunteers will tell you more about the history.
Put simply, the Cappuccino Strip is a small road, packed with coffee shops. It has a lovely vibe and there are some great little eateries to dine in too, if you want more than just coffee. We chose to relax in the Dome Cafe, which we loved!
Rottnest Island is a short 30-minute ferry from Fremantle. Once on the island, the best way to get around is either hiring a bike or taking the hop-on-hop-off bus service. We opted for the bus and took a few strolls through the island wilderness between stops.
There are a number of good eateries, which we discovered during our short stay. As well as being extremely budget-friendly too. Here’s a list of all of our favourites:
Haru Sushi & Bento
This budget-friendly Japanese restaurant was amazing. The very friendly and outgoing owner won us over but sushi and bento boxes are equally as amazing! We shared a few sushi pieces and a bento box for just over $15. Bargain!
Similarly, delicious sushi can be found in Fremantle markets. Olivia’s kitchen was bursting with flavour and super cheap too. Most sushi pieces cost less than $3 each.
If you want a budget meal in a laidback pub environment, Bar Orient is the best option. They have daily specials usually costing less than $10 and a daily offering of a burger for $5.
We loved it here and the free all-day pool table cemented it as one of our favourite pubs in Oz so far!
Did we hear you say you’d love to visit Italy and taste some delicious homemade pasta? Unfortunately, Italy is a little far from Down Under but Parlapa is the next best thing! Simply stepping inside this restaurant genuinely feels like you’ve been transported to the streets of Rome. The smell of fresh pasta and sauces is overwhelming and with all dishes costing less than $20, it’s a bargain trip to Italia! Belissimo!
The dome is a popular little restaurant cafe in the Cappuccino Strip. It is intricately designed with a theatre dome-like feature and serves some delicious cakes and coffee. Although we can’t vouch for the taste of the full meals, they did look delicious too!
As a morning pit stop, we opted for the lemon and lime brûlée with a soy chai latte; bonus points to them for offering soy or almond milk at no extra cost!
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