Seven extraordinary sights in Western Australia

by Elen Thomas on 05 February 2016, 16:02PM

A brand new tour is making Western Australia’s stunning pink lake accessible for the first time. From above, Lake Hillier appears a solid bubble gum pink, separated from the blue Southern Ocean only by a thin rim of white sand and dense woodland of paperbark and eucalyptus trees. No-one fully knows why the lake is pink. Scientists speculate that the colour comes from a dye created by bacteria that lives in the salt crusts. You can now admire Lake Hillier and the rest of the wild Recherche Archipelago, a protected nature reserve off the coast of Esperance, on a new ‘flight seeing’ tour in a light aircraft.

It is not Western Australia’s only unusual natural wonder. Here are seven more surreal landscapes you can explore on your trip Down Under

1 – Soar over the Bungle Bungle Range
Until 1983, when it was accidentally stumbled upon by a film crew, only the local Djaru and Kija people knew of the existence of the Bungle Bungle Range.  Now a World Heritage-listed site its fame has reached far and wide, not least due to its starring role in the 2008 movie, Australia. The Purnululu National Park, a nearly 2,500 square kilometre adventure playground that is home to the Bungle Bungles, is accessed via the Kimberley’s Great Northern Highway. Popular sites in the park, such as the 1,000m long Echidna Chasm and the overhanging natural amphitheatre of Cathedral Gorge can be easily accessed on foot.  Alternatively, you can take in the park’s abundant natural wonders, including the distinctive beehive-like domes of the Bungle Bungles (inset), from the air; local operators in Halls Creek and Kununurra offer ‘flightseeing’ tours by both light plane and helicopter.

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2 – Climb Wave Rock
From the Bungle Bungles in the Kimberley to the Pinnacles Desert in Cervantes, Western Australia boasts an impressive portfolio of geological marvels. Wave Rock, 340km east of Perth, is perhaps the most famous of all. Made of granite, the rock is 15 metres high, 110 metres long and, give or take a millennium or two, believed to be around 2.7 billion years old. But what’s remarkable about Wave Rock is not what it’s made of or even that it was here before the dinosaurs. It’s remarkable because, although it’s a work of nature, such is its resemblance to a wave of breaking surf it could easily be mistaken for a work of sculptural realism. The rock lies 3km from Hyden, a tiny farm settlement in the heart of the WA Wheatbelt that can be reached from Perth by car in just under four hours.

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3 – Meet the Gormley’s of Lake Ballard
The goldfields of Western Australia is home to the shimmering salt plains of Lake Ballard. “I’ll never forget the approach to the lake,” said British sculptor Antony Gormley of his first visit.  “The feeling of being at the edge of endlessness – being on the lip of the edge of the world.” The lake inspired him to created one of his most striking works: 51 silhouette sculptures – life-sized steel casts of people from the nearby town of Menzies – which appear ghostlike on the horizon. Hire a 4WD to make the two-hour journey north of Kalgoorlie or join a day trip.

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4 – Take a trip to the moon (in your hire car)
The Pinnacles Desert might only be 270km north of Perth but it feels like another planet (guidebooks are fond of describing it as a “moonscape on earth”). Its otherworldly ambience is undeniable; spend just a few hours at the site and you’ll almost certainly find yourself fantasising about piloting your own spaceship or becoming a Jedi Knight. The landscape here is strictly a one-time deal – a freak of climatic and geological circumstance having combined to form thousands of individual limestone pillars, some reaching as high as five metres. Sunrise and sunset are considered the best times to visit (if gold is your favourite colour then you’re really in for a treat), but whatever time you arrive you’ll be glad you did. For many years the site was only accessible by 4WD; today it can be reached and explored in a standard hire car.  Moon buggies are welcome too.

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5 – Go for a walk in the sky
Got a head for heights? Then the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk in Walpole is a must for your Australia ‘to-do’ list. Suspended 40 metres above ground in the canopy of a giant tingle forest, its walkway spans a total of 600 metres, giving you a unique perspective from which to admire the foliage, the abundant birdlife and the view (and secretly pretend you’re Indiana Jones on a brand new adventure). Towering forests abound in the south west of the state; in the national parks around Pemberton visitors can walk among (or even climb) giant karri trees rising to over 60 metres in height.

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6 – Journey to the centre of the earth
Karijini National Park is a 600,000 hectare site famed for its dramatic gorges that slice through the Pilbara’s Hammersely Range. Sheer-sided chasms plunge up to 100 metres deep, with spectacular views of the red rockface, two billion years in the making and glinting with iron and gemstones. Hook up with a guide for abseiling and rock jumping or shoot down naturally formed slides that end with a splash into a cooling rock pool.  For something more tranquil drive to Dales Gorge, the most accessible of the park’s canyons. Here white-trunked gum trees peer down from the red terraced cliffs onto emerald streams and waterfalls. Don’t miss Fern Pool, where you can float for hours gazing up at the timeless landscape.

 

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7 – Sunbathing kangaroos
No visit to Australia would be complete without some quality time spent in the company of a kangaroo (or two) – and WA won’t let you down. ‘Skippies’ are abundant state-wide, both inland and on the coast. At Lucky Bay in Esperance, a day’s drive south of Perth or 90 minutes by air, the local roo population can often be found sunning themselves on the beach. Join them on the sand, swim,
fish or explore the bush walks along the rugged coastline (from where you may even spot a migrating whale or two).  Take your best sunglasses; Lucky Bay has been named Australia’s whitest beach.

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