1. Karijini National Park – camp under the stars, climb into gorges, and forget your bathing suit. That was my mistake, but we spent a glorious 3 days here and honestly, it was my favourite national park we visited. And we went to tons! Each trail and gorge was so different to the next, and nature just felt so raw. Not too many people, and very quiet and clean! I recommend Joffre Gorge – go down into the gorge (basically rock climb down into the gorge), Fortescue Falls – a stunning swimming hole that was pristine, and camp there! The stars were amazing as well as the sunsets. Interesting terrain with sprawling mountains makes it worth all the while.
2. Dive with the Whale Sharks – one of the main attractions for the West Coast is to go swim with the Whale Sharks on the Ningaloo Reef. The Ningaloo Reef is an amazing World Heritage site that is preserved and embraced by so many people from around the world each year. I was instantly drawn here and knew I had to swim with one of the worlds coolest and largest fish species. The largest recorded whale shark is 12.5 meters long, and I was able to swim with these gentle giants at a whopping 8 meters.
3. Dolphins at Monkey Mia
Get there early and you wont regret it. What an amazing experience. When we arrived around 9:00 a.m. they were doing the last feeding of the day and there was a dozen dolphins frolicking in the water, and ‘hunting’ about for fish. Its interesting how they used to allow people in the water with the dolphins and now they no longer do, as sunscreen is very harmful to the dolphins and can make them ill. As well as diseases are transferable from dolphins to humans and humans to dolphins. Regardless, what an experience!
4. Alley Cat Café- Darwin
The most delicious meal I had on the West Coast goes to Alley Cat Café. Maybe it was due to a month of canned tuna, rice, noodles, cous-cous and canned vegetables, but honestly. It was all worth it. a massive pulled pork sandwich with a massive golden gay time milkshake to finish. Amazing.
5. Edith Falls – Katherine
A ‘little’ but surprisingly moderate hike to the falls is well worth it! I think it may have also been the 38 degree weather and lack of water we had but wow, it seemed harder than it shoulder have. The falls were in full throttle in April and wow, what a show they put on. We spent 2-3 hours playing in the water, floating, and jumping off the rock cliffs on the side. Good for the soul.
6. Hot Springs in Katherine
What a find! This cozy spot in Katherine is in the city centre and is popular among the locals, and not so much the tourists. When we visited we got talking to 2 good Aussie blokes and they told us about Katherine, nearby trails, things to do, everything you could hope a local would tell you! It as great, which then set us up for a hidden waterfall we had no idea about the next day! These hot springs normally have croc’s in them but they were cleared. Make sure of this before entering! But seriously these hot springs were like bathing in warm bubbly champagne, and it was a great way to wake up!
7. Freemantle – A hidden gem in Perth
The cutest suburb in Perth – that’s what I think at least! I absolutely loved this spot, even though we only had one day here I was immediately hooked on its historic charm, waterfront, and store fronts! Candice picked me up early that morning and we headed straight into the heart of Freemantle. We started with breakfast at a local café (avo on toast for me and a cappuccino – always), and then walked the streets, and found some amazing bookstores. Then off to the Old Round House – the Freemantle prison, and read up on the history of Freemantle and how it came to be. We then walked along the waterfront, and went to Little Creatures Brewery for an amazing apple cider – seriously one of the best I’ve ever had and the atmosphere was great! Then we finished the day by driving up to Cottsloe Beach. What a day!
8. Lake Argyle
Another slightly off the beaten path gem, I found this through a tremendous amount of searching and research. We found a free camp spot on the way into Lake Argyle at Dead Horse Springs – disregard the name, there was no dead horses, just an AMAZING camping spot amongst the mountains and creeks which most certainly had croc’s so we kept our distance. One of my favourite sunsets was seen from our tent here. Then we went down to the park & took in the panoramic views from the lookouts. There is plenty to do here for free – & even a hike if you look hard enough. But the actual boat tours / tours at all were quite costly so we compromised and found us a hiking trail for a scorching morning and it was well worth it!
9. Litchfield National Park –
Oh Litchfield, you magical creature you! Step into the land of waterfalls & termite mounds and this is where you are. But beware, there are croc’s everywhere! Visit the large termite mounds, and then cool off in the popular Bulley’s Rock Hole! An unreal spoke for a swim in the shallow waters or have a picnic. Next down the hundreds of stairs for a swim at the majestic Florence Falls. A double set of waterfalls that will keep you cool & mystified at its glory. And finally, the ever-famous Wangi Falls – the show stopper. We got there early and it was closed off to public to swim as there were crocs… you could even feel them watching you. But the views were killer and the tree top walk was pretty neat too! The campsites here were a whopping $7 a night, and had a really nice spot & even a shower. What luxury!
10. Car Karaoke
We travelled over 6830 kilometers in a month. Of course there is going to be some mean car karaoke and horrendous dancing. What else can you expect. The bonus about this is when you are driving 10 hours + everyday you can just turn up the music & take in the scenery.
11. Sunset on Cable Beach
A definite must do, one of the most stunning & unique sunsets was on Cable Beach. Go grab a towel & have a sit, watch the sunset and love life a little harder. The hues from yellow, orange and red will have you soaking up the last of the light and feeling newly refreshed. I think the photos are self-explanatory. This is a must do.
12. Cape Naturaliste National Park
What a grand National Park, which I saw and explored briefly at sunset. I wish I had more time to spend here but was it ever amazing. A 3.5-hour drive South of Perth on the way to Margaret River, we made the detour with the last few hours of sunlight. Some must see’s: Meelup Beach – we spotted whales beaching just off shore, Bunker Bay – my absolute favourite, Eagles Rock, and Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. I seriously love lighthouses and will always stop. Even just to stare in awe.
13. Leuwin Wine Estates
A winery visit when down in the ‘wine country’ of Australia is a must. For $25.00 we pre-booked and did a wine tasting & tour with just us and the lovely guide. We toured the estate and got to see behind the scenes & the art gallery. Leuwin Wine Estates was one of the first and most popular wineries developed in Margaret River and helped put them on the map.
14. Z- Bend – Kalbarri National Park
A quick but worthwhile 1.5 kilometer walk brings you to the red Z-Bend. An iconic scene which Kalbarri National Park is famous for makes this spot amazing. The way the water has carved its way through the tough red rock is a site to be scene. I felt something very powerful here, and still hold it dear.
15. Rottnest Island
Have you ever biked an entire island? Well here’s your chance! What a place and what a day. I will treasure this day forever in my mind. Rottenest island is a 2-hour ferry from Perth, and it is a MUST DO. There are so many options and it all starts once your arrive. We rented a bike and snorkel gear. we continued on to bike a total of 15 kilometers. In a 8 hours we toured the island and met the friendliest quokkas, snorkelled at porpoise bay, and visited the old shipwreck. All the while biking along the road and watching the turquoise water lap the white sand shores. Stunning! It is definitely worth the trip and money, regardless of the price.
16. Free Camp it – one of the best choices we made whilst on this trip was doing it on the cheap. We rented the cheapest car possible, made all of our meals (with the exception of coming back into civilization in Darwin), skimped on extras and tried to conserve our gas.
Free camping is definitely the way to go while travelling the West Coast. I won’t lie; the West Coast of Australia is very pricey. It is not a trip you can do with $1000, and no plan. It will take time, and cost you quite a bit even just for the necessities. But, in the long run I feel like I got one of the most authentic Australian experiences, and that’s why I wanted to do it in the first place.
Searching for a free camp spot every night was challenging and fun, pulling out our paper maps every night, searching for hidden gems, settling down for the nights and reading a book with a cup of tea, watching the stars from the tent, and chugging jugs upon jugs of water in the scorching heat of the day. That to me was what made the trip. To me, the West Coast trip took me out of my comfort zone, and I will always remember this trip as one that helped shape me, and made me push my limits. Embrace the fear, the solo- travels, and the moments that fill your lungs and make you smile. The moments that make you realize how small you are, how big Australia and the world is, and why my passion to travel will never end.