Sebastian Canaves from Off the Path shares his ultimate road trip guide for South-Western Australia!
Perth is Western Australia’s capital and the starting point for most road trips in the state, and this is also where we started our trip! It has a fairly large international airport with flights coming in from Asia and Europe. Perth also is a great city to get a first feeling of Australia’s laid back culture as it is very down to earth despite its large business district – and this is what we also love so much about this country and its people!
Must sees and things to do in Perth
Immerse in Perth’s city life
Perth’s CBD always makes a nice stroll, especially when grabbing a coffee to go. And believe us, there is no such thing as bad coffee in Australia! You’ll find modern skyscrapers, next to small churches and old buildings. Though this is supposed to be Perth’s busy district, the city really feels like a big sleepy village as everyone walks slowly, the streets are not blocked by cars and taxis, and people always have time for a friendly chat. You might even need to get used to spending a little longer in cafés and shops, and to talk to random people about your day and plans. But don’t worry, it’s so much fun and you’ll soon love it!
Perth is also very green with many parks spreading around the city. One of them is Kings Park, which is the largest inner city park in the world. It is nice for a a small Sunday stroll and offers fantastic views on Perth and its CBD! The park is located in the western part of Perth and easily accessible by public transport. A good idea is to visit Kings Park in the late afternoons and enjoy the view on the city in the golden afternoon light as well as when its getting darker. There are also several picnic and BBQ areas available, making it the perfect spot for a nice barbecue in Perth city!
Beaches, beaches, beaches
If you visit Perth there is no way to miss one of the city’s many beaches! As the city is located close to the coast line you find yourself at very beautiful beaches within half an hour from Perth city center. Perfect for a nice swim, some walking or even surfing! Perth has around 19 beaches to choose from whereas the City Beach is the most popular. It’s 20 minutes by car from Perth’s city center and you can also easily access it by bus. Other nice beaches are Cottesloe and North Cottesloe as well as Brighton Beach or Leighton Beach in Fremantle. You can find a good overview of Perth’s beaches here!
Eating and drinking
Best coffee in town
There is a small and cozy café in Perth’s shopping district and only a few meters next to Apple’s flagship store on Hay Street. It is quite easy to miss and unfortunately we don’t know the name of it anymore. But make sure to look for it and get your morning coffee there, have a chat with the two super friendly barista and grab a pastry. The interior is very cute and you are also welcomed to sit down, however the place is very tiny and offers only a few seatings. Especially the flat white is delicious, as you can taste a hint of chocolate and roasted nuts – our favourite in Perth! For a regular flat white you are looking at 4,- AUD each.
This is another coffee place close to Perth’s shopping district, which also offers yummy flat whites and lovely pastries. Most people order to go, yet there are also chairs available in front of the café as well as inside. In the mornings you will be sharing them with construction workers having worked a few hours already and with people taking their breakfast just before making their ways to the office. You can choose between self-made sandwiches, ham and cheese croissants or various pastries – especially the tiny pains a chocolate are fantastic and taste as coming straight from Paris! A medium flat white costs 4,- AUD whereas the chocolate croissants are 2,- AUD each, however make sure to grab two of them as they are rather tiny and so super delicious! We ate them within seconds!
Grilled is a fantastic place to get burgers, especially when you arrive in Perth after a long flight or drive! The burger place is located in a new yet small complex of bars and restaurants away from George Terrace where you come across well dressed ladies and gents in white shirts at the weekend. But don’t let that first impression ruin your burger experience as Grilled is a very laid back, hipster burger place! The menu offers a great choice of burgers, from ordinary beef, bacon and cheese burger to more sophisticated combinations. You can also choose your very own type of bun and add fries which come with very delicious sauces – try our favourite, the herb mayonnaise! You’ll be looking at about 40,- AUD for two burgers, large fries to share and drinks for two people. And the burgers are really good! They are even the best we’ve tasted in Australia!
If you are looking to spoil yourself and don’t care too much about money, go for the city`s best steaks and spareribs! Especially the full rack rip has very tender meat and great seasoning, making your mouth water every time you take a bite…so delicious! But don’t forget that the restaurant is very popular and you might need to wait a few minutes until being seated. We simply ordered a beer and a bottle of wine to kill the time and the bar also offers a good selection of drinks. For the weekends, however, it’s best to book a table well in advance to avoid waiting for too long. And be prepared as you might end up spending up to 200,- AUD for two people!
Goodearth Hotel offers fair prizes and a good location close to Perth’s shopping streets and busy street life. Though the hotel isn’t the prettiest and newest, it’s studios come with a small kitchen where you can prepare your own dinner and store your food. The hotel also offers several laundry facilities and free parking spaces, where yo are even able to park a small camper van like our from Wicked Campers. For us it was perfect, because we had to stop in Perth for a few days while being on the road!
This apartment complex is very modern and chic, yet also a bit more expensive. It is in perfect location right in Perth’s city center and only a few minutes walking from all the shopping streets and high life. A large supermarket is also close by and so is the burger place Grilled! The apartments have a small kitchen front as well and you’ll find good quality shampoo and lotion in the bathroom. This was the hotel we spend our first night in, after a long tiring flight coming from Europe. Sometimes you just deserve a good sleep!
Communications and Wifi
Australian SIM card
The next day after arriving in Perth we headed to a Telstra shop straight away and bought two SIM cards, both with a lot of data and only one with credit to phone and text. And trust us, it’s a good idea to get yourself an Australian SIM card for your phone! And the best supplier for this really is Telstra, which has a very good coverage around whole Western Australia and even 3G and sometimes 4G in very remote areas. Not even Berlin’s underground has such a good reception! However, this top quality reception comes with a price and you’ll be looking at 100,- AUD for 10 GB. This is what we paid as bloggers to be connected at all times, but you might be happy with 2GB for 30,- AUD. Though most larger caravan parks offer wifi and you can also use public libraries to get internet access, a SIM card is a good investment as it helps finding your way on the trip, and looking for the best suitable rest areas or camping spots along the road.
Free wifi in Perth
We’ve also spend some time in Perth’s library, which offers a fast and stable wifi connection and a nice sitting area to get some work done or write emails to your friends and family! And modern as it is, Perth also offers a few free wifi spots around the city, and depending how many people are using it, it can be quite fast but also very slow. Most hotels also offer free wifi, however the connections are rather slow and not always the most reliable.
Perth is also your pick up point to get your car or camper van to start your road trip! If you are doing a work and travel year in Australia, you might want to buy a car. If you only travel for a few weeks, renting a car might be the more convenient and safe option. There a various car rental companies to choose from, however, we recommend Wicked Campersas we also drove one of their camper vans on our road trip. Make sure to know exactly were you are planning to go to and whether you need a 4WD or not – some places and National Parks are only accessible via 4WD! Wicked Campers’ office and car park lies outside Perth’s CDB, but you can easily get there by bus within 20 minutes
Airlines flying from Europe to Perth
Many airlines are flying from Europe to Perth, all stopping in different destinations on their way. There is no direct flight from Europe to Perth. Singapore airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar frequently connect Europe to Perth through their hubs. We always use Skyscanner or Momondo to search for the cheapest flight options, best connections and times!
Fremantle is a small, holiday-like town close to Perth and located right at the seaside – we loved it there! It has a cozy town center, some great restaurants and bars, and lovely beaches just minutes from the main shopping street. Fremantle is also the closest place to Perth where you can park your van and actually camp. There are three camping sites available all costing around 40,- AUD a night for two people on a powered site. Bear in mind that there are no parking spaces where you are allowed to camp in Fremantle nor in Perth, and if you get caught sleeping in your van you might face paying a high fine! We spend an afternoon in Fremantle and headed to Rottnest Island the next day. Rottnest is kind of Perth’s island getaway and it only takes you 25 minutes by boat with Rottnest Express from Fremantle.
Rottnest is a small island situated in front of Fremantle’s coastline and offers some of the most beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters and fantastic snorkeling opportunities. The colours on the island are incredible and we took so many pictures! Rottnest is less than a 30 minutes ferry trip from Fremantle and approximately 1.5 hours from Perth by boat. We left our camper in the parking area at the Fremantle harbour and rented bikes to tour the island – and you should definitely do the same! The bikes can easily be rented from the ferry company and you can arrange everything when purchasing your ferry ticket. A relaxed bike tour cruising one time around the whole island takes about three hours. But make sure to spend some time at one of the great beaches and plan some extra time for taking pictures – especially with the island’s cutest inhabitants: the quokkas! PS: it currently is a trend taking selfies with quokkas and so did we!
Ferry Times and Sailing
The ferry from Fremantle leaves several times a day, however catching the 9:30 ferry in the morning and the 4:00 pm ferry in the afternoon should give you enough time to explore this magnificent island! Alternatively, you can also do a full sailing trip including snorkeling, kayaking and swimming with one of the many operators such as Charter1!
Our actual trip to South-Western Australia started when we left Fremantle and drove further to Bunbury which is home to many dolphins and great beaches. Between June and September you can also spot whales in front of Bunbury’s coastline. The town itself has not that much to offer, but it still is a special place for me as I had the chance to swim with wild dolphins there during Christmas 2010! Bunbury also has some caravan parks offering a good overnight stop before heading further south.
The next stop is Margaret River and the Margaret River region.The town has its very own charm and we stayed there for two days. It offers various shops, a book store, several cafés and restaurants and a well-stocked supermarket. It’s beaches and oceanfront are alsopopular among surfers who flock into the city nearly all year round as the region offers great surfing conditions throughout the year. But there’s more to Margaret River: the town and it’s surroundings are known for the many wineries, some of them among the most well-known of Australia. Make sure to visit a few wine estates, take part in tastings and buy your very favourite bottle of wine for one of the many nights to follow on your trip!
Brew Shak Café
If you are looking for a lovely café, some really good coffee, yummy pastries and sandwiches as well as a laid-back atmosphere, head over to Brew Shak! This is were we’ve spent our mornings and planned the upcoming days of our trip. Their coffee is really good, the baristas very friendly and always up for a chat, and the café even offers wifi and some electricity plugs to get your phone, camera or laptop fully charged again. A regular flat white costs 3,75 AUD, and for 4,90 AUD you get a freshly toasted cheese and ham croissant.
Margaret River also has a small library that offers wifi, yet not free of charge. There are several plugs to get your batteries fully charged again, as well as books you can read more about the region and its wine history. The library must have had some bad experience with travellers though as there are sign everywhere about the things you are not allowed to do. No power strips, no washing of dishes in the toilet (who does that in a public library anyways?!) and much more…but you’ll still be welcomed to sit there for a few hours, use your laptop and read books.
Margaret River to Denmark
From Margaret River we drove more south to Denmark and stopped at Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse near Augusta. This is Australia’s most south-westerly mainland point and offers a spectacular scenery. It is also the place where the Indian Ocean meets the Great Southern Ocean. Due to the high entrance fee we didn’t go into the lighthouse itself, but it still made a great stop. Afterwards we continued our way throughout the great forests and stopped at the Valley of the Giants. This is were some really huge trees grow and were you have the opportunity to walk in the tree tops! Though this tree top walk is a bit expensive and costs 15,- AUD per person, it is a great opportunity and you will definitely be amazed. The walk itself is about 600 metres long and takes you up to 40 metres above ground and admit the giant trees. And from there you have spectacular views! This place is approximately 20 kilometres from Walpole and 50 kilometres from Denmark, and you can easily find it by following the signs.
Denmark is another hot spot for surfers and offers fantastic beaches, especially it large and white sandy Ocean Beach is very popular. Make sure to visit William Bay National Parkwith its beaches Elephant Rocks and the Greens Pool. From July to October you might be lucky to spot Humpback Whales and Southern Right Whales at the coastlines of Denmark! Other than that the city is great to fill up your stockings for the upcoming kilometres as it has a large supermarket.
Albany is the largest town in the south of Western Australia and was our last stop down south before driving back to Perth through the outback. The city has lots of restaurants and shops, as well as a big shopping center with a large supermarket. The town is famous for its whaling history but now people only enjoy watching these creatures, with the whale watching season running from late May to early October. But Albany as well has some lovely beaches and nature, where you can enjoy hiking tours such as on one of the world’s largest long distance walk trails, the Bibbulmun Track. Half an hour from Albany’s city centre, you’ll find Cosy Corner Beach, a really lovely beach with BBQ facilities as well as a free camping ground. We stayed there one night, had a great barbecue right in the dunes behind the beach and spectacular views on the starry sky at night! Unfortunately we had to continue with our trip, otherwise we would have stayed a little longer!
Coffee and Wifi
Albany’s library offers some cozy seatings on the first floor where you can plug all your electronics and recharge your batteries. The library also offers free wifi, with sessions of up to 500 MB, so make sure to send your friends and family a message, or check what is happening back home. Right on Albany’s main road at one of the first corners you findFrederik’s, a cute café with some tables outside and lovely cakes as well as a selection of macaroons.
Outback adventure: back to Perth
Since we still had a few thousand kilometres and long distances ahead, we decided to end our trip through South-Western Australia in Albany and drove back to Perth through the outback. This took us approximately 5 hours and was a rather boring drive. Alternatively, you can follow the coastline all the way to Esperance, another popular town for surfers with great beaches. And if you make your way back to Perth from there, you come across the famous wave rock, a unique rock formation which looks like a large sand wave! Happy road tripping through South-Western Australia! Our next part will bring you from Perth up to Exmouth!