How to sell Western Australia
By David Whitley – October 2019 – 5 minute read
Australia's westernmost state can be both a brag-worthy trip for down under beginners or an off-the-beaten track option for repeat visitors
Why sell it?
Western Australia, or WA, provides a series of genuine one-off experiences. The size of Australia’s largest state can be daunting to many, which means there is demand for expertise in sorting a workable itinerary that fits in everything from wine-tasting tours to animal encounters. Removing the planning headaches and packaging up car hire, accommodation, experiences and internal flights is where knowledgeable agents have a big advantage.
Who to sell to
WA has traditionally been the part of the country sold to second- or third time visitors wanting something different. However, The direct Qantas flights from Heathrow to Perth have put WA into genuine two-week holiday territory, with Perth providing the big city energy and the south-western corner the wines, beaches and wildlife.
Those wanting epic outback scenery and the road trip of a lifetime can head north, where national parks such as Kalbarri and Karijini are magnificently rugged and offer extraordinary experiences like swimming with whale sharks – the world’s largest fish – on Ningaloo Reef.
What to sell
Perth was once 'sleepy', but all that's changed radically in recent years. The city centre and neighbouring Northbridge are laced with cool, restaurant and bar-packed laneways; Kings Park offers magnificent bushwalking overlooking the Swan River; and the port city Fremantle is all top-grade coffee, craft beer and colonial heritage buildings. Tours of the Old Fremantle Prison are fascinatingly evocative.
Rottnest Island, a short ferry ride away, offers white-sand Indian Ocean beaches and adorably photogenic quokkas.
The Margaret River region south of Perth is known for its premium wines and surf beaches, but in the last few years the offering has vastly expanded. Craft breweries have sprung up, nature-focused tours hone in on wildlife, river canoeing and the region’s caves, while the multi-day Cape To Cape Track is tailored to walkers.
Elsewhere in the south-west, there’s a combination of great walking, sparkling wild beaches and forest activities, while Albany has a strong whaling industry and World War II heritage attractions.
Key spots north from Perth include Shark Bay. Here, stromatolites – the oldest living things on earth – stretch into the water at Hamelin Pools and wild dolphins can be hand-fed from the beach at Monkey Mia.
It’s all small outback settlements, vast cattle stations, gorge-strewn national parks and mining towns until you get to tropical Broome, a resort town in the red dirt with a host of quirks. These include Cable Beach, which stretches for miles and is famous for sunset camel rides; several spots linked to the pearling industry; and hovercraft tours over the tidal flats to search for ancient dinosaur footprints.
From Broome, day tours to Cape Leveque’s pearl farms and shell-covered outback churches give a taste of the vast north-western Kimberley region. But the full experience is best tacked on a multi-day road trip to Darwin, or expedition cruise along the coast. Star attractions include the Horizontal Falls, where vast tides create a waterfall effect through sandstone outcrops, and the strangely-striped Bungle Bungle rock formations.
When to sell it
Perth and the south-west make for a perfect winter sun destination, with hot, largely dry summers between December and March.
Perth is at its liveliest between mid-January and mid-February when the Fringe World Festival takes over hundreds of venues, although prices go up in January as locals head to the beach in school holidays.
The spring – September to November – is arguably prettier, as the south-west is carpeted in wildflowers.
The far north of WA – Broome and the Kimberley – is tropical, and operates on wet/dry seasons. Much of it can be impassable during the wet (November to April), so aim for the dry season. The outback between Perth and Broome can be uncomfortably hot in the summer. Whale shark season at Ningaloo is March to August.
How to sell it
Although WA can be sold as a touring adventure, it works better as a self-drive odyssey. Operators do sell multi-day epic trips that hug the coast from the Perth to the Kimberley, while cruises and 4WD small group tours are arguably the best way to see the Kimberley.
For shorter trips – and less adventurous clients – Perth, the south-west and maybe Ningaloo Reef can be combined. This can be sold as a city break with side trips or an Australian sampler, combining several aspects – urban, beach, nature, food and wine – of what makes Australia great.
Perth and the south-west is a logical, easy-going touring loop, ideal for a self-drive.
The direct Qantas flights started in 2018, but more recently there has been a drive to package in domestic flights elsewhere in Western Australia – particularly Broome and Exmouth for Ningaloo Reef – for relatively measly additional amounts on top.
Perth’s regeneration has continued at a fast rate, with the new Elizabeth Quay development on the river designed to act as a focal hub. There’s also been a hotel room boom, bringing rates down in a city where stays were once scarce and the most expensive in Australia.
The big-money redevelopment of Scarborough Beach means the city can legitimately sell itself as a beach destination.
The biggest boom is on Rottnest Island, where new cruises and sailing tours, plus underwater scooter and diving helmet walk experiences have been added to the mix, while the new Discovery holiday park has provided much-needed on-island posh camping accommodation.
The Swan Valley – just 20 minutes from Perth airport – is also getting heavy attention. WA's oldest wine region has new hop-on, hop-off buses to help those sampling the various wineries, cheesemakers, distilleries and chocolate makers of this underrated gourmet area.
Further north, whale shark operators are also offering swimming with humpback whales between June and November.
Where to book it
Austravel has a 22-day Wine and Wilderness Discovery itinerary combines Perth and the Margaret River with the Kimberley before heading up to Darwin. Highlights include Broome, El Questro, the remote Gibb River Road and Katherine Gorge.