Great Australian Road Trip series: The Way of the West Coast
Australia is certainly the lucky country. We have an abundance of options, a mostly safe and clean environment and a deliciously diverse landscape. Unfortunately, our culture encourages us to work all our lives to then retire in our sixties, pack up in to a caravan and do a lap of the country then. My retort to that ridiculous idea: do it now! Don’t wait to work hard, see Australia and die. For the young travelers wanderlusting for foreign faraway lands, don’t dismiss the beauty of your backyard. Australia is a true treasure, a continent of freedom, space and sacred land.
I invite you in to the great Australian road trip I endeavored last year that sparked my deep respect for this land and love for this country.
A major halt to wonder seekers that desire to travel Australia is the expense. As a first world western society, Australia is one of the costliest places on the planet. I had this fact stopping my dreams of seeing my own country for years, opting instead for cheap backpacking thrills in South East Asia before saying yes to a golden opportunity that revealed itself: a seat in a van driving a lap of Australia. The most intimate way to experience the vast distances of the island continent deemed to be the cheapest aside from walking/hitching. If you don’t want to take the responsibility of being the driver and owner of the vehicle, there are plenty of opportunities for rideshare via websites like Gumtree that minimize costs for petrol and accommodation. Our van was packed to the brim with five of us – in which the three European tagalongs slept in tents wherever we chose to camp (apart from the cyclone that came through Kalbarri, the torrential rains drove them to a hostel.)
A month driving south down the west coast cost each of us around $150 in fuel. Many camp sites in western Australia are free or low cost (typical was ten bucks per person, which is so worth it for amenities after a day in the sun). The most luxurious experience we had was a $20/pp camp pass at Monkey Mia that included a big pub feed, sleeping by the ocean where dolphins came right up to shore and a morning awakening by emus sneaking around for food.
We often cooked communally and all vegetarian, doing groceries together and splitting it in to fifths, sticking to staple canned beans and an abundance of fruit and vegetables. Our simple eating was never boring – the gorgeous Estonian traveler Kaja brought her herb garden along for the ride so there was always a hint of fancy in our roadside cuisine of curries, soups and one pot wonders. We snacked on dried fruit, nuts, carrots and hummus, crackers and spreads. For breakfast we delighted in nourishing granola with nut milk that we estimated to be 30c a go. A fellow van we travelled with, a few german and french backpackers, also gave 'dumpster diving' a go, searching through bins of big supermarkets for produce and stock that was completely fine but out of date or slightly damaged. We had 5 kilos of free chocolate and bags of bread that fed our funny family for days. My biggest money saver tip: seek out farms and roadside stalls for the freshest and cheapest produce, with your hard saved money going straight to the farmers and the community.
The most rewarding thing about travelling the west coast as avid adventurers and active enthusiasts meant nearly all of our outdoor activities were free. Breathtaking views, glorious trails, mountain hikes, picturesque sunsets on stretches of sand, snorkeling reef and having close contact with wildlife were all available and accessible without the exchange of money. Here are my epic picks for ensuring your journey down the West Coast is a surreal and magic one -
A sunset on cable beach ::
After 8 hours on three different flights, layovers in three cities and a twelve hour stint at the Perth airport, I was so ready for Broome. My dreams of dipping my toes in red dirt was fulfilled within minutes of stepping off the plane and Cable Beach offered a spectacular welcoming committee. Camels strolling the stretch of sand at dusk, a pod of whales dancing in the bright blue waves and my first sunset of the west. I was so hyped up of happy energy I jogged 10km barefoot along the shore, chasing the dreamy mauves and pinks of the days end.
Explore Karijini’s ancient wonders ::
My ultimate Australian experience. This gem of a national park is still fairly unknown - located 9 hours drive south west from Broome. By far the most incredible and drastic landscape I have seen, the land vibrated with power and rugged peace. There are four main gorges all with their own hikes, waterfalls and pools. We were welcomed to stay with a seasonal staff member of the only accommodation available in the park: Karijini Eco Retreat. We set up camp in front of his dusty caravan on a patch of red dirt and spent our time listening to star stories of the dreamtime, cooking up a feast with the staff and making art from the desert landscapes gifts.
Morph in to a mermaid on Ningaloo reef ::
I declare: Ningaloo totally wins over the Great Barrier Reef. Clearer waters, whiter sand, shimmering crystal waves of turquoise and a happier looking reef. This underwater paradise held my curiosity fiercely that hours went by without a shiver or a pang of hunger. I was totally lost in this alien world following reef tip sharks, bright and bubbly fish and making friends with green sea turtles.
Glide with a graceful manta ray ::
Coral Bay near Exmouth is known for the ultimate swim with whale sharks experience. We missed the gentle giants by only a few weeks so instead splurged on a day trip out on the ocean to find the next best thing: 4 metre manta rays! These creatures are graceful like angels - I felt so alive hovering above her feeding and moving through the water with ease. A beautiful experience that made me feel infinite and insignificant at the same time.
Embrace the indigenous culture and heritage ::
Western Australia feels more sacred and powerful than any other state. There is magic in the air, an enchanting initiation to the way the ones before us lived. The vast expanse of the desert, the stories of the mountains, the dreamtime of the desert stars... Pure unity with the earth. I truly felt a pull towards nature on this land, like an unseen barrier was lifted and I was closer to oneness. There are many opportunities to broaden your understanding of Aboriginal culture - from taking your time in the information centres, reading books such as Mutant Messenger and simply chatting to locals and listening intently to their stories.
Slow + steady in the south: Margaret River Region/southern forests ::
From turquoise waters at Eagle Bay to climbing tree giants in the Karri forests, community markets in village-feel Margaret River, wine tastings, whale watching and wildflowers, I'm not too sure what actually moved us on from this stunning section of the world.
Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park out of Esperance, South Western Australia ::
Ten bucks will secure you a hot shower, the whitest sand in Australia on beaches dotted with kangaroos, a laid back campground and this crystal clear ocean view. Pictured above is Wildfire Bay, where we shared this beach with no one else but the breeze.
this is part one of The Great Australian Road Trip series / keep an eye out for part two!
Be free in radical road trips and life-living,