Comprising 24 national parks, the South West is one of just 34 biodiversity hot spots in the world and the only one in Australia. An amazing 80 per cent of the plant species are found nowhere else on earth.
Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus)
The region also boasts a number of endemic animals including the numbat, similar to the African meerkat, the tiny nectar and pollen-feeding honey possum and the critically endangered western swamp turtle and brush-tailed bettong, also know as the Woylie. Of the 280 native bird species that call the South West home, 12 of these are endemic.
Woylie or Brush-tailed Bettong (Bettongia penicillata)
So, what can you expect to find and where?
The Golden Outback and the Wheatbelt
As you travel inland from Perth, Australia’s Golden Outback comes into view by way of expansive panoramas and breathtaking granite rock formations, including the famous Wave Rock of Hyden.
Spanning 100 metres and at a height of 15 metres, if this giant wave-like structure isn’t enough to entice you, the wildlife is sure to impress.
Wave Rock, Hyden
Thanks to the significant conservation efforts by such preservation parks as the Wheatbelt’s Dyandra Woodland, this region is a haven for tammar wallabies, brushtail possums, numbats, kangaroos and tawny frogmouth owls.
From June to early November the Wheatbelt also offers another beautiful natural attraction displaying colourful fields of spectacular wildflowers, from carpets of everlastings to unique wreath flowers.
Tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii)
Wreath Leschenaultia (Lechenaultia macrantha), Perenjori
Heading to the seaside town of Esperance, a whole new world of wonders awaits you. Crystal-clear waters and pristine white-sandy beaches abound in this coastal oasis and with them fantastic marine life surface.
Cruising the 110 islands that make up the Recherche Archipelago, otherwise known as the Bay of Isles, keep your eyes peeled for seals, dolphins, sea lions, geese and sea eagles. During the winter to early spring seasons, you may even spot a pod of whales migrating south to Antarctica for the summer.
Dolphins swimming in Esperance
Cape Le Grand National Park, located a 30-minute drive east of Esperance, is one of the country’s most stunning coastlines. From sheltered turquoise bays to the immense granite rock formation of Mandooboornup (Frenchman Peak), you’ll be astounded by the sheer beauty of this park. Take the Coastal Walk Trail to the exquisite Lucky Bay, known as the whitest beach in Australia. This idyllic spot is made even more famous by its friendly residents; kangaroos that love nothing more than lazing along the shore!
Curious kangaroos hanging out on Lucky Bay in the Cape Le Grand National Park
Before departing this Golden Outback, be sure to stop by and witness the amazing silo art in Ravensthorpe depicting images of the flowering cycle of the banksia. This specific species is only found between Esperance and Albany, growing amidst a landscape full of thousands of vibrant wildflowers.
This incredible artistic feat took 31 days and 338 litres of paint to complete and incorporates illustrations of the region’s best pollinators: the honey possum and New Holland honey eater.
Public Silo trail, Ravensthorpe
From Albany to the Margaret River Region
The Great Southern region is home to some of the world’s rarest species of flora and fauna. Taking in some of Australia’s most diverse landscapes, you’ll discover dramatic coastlines, ancient mountain ranges and the iconic Valley of the Giants. With trees that date back hundreds of years, this forest of giant tingle trees is best appreciated from above. Wandering through the canopies along the Tree Top Walk you get a true appreciation for these majestic structures.
Valley of the Giants, Tree Top Walk, Tingledale
As you can probably guess, this coastal stretch is a great spot for whale watching, from humpbacks to southern right and blue whales. The only experience like it in the world, Albany’s historic Whaling Station allows you to explore a fully restored whale processing factory and chasing ship.
Albany's Historic Whaling Station
Heading inland from Albany you will find the picturesque Porongurup National Park. Its significance is recognised by its National Heritage Listing and as you traverse the 2,621 hectares of natural splendour, you will understand why. Not only comprising over 700 native plant species, tall karri and open jarrah forest and huge granite domes, the park is also home to numerous invertebrates linked to the Gondwanaland, the ancient supercontinent that existed 180 million years ago.
Granite Skywalk at Castle Rock, Porongurop National Park
A definite must-do while in this park; follow the walking trail to the Granite Skywalk suspended on Castle Rock for breathtaking views of this expansive land from a height of 670 meters!
Granite Skywalk at Castle Rock, Porongurop National Park
Touring the stunning southern coast, a stop at the scenic Hamelin Bay is well worth your time if you love to get up close (but not too close!) and personal with the wildlife. Here, graceful stingrays inhabit the shallow waters edge in search of buried crustaceans and molluscs.
Mantaray swimming near Hamelin Bay, near Augusta
The southernmost region is also a delight for the tastebuds with the scrumptious marron being a menu staple, from Albany to Harvey. As the third largest crayfish in the world and the largest in WA expect a feast for your eyes and your stomach!
It’s impossible to think of Western Australia’s South West without daydreaming about the stunning oasis that is Rottnest Island. Conveniently located at just a 25 minute ferry ride from Fremantle and 90 minutes from Perth, you will be relaxing on the crisp white beaches in no time.
'Shark', the shipwreck at Henrietta Rocks, Rottnest Island
For all those nature enthusiasts you’re in for a real treat. Boasting 63 beaches and 20 bays, ‘Rotto’ as the locals call it, is home to a plethora of marine life. For the adventurous, take to the waters for some fascinating snorkelling with several locations on offer.
One such spot is at Henrietta Rocks where you will discover the hopper barge ‘Shark’ wrecked in 1939. Just 50 metres off shore the wreck offers an intriguing look into the historic vessel and the fantastic sea creatures that surround it.
Prepare to be wowed by the wildlife variety here, with 400 species of fish that includes 135 species of tropical fish, and 20 species of coral, calling this Marine Reserve home. The New Cathedral Rocks are a fantastic viewpoint to witness New Zealand Fur Seals lazing and playing along the bay below. Keep on the lookout for bottlenose dolphins feeding and surfing around Salmon Bay.
Aerial view of the Cathedral Rocks, Rottnest Island
While the sea life is truly remarkable, there’s one inquisitive resident that truly is the star of the show on Rottnest Island. You guessed it, the adorable quokka! Known as the ‘happiest animal in the world’ the quokka is endemic to southwestern Australia and is now only found in a few isolated forests and two small islands. Lucky for us, one such island is Rottnest and thanks to the conservation efforts of the Rottnest Island Authority and the Rottnest Foundation we hope to see their furry little faces for many years to come.
Fun fact… the island was actually named after these cuties. A Dutch explorer first spotted these ‘rat-like’ marsupials on the island and so name it Rottnest, as this translates to ‘rat’s nest’.
The local resident quokka's exploring Rottnest Island
Let's face it, we could talk about the wonderful wildlife that inhabits the diverse South West of WA forever, but let’s stop here for now. What fascinating flora and curious creatures will you discover on your adventures? Check out how you can get there on our tour to Western Australia here.
Photo credits: Tourism Western Australia