The best thing about this period of isolation has been the space it’s given us to reflect on what’s truly important, and what we most want to do.
When restrictions lift, hit that trip you’ve always dreamed about. What’s the point in delaying? The time to live is now.
- Important: Australia’s post-coronavirus travel regulations vary by state. See up-to-date details here
1. Sleep on Ningaloo reef
What’s the one thing better than falling asleep to the sounds of the ocean? Dozing off while on the water – and not just any water, the crystal-clear, turquoise expanse of Ningaloo reef, part of the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Coast.
The region is famous for its giant but gentle whale sharks that you can swim with, and while most tour boats departing Exmouth operate only by day, one of them transforms into a floating hotel by night. A night with Ningaloo Discovery means drinking in the sunset while sailing with bubbles in hand, stargazing from the catamaran’s trampoline net and having the best night’s sleep ever, as the boat bobs on the placid sea.
From $398 per person, not including whale shark swim.
One of Perth’s newest – before COVID-19 shut everything down – and flashiest restaurants is Hearth at the Ritz-Carlton. As you’d expect at Australia’s only Ritz, standards are as high as its 28 floors, and the food pushes hotel dining into another realm.
Hearth is on the ground level, from where the chef leverages WA’s considerable backyard, layering slivered Kimberley boab tuber atop Abrolhos Islands scallops that are citrus-spiked with Geraldton wax, or teaming Great Southern roast duck with jarrah honey and spiced quandong.
Contrary to what you might expect, the swish venue is welcoming and approachable, the service light-hearted. Once sated, retire upstairs to the pool and river-facing Songbird lounge bar; in winter, they spark up alfresco fire pits. Three course menu, $95.
3. Marvel at tall trees and truffles
WA’s intrastate travel restrictions have lifted just in time for the annual truffle season, which runs until August.
Manjimup in the Southern Forests region, a few hours’ drive south east of Perth, is Australia’s truffle epicentre. The area produces 93 per cent of Australian truffle exports and rivals France’s national output.
It’s also speared with some of the world’s tallest trees and driving through the area’s looming karri forests is as jaw-dropping as it gets. Roll along the Karri Forest Explorer drive, hike to the Walk-Through-Tree in Beedelup National Park and find the courage to climb the 58-metre tall Gloucester Tree (it’s seriously scary).
All this while tucking into one of the most expensive food items on the planet. Order the truffle and marron risotto at Manjimup’s Kingsley Hotel, the truffle-layered beef burger at nearby Tall Timbers restaurant, and the truffle cider and dark ale at The Cidery in Bridgetown.
4. Camp, surf, hike, repeat
Five star isn’t the only way to have fun. Some of Margaret River’s most coveted accommodation destinations are bush campsites in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
The lauded wine region’s natural charms are easily as alluring as its stellar drops and polished restaurants. At Conto Campground in Boranup Forest, reef break waves beckon from the nearby beach, while the Cape to Cape Track meanders from the campground through towering, pale-trunked trees. If you follow the track back to the coast, you’ll likely spot whales breaching along the horizon from June to December.
For those who prefer the support of a front desk and electricity, go for Prevelly Caravan Park and Gracetown Caravan Park, or try something different at Fair Harvest Permaculture Campground, an eco-friendly, garden-steeped site.
Conto camping costs $15/adult, $9/concession and $3/child (over five and under 16 years) per night.
5. Kayak over dugongs and turtles
Paprika-stained earth, bone-hued sand and highlighter-blue ocean merge seamlessly into one another in Shark Bay, WA’s often-overlooked World Heritage Area.
A kayak day trip with Darren “Capes” Capewell of Wula Gura Nyinda tours reveals the most striking of Mother Earth’s tie-dye creations. As your paddle cuts through the water, Capes weaves in 30,000 years of stories passed down by his Yamatji-Malgana ancestors.
Coast over the seagrass meadows that draw some 10,000 dugongs to this remote spot, and spot turtles darting beneath – all this only a two hour flight (or nine hour drive) north of Perth.
Kayak day trip costs $205/adult, $180/child (four-16 years).
6. Affordably cruise the Kimberley coast
A boutique cruise of WA’s beguiling Kimberley coast doesn’t have to set you back $20,000 and 13 nights. Opt instead for a relatively new three-night snapshot journey, which manages to fit in most of the highlights – Horizontal Falls, tick, Buccaneer Archipelago, tick and Montgomery Reef, tick – while somehow stretching time so the trip feels deliciously longer than it is.
There’s also croc spotting, gorge swimming, geology gazing, fine dining and lots of fishing. Look to Kimberley Quest and The Great Escape to book a bite-sized getaway that’ll quench your long-time lusting of WA’s mind-blowing Kimberley wilderness.
Short cruise from $3900 per person.