Events like Gourmet Escape make WA a foodie heaven for tourists

Margaret River’s Gourmet Escape beach barbecue. Photo: Tourism WA

VICTORIA has been put on notice – WA is fast becoming Australia’s go-to foodie destination.

Experts say our fine state, once the home of food blunders and limited choice, is now a hot favourite among interstate and international travellers for new and unique culinary tourism experiences.

With new eateries serving tantalising dishes made from fresh local produce in often whimsical settings, WA is quickly rising to the top.

Just ask the cohort of global food stars, including Heston Blumenthal, Rick Stein, Rene Redzepi and Massimo Bottura, who arrive this week for the Margaret River Gourmet Escape.

In fact, our food is becoming so popular and providing millions in tourism dollars that Tourism WA chief executive Stephanie Buckland said food is the future for WA tourism.

“Tourism WA is close to launching a food and wine tourism strategy which outlines ways to build on WA’s culinary credentials,” she said.

“The purpose of the strategy is to enhance the positioning of Western Australia as an extraordinary destination to experience gourmet produce, fresh seafood, premium wines and boutique beverages such as craft beers, cider and spirits.”

Last year, 1.1 million Australian visitors to WA actively sought out food and wine experiences, or determined where they were going to stay based on the culinary experiences available.

Ms Buckland said visitors are attracted to local and authentic produce in beautiful surroundings.

“The research shows culinary events are also popular,” she said.

The Manjimup Cherry Harmony Festival is another draw for foodies. Photo: Tourism WASource:Supplied

“One of the most successful examples is the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. In just its third year, it is firmly established as one of the Asia Pacific’s leading culinary events.”

US-based French chef Eric Ripert, who has spent the past week in WA, said the quality of WA food and wine was “amazing”.

The co-owner of New York restaurant Le Bernardin, which ranks 18th on the S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, said chefs in the US were “definitely” trying to connect with people in WA to get their produce on the menu.

“Currently we don’t use WA produce (in my restaurant) but I intend to after this trip,” he said.

On Tuesday, Josh Whiteland, of Koomal Dreaming, took the high-profile chef on an Aboriginal native food forage.

“I tasted kangaroo for the first time in my life,” Ripert said. “And I love it.”

In 2013, more than 16,000 people attended the Margaret River Gourmet Escape and generated $10.5 million in direct visitor expenditure in the Augusta-Margaret River region.

Last year, a total of $8.3 billion was generated in visitor spending in WA, supporting 91,000 jobs for West Australians.

WA’s food retail industry averaged a $960 million turnover a month during the 2012 financial year, which equates to an annual turnover of more than $11 billion.

Parks For People: Send us your best WA National Parks photo

Parks for People winner: Aimee Middis encounters wild crocs at Windjana Gorge National Park in the Kimberley.

NOW this is a great snap. This week’s Parks for People photo competition winner is Aimee Middis, who sent in a picture taken by her boyfriend of her getting up close with the wildlife at Windjana Gorge National Park in the Kimberley.

“My boyfriend Cass knows all about crocs and he spotted them and told me they were Johnstone River crocodiles, which are pretty harmless,” Ms Middis said.

Parks for People runner up: Rod Bennett’s photo of Trish at Mitchell Falls in the Mitchell River National Park.Source:Supplied

“He insisted I get up close and personal for a photo. I was nervous, but he said it was fine and I trust him.’’

Ms Middis, from Darlington, has won a three-night trip to the Purnululu World Heritage site, including a scenic flight over the Bungle Bungles.

This week’s runner-up is Rod Bennett, who sent in a great shot from Mitchell River National Park. He has won a two-night bush retreat package at Bramley National Park.

● The Department of Parks and Wildlife says people should keep well away from the water’s edge when visiting crocodile areas. In the Kimberley, these include rivers, creeks and the ocean.

There’s still time to win in The Sunday Times and PerthNow Parks For People competition, which is in its final week this week.

PerthNow will choose a favourite photo to become the Parks For People Pic of the Day. The best pictures of the week go on to win major prizes, and all winning shots will feature in a giant free wall poster in next Sunday’s paper.

This week’s top prize is a luxury Karijini Eco Retreat in Karijini National Park worth more than $5,000

Among the standout entries so far this week is this picture of paradise sent in by Craig Spittles.

Craig Spittle and partner Joanne Armstrong toast their holiday at Banksia Cove – D’entrecasteux National Park in Walpole.Source:Supplied

“We saw this amazing sunset light up Chatham island in the background so we rushed up to the campsite and grabbed a couple of drinks, set the camera up on a tripod and set the timer,’’ Craig explained.

“It was a fantastic few days. We had the whole campsite and beach there to ourselves for three days. The waves were washing up off the rocks into this little rock pool creating a natural spa for us to enjoy.

“Money can’t buy this sort of experience. We love WA and the adventures and experiences that are on offer for the adventurous spirit.’’

$40 million upgrade of Fitzgerald River National Park gives Hopetoun new life after BHP mine

The new lookout at Cave Point is part of the $40m upgrade. Picture: Supplie

A WA town that had its “darkest hour” when the local nickel mine shut down is open for business again after a $40 million national park upgrade.

Hopetoun and nearby Ravensthorpe, 590km southeast of Perth, was brought to its knees when more than 600 jobs were lost in the 2009 mine closure.

But shire president Ian Goldfinch said today marked the start of a “new era” with the official opening of a project to make the stunning Fitzgerald River National Park more accessible.

New infrastructure at Barrens Beach. Picture: Supplied

New infrastructure at Barrens Beach. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

About 80km of new roads, camping grounds, signs, picnic areas, lookouts, carparks and walk trails were bought with $40 million in joint state and federal government funding.

“We’re well and truly open for business. It’s the start of a new era,” Mr Goldfinch said.

“The publicity of BHP closing down put a big black ring around Hopetoun. It was really a disaster for us. We were in our darkest hour.”

But a visit by Mr Barnett prompted the shire to ask for funding to make tourism, not mining, the centrepiece of the local economy.

“He said, ‘What to you really want?’. We said, ‘Make the park into the jewel of the crown for Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun,” Mr Goldfinch said.

“It took a little while and there was some frustration … but now we have that jewel.”

The Fitzgerald River National Park has more than 2000 species of flowers, phenomenal coastal and inland views, mountains to climb and river gorges to explore.

The nickel mine is operating again after it was bought by Canadian company First Quantum.

The Barnett Government launched a $21 million Parks for People package last year to create more high-quality, low-cost accommodation options for visitors to the state’s national parks.

Over the past month, The Sunday Times and PerthNow have been running a Parks for People photo competition.

The final week’s winner was Allan Coupland for his picture at Karijini National Park. The runner-up was Linda McKenna for her shot at Warren National Park.

This week’s winning photo by Allan Coupland.

This week’s winning photo by Allan Coupland.Source:Supplied

Global stocks higher as investors shrug off Korea tensions

SEOUL, South Korea –  Global stocks were higher Wednesday as investors hunted for bargains and shrugged off geopolitical tensions a day after North Korea fired a missile that flew over northern Japan.

KEEPING SCORE: European markets opened higher. Britain’s FTSE 100 advanced 0.4 percent to 7,363.12 in early trading and France’s CAC 40 was up 0.4 percent at 5,053.99. Germany’s DAX gained 0.6 percent to 12,014.66. Futures showed Wall Street was due to open with moderate gains. S&P futures rose 0.1 percent and Dow futures added 0.2 percent.
ASIA’S DAY: Asian markets finished mostly higher. Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 percent to 19,506.54 and South Korea’s Kospi was up 0.3 percent to 2,372.29. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.2 percent to 28,094.61 while Shanghai Composite Index edged down 0.1 percent to 3,363.63. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was flat at 5,669.70. Stocks were higher in Taiwan and Singapore but lower in Indonesia.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Markets have made the judgment that the post-missile test reactions of the U.S., the U.N. and North Korea do not warrant a move to full ‘risk off’ mode in stock markets at this stage,” Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a commentary.

NORTH KOREA: Investors were not swayed by the latest developments in North Korea. Its leader, Kim Jong Un, called for more weapons launches targeting the Pacific Ocean to advance his country’s ability to contain Guam, a day after the North flew a ballistic missile over Japan. The missile launch jolted world markets when it took place Tuesday. U.S. President Donald Trump said North Korea had signaled its “contempt for its neighbors” and that “all options are on the table” in terms of a U.S. response. The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the launch.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 26 cents to $46.18 per barrel in New York. The contract gave up 13 cents to close at $46.44 a barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 40 cents to $51.26 per barrel in London.

What you need to see when exploring WA’s Kimberley

A bird’s eye view of the Lake Argyle caravan park.

IF you really want to get away from it all, remote places to visit and stay in WA’s Kimberley region are perfect for a caravan and camping holiday.


The park contains amazing waterfalls, Aboriginal rock art and sites of cultural significance to the Wunambal people. No Kimberley adventure would be complete without a visit to the spectacular Mitchell Plateau, including a sightseeing adventure to Mitchell and Mertens falls and Surveyors Pool.

The park is only open in the dry season, usually April to mid-October and is accessible by 4WD vehicles only.

Caravans are not permitted due to road conditions, but off-road camper trailers are allowed.


The campground has campsites with fire rings and wood provided for cooking. There are sealed vault pit toilets and water available from Mertens Creek.

Water (collected at a point upstream) should be boiled before use.

PRO TIP: Walk to the falls and arrange to take a chopper ride back to the campground to experience a stunning view of the falls.


The park is east of Mitchell River National Park and accessible via foot only, usually from the Mitchell Plateau Airstrip.

Anyone entering the park requires permission from the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation and the Department of Parks and Wildlife. The park has no facilities and no trails with the trip truly a Kimberley bush experience, recommended for experienced bush walkers.


The large park, split down the middle by the Drysdale River, is east of the Kulumburu Gibb River Road.

There are no roads going into the park and no facilities or trails in the park. Access to the park is via the Carson River Station and then by foot.

All people entering the park require permission from the Department of Parks and Wildlife, and the station owners to access Carson River Station.


Found in one of the most pristine areas of the Kimberley, this park has not had many visitors due to restricted access up until 2009.

It is only accessible via helicopter and requires permission from the Department of Parks and Wildlife to enter.

All visitors planning to hike overnight in parks in the Kimberley must fill in a Remote Recreational Activities in the Kimberley Form. Call the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s Kununurra office on 9168 4200 or Broome office on 9195 5500 for further information.



Mount Augustus forms part of an epic WA road trip. Photo: Tourism WA.Source:Supplied

The 800km Kingsford Smith Mail Run trail provides a real feel for WA’s outback, with a smattering of history to make things more interesting.

In 1924, Charles Kingsford Smith once trundled along this very route on his mail run. It can be a lonely road, but the highlights are worth the trip.

Here’s a chance to follow one of his smaller trails.


Leaving the port town of Carnarvon, start your Kingsford Smith Mail Run adventure by heading east through pastoral land to Gascoyne Junction, where huge sheep stations dot the landscape. Travel on to Mt Augustus, a massive monolith twice the size of Uluru. Arrive in time to watch the sun sink over the 1750 million-year-old Mt Augustus.


Spend some time exploring the rock formations, caves and indigenous art scattered throughout the Mt Augustus area. As well as spring wildflowers and native wildlife viewing, this is also a popular spot for swimming, fishing and picnics. From here, head south to the Gascoyne River and Landor, famous for its races. Follow the current mail route via Mt Gould and the Mt Gould Lock Up.


Journey south through the vast, timeless outback to the gold mining town of Meekatharra. Take the Meeka Rangelands Discovery Walk Trail and explore rocky outcrops, view native wildlife and marvel at the displays of spring wildflowers.

● NOTE: Parts of the track are only suitable for high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicles and should only be attempted by confident drivers. Supplies and services are limited and road conditions can vary, so plan ahead, stock up on food, water and fuel and contact the local visitor centre for up-to-date track information.

● Before heading off into the remote desert areas of Australia, you will need to obtain permits, enabling you to travel through private and Aboriginal lands. Get more information about permits for Aboriginal lands or visit the Australian National Four Wheel Drive Council. And to ensure you enjoy a safe and well-planned journey, be sure to take a look at road safety and important travel tips.



Infinity pool at Lake Argyle Resort.Source:Supplied

COVERING more than 900sq km and surrounded by the rugged landscape of the mighty Carr Boyd Ranges, Lake Argyle is home to more than 270 bird species and an array of wildlife in a thriving ecosystem.

It’s Australia’s largest freshwater expanse with Lake Argyle Resort and Caravan Park nestled on a cliff top overlooking it.

The park is open all year-round and features various accommodation types and activity options. Accommodation ranges from shady powered and unpowered campsites, eco safari tents and standard studios to the stunning lake view villas.

The resort also boasts the famous infinity pool, a wet-edge pool and spa looking out over Bamboo Cove, with one of Australia’s most stunning views.

Hopping on board the “Kimberley Durack” catamaran for a boat cruise on the Lake is considered a bucket list experience. You’ll enjoy the informative commentary about the construction of the dam wall and the pioneering Durack family.

You’ll also feed the fish and marvel at the wildlife, which includes many freshwater crocodiles.

The Kimberley Durack lunch cruise includes an island stopover, where you have a chance to walk around the island in search of the elusive wallaroo or rock wallaby or swim out from the pebbly beach into the crystal clear water. Your hosts will prepare a sumptuous buffet, including the freshly caught local catch silver cobbler, straight from the barbecue.


The closest town to Lake Argyle is Kununurra, the service centre for the East Kimberley.

Take the Victoria Highway east, then turn into the sealed Lake Argyle Road. The Resort and Caravan Park is located at the end of this road, just 1km from the Lake Argyle Dam.


Adventure seekers should look to visit Lake Argyle in September when the adventure race takes place.

SEPTEMBER 5-7: Swim (2km), run (9km), mountain bike (32km) and paddle (7km) in the remote East Kimberley in teams of two, three or four.

Friday: Mountain bike shoot out — a time trial format on the new Rotary Lake Argyle Trail.

Saturday: Team adventure race starting at Bamboo Cove, down from the Lake Argyle Resort and Caravan Park pool.

Saturday night: Dinner and the team presentation at the Lake Argyle Resort

Sunday: Solo adventure challenge (2km swim, 13km kayak, 6km off-trail run, 21km mountain bike ride).



Pearl Luggers — explore Broome’s pearling history.Source:Supplied

UNTIL late into the 1900s, the pearling industry in Broome was based primarily on the collection of oysters for their shell value and not for the occasional pearls they would yield.

WA’s pearling industry began to flourish in the mid-1860s as the worldwide demand for mother of pearl shell used to make buttons, cutlery, hair combs and jewellery items, continued to rise.

Prior to World War I, the price of shell was at an all-time high. With the announcement of the war in 1914, the demand for mother of pearl dropped dramatically overnight. Most of the industry’s labour pool immediately joined the war effort and the industry was left without sufficient labour or resources to maintain its fleets.

The pearling industry limped along until the end of the war and by the 1920s had recovered to the point where the price of shell was higher than ever.

Then disaster struck with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The United States entered World War II and once again, almost overnight, the pearling industry was out of business.

The internment of the Japanese, who were considered to be the best pearl divers, into prisoner-of-war camps, coupled with the fact that most of the industry’s labour was once again enlisted in the war effort, ceased the industry to cease operations.

But the war actually saved Australian pearling.

The army, preparing for a Japanese invasion that never came, burned precious luggers on the beach as part of a ‘scorched earth’ policy. The Japanese, their economy and most surface craft destroyed, were unable to resume their own oceanic pearling after the war. By the 1950s the Broome fleet had been rebuilt with a world-record price of 600 pounds a ton of pearl shell being achieved.

When at last a rosy future seemed assured for Broome and pearlers a new disaster struck.

In 1958, the plastic button was marketed in America. By 1959 mother of pearl had become unsaleable.

But salvation was close at hand.

The Japanese had been culturing pearls in their own oysters for many years. In 1946 after the war, Kockichi Mikimoto, the “father” of the industry, expressed his belief that the bigger Australian shell could produce the biggest and best pearls yet seen.

After the patriarch’s death, Tokuichi Kuribayashi took over and with Sam Male, owner of Broome’s biggest fleet, Brown and Dureau MOP exporters of Melbourne, and Otto Gerdau MOP importer of New York, established an experimental pearl farm in the Kimberley.


Take a tour at Pearl Luggers in Broome, in the heart of Chinatown, to get an understanding of the industry in its early days.

It is the closest link to the pearling era of days gone by, featuring two fully rigged and restored pearling luggers.

The interactive, one-hour tour will whisk you back in time to an era of courageous men who lived a life of danger and fortune.

You will discover more than 100 years of history and learn the legendary tale of ‘The Sea, The Men, The Legend’.

View original pearling artefacts, experience the weight of pearl diving equipment, watch rare archival footage and taste the exclusive pearl meat.



Tour guide Rosemary Nugget with guests exploring the Mimbi Caves in Western Australia.Source:Supplied

MIMBI Caves are one of Australia’s most spectacular and significant sites.

Dating back more than 350 million years, the caves are a place of deep spiritual significance to the Gooniyandi people, as well as being one of the most significant Devonian fossil sites in the world.

This amazing cave system will take your breath away with its vivid colours and beautiful limestone rock formations, while the history and Dreaming stories of the Gooniyandi people take on a life of their own when shared deep within the heart of the caves.

Mimbi Caves are 90km east of Fitzroy Crossing.

Here, tours explain the historical, cultural and geographical importance of the caves.

Mimbi Caves Tour — 3 hour tour

Adults $80 Children $40 (max 32 people). Departs 10am and 2pm Monday to Thursday and Saturday

T: (08) 9191 5468 or,


THERE is no reason why the kids can’t enjoy the North-West as much as the adults, especially if you’re heading to El Questro Wilderness Park in the Kimberley.

The park’s new Junior Ranger program is a great way to introduce the kids to the outback.

Led by one of El Questro’s experienced rangers, Junior Rangers offers interactive sessions covering a range of topics, including fishing, bird watching, bush tucker and bush survival, crocodile and snake safety, and learning about the region’s flora, including the famous boab trees.

Senior rangers leading a session at Emma GorgeSource:Supplied

About 110km from Kununurra, El Questro is a remote and rugged destination that promises the seclusion to explore this iconic part of Australia and the amazing wildlife that exists there.

Kids interested in bugs, birds and little critters will be in their element at El Questro, which is a naturalist’s delight and home to nearly half of Australia’s 780 bird species, and more than 60 mammals.

Brolgas, jabirus and red-tailed black cockatoos are common during the day and by night kids will enjoy listening for the dog-like call of the aptly named barking owl.

The less audible mammal species are largely nocturnal, preferring to avoid the heat of the day and include rock wallabies, dingoes, fruit bats and flying foxes.

Reptiles also have a home at El Questro, from turtles to frill-necked lizards, and the relatively harmless freshwater crocodiles found in billabongs.

While the kids are having fun, parents can take part in numerous tours at El Questro, from 4WD trips, scenic flights, horseriding and walking tours to various gorges.

Full-day fishing tours for the elusive local barramundi are also available.

“El Questro is the ultimate kids’ playground,” El Questro general manager Lori Litwack said.

“They can get their hands dirty in our dusty red-brown earth learning about lizards and ants, and learn all about our famous boabs, bush tucker and graceful eagles soaring overhead.”

Costing $30 a child, there will be two, two-hour Junior Rangers sessions a day from June to late August. They can be booked at El Questro Station on the day.

For more information about the Junior Rangers program and the many other activities at El Questro visit

12 must-see locations in northern Western Australia

The Loop at Kalbarri National Park. Photo: Parks and Wildlife


The Kalbarri National Park surrounds the lower reaches of the Murchison River, which has cut a magnificent 80km gorge through the red and white banded sandstone to create formations such as Nature’s Window.

In 2014, the $7.7 million upgrade of Kalbarri National Park, mainly funded under the Royalties for Regions infrastructure and roads initiative, was completed and officially opened. The upgrade included sealing 12km of The Loop/ Z-Bend Rd and the construction of new visitor facilities at The Loop and West Loop at the Murchison Gorge, including shade shelters, lookouts, walking trails, visitor information areas, sealed carparks and toilets.


Inside the Shark Bay World Heritage area are a number of great sites including the Francois Peron National Park. Known for its contrasting red cliffs, white beaches and blue waters, the park has a fascinating pastoral history and offers a wilderness experience to 4WD drivers.

Inside the national park is the Big Lagoon Campground, an attractive turquoise lagoon with a small campground and an excellent spot to explore by canoe or sea kayak. The campground has gas barbecues and toilets and a nearby site for launching boats. You are welcome to fish in the lagoon south of the camping area. Camping fees apply.

Also on offer in the Shark Bay World Heritage area is the Hamelin Pool, one of just a handful of places in the world with stromatolites (the oldest living organisms known on earth), and Monkey Mia where visitors can stand within metres of wild bottlenose dolphins.


Mount Augustus is the largest monocline rock in the world and is found in the Mount Augustus National Park. The monocline rock is 8km long and 3km wide — about two and half times the size of Uluru. There is no camping allowed within the national park but the nearby Outback Tourist Park offers accommodation, basic supplies and fuel.


Ningaloo coast. Photo: Jen HollisSource:Supplied


The Karijini National Park is home to some of the oldest rock formations in the world, dating back two and a half billion years. The park features a labyrinth of gorges — some so narrow you can reach and touch the cool rocks on either side and others so large they appear like massive natural amphitheatres carved into the rock. Emerald pools stand in stark contrast to the rust-red and deep purple of the rocks and the landscape.

A $1.8m redevelopment of the Hamersley Gorge day-use area in Karijini National Park was completed last year, funded through Royalties for Regions program with contributions from the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Rio Tinto.

The redevelopment includes improved road access, new signs and the construction of a shade shelter and toilet.

Dales campground is close to some of Karijini’s most popular sites including Dales Gorge, Circular Pool and Fortescue Falls. A new staircase to Dales Gorge was completed in 2014 with improved access for visitors. Further sections of staircase are planned for 2015. There are a range of walk trails from the campground to view and explore lookout points, pools and gorges and 140 campsites in the park accommodating tents, large caravans, camper vans and camper trailers.

The western section of Banjima Dr was sealed in 2014 by the Shire of Ashburton, which improves access to the western gorge sites of Weano, Hancock and Oxer.


Escape the southern winter and dive into the Ningaloo Marine Park, staying at one of the many campgrounds nestled on the coast in Cape Range National Park. Snorkel with turtles, dolphins, dugongs, manta rays, colourful fish and corals or take a land-based adventure looking for black footed rock wallabies, birds, reptiles and much more. In season (April to July) whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish, congregate along the Ningaloo Reef.

The chance to snorkel with these gentle giants is the opportunity of a lifetime and visitors from all over the world head to the Ningaloo Reef during whale shark season.

Kurrajong campground in Cape Range National Park, has 26 new campsites, a new gravel road, lookout points, a barbecue shelter and toilets plus an additional 19 new campsites in other areas of the park.

Demand for campsites is extremely high with advance booking required. Booking is only available through the ParkStay WA website

Most of the campsites in Cape Range National Park are easy to get to by conventional vehicle, but if you’re after something a little more remote then One K campground is the site to go to. Once you cross Yardie Creek, on soft, shifting sand so high clearance campers and 4WDs only, you can access the campground.


The Millstream Chichester National Park is an oasis in the desert, nestled within the chocolate brown rocks of the Chichester Range, dotted with spinifex and snappy gums. Permanent pools are fed by springs that draw water from the underground aquifer within porous dolomite rock. Miliyanha and Stargazers campgrounds are both located in the park with barbecue facilities and use of personal gas cooking appliances welcome. Campground hosts are stationed in both campgrounds for the majority of the tourist season, typically between mid-April and early October.


Bell Gorge. Photo: Parks and WildlifeSource:Supplied


The Windjana Gorge National Park is one of the Kimberley’s most stunning gorges with water-streaked walls which rise majestically to heights of approximately 100m. The 3.5km long gorge cuts through the Napier Range, part of the ancient Devonian limestone reef dating back 350 million years. Freshwater crocodiles bask in the pools, while fruit bats and corellas roost in the waterside trees.

Windjana Gorge Campground has good facilities but no powered sites. It is a great base from which to explore Windjana Gorge. Entrance and camping fees apply.


The King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park is known for its spectacular Bell Creek and Lennard gorges. The ridges of the King Leopold Ranges rise 300m above the surrounding plains (and 950m above sea level) while open savannah woodlands cover the sunburnt landscapes. Groves of river gum, stately paperbark trees and dense thickets of screw pine shade watercourses as water lilies and other aquatic plants fill permanent pools in the creeks and rivers, providing cool relief from the starkness of the harsh escarpments.

Following wet season rains, great volumes of water cascade from the ranges. In the dry, tourists are attracted to the spectacular cascading waterfalls at Bell Creek Gorge which is a relaxing place to swim. Visitors also marvel at the spectacular Lennard River Gorge and the incredibly folded and faulted scenic rock formations of the ranges along the Gibb River Rd, shaped by tremendous geological forces. The range is a haven for bird life and offers spectacular scenery for photographers.

Camping is provided at Silent Grove Campground, a riverside ground with shower and toilet facilities available. Camping fees apply.

Once the nerve centre of a former cattle station, the Mount Hart Wilderness Lodge is a virtual oasis on the banks of the Barker River and is surrounded by lush gardens. The lodge has stylish and comfortable accommodation in heritage homesteads, three-course dinners and breakfast, a restaurant and libraries. Mt Hart also has shady riverside camping facilities.


The Bungle Bungle Range in the Purnululu National Park is one of the most fascinating geological landmarks in the world with its beehive domes, deep chasms, gorges and pools. Getting there is not easy, but is well worth the adventure. There are short trails suitable for most ages and fitness levels, or longer trails for more experienced bushwalkers with specialised navigation and outback survival skills and equipment. In addition to the excellent national park camping facilities, safari camp-style accommodation is also available in the park.

The park however, is only open in the dry season (usually April to November). Walardi and Kurrujong campgrounds are also in the Purnululu National Park. The Walardi Campground has toilets and can cater for up to 40 vehicles while the Kurrajong Campground has toilets and can cat0er for up to 100 vehicles (no generators). Camping fees apply. Booking online is essential at

PRO TIP: Take a helicopter or plane flight over the Bungle Bungle Range to get a sense of the scale and majesty of this geological wonder. Flights run daily from an airstrip in the park.


The Tunnel Creek National Park flows through a waterworn tunnel in the limestone of the Napier Range, part of the 350 million year old Devonian reef system.

You can walk through the tunnel to the other side of the Napier Range with the trek running underground for 750m through several permanent pools.

At least five species of bats live in the cave, including ghost bats and fruit bats, and stalactites descend from the roof in many places. The roof has collapsed through to the top of the range near the centre of the tunnel. Take a torch, wear sneakers and be prepared to get wet and possibly cold.


The Geikie Gorge is a spectacular wonder famed for its sheer white and grey walls, abundant wildlife and awesome boat tours. Geikie Gorge has been carved by the Fitzroy River through part of an ancient limestone barrier reef which snakes across the west Kimberley. It was laid down in an ancient sea which covered a large part of the Kimberley in Devonian times, some 350 million years ago. Geikie Gorge boat tours take place from May to October and give an insight into the wildlife and geology of the gorge. You might see birds such as sea eagles and rare purple-crowned fairy-wrens, or acrobatic crocodiles snapping at stray flying-foxes.


The Wolfe Creek Crater National Park is a perfect place to experience real outback adventure. For a camping holiday with a difference, you can visit spectacular Kandimalal-Wolfe Creek Crater, the second largest meteorite crater in the world.

Most come to marvel at the crater itself, but wildlife abounds including major mitchell cockatoos, reptiles such as the brown ringtail dragon, and red kangaroos.

The best time to visit is between May and October.

There is one campground in the Wolfe Creek Crater National Park with basic toilet facilities, but no water available. The campground can be accessed by all vehicles in the dry season, however, in the wet season it is 4WD access only. No camping fees apply at this campground.

PRO TIP: Bring a star watching guide and binoculars or telescope for an unrivalled view of the night sky.

Atlantis Marine Park in Western Australia lies abandoned

Atlantis Marine Park was supposed to boost Western Australia’s tourism market. Picture: Tor Lindstrand.

IT WAS supposed to be Western Australia’s answer to the glittering Gold Coast. A theme park built off the back of Perth’s economic boom. But just nine years after opening, it shut its doors and is now abandoned and ruined.

Atlantis Marine Park sat 60km north of Perth in the small fishing town of Two Rocks. Built in 1981, it was part of Alan Bond’s ambitious plan to build a resort and residential area called Yanchep Sun City, a proposed satellite city to support a population of 200,000.

It was hoped that Perth’s massive expansion would be matched with a growth in tourism and even Japanese investors were brought in as financial backers.

Strange shaped objects litter the abandoned grounds. Picture: Tor Lindstrand.Source:Flickr

Statues have been left to ruin. Picture: Tor LindstrandSource:Facebook

Atlantis Marine Park was initially a huge success with families from WA and beyond flocking to the park to watch the live dolphin shows, swim in the pools, ride pedal boats and have their obligatory photo with King Neptune, a huge statue at the entrance to the park.

However in 1990, just nine years after opening, Atlantis shut its doors. Western Australia’s boom never eventuated and the 1987 stock market crash put a halt to prosperity.

Atlantis closed due to financial difficulty and was left abandoned. It has since been damaged by vandals and has become overgrown and derelict.

Vandals and neglect have seen the area left in tatters. Picture: Tor LindstrandSource:Flickr

The former marine park is now a wasteland. Picture: Tor LindstrandSource:Flickr

Old statues can still be found scattered throughout the grounds as well as broken walls and concrete pools. For years it was a no man’s land, popular with dog walkers.

However just last month the iconic King Neptune was restored to its former glory after a petition by locals who started an online campaign for something to be done with the ruins.

The mammoth statue was cleaned, sealed and repainted. Taking 11 men and 70 litres of paint, the restoration took two weeks to complete. Volunteers cleared the gardens and fixed the broken fences and the park is now open to the public on weekends.

The site is currently owned by the property developers Fini Group and a plan has been put forward to develop the area into a mix of retail, commercial and public open spaces including the preservation of King Neptune.

The King Neptune statue has been restored to its former glory.Source:Facebook

Random head statues are dotted around the grounds.Source:Facebook

Vandals have graffitied what is left. Picture: Tor LindstrandSource:Flickr

It is hoped the abandoned buildings will be developed into a retail and housing complex. Picture: Tor LindstrandSource:Flickr

Atlantis Marine Park in its heyday.Source:Facebook

Cruising Kimberley’s Aerial Highway

The Purnululu National Park. Picture: Jon Connell

WE’RE in a helicopter with the doors wide open flying over the magnificent Bungle Bungles in the World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park of the East Kimberley.

The wind is whooshing through the cabin and my hair has turned into a bird’s nest. But what does that matter when you are swooping down over gorges dotted with trees carved into this 350 million year-old landscape?

This has to be the highlight of my week in the Kimberley, which includes seven flights over this vast land.

When I first came up this way in the late 1970s, I saw most of it by foot, horseback or from the driver’s seat of a very battered red Falcon ute.

My main view from behind my steering wheel was of kilometres of dusty, corrugated roads’ red dirt streaming through every part of my car. Insects splattering onto the windshield made it difficult to spot the potholes and sudden dips in the road.

Meanwhile, on the land … This is the Cathedral Dome. Picture: Phil Whitehouse

Taking in the view from a helicopter or a small plane gives a totally different perspective, providing a sense of how vast this land is.

The huge cattle stations and scattered Aboriginal communities have relied on this mode of transport for years. Known as the Kimberley Aerial Highway, a series of landing strips feature on the landscape, providing access to gorges, waterfalls, remote beaches and pearl farms.

It’s something to see!

But now a flight over the Horizontal Falls leaving from Broome or one to the Bungle Bungles or El Questro Wilderness Park in the East Kimberley is on many bucket lists.

And if you are here in late May, you can combine this with the activities and concerts of the Ord Valley Muster, including the Airnorth Kimberley Moon Experience, a dinner and concert on the banks of the Ord River in Kununurra.

The Horizontal Falls. Picture: Harclade

On our first breathtaking flight that took us to Cape Leveque for a swim and breakfast and then back to Broome over King Sound, the Kimbolton Ranges and the Buccaneer Archipelago, we learn the islands below are 1.8 billion to 2.4 billion years old — the tips of ancient mountains.

Cape Leveque. Picture: Cataflinders

About 15,000 years ago, the coastline was 150 kilometres further out to sea on the continental shelf; King Sound was created when the ice caps melted and the sea level rose over the shallow shelf, flooding the low-lying areas and valleys.

This coastline is known for its huge tides: when the sun and the moon are aligned on a full or a new moon every two weeks at spring tide, the ocean is pulled out towards the northwest of WA, speeding up as it hits the shallow continental shelf, then bottlenecking as it passes between Australia and Indonesia.

The Horizontal Falls are caused by this huge volume of water being forced through two narrow cliff passages.

Cape Leveque. Picture: Cataflinders

Back on the tarmac in Broome, we chat to Andrew Grace, the owner of Kimberley Aviation.

He found that as well as seeing this stunning landscape, tourists also want to engage with the people of the Kimberley, so he has devised tours including those to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek in the Napier Range in the West Kimberley where an Aboriginal guide relays the story of Jandamarra, the late-19th century Bunuba outlaw who was believed to have magical powers including being able to turn into a bird and fly.

Known as Pigeon to the European settlers, he was finally shot dead after leading a long armed rebellion.

The day of the Bungle Bungle flight we leave El Questro and fly over the Argyle diamond mine, controversial and secretive when it was first mooted in the late ‘70s but now a major part of the East Kimberley economic scene.

In Kununurra’s Kimberley Fine Diamonds store you can ogle at the pink diamonds with their prices into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and imagine how the red earth hid their presence for millions of years.

The land time forgot.

You can see indigenous depictions of the Kimberley landscape at the Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery in Kununurra, where owner Kirstie Linklater hosts artists so they can paint in natural pigments on stretched canvasses. Many of the paintings look as if the artists were in a plane when they produced them.


Getting there: Qantas operates direct flights from Melbourne to Broome year-round (twice weekly in dry/peak season); and from Sydney twice weekly (starting in April) and Brisbane weekly (starting in May) in dry/peak season.

Staying there: In Broome: The Mangrove Resort Hotel has just been refurbished; Emma Gorge Resort, El Questro Wilderness Park.

Perth, home to 2 million people and the birthplace of quokka soccer

Perth, the place where soap stars were banished to

PERTH, capital city of Western Australia, and the place where characters from Home and Away and Neighbours were sent to live if they didn’t die.

For decades it was regarded as the ‘big country town’ but is now home to 2.02 million people, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, is the fastest-growing capital in the nation.

While this influx of new blood has helped to cosmopolitanise (I just made that word up) the wild west’s capital, there are just some things that scream you’re from Perth.

Here are 25 that I (and a couple of my mates) think are typically Perth.

(NB: I am from Perth).

1) You know who Rick Ardon and Susannah Carr are. The broadcasting duo have co-hosted Channel Seven news in Perth for a staggering three decades.

Rick Ardon and Susannah Carr. The pair have hosted Channel 7 news for 30 years. Pic Tom Rovis-HermannSource:News Limited

2) When someone mentions Sandgroper, you know what they are talking about.

3) If you’re not from WA then you’re from “over east”.

4) You never heard of a schooner until you visited “over east”. Beer comes two ways; in a pint or a middie.

5) You buy a coffee and are surprised when you get change from $5.

6) You are obsessed with shark attacks. WA is the shark attack capital of the world after all.

7) Holidays = Bali. It’s a 3.5 hour flight away.

Bali, the holiday destination for West Aussies. Pic: ThinkstockSource:Supplied

8) When someone mentions they are waiting for the Fremantle Doctor, you know they don’t need medical attention. (For those that don’t know, it’s the seabreeze from the Indian Ocean that sweeps over Fremantle first. It’s called the Fremantle Doctor because in WA’s blistering summer, it’s a relief when it arrives).

9) (a) School camps were spent at Rottnest Island.

(b) You know about quokka soccer — and agree that it’s evil.

How could anyone play quokka soccer. Sadly, they have. Picture: gwiltypleasure/InstagramSource:Supplied

10) You have been to Adventure World.

11) Everything is 30 minutes away (even if it’s not).

12) You always complain about traffic jams on the Kwinana/Mitchell Freeway.

13) Summer is when it finally hits 34+ degrees.

14) Summer also means this….(see below).

Perth enjoys sunsets like these almost every day of the year.Source:News Limited

15) You refer to the Margaret River region as “down south” or “douth”.

16) You refer to everywhere north of Perth as “up north”.

17) You know what the WACA is.

The WACA.Source:News Limited

18) You know the America’s Cup (and Alan Bond) put Freo on the map.

19) You know what a water desalinisation plant is.

20) The acronyms FIFO (fly-in fly-out) and CUB (cashed up bogan) are part of your vocabulary.

21) When you are overseas or interstate and you meet someone else from WA, you immediately ask them if they are an Eagles or a Dockers fan.

22) Even if you’re not an AC/DC fan, you know that Bon Scott is buried at Fremantle Cemetery.

Bon Scott, buried at Fremantle Cemetery. Pic: Michael Putland/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

23) You know what a Sunday Session is, and understand that it really only took place at the Cott or the OBH.

24) You are either from north of the river or south of the river.

25) You think WA has the best beaches (well, it does).

Cottesloe Beach, Perth-ection.Source:News Limited

Earth Is Art: Landgate aerial photos show Western Australia’s incredible landscape

This incredible shot of the Erskine Range, south of Wyndham, is one of many images from Landgate’s Earth is Art collection that shows the extraordinary Western Australia landscape. All images supplied from Landgate.

WITH their vibrant colours, squiggly lines and random blots, many of these images could easily pass for pieces of abstract art.

In fact, they are aerial photos showing the rich and varied beauty of WA landscapes – including stunning bird’s eye view surprises you might not be aware of if at ground level.

There are obvious images such as Rottnest Island, but there’s also peculiar pictures of a creek system that looks like a dancing witch, a landscape showing a zebra’s shadow and terrain that seems to be melting.

Rottnest Island as part of the Earth is Art collection.Source:Supplied

The images are part of Landgate’s Earth is Art collection. Recently the land information and surveying agency started offering digital images, meaning you can do with the pictures what you will.

Landgate chief executive Mike Bradford said the agency had been capturing aerial images for mapping purposes since 1948, but believed selling them as art was a great way to showcase WA to the world.

The photos are taken from a high-quality camera mounted into the bottom of a private plane, while the aircraft is anywhere from 1500m to nearly 10,000m in the air.

Mr Bradford said given how massive WA was, the opportunities to add to or changeover the collection were huge.

Each year, Landgate workers fly over about 10 per cent of WA in order to take the aerial snaps.

For more information on Landgate’s Earth is Art, visit:

Amazing aerial shots of Western Australia

Earth is Art is a series of aerial images from Landgate capturing the unique beauty of Western Australia. This photo, Electric Blue Satirist, captures Mount Satirist, south of Port Hedland.