Western Australia is home to the best of those vacation ingredients and by taking a self drive road tour you can make the most of them. Traveling at your own pace and taking time to savour the blisses along the way. Perth, for example, with its stupendous beaches often complemented by chic bars and informal restaurants.
Fremantle, famed for its picturesque waterfront crowded with sleek white yachts. Then there are the boutique vineyards of Margaret River – many with excellent restaurants to accompany their vintages – and the lovely towns of the Rainbow Coast.
Perth and Fremantle
Flying to the other side of the world usually takes two calendar days, even if you’re travelling to the ‘near side’ of the continent.
Collect your car at the airport and head off to the perfect place to recoup and relax after your long haul flight – the seaside. Fremantle is a charming coastal town and yacht haven, nestling on the point at which the famous Swan River meets the ocean. A quick boat trip takes you into the centre of town, but the beaches surrounding Perth will prove absolutely irresistible.
Cottesloe, for example, offers fine sand and a great collection of trendy bars, restaurants and cafés. On a day trip to Rottnest Island (named by early Dutch settlers who mistook a local species of small kangaroo for a large rodent!) you can hire a cycle and discover deserted beaches with inviting turquoise waters.
Stay: Three nights at The Esplanade, Fremantle.
On one hand the warm, welcoming sea, on the other an ocean of wine created in charming vineyards carpeting rolling countryside. Welcome to the Margaret River area, just three or four hours’ drive from Perth. Despite their closeness to the city, the beaches are never crowded and offer you a choice of Indian Ocean rollers or quiet coves protected by formidable headlands.
And then there are the vineyards – you can tour many of them; quite a few have excellent restaurants with menus designed to complement their wines. A connoisseur’s mecca. Explore the region a little further and you’ll discover great limestone cave systems, remarkable forests of ancient karri trees with grey bark splitting to reveal salmon pink and amber coloured undersides.
Stay: Three nights in an apartment at the Pullman Resort Bunker Bay, behind Naturaliste National Park.
The Rainbow Coast
This is touring as it should be. You swing round the western corner of Australia and head along one of the world’s great (but little known) coastal routes, taking in scenic national parks and deserted beaches along the way. Stop in the Valley of the Giants and you’ll be able to take a treetop walk amongst the canopy of gigantic karri trees.
Quaint little towns like Denmark and Albany will also draw you in with their excellent restaurants, rural shops, galleries and cafés. You’ll be staying in Middleton Bay, a lovely spot with the added advantage of being close to one of Australia’s best links golf courses.
Stay: Two nights in the Beach House at Bayside, set in Middleton Bay.
You can extend your stay by combining this tour with another coastal itinerary. Or you can simply return your car to Perth Airport and catch your return flight home.