Mount Nameless - Tom Price

Top 5 Things about Western Australia

We had many discussions before deciding what our top 5 things about Western Australia would be. The fact of the matter is, it was really hard to pick just five things. Western Australia is huge and has so many fantastic aspects to it; there was a lot to think about.

 

A Geraldton sunset...

 

The history of WA is pretty interesting. Unlike most of the other states, the Swan colony started off as a free colony instead of a penal colony where convicts were sent. The capital was supposed to be Albany but ended up being Perth because of the fertile soils of the Swan River. We loved how big the state was – WA is the biggest state in Australia and if it was its own country, it would be the 10th largest in the world! It is ten times bigger than the UK and is bigger than Texas, California, Montana, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada all put together!

 

The sunsets were undoubtedly spectacular, and any beach along the west coast is an ideal viewing spot. There were lots of places along the way that we fell in love with – tropical Broome, funky Fremantle, the kooky Principality of Hutt River, the magical Stonehenge in Esperance, the massive meals at the Denmark Tavern and the burgers Alfred’s Kitchen. One thing we noticed when we stayed with friends in build up areas was that nearly everyone keeps egg laying chickens in their backyard. We don’t know whether it’s because eggs are expensive or whether they’re doing their bit against factory farming but we loved it!

 

 

So, without much ado, and in no particular order, here is our Top 5 for Western Australia:

 

National Parks

You can’t dispute that WA has some amazing national parks. Karijini National Park is probably the most well-known park with its beautiful gorges, waterfalls and swimming holes. We were really sad that we had to leave Karijini early due to heavy rains.

 

One of our favourites was Cape Le Grand National Park. We were originally going to skip it but a local insisted that we go. We are so thankful because it is one of the most beautiful places in Australia. We also loved the red soil and dynamic coastline of François Péron National Park.

 

Other national parks that are definitely worth a mention are Kalbarri National Park with Nature’s Window, Purnululu National Park and the Bungle Bungles, and Mitchell River National Park in the Kimberley.

 

 

Shark Bay

Shark Bay was added to the World Heritage list in 1991 because it displays biological diversity, ecological processes, geological history and natural beauty. We spent about a week in Shark Bay and were blown away by the scenery and wildlife.

 

On your way in, stop at Shell Beach and marvel at the turquoise waters lapping at the blinding white shores made completely out of little cockle shells. If you have a 4WD, head to Steep Point and stand on the westernmost point of Australia. Camping at Whalebone Bay was $10 for the night and is a magnificent place to watch the sunset before you head into Denham for a beer at the westernmost pub in Australia. Make sure you visit Ocean Park and learn about the surrounding marine wildlife from a safe but super-close distance.

 

 

Beaches

Western Australia has over 12,000km of coastline and most of it is made up of picturesque beaches. Hellfire Bay at Cape Le Grand National Park was by far the most beautiful, while Shell Beach in Shark Bay was also spectacular.

 

Cable Beach in Broome was great because not only were we allowed to take our clothes off in the nudist section, but we got to watch the camel rides during sunset. Greens Pool near Denmark and Coral Bay both had an abundance of colourful fish right near the shore and were great for snorkelling.

 

 

Fremantle Prison

We did all the tours at Fremantle Prison. For some reason, we were absolutely fascinated with the place – the history of how and why it was built, the stories of stupidity and escape – and we wanted to see every part of this remarkable prison.

 

 

Breweries

Western Australia has some fantastic breweries. Little Creatures in Fremantle is absolutely fantastic and offers the works – interesting tours, delicious food and awesome beer!

 

In Kalgoorlie-Boulder, we were lucky to find Beaten Track Brewery, and learnt a lot about the beer making process and what hops looks like. Cheeky Monkey in Margaret River and Duckstein in the Swan Valley were also great breweries to visit, for both the beer and the atmosphere. Matso’s Brewery in Broome really blew our socks off with their chilli beer and their Smokey Bishop dark lager. We enjoyed it so much, we went there twice in four days!

 

 

Feral Brewery

Experience : Swan Valley Breweries

There are a total of five microbreweries in the Swan Valley and as much as we wanted to go to all of them, we simply didn’t have the stamina and only managed three.  Regardless, the breweries we visited were fantastic and each had their own characteristics that made them special in their own right.

 

Feral Brewing Company

This family owned and operated microbrewery is currently the Champion Large Australian Brewery, as awarded by the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards.  The venue has a great atmosphere with a massive beer garden shaded by gum trees and the staff are super friendly.

 

 

We took our tasting paddle outside and leisurely sipped Feral’s awesome range of beer before heading inside to sample a few more unique brews. We’d like to extend a big thanks to Trevor behind the bar for his hospitality, conversation and beer expertise.

 

  • Golden Ace – 5.6% a Belgian golden ale that was sweet and fruity with bitter hops and gentle yeasty flavours.
  • Feral White – 4.6% sweet, smooth and creamy with lots of banana and a clean finish.
  • Runt – 4.7% a lager-esque beer; crisp and refreshing with yeasty flavours without being too hoppy.
  • Smoked Porter – 4.7% an acquired taste!  A dark brew that tasted like smoked ham, cigars and burning.
  • Razorback – 10% a barley wine beer with a deep red colour and plenty of fruity, floral flavours with a hoppy finish.
  • Watermelon Warhead – 2.9% a sour wheat beer infused with watermelons that give it a great refreshing fruitiness.

 

Lunchtime

After all that tasting at Feral Brewery and a few wineries beforehand, we stopped for some lunch.

 

 

Duckstein Brewery

Imagine our surprise when we walked into this vibrant and friendly German-style brewery to find one of our Melbourne buddies in a chef uniform behind the counter!  After a quick catch up, we ordered two tasting plates and headed into the huge beer garden to get amongst the festive atmosphere.

 

 

There was a three piece band called the Canarino Trio walking around playing traditional German music on a guitar, squeezebox and a kooky-looking hurdy gurdy.  After they did the rounds, they got up on stage and did an awesome rendition of Smoke on the Water much to everyone’s delight.

 

  • Hefeweiss – 5.2% smooth and sweet with lots of banana and bubblegum, it had a great bready finish.
  • Pilsner – 5% a clean, crisp beer with hops and powerful malt with floral and fruity tones.
  • Dunkel – 5% Nutty, chocolate tones and not too hoppy with sweet malt finish.  Our favourite!
  • Altbier – 3.7% a crisp golden coloured beer with a creamy head and lots of malt and hops.

 

With Chef Dan at Duckstein Brewery

 

Mash Brewery

This brewery has a fantastic atmosphere – the industrial décor and brewery operations behind the bar worked well with the red feature panels and casual dining set up.  With a great menu, kids’ corner with video games and the perfect climbing tree, it’s a place that you could hang out all day.

 

  • Freo Doctor Lager – crisp and yeasty with a little bit of fruit flavours and minimal hops.  Perfectly refreshing and very easy to drink.
  • Pale Ale – rich, full bodied and hoppy with malty sweetness.
  • Wheat – a smooth beer with no hoppy bitterness and lots of banana.
  • Cider – a smooth, well balanced drink with no acidicty or biting tartness.

 

We also ordered a bowl of chips and it proved to be the perfect filler – hot, crunchy chips served with some flavoursome garlic aioli.

 

 

Wild Swan Distillery

This relatively new distillery in the Swan Valley started in 2002 and produces high quality whiskey, gin and vodka.  The gin was the first thing we sampled.  It was full of beautiful citrus tones and was surprisingly smooth.

 

They also had four varieties of vodka – pure, lemon, chilli and vanilla.  None of them have any distinctive smell so it was all in the tasting.  The vanilla vodka had a sweet bloom of creamy vanilla while the chilli vodka had both the flavour and the burn.