With its beautiful beaches and inland treasures, Southwest WA has something for everyone. While it can be reached from Perth as a weekend trip, to truly appreciate this region you’ll want to take at least a week or two to get to it all. Going in a bit of a loop following the coastline north to south then coming back up inland towards Perth, here are our top spots.
Bunbury itself is probably best known for its dolphins. Situated in Koombana Bay is the Dolphin Discovery Centre, where every morning people are allowed, free of charge, to come into the water under volunteer supervision and watch the local dolphins swim around, sometimes quite close. You’re almost guaranteed to see at least one dolphin; we were extremely lucky on our day to see about 8-10! If you want more of a close up experience, you can join one of their boat tours to swim with the dolphins; otherwise you can head into the Discovery Centre to learn more about these beloved sea creatures.
Bunbury also makes a great base to explore the surrounding region. If you want to cool down on a hot day, there are numerous swimming holes like Honeymoon Pools tucked away in the bushland or the oddly coloured Black Diamond Lake. If you enjoy your wines, Ferguson Valley has a few great options to choose from. Head to St Aidan Wines for its cute cellar door and friendly staff (and of course tasty wines!) For something a bit different, check out Gnomesville, where you can walk amongst hundreds of gnomes that have been placed there over the years by various people.
Busselton also has one main claim to fame: the Busselton Jetty. At 1.8km it is the longest wooden-piled jetty in the entire world! It’s a great spot to snorkel, and they’ve recently installed an electromagnetic shark net for a bit more peace of mind. If you prefer, the underwater observatory is a great opportunity to get close (but not too close) to the local sea life.
There are a few picturesque beaches around that northwest corner near Dunsburough, but our favourite by far is Meelup Beach. It’s well-protected, has a combination of sand and grass to choose from for lounging, and crystal clear water. We saw dolphins, rays, and an octopus during our time there. Continuing south along that coastline, you’ll come to a couple interesting rock formations: Canal Rocks, which juts out into the sea with a small channel running through it and can be good fun to swim through if the sea isn’t too rough, and Sugarloaf Rock, carved by the rough surf over time. Not too far away is Injidup Point, with the insta-famous Injidup Spa, a small rockpool constantly getting topped up by waves crashing over the rocks.
If you’re after an Aboriginal experience, Koomal Dreaming offers some great educational tours through Ngilgi Cave. We did the Twilight Cave tour, which gave us the chance to access the cave at the end of the day when it was closed to the general public, as well as a didgeridoo performance in the cave itself…very cool!
Unlike the others, Margaret River is really known for two things: wineries and surf. If you’re into surfing there are a number of great spots to choose from, Main Break being where the Margaret River Pro is held yearly.
We didn’t feel confident enough to take on the waves there, but we still had a great time taking the SUPs up Margaret River from the river mouth and having a refreshing swim at Gracetown Beach. As far as wine goes, there are close to 100, possibly more, cellar doors in the region, so you have some choices to make! Our top spots were Vasse Felix, Cape Mentelle Vineyards, Voyager Estate, Howard Park and Madfish Wines, and Jarvis Estate. And if wine isn’t your thing, head over to Beerfarm or Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co. for some tasty brews and food.
Cowaramup, also known as “Cow Town,” is a cute spot with lots of cafes and shops and makes a nice place to stay outside of the hustle and bustle of Margaret River. Glenbrook Estate Camping, south of Margaret River, is a great option for camping, especially if you love animals; plenty of roos, three horses, and a donkey are just a few of the residents there.
Hamelin Bay’s main attraction is the friendly eagle rays and stingrays that gather at the boat ramp and old jetty. Fishermen used to feed them regularly years ago, and although you’re asked not to feed them, they still hang around and will come up to you hoping for a snack.
If Hamelin Bay is a bit too busy, Flinders Beach in Augusta is a beautiful, calm stretch of ocean, with the choice of sand or grass, and you’re highly likely to see a ray or two out here as well. And you can continue further south from there to climb Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, the tallest in mainland Australia.
The area between Hamelin Bay and Margaret River also have beautiful scenic drives through the Boranup forest and along Caves Road, as well as a fairly extensive limestone cave system.
You can choose to visit one or several with a multi-cave pass, and the cost per cave visit gets lower the more you do. We chose to visit two caves, Jewel Cave and Lake Cave, both quite different but both stunning. Jewel Cave is Western Australia’s largest cave and has quite an array of beautiful cave formations, and Lake Cave, being our favourite of the two with its unique formations reflected in the still water below.
For accomodation, Boranup Beach Chalets and Camping is a great option as it is quite central to the attractions in the area, reasonably priced, and dog friendly. Also, they cap the number of people who can camp on the property at a fairly low number, so you won’t feel like you’re camping on top of everyone else. Keep an eye out for the two fluffy alpacas patrolling the property!
Most people probably haven’t heard much if anything about Nannup; it has no one “thing” that it’s particularly known for, but there are a lot of little gems off the beaten path. Cambray Cheese and Cottages, just north of town, has a selection of tasty cheeses and other goods, and also has cottages available for a nice farmstay.
Nearby Barrabup Pool is a popular swimming hole with the locals and also offers bush camping. Bridgetown is a cute, heritage-listed country town, and The Cidery is a cosy restaurant to enjoy a meal and a glass of cider. Pemberton and the national parks around it are easily reached as a day trip from Nannup; you can find more about these attractions in our previous post about Denmark.
If you follow this loop, you’ll eventually end up in Perth, a beautiful coastal city and great base for several fun, short road trips!