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Beautiful Nature

Western Australian forests are remarkable natural gifts. Blessed with more than 75 national parks, some with walk and bike trails, allowing visitors to get up close to nature.

Geography

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Western Australia is situated in the southern hemisphere, and dominates the western portion of the Australian continent - occupying approximately one-third of the country's total landmass.

Covering an area of 2.5 million square kilometers, the State's size is roughly equivalent to continental Europe.

Spanning the entire region between longitude 113 degrees to 129 degrees, and latitude 14 degrees to 35 degrees, the State is bound by 12,500 kilometers of coastline. To the west are the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, with the Timor Sea in the north and the Southern Ocean in the south. To the east, the state is bordered by the arid outback country and famous goldfields of the Northern Territory and South Australia.

Regions that make up Western Australia:

North West
One of the world’s last true wilderness areas, Australia’s North West is home to the beautifully rugged landscapes of the Kimberley, the inspiration for Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Australia’.

Golden Outback
For a taste of the authentic Australian outback, explore the historic townships, colourful outback characters and fascinating Aboriginal culture of Australia’s Golden Outback.

Coral Coast
Awesome marine life, endless white sand beaches and warm, turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean await you on Australia’s Coral Coast.

Perth
Discover the ideal outdoor lifestyle in Australia’s sunniest capital city. Relax or get active at the beach, on the river or in natural parklands.

South West
Boasting the perfect combination of world class wine, towering forests and pristine beaches – you’ll be spoilt for choice in Australia’s South West.

History

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Western Australia's history dates back more than 40,000 years with a rich Aboriginal history, making it one of the oldest lands on Earth.

Australian Aboriginals were the original inhabitants of Australia. They lived a nomadic existence, moving within fairly well-defined geographic regions, as they followed the seasons and food sources.

Indigenous Australians survived in harsh climatic and environmental conditions which ranged from cold temperate to hot tropical, coping with arid conditions and torrential rains. They have dwelt for many thousands of years in ways that sustained their societies while conserving resources, protecting fragile soils and leaving a light footprint on the environment.

European explorers came much later, and while it is widely believed that Portuguese sailors plied the waters as early as the 1500s, the first recorded European visitors in Western Australia's history were the Dutch in the 1600s.

Many of these visitors were sailors, employed by the Dutch East India Company, who regularly used the strong westerly winds to power their boats across the Indian Ocean to Dutch-colonized Indonesian ports, such as Batavia (now Jakarta).

The legacy of these European sailors is seen today in coastal place names such as Cape Vlamingh, Abrolhos Islands, Rottnest Island, Cape Leeuwin and Cape D'Entrecasteaux.

Western Australia's Settlement

European settlement didn't officially take place in Western Australia until 1826, when the southern port of Albany was settled as a military outpost. However, the colonial headquarters was moved to the current capital of Perth.

Western Australia's history is unusual, in that it was one of the few Australian states that weren't settled as a penal colony - and this is reflected in the free and spirited nature of its people.

The first major population surge came in the 1890s with the discovery of gold in the central and southern outback. The ensuing gold rush saw a massive influx of people from Australia and around the world, all keen to scour the rich gold-bearing soils of the central goldfields.

The Journey to Present Day

On 1 January 1901, Western Australia joined the other Australian states to form a federation, headed by a federal government and supported by individual State governments.

Western Australia's location entrusted it with vital strategic importance during the two World Wars and many towns and cities, such as Broome, in the north are steeped in wartime history. Long abandoned bunkers and dusty airstrips - once used by fighters and bombers - can still be explored today.

Following the war, the north enjoyed enormous growth through a booming cattle trade and an emerging, and highly secretive, pearling industry near Broome. The south blossomed with a strong agricultural sector and whaling.

Further oil and gas discoveries, as well as the world's largest iron ore deposits, saw the State's North West undergo a population explosion throughout the 1970s - which continues to this day.

In more recent times, Western Australia is again enjoying another population boom, as more and more people are attracted to the State for its exceptional climate, buoyant economy and relaxed lifestyle - making Western Australia one of the fastest growing regions in the country.

European History and Heritage

Still, today remains some magnificent examples of Western Australia's history and life in the early colonial days.

Remnants of British colonial influences can be experienced through historical architecture and attractions that dot the State.

Nature

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Western Australian forests are remarkable natural gifts. Western Australia is blessed with more than 75 national parks, some with walk and bike trails, allowing visitors to get up close to nature.

Parks, Forests and Reserves

Western Australia's national parks overflow with local flora and fauna, indigenous to each region. They also give visitors the chance to interact with the environment and truly experience the great outdoors.

There are more than 1,500 species of plants and more than a hundred types of birds found in the Stirling Range National Park near Albany. In season wildflowers bring abundant color to walk trails and picnic areas. The nearby Porongurup Range National Park is also a great place for birdwatchers.

Some of the most majestic Western Australian forests are the karri and marri forests of the Beedelup and Warren National Parks in the South West region. These forests can be up to 300 years old. These lush green ecosystems are home to a big variety of native animals and wildflowers such as delicate orchids.

The remarkable Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk and the Ancient Empire grove near Walpole is 600 meters long and rises to almost 40 meters above the forest floor, giving the visitor a true bird's eye view of the forest. Closer to the ground, the Ancient Empire's walkway meanders through this stunning grove of veteran tingle trees.

Kings Park in Perth has its own tree top walk which will have you breathing in rich bush land air while looking down on majestic towering trees.

Walk or Ride

For trails through native bushland dotted with kangaroos and birds, Yanchep National Park is hard to beat. It's located within an hour of Perth city and is also famous for its koala sanctuary, limestone caves and Aboriginal tourism programs.

The award-winning Bibbulmun Track is one of the world's longest walk trails stretching 1,000km from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills to the south coast of Western Australia. The track takes walkers through towering karri and tingle forests, down misty valleys, over giant granite boulders and along stunning coastal heathlands.

Mountain bikers will love the Munda Biddi Trail which in 2010 was named by National Geographic as one of the world's top 10 cycle routes.

Munda Biddi is Nyoongar for path through the forest and when complete this is exactly what it will be. Covering 900 kilometers from Mundaring to Albany, the trail will pass through some stunning natural settings. At present the first stage between Mundaring and Collie is complete.

The vast number of parks and the secluded nature of many locations mean you won't have any trouble exploring and finding a piece of the State all to yourself. Alternatively, you can join guided walks or one of many excellent packaged tours to explore Australian forests with other likeminded people.

Western Australian rivers help create a land of stunning contrast. Much of Western Australia’s interior is dry, but its coastal regions are laced with hundreds of spectacular rivers, estuaries, wetlands and salt lakes.

From the surging watercourses in the north to the lazy rivers of the south, these inland waterways are a hub for all kinds of water-based activities.

Dramatic Northern Waterways

The rivers and lakes of the North West, with its dramatic seasonal waterfalls, make for excellent sport fishing, boating and bird watching.

The major rivers, like the Ord, Fitzroy, Gascoyne and Fortescue, formed the lifeline for the legendary northern cattle drives of the early 1900s, and are steeped in heritage and historic landmarks.

With the arrival of the tropical summer rains, these iconic Western Australian rivers transform dramatically into tumultuous torrents. Rivers spill onto the broad floodplains, bringing thousands of migratory birds and filling fern-fringed swimming holes to the brim.

Lake Argyle

Lake Argyle in Australia's North West, created by the Ord River dam, is several times larger than Sydney Harbour. Explore the lake by air to really appreciate its grandeur, or by boat for a glimpse of the diverse wildlife, which includes wallabies and hundreds of species of birds.

Watersports on the Swan

Without doubt, Western Australia's most famous waterway is the majestic Swan River. Meandering through wineries and farms in the Swan Valley, joined by the Canning River then running to the coast of Fremantle, the river weaves a path through the heart of Perth.

The Swan hosts a range of watersports, including sailing, water skiing, sailboarding, jet boating, fishing, parasailing, and cruising. And there are more than fifty kilometers of riverside pathways for walking and cycling.

Further inland, the Avon River's white water hosts the heart-pumping Avon Descent canoe and powerboat race every August.

Lazy Rivers of the South

South of Perth, the rivers are perfect for relaxation, with excellent fishing, crabbing, canoeing and houseboat holidays. Some of the best are the network of waterways stretching inland from the Peel Inlet, the stunning Blackwood River, and further south the Frankland and Deep Rivers.

Discover native wildlife too, with eco-cruising around the Walpole-Nornalup Inlet at Walpole on the south coast.

Western Australian rivers truly are a crucial ingredient of the outdoor West Aussie lifestyle.