We spent 4 days in the South West, and even extended our trip by a day because we loved it so much. I wish we had had more time to spend around this region but we had to head back inland to continue working on the farm for our second year WHV. No matter the destination, we ALWAYS budget travel which includes LOTS of camping. Not gonna lie, we got a sweet hook up for a beach front rental house in Busselton in exchange for some help on a neighbouring farm. I’m still providing budget campsites (I read all the reviews for YOU), but we did not stay in any of them (I feel like I’ve cheated you, forgive me). Here is an adventure guide to South West Australia.
If you’re interested in sea life, stop by the Dolphin Discovery Centre. It’s $10 for a ticket and it’s good for 3 entries on any day. Occasionally dolphins will arrive and hang around the beach near shore. A sighting is not guaranteed though, and on our two visits (on two separate days) only one dolphin briefly swam through the marked area. If you’re super keen for a close up dolphin encounter then Monkey Mia further north is your best bet. Despite the lack of sightings, we really enjoyed the center and engaged with the volunteers who were eager to share their knowledge. There are a few different fish and invertebrates species of the local area in tanks as well which we also found interesting.
The 1.8km Busselton Jetty is the main attraction to see in Busselton and is the longest timber piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. It actually costs $3 to walk along the jetty though, and takes about 25min each way.
There is an Underwater Observatory at the end which we HIGHLY recommend! We thought it was super interesting and unique from any aquarium or observatory we’ve ever seen. The cost of the Observatory is $33 which includes the $3 fee to enter the jetty, as well as a train ride to and from the end of the jetty. We took the train on the way back but chose to walk one way.
The Underwater Observatory focuses on the different zones of the ocean, from the intertidal zone down to the sea bottom at 8m here. We spotted a ton of different species of fish, coral and nudibranchs. Sharks, dolphins, AND EVEN WHALES have been spotted from the observatory. We also saw multiple dolphins from the jetty and nearby beach, they seem to hang around here a lot!
Camp Grace ($18 per couple per night for a tent site) is the cheapest campground near Busselton and is located right on the beach! Facilities include toilets, showers, water, and a camp kitchen. It’s the perfect location to explore the surrounding area.
We were told there was great snorkeling around here. Up for debate. We did see some cool things, but not a lot lives in all this eelgrass. There may be better snorkeling just off the jetty though! We didn’t have enough time to check it out and hit up a snorkel trail by our house (would not recommend, why is it even advertised as a snorkel trail??)
Head north from Dunsborough along the coast through Meelup Regional Park towards Eagle Bay. Lots of great beaches to stop and explore, either above or below the water. We spotted dolphins from a couple too!
Gannet Rock – amazing snorkel spot! This bird poop covered rocks is just one of the many stops along this stretch of coastline. We tried a couple other beaches, and this one was our final stop of the day. I almost didn’t get into the water because I was getting cold. TURNS OUT IT WAS THE BEST SHIT EVER AS SOON AS I PUT MY HEAD BELOW THE SURFACE. Instantly surrounded by fish, saw tons of cool species and even some squid!
We skipped Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, you have to pay $15 for it. Instead head to the other side of the coast towards Sugarloaf Rock.
Sugarloaf Rock – The world’s most southerly nesting point for the red-tailed tropic bird, and their only breeding site outside the tropics.
Couldn’t see any birds, but this rock just beside Sugarloaf sure looks like an eagle.
Yallingup Reef – An awesome reef! There’s great surfing on the reef break, and good snorkeling within the sheltered walls of it. Unfortunately most of my pictures from here are full of bubbles because we didn’t go on the calmest of days as well as during a tide change, but we still saw lots of cool fish.
Canal Rocks – It’s a typical tourist stop, but we thought it was worth it. It’s beautiful around here, and the waves are mesmerizing.
Hike part of the Cape to Cape Track from Canal rocks to ‘The Aquarium’. The entire track is over 123km, and follows along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge. The start and finish are at the lighthouses of Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin. You can do different sections of the track as a day trip like we did.
The Aquarium – This snorkeling spot is a total local secret, we found out from our guide at the Busselton Underwater Observatory. Talking to people pays off! (And also telling everyone you’re a marine biologist).
South of Margaret River is Redgate Beach, the perfect spot to catch a sunset. There’s also a surf school here if you want to get some rentals. We didn’t spend much time around Margaret River. It’s famous for it’s vineyards but you know us, we only got time for outdoor adventures! Also I’m not paying for that. There are also a few caves in the area (Lake Cave, Jewel Cave, Mammoth Cave and Ngilgi Cave) but we decided to skip them since we had just come from Vietnam where we had explored some huge caves. We were a bit caved out and more interested in the exploring coastline.
Wanna see some of the biggest stingrays of your life? GO HERE. On a calm sunny day you can watch the rays glide just below the surface along the shore. Ya so we went in the middle of a f*cking storm cause we determined as shit. Despite the murky water, large waves and unrelenting rain ( we just left the car in our bathing suit it was raining that hard) we managed to get a glimpse of some rays! Cosmo was brave enough to go for a swim with them to get some pictures (bless his heart) and came face to face with a few in the murky water. We thought it was super cool.
Boranup Campground ($8.25 per adult) in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park only contains seven sites. Facilities include toilets and a camp kitchen, and it’s 15min from Hamelin Bay Beach (The cheapest campground closest to Hamelin Bay).
Conto Campground ($11 per adult) is also in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park and has 116 campsites. Facilities include toilets and BBQ. It’s located in between Margaret River and Hamelin Bay (23min from Hamelin Bay Beach).
PEMBERTON – KARRI FOREST
THIS SHIT WAS SO COOL. LIKE WHAT? I CAN’T BELIEVE THEY ALLOW TOURISTS DO THIS. These giant trees with metal pegs in them used to be used as fire fighter lookouts. Now they’re just waiting for psycho tourists like us to climb them. They’re not supervised at all, and free!
We climbed 58m to the top of the Gloucester Tree (in Gloucester National Park, it’s the most popular climbing tree) and 68m up the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree (in Warren National Park, it’s the highest climbing tree). There is also the slightly shorter Diamond Tree at 49m high but we decided two was enough for us. I read a review on Trip Advisor where someone recommended bringing gloves, so naturally I brought my farm gloves and was glad I did. If you’re wondering, yep, there is only one set of stairs for the way up and the way down. We didn’t come across many people at all on these climbs though, so it was easy to take turns. My legs were total jelly after, the adrenaline is real.
There is a one way driving loop in the nearby Warren National Park. Heartbreak Trail has places to stop along the drive and go on short walks within the beautiful lush green forest, like at Maidens Bush and Blackbutt (Yeah you read that right). The Dave Evans Bicentennial climbing tree is also on this drive.
The Karri Forest is beautiful, some of these giants are up to 90m high. It’s a $12 fee per vehicle for a park pass for the National Parks, or you can get a Holiday Pass if your travels are continuing. Click here for a great map and overview of the area from the Parks and Wildlife Service that we used when we were there.
Big Brook Arboretum ($7.50) is a basic campsite 15min from Pemberton. Toilets are available at both campsites but no water.
Grass Tree Hollow Campground ($7.50 per adult) is 30min from Pemberton and has 7 basic campsites within the D’Entrecasteaux National Park. There is a 2.5km walking trail through the forest as well.
I found all of these campsites on the FREE Campermate app. This app was a life saviour to us while we travelled through Australia (and New Zealand). It shows campgrounds (from free to expensive), public showers, water fountains etc.
Unfortunately our trip had to end here and we headed north back towards Perth. If you have the time though, I would definitely continue south! We heard great things about Denmark (Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks) and Albany, or even go as far as the pristine beaches and pink lake of Esperance! If you’re heading north instead past Perth, check out my adventure guide to Kalbarri National Park!