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Ultimate Backpacker Itinerary: West Coast Of Australia

Written by Alice McLeod on 07 / 02 / 2024

Gap Year Advice

Embarking on a backpacking journey along the west coast of Australia on your gap year promises an unforgettable adventure filled with diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and rich cultural experiences. From the bustling streets of Perth to the remote wilderness of the Kimberley region, this ultimate backpacking guide to Western Australia will take you through the must-see attractions and activities for an immersive backpacking experience.

Perth

After touching down in the vibrant capital of Western Australia, kickstart your backpacking adventure by delving into the heart of the city. Begin your day with breakfast at one of Perth's trendy cafes, where you can savor freshly brewed coffee and indulge in a hearty meal to fuel your exploration. From there, take to the streets of the central business district, where modern skyscrapers stand in harmony with historic buildings adorned with colorful street art.

A visit to Kings Park and Botanic Garden is a must for any backpacker in Perth. Perched on the edge of the city, this sprawling parkland offers panoramic views of the skyline and the tranquil waters of the Swan River. Lose yourself in the lush greenery as you wander along bushland trails, or admire the diverse flora in the botanical gardens. As the day draws to a close, make your way to Elizabeth Quay, where you can dine al fresco at one of the waterfront restaurants while watching the sun dip below the horizon, casting a golden glow over the cityscape.

Immerse yourself in the rich cultural tapestry of Perth with a day dedicated to exploring its museums, galleries, and historic sites. Begin your cultural journey with a visit to the Art Gallery of Western Australia or the Western Australian Museum, where you can admire a diverse collection of art and artifacts that showcase the state's heritage and creativity. Venture further afield to the historic port city of Fremantle, home to charming colonial architecture, bustling markets, and a vibrant arts scene. Wander through the Fremantle Markets, where you can browse stalls selling handmade crafts, gourmet treats, and fresh produce, before delving into the city's maritime history with a tour of Fremantle Prison, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the day comes to an end, return to Perth and explore the lively neighborhood of Northbridge, where you can sample cuisine from around the world at its eclectic array of restaurants and soak up the atmosphere at its trendy backpacker bars and live music venues.

Rottnest Island Adventure

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day of island exploration on Rottnest Island. A short ferry ride from Perth, this idyllic paradise boasts pristine beaches, rugged coastline, and unique wildlife. Rent a bike upon arrival and pedal your way around the car-free island, stopping to marvel at stunning vistas and encounter the famous quokkas, the island's friendly marsupials. Dive into the crystal-clear waters to snorkel among vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life, or simply relax on the sandy shores and soak up the sunshine. As the day draws to a close, board the ferry back to Perth.

Outdoor Escapades

Venture into the great outdoors and discover the natural wonders that lie on Perth's doorstep. Embark on a day trip to the Perth Hills, where you can hike through ancient forests, cool off beneath cascading waterfalls, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Alternatively, pay a visit to the Perth Zoo, where you can get up close and personal with native Australian wildlife and exotic animals from around the globe. After a day of outdoor adventures, unwind on the golden sands of Cottesloe Beach, where you can bask in the sunshine, swim in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, or try your hand at surfing or stand-up paddleboarding. As the sun sets over the horizon, toast to another day of exploration with a refreshing drink at one of the beachside bars, before indulging in a seafood feast at a local restaurant, as you gaze out at the mesmerizing coastal views.

Margaret River Region

Arrive in Margaret River, a haven for wine enthusiasts and nature loving backpackers alike. Start your journey with a scenic drive through the rolling vineyards that blanket the landscape, stopping at one of the many acclaimed wineries to sample the region's world-renowned wines. Whether you prefer a bold cabernet sauvignon or a crisp chardonnay, you'll find something to tantalize your taste buds. After a wine tasting experience, check into your accommodation and unwind amidst the tranquility of the countryside. As the sun sets, enjoy a leisurely dinner at a local restaurant, where you can savor farm-to-table cuisine paired with fine wines from the region.

Coastal Exploration

Wake up to the sound of waves crashing against the shore as you embark on a day of coastal exploration along the stunning coastline of the Margaret River region. Begin your day with a visit to Surfer's Point, where you can watch the surfers carve through the waves or catch a glimpse of migrating whales during the winter months. From there, head to Prevelly Beach, a pristine stretch of sand that offers excellent swimming and surfing opportunities.

Continue your coastal adventure with a visit to the iconic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, where you can marvel at panoramic views of the Indian and Southern Oceans merging into a mesmerizing spectacle of blue. Take a guided tour of the lighthouse and learn about its rich maritime history before returning to Margaret River for dinner at a waterfront restaurant.

Nature and Adventure

Rise early and start your day with a hike through the ancient karri forests of Boranup Forest, where towering trees create a majestic canopy overhead. Follow winding trails that lead to secluded spots, where you can enjoy a picnic amidst the tranquil surroundings. Afterwards, cool off with a refreshing swim in the natural rock pools of Meelup Beach or take to the treetops with a zipline adventure through the forest canopy. As the day comes to an end, return to Margaret River and treat yourself to a gourmet dinner at one of the region's acclaimed restaurants, where you can indulge in locally sourced ingredients paired with wine from nearby vineyards.

Artisanal Delights

Spend your day immersing yourself in the artisanal delights of the Margaret River region, where you can sample gourmet treats, browse local arts and crafts, and discover the creativity of the local community. Begin your day with a visit to one of the region's bustling farmers' markets, where you can pick up fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and homemade preserves to enjoy during your stay. From there, explore the charming town of Margaret River, home to a vibrant arts scene and a wealth of boutique shops showcasing handmade jewelry, pottery, and textiles. Be sure to stop by the Margaret River Chocolate Company or the Margaret River Cheese Company to indulge in some sweet and savory delights. In the afternoon, embark on a guided tour of one of the region's craft breweries or distilleries, where you can learn about the brewing process and sample a variety of locally crafted beers, spirits, and ciders.

Before departing, take a scenic drive through the countryside, stopping at one of the many lookout points to admire the sweeping vistas of vineyards, forests, and coastline that stretch out before you.

Ningaloo Reef

Arrive in Exmouth, the gateway to backpacking in Ningaloo Reef, a pristine marine wilderness teeming with vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. Check into your accommodation and take some time to settle in and relax after your journey. In the afternoon, head to the Exmouth Visitor Centre to learn more about the area and pick up any maps or permits you may need for your adventures. Take a stroll along the Exmouth Marina and watch as fishing boats return with their daily catch, or simply soak up the stunning views of the Indian Ocean stretching out before you.

Snorkeling and Marine Adventures

Wake up early and prepare for a day of underwater exploration as you venture out to discover Ningaloo Reef. Embark on a snorkeling tour of the reef, where you can swim alongside colorful coral gardens and encounter an array of marine life, including tropical fish, turtles, and rays. Keep an eye out for the majestic whale sharks that frequent the area between March and July, as well as humpback whales and manta rays during their annual migrations.

After a morning of snorkeling, enjoy a picnic lunch on board the boat or on one of the sandy beaches that fringe the reef. Spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach, swimming in the clear turquoise waters, or simply soaking up the sun on the pristine white sand.

Land Adventures and Wildlife Encounters

Start your day with a visit to Cape Range National Park, a rugged wilderness that borders Ningaloo Reef and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. Embark on a guided bushwalk through the park, where you can discover hidden gorges, ancient rock formations, and breathtaking viewpoints overlooking the ocean. Keep an eye out for native wildlife such as kangaroos, emus, and echidnas that inhabit the park's vast landscapes.

In the afternoon, cool off with a refreshing swim in one of the park's natural rock pools or snorkel in the crystal-clear waters of Turquoise Bay, where you can drift effortlessly over colorful coral reefs and encounter a variety of marine life.

Cultural Experiences and Relaxation

Take a break from outdoor adventures and spend the day exploring the cultural attractions and hidden gems of Exmouth. Start your day with a visit to the Ningaloo Centre, where you can learn about the history and ecology of Ningaloo Reef through interactive exhibits, displays, and educational programmes. Discover the fascinating stories of the traditional owners of the land, the local Indigenous people, and gain a deeper understanding of their connection to the reef and the surrounding landscape.

Karijini National Park

Arrive in Karijini National Park, a pristine wilderness located in the rugged Pilbara region of Western Australia. Check into your accommodation, whether it's a campground, eco-lodge, or nearby town, and take some time to settle in and prepare for your adventure ahead.

In the afternoon, embark on a scenic drive through the park, marveling at the ancient landscapes and dramatic gorges that characterize this unique wilderness. Stop at one of the park's lookout points to take in panoramic views of the rugged terrain and vast expanses of red earth.

As the sun begins to set, enjoy a tranquil evening amidst the natural beauty of the park, perhaps with a barbecue dinner under the stars or a campfire gathering with fellow travelers.

Gorge Exploration

Wake up early and prepare for a day of exploration as you venture into the heart of Karijini National Park to discover its spectacular gorges, waterfalls, and natural rock pools.

Begin your day with a hike through one of the park's iconic gorges, such as Hancock Gorge, Weano Gorge, or Dales Gorge, where you can navigate narrow pathways, scramble over boulders, and descend into deep chasms carved by millennia of flowing water. Marvel at the sheer cliffs, towering waterfalls, and emerald-green pools that await around every corner.

Take your time to explore each gorge at your own pace, stopping to swim in the cool waters of the natural rock pools or simply soak up the serenity of the surrounding landscapes.

Combine with Asia for a full cultural hit

Combine your time in Australia with a trip to South East Asia to experience a cultural contrast, and to add a phase of volunteering onto your gap year

Check out our Vietnam trip here

Wildlife Encounters and Nature Walks

Rise early and head out into the wilderness to discover the diverse flora and fauna that call Karijini National Park home. Embark on a guided nature walk or wildlife tour led by a knowledgeable local guide, who can help you spot native animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, and a variety of bird species that inhabit the park. Explore the park's diverse ecosystems, from open woodlands and spinifex plains to lush riverbanks and rocky escarpments, and learn about the unique adaptations of the plants and animals that thrive in this harsh environment.

Cultural Heritage and Aboriginal Experiences

Take a break from outdoor adventures and spend the day learning about the rich cultural heritage of the traditional owners of the land, the local Aboriginal people. Take a guided cultural tour led by an Aboriginal guide, who can share stories and insights into the history, traditions, and Dreamtime legends of the Indigenous people who have lived in the Pilbara region for thousands of years. Visit ancient rock art sites, where you can view intricate paintings and engravings that provide a glimpse into the spiritual beliefs and cultural practices of the Aboriginal people.

In the afternoon, participate in a cultural workshop or hands-on activity, such as traditional bush tucker tasting, spear throwing, or boomerang throwing, where you can learn traditional skills and gain a deeper understanding of Aboriginal culture. As evening falls, gather around the campfire for a cultural storytelling session, where you can listen to Dreamtime stories and songs passed down through generations, while enjoying the warmth of the fire and the company of new friends.

Broome and Kimberley

Arrive in Broome, a coastal town steeped in history and surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Kimberley region. Check into your accommodation, whether it's a beachfront resort, boutique hotel, or cozy guesthouse, and take some time to settle in and unwind after your journey.

In the afternoon, head to Cable Beach, where you can stroll along the iconic 22-kilometer stretch of white sand and turquoise waters. Marvel at the spectacular sunset over the Indian Ocean as you relax on the beach or take a camel ride along the shoreline.

Cultural Heritage and Pearl Farming

Start your day with a visit to the Broome Historical Museum, where you can learn about the town's fascinating history as a pearling center and multicultural melting pot. Explore exhibits showcasing artifacts, photographs, and stories that trace Broome's evolution from its early days as a pearling outpost to its present-day identity as a vibrant coastal community.

Afterwards, embark on a guided tour of a pearl farm, where you can learn about the intricacies of pearl farming and the cultural significance of pearls in Broome's history. Discover the fascinating process of pearl cultivation, from seeding oysters to harvesting pearls, and browse a stunning collection of pearls and pearl jewelry at the farm's showroom.

In the afternoon, explore the town of Broome at your own pace, browsing boutiques and galleries showcasing local art and handicrafts, or relaxing at one of the town's cafes or bars.

Natural Wonders of the Kimberley

Venture beyond Broome to explore the rugged landscapes and natural wonders of the Kimberley region. Go on a day trip to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek National Parks, where you can discover ancient gorges, towering cliffs, and underground caves carved by millions of years of geological processes. Explore Windjana Gorge, home to towering limestone walls and a tranquil waterway that provides a haven for freshwater crocodiles and birdlife. Take a leisurely walk along the gorge's sandy banks, keeping an eye out for wildlife and enjoying the breathtaking scenery.

Next, venture into the depths of Tunnel Creek, a natural limestone cave system that stretches for over 750 meters beneath the earth's surface. Wade through cool, ankle-deep waters as you explore the cave's narrow passages, ancient rock formations, and hidden chambers, illuminated by the soft glow of your flashlight.

Beaches and Aboriginal Culture

Start your day with a visit to Gantheaume Point, where you can marvel at ancient dinosaur footprints embedded in the rocky shoreline and take in panoramic views of the Indian Ocean from the rugged cliffs above. From there, head to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm for a guided tour that offers insights into the traditional practices of the local Aboriginal people and their deep connection to the land and sea. Learn about the cultural significance of pearls and their role in Aboriginal storytelling and art, and browse a selection of pearl jewelry handcrafted by local Indigenous artisans.

In the afternoon, relax on Cable Beach and soak up the sunshine on its pristine sands. Take a refreshing dip in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean or simply unwind with a book as you listen to the gentle sound of the waves.

Farewell to the West Coast

The west coast of Australia offers an interesting and alternative option to the more popular east coast. From the vibrant city life of Perth to the remote wilderness of the Kimberley, every stop along the way offers unique experiences and unforgettable memories. You can then head further afield, perhaps onto New Zealand, or even South East Asia for a cultural contrast to your backpacking. So pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and embark on an epic journey along the stunning west coast of Australia.

FAQs:

Do I need a visa to backpack and travel in Australia? Yes, you do need a visa to travel in Australia. If you're travelling on a British passport then you can get a tourist visa, or you can applying for a working holiday visa if you're planning to supplement your income whilst out there.

How long should I plan to backpack in Australia? We would recommend about a month, although you could definitely end up staying much longer!

Is Australia an expensive country to backpack around? There's no denying that Australia is an expensive country to travel in. However there's the chance to work whilst out there on a working holiday visa, which means you could earn money whilst you're out there. There are plenty of ways you can save your pennies whilst you're there, for example staying in hostels and cooking all your own food.

Combine with Asia for a full cultural hit

Combine your time in Australia with a trip to South East Asia to experience a cultural contrast, and to add a phase of volunteering onto your gap year

Check out our Vietnam trip here

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