Make a splash in Western Australia: Top coastal experiences according to the locals

Whether you’re seeking unspoiled landscapes, wild flora, unique fauna or welcoming culture, Western Australia’s diversity promises an adventure soaked in sunshine, surf and fine wine...

4 mins

Whether you’re seeking unspoiled landscapes, wild flora, unique fauna or welcoming culture, Western Australia’s diversity promises an adventure soaked in sunshine, surf and fine wine. With daily direct flights from London to Perth, it’s much closer than you think. Here are three ways to experience Australia’s grandest state…

Perth's beaches and islands

When to go: 

Perth is great all year-round but travel between October and March for warm weather, great snorkelling and festivals.

The highlights: 

Perth is blessed with 19 city beaches as well as islands that capture the spirit of Australian life. It’s easy to see why more than 80% of the population live near the coast.

Penguin Island, a five-minute ferry from Rockingham, is where wild dolphins swim alongside people, tiny penguins waddle, and sea lions look on curiously as you paddle gracefully past their front door. Continue your wildlife search with a bike ride around Rottnest Island in search of smiling quokkas. The shallow, calm water of The Basin and Pinky Beach will likely seduce you in for a swim.

Back on the mainland, skim the surface of the Coogee Maritime Trail, a purpose-made snorkelling spot that includes a shipwreck off of Coogee Beach. Cool down by joining the locals jumping off the jetty. North of the Swan River, Mettam’s Pool lures beginner snorkellers for its calm waters and colourful fish.

For a slower-paced day, indulge your creative side by strolling the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition at Cottesloe Beach where larger-than-life artworks dot the shoreline each March. End the day with a refreshing beverage as the sun and Indian Ocean collaborate in their own version of vivid expression.


Where to stay: 

Discovery Rottnest Island Let the waves lull you to sleep at Discovery Rottnest Island’s eco-tent resort on the edge of Pinky Beach.

QT Perth Bold contemporary decor and design makes this hotel stand out from the rest.

Where to eat: 

Il Lido Italian Canteen Inhale the salt air and the vistas as you devour seasonal selections paired with hand-made pasta at this local favourite.

Bathers Beach House Loved for its prime sunset location, Bathers Beach House has it all: vibe, views and gourmet share plates.

Top tour: 

Escape the city for a day of wine sipping and boat tripping to the Swan Valley with Captain Cook Cruises where you’ll drink in the sights and samples of Western Australia’s original wine region. Docking at Sandalford Estate is a highlight.


Ask a local

My favourite beaches are Scarborough Beach for its white sand and waves, and the lesser-known neighbouring Mettam’s Pool for protected swimming, plus Comet Bay in Mandurah.

Stephanie Lang, director, Seashells Hospitality Group; beachside accommodation across WA

My top spot for a further afield beach is the Yanchep Lagoon. The beach and lagoon are about 45 minutes from the city centre, but it is well worth the drive. The lagoon provides a safe and sheltered swimming spot great for families and snorkelling. After, grab a bite to eat at the Yanchep Inn.

Ryan Mossny, owner, Two Feet walking tours; tours of Perth and Fremantle

Ningaloo Reef

When to go: 

March to October is a perfect time for wildlife, diving and snorkelling.

The highlights:

Deep dive into the wonders of the Ningaloo Coast, 300 km of pristine World Heritage-listed marine park teeming with aquatic mammals, fish, coral reef, and ocean adventures. Ningaloo Reef and its north-end town Exmouth lie about a two-hour flight north of Perth and attract ocean-loving visitors from around the globe. From March to July, you can snorkel with whale sharks, where strong ecotourism measures provide respectful encounters with these gentle giants. Your chances of spotting dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles and humpback whales are also virtually guaranteed.

This region of Western Australia also attracts land-lubbers looking to roam the rugged terrain of Cape Range National Park in search of limestone and red dirt landscapes that bleed into gaping gorges, hidden habitat, carpets of wildflowers and the nation’s beloved icons: kangaroos and emus. Alternatively, a cruise along Yardie Creek’s towering red, green and gold cliffs provides ample opportunity to spot wallabies and cave-cocooning sea eagles with little effort exerted.

On the southern end of Ningaloo is Coral Bay, a town rightly named for its abundance of coral reef, seashells and turquoise waters.


Where to stay:

Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort Offering a range of hotel rooms, bungalows and apartments, this resort in Exmouth is a great gateway to the Ningaloo Reef.
Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef Luxury eco-camping amongst dunes, reef at the doorstep and incredible food, drinks, and activities await.

Where to eat:

Froth Craft Brewery The perfect beer foam moustache, local seafood, and live music is waiting at this stop.
The Beach Shack Expect friendly staff, tasty fish tacos and a lot of fun at this top dining spot.

Top tour: 

Travellers voted Ningaloo Whalesharks as the favourite whale shark swim excursion on the reef for their knowledgeable and friendly crew who are willing to go to the depths of the ocean to make your Western Australia ocean experience unforgettable.

Ask a local

Most people know about the whale sharks, but a lesser-known must-see are the manta rays that can be seen in Coral Bay year-round. They are so graceful to watch!

Aimee Jan, Ningaloo guide and Ocean Photographer of the Year award winner

Margaret River Region

When to go: 

October to April. Whales are spotted June to December, and don’t miss Gourmet Escape in November.

The highlights:

The Margaret River region begins in Busselton where you can walk almost two kilometres out to sea without stepping foot in the water at the Busselton Jetty, the longest timber jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. At the end, visit the Underwater Observatory to spy 300 species of marine life and scuba divers.

For grander sea sights, set sail into the open water where humpback and blue whales splash. Whale spotting is also possible from the Cape to Cape Track, a 125km trail that edges the craggy coastline from Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse to Cape Leeuwin. Guided day tours offer short walks on select sections.

Marine life experiences rule the region and at Hamelin Bay you can wade next to protected stingrays as they glide along the sandy ocean floor. On your way back to Perth, stop at Bunbury’s Dolphin Discovery Centre to learn about the diversity of sea and estuary life. More adventurous travellers may consider an early morning swim with local bottlenose dolphins.

No visit to Margaret River is complete without wine and dine days. Thankfully, Western Australia Gourmet Escape, brings celebrated winemakers and chefs together every November to tempt tastebuds and share inside tips and tales throughout events in Margaret River, Perth and the Swan Valley.


Where to stay: 

Smiths Beach Resort Generous apartments and villas that offer a stay that feels like home. 

Pullman Bunker Bay Discreetly tucked into the countryside only steps away from the azure beach, a luxurious stay awaits.

Where to eat: 

White Elephant Café Locals love this eaterie not only for its ocean atmosphere, but also its coffee and burgers.

Vasse Felix Chardonnay, elegant surrounds, and inspired dishes make Vasse Felix a must.

Top tour:

Follow the footsteps of the traditional land owners of the Margaret River region, the Wadandi and Bibbulman people, and discover 50,000 years of culture with Koolmal Dreaming. You’ll learn how to forage for food, why Ngilgi Cave is sacred, and the art of fire-starting.

Ask a local

Injidup has to take the prize as the best beach. It is pristine and full of wildlife, so you’re likely to see pods of dolphins, big rays and salmon. Depending on when you visit and if the water is very calm, you may even be lucky enough to see whales resting just offshore.

Evan Gill, Vasse Felix; Wine Estate

Snorkelling at the end of the Busselton Jetty from December to April is the best time to see huge schools of fish and incredible colours. Almost two kilometres out to sea in eight metres deep water, you are able to walk out and back again for a unique and unforgettable experience at one of Australia’s best artificial reefs.

Lisa Shreeve, CEO at Busselton Jetty

Turn waiting into planning with Trailfinders

When it comes to creating engaging and enticing travel itineraries, Trailfinders leads the way as the UK’s number one tour operator to Australia. Imagine jetting off on an 18-day holiday to Western Australia, sampling Margaret River wine, meeting quokkas on Rottnest Island, and swimming with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef. Book Trailfinders’ Wine & Whale Sharks: The Best of Western Australia tour from £1,762 pp.

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