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Qustions about Visiting Northern and Western Australia

Qustions about Visiting Northern and Western Australia

May 9th, 2009, 03:21 PM
  #1  
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Qustions about Visiting Northern and Western Australia

We'll be going to Austraiia in September for our third trip in three years. (In Sept.-Oct. 2006 we visited Sydney, Cairns/GBR/Daintree, Uluru and Alice Springs, and Tasmania; in Oct.-Nov. 2007, we were in Canberra, Kangaroo Is., Adelaide, Melbourne, and Syndey again. I promise that I will post very belated reports on these trips sometime soon.) This time, after teaching a short course at ANU, in Canberra, we have two weeks to see parts of Australia we haven't yet seen. We will end our trip with several days in Sydney. I'm trying to decide where we will go so that I can book our flights within Australia. As always, one is torn between (a) wanting to see as many places as possible and (b) doing each place justice and not spending a lot of time getting from place to place and having the trip be too hectic.

I'd like advice about how to best spend our two weeks between Canberra and Sydney. I've had in mind going to the north and the west. We are interested in flora (particularly pretty flowers), wildlife (particularly beautiful birds), snorkeling (and good aquariums), kayaking, hiking and bicycling (but not too strenuous for either), Australian culture and history, and interesting museums. We are not interested in visiting wineries. We don't mind renting a car and driving, but don't want to spend undue amounts of time in the car. We are on an average budget. We are happy to get a good deal, but don't need to pinch pennies, and enjoy an occasional splurge. We've had some nice experiences at B&Bs on our previous trips. We like to stay in lodgings in good locations when we don't have a car.

I'd considered first going to the Darwin/Kakadu area and would appreciate suggestions of particular places to go and where to stay.

Broome sounds interesting. Is the weather decent in Sept.? Does Broome merit a few days when we only have 2 weeks total for the north and the west? (The things that I've read about that sound interesting to me are the Broome Bird Observatory, Malcolm Douglas' Broome Crocodile Park, Pearl Coast Zoo, Kimberley Astronomy Tour, Willie Creek Pearl Farm, Broome Microlight Flights, the Japanese Cemetary, the Historical Society Museum, Broome Heritage Trail, kayaking, Chinatown, The Pindan soils, Cable Beach Resort, Sun Pictures. Are any of these "duds"?)

I've heard mixed things about Ningaloo Reef. Is the snorkelling likely to be good in Sept.? Where do you fly in to to go there?

Perth sounds wonderful; we are definitely planning on going there. What would be a good place to stay in Perth? Which surrounding areas would you recommend, given our interests? It sounds like the wildflowers will be good when we're there. What would be the best places to go to see them in September?

My husband has expressed an interesting in driving the Great Ocean Road. Would it be nice in Sept.? We live in So. California and have driven along the coast and have read some posts suggesting that the GOR is no better than this.

I'm sure I will have additional questions once I hone in on the places where we'll be going.

Thanks in advance for your help and advice.
judilie is offline  
May 9th, 2009, 03:33 PM
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Regarding wildflowers in Perth - you can't go wrong with Kings Park. There was a big fire in Kings Park this past summer and I'm told that as a result the wildflowers will be even more spectacular than usual come spring.

You might also consider taking a day trip to the town of York for flower viewing and a look at an interesting Aussie town.

Regarding where to stay in Perth...you might take a look at the Medina Grand or the Medina Executive Barrack (serviced apartments with pretty good weekend rates). We've stayed in both and found them well located for exploring the city on foot or via public transport.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 9th, 2009, 06:04 PM
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I take it seeing you'll be doing some teaching first, it'll be towards the end of September that you would plan on travelling.

If you remember how warm it was in Alice/Uluru in September/October, well add some on to that for Darwin/Kakadu and NW.
Though you can get yearly variations most places, the top end and NW is somewhere less so for that and July last year in Kakdu was about 30C, and I got 33C in Kununurra but a drier heat there whereas Kakadu was more humid, even well after wet season had ended.
October is generally regarded as what they call the build up months for the wet season but no rain and weather very testy for locals - visitors probably thinking oh well, we're only there a short time, but certainly not the best time of year for the NP will be drier than what it is usually is, just a couple of months after the wet ends and it is more renowned for wetlands and birdlife during and just after the wet rather than wild flowers.

The SW of WA as Mel has indicated is the area west for wild flowers and if you do not want to travel so far, what you could include with the GOR is the Grampians in the west of Victoria, there also being plenty of coastal walks, caving and kayaking opportunities in Glenelg [one of those the same backwards] River and Princess Margaret Caves I think it is near the Vic/SA border.

If you have not driven the NSW south coast route into Victoria, that'd also be one way you may want to consider, some lovely older villages of Berry, Milton, Mogo and Central Tilba, some you could do on a weekend if you have one whilst teaching, but if not they'll add more interest to the trip.
Alternately, if there's not too much snow this year, you may be able to make it across through the alps, either Alpine Way through Thredbo or via Tumut down to Khancoban/Corryong and a lot of history that way too, The Snowy Hydro Scheme having been started about 60 years ago and my first time in area ~45 years back was via an ear popping DC3 flight.

With a shorter snow season I reckon you could even find Alpine Flowers out and about and then plenty of historical towns down through the NE of Victoria, Beechworth, a living Museum in many respects, and Mansfield also of note and if it was not for having a hire car, I'd send you off the back way to Walhalla - if you do drive the coastal route, do a detour from Moe and there's a historical village at Moe too.

The Golden Triangle region of Victoria [called that for Gold Mining history] may also be of interest, Maldon another Australian Trust preservation and if you stuck with NSW/Vic you could make a great touring loop either coastal or through the NE to bypass Melbourne either via Mornington Peninsula [a bit of history down there too] and across on ferry to Queenscliff [another living museum of a town], on down the GOR to the Grampians and back via GTr. or you cut across through the Golden triangle region to Grampians and come back along the GOR.
Touristy yes but http://www.sovereignhill.com.au/ is a tourist venture based on the history of the Miners Rebellion at Eureka Stockade where the Southern Cross as a flag may have been used for the first time - a reportedly great sound and light dinner show - Blood on the Southern Cross and they have accommodation so you do not have to drive afterwards.

I'd say time will limit you to enjoying yourself with something like the above and a finish in Melbourne or otherwise with another week, you could look at doing some of the Murray River old port towns and/or Broken Hill in search of the Sturt Desert Pea, one of the most beautiful wildflowers you can find.

It don't get you to Perth but I think the SE of the continent offers more diversity, more history than what the SW of WA will and getting up to Darwin and the NW will require quite some travelling and limited time in areas far apart.
The Cable Beach Resort is in a great location and Cable Beach is like a lot of great beaches we have.

If you do decide to go there I can recommend a scenic flight out over the Buccaneer Archipelago to Kooljaman at Cape Leveque, one of the more interesting flights you can ever do, including the landing!, not cheap either but then you can stay a couple of nights in a well set up Safri tent for about $60/n and if you want some more adventure, take the cheap option with Coral the Postie to get back to Broome [and interesting red dirt road if ever you see one] and a ten minute stop at Beagle Bay settlement gives you a chance to see some lovely Mother of Pearl inlay and something of modern day indigenous peoples lifestyle.

Think you'll find that Exmouth is the nearest airport for Ningaloo.

Another great flight is out of Kununurra, out over the Ord River to Bungles or Purnululu National Park and if you want Crocs, there's a great day tour of the Southern Ord River where you can see plenty and also a fair bit of Bird life.
Right in town they have a resident [ name of that huge bird type slips my mind for moment] named Ossie down by the town lagoon and he allows people to get right up close to take pics - http://s44.photobucket.com/albums/f2...rent=NT086.jpg

You'll find air fares over that way a bit on the expensive side and one thing for sure, the eastcoast will offer a far greater range of accommodation options, caravan park cabins, motels, B&Bs and even older hotels in country towns can be a real steal.
Bushranger is offline  
May 9th, 2009, 07:46 PM
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If you want to see wildflowers, then WA is a great area. The bloom (depending upon the rainfall) will be from northern areas around Kalbarri (Coral Coast) and then south to Albany (South West). Western Australia Tourism has a great website for planning. Here is their wildflower site: http://www.wildflowerswa.com/en/default.htm and here is the main site: http://www.westernaustralia.com/en/P...Australia.aspx

It will be tough to decide just what to see with two weeks. Getting to WA is similar to flying to NY from LA. Broome is also not really close to Perth. We had three weeks and we drove to see the area. In three weeks we saw Perth - Kalbarri-Albany-Margaret River - Sydney. We were also on the go most of the trip.

If it is a good year, I would recommend flying into Perth and then driving north for a day or two. This will allow you to see the desert bush. There can be some great wildflowers during this time but the distance is far. If you do decide to go north, the Pinnacles are worth a stop. Kalbarri National Park has some hiking also. If you don't want to go that far, You should be able to see some nice displays closer to Perth toward New Norica, and Moora.

A drive to Margaret River would also be nice even if you are not interested in wine. I enjoyed the area a lot but I am a foodie.

I'd look at the travel times and a good guide book. Once you narrow down where to go, come back and we can give you more in depth information.
travel4flowers is offline  
May 9th, 2009, 08:04 PM
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The Top End is one of our favorite parts of Australia. We've been there in July and August and found the weather to be wonderful. There's so much to see and do around Darwin. Some of my favorites in Darwin are: Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Aquascene, Mindil Beach Sunset Market, Fannie Bay Gaol, and the Darwin Heritage Aviation Museum. Outside of Darwin, we enjoy going to the Territory Wildlife Park and Berry Springs Park and Litchfield NP is our absolute favorite because we enjoy swimming in the various natrual pools. We have stayed at the Parap Village Apartments and the Cullen Bay Apartments in Darwin and enjoyed them both. Beyond Darwin, we've been to Kakadu and twice to Katherine. We enjoyed canoeing at Katherine Gorge and swimming in the natural pools at Edith Falls NP. We also had a great evening at the Crocodile Night Adventure in Katherine. There, we have stayed at the St. Andrew Serviced Apartments and they were great for our family.
longhorn55 is offline  
May 9th, 2009, 09:22 PM
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Thanks, all.

We will be leaving Canberra on Sept. 10. Is the Top End likely to be uncomfortably hot and humid then?

We would fly, not drive, between major parts of the itinerary (i.e, from Darwin to Broome to Exmouth to Perth, should we decide to visit all of them).

Upon further reading, many of the things in Broome sound touristy/cheesy. Are there enough worthwhile things to see and do there to make it worth a stop?

Is the snorkeling likely to be amazing around Ningaloo in mid-Sept.? I've snorkelled in Hawaii, Tahiti, GBR, and Belize, and would only go to Ningaloo (given its remoteness) if it matches those.

Thanks again.
judilie is offline  
May 10th, 2009, 06:20 AM
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I've written about the incredible trip my wife and I did in 1997 across the Kimberley several times on this board, most recently in:

http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...austrailia.cfm

While my wife and I did the trip as backpackers, I'm sure it can be done in a more upmarket fashion (e.g., staying at the famous El Questro station outside Kununurra instead of at the youth hostel).

Highly recommended!!! Sept should be OK weather-wise
RalphR is offline  
May 10th, 2009, 10:09 AM
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I forgot to add that I would recommend visiting the Aquarium of Western Australia outside of Perth. It isn't real big but it does focus on the sealife of the western coast.
travel4flowers is offline  
May 10th, 2009, 02:47 PM
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Mid September should not be humid and yes, Broome is somewhat touristy as is Darwin/Kakadu and most people just see the most visited spots without getting too far off ther beaten track, you need a four/five day 4WD camping trip to do that and without it, there's some long drives to see some aboriginal cave paintings, stand atop a rock formation for a great view and perhaps do a Yellow Waters cruise.

Broome is a relatively small town with as many stores [including the compulsory pearl marketing] for tourists as there are for general population, there not being a hell of a lot to do other than tours, Cable beach and drinking.

I've not snorkelled Ningaloo and though it gets grand reports, can be done of the beach and possibility of swimming with Whale Sharks [you may be out of season though], I doubt given your other snorkelling there'll be a great difference.

By the sounds of it, your timing is not going to allow Katherine area and El Questro to be added to your proposed itinerary.
Bushranger is offline  
May 10th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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If we skip Ningaloo (and we will be out of season for the whale sharks and turtles), we may have time to go to Katherine and El Questro. A recent thought of mine is to consider taking a bus tour that stops at some of the national parks and perhaps to take a bus, with stops along the way, from Darwin to Broome. Might this be good, or way too much time on a bus? I'd like to spend around 5-7 days total in the Darwin area and the journey to Broome.
judilie is offline  
May 11th, 2009, 03:57 PM
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dkw
 
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I will heartily second RalphR's suggestion of the Kimberley Region. We were there for about 10 days last August and just loved it. The hikes are just beautiful, and unlike anything you'll see elsewhere!

Our trip report is here:

http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...rip-report.cfm
dkw is offline  
May 11th, 2009, 04:38 PM
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My latest thinking is to skip Ningaloo and Broome; many of the types of things that sounded interesting in Broome --pearling, birds, outdoor cinema -- are also in other places where we'll be going. I'm now thinking about splitting our two weeks fairly evenly between (1) Darwin and the Top End and (2) Perth and environs, each broadly defined. Does this sound sensible? I'd still appreciate suggestions of interesting things to see and do in both areas.

Thanks.
judilie is offline  
May 11th, 2009, 07:34 PM
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Whilst may sound OK in theory to split between Darwin/top end and Perth, a week up north is really going to limit what you can do up there, especially to include Broome.

. There are various tours that do Litchfield [usually as a day trip], Kakadu [a far too rushed day if attempted or two, three even five day trips] and there'll be some of between 3-5 days that do a Dawin, Kakadu, Litchfield and back to Darwin loop of sorts, they coming as either backpacker camping out style or more up market accommodation and anything less than 4 days for that in my book would be too rushed and even four days will obviously limit where you get to and gorge hiking you can do in Kakadu with five days.

There used to be five day Darwin to Broome trips but now it is either something like use Greyhound or an equivalent quicker trip or take a nine day trip that would include the Gibb River Road and a few gorge hikes and you really need the nine days - suggest you look at distances involved.

There's also set departure days for most of such tour trips and so you need to do some checking on availability to suit whatever might seem good for you.

5-7 Days for the Darwin area and making it a road trip to Broome is just nowhere enough.
Bushranger is offline  
May 11th, 2009, 07:44 PM
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www.wildernessadventures.com.au is one of the main organisations that runs top end tours, a good 5 dayer for KKL and have the 9 dayer Darwin to Broome.
Travelling is a bit rugged though, sitting sideways in back of a Landcruiser Troopie.

Just another thought re birdlife too is that Lake Eyre is filling up as it does every 10-15 years or so courtesy of NQ inland sea from flooding rains and usually otherwise dry, quite a very infrequent phenomena.

The desert springs to life after such flooding rain events and Lake Eyre itself also suddenly gets immense birdlife, even Pelicans hundreds of kilometres from nearest sea and that along with the Flinders Ranges could be a possibility for you.
Bushranger is offline  
May 13th, 2009, 06:36 AM
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While visiting Perth, be sure to see Fremantle just outside of Perth. Very beautiful, unique and interesting place. We were so enamored with it we opted, because of time constraints, to see less of Perth and more of Fremantle. Very charming!
cots is offline  
May 13th, 2009, 08:46 AM
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Thanks everyone. My current plan is to spend a week in the Darwin area, seeing the sights of Darwin and visiting Kakadu (and things along the way) and possibly also Litchfield and/or Katherine, and then a week in the Perth area, with some side trips to surrounding areas. Are Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie interesting enough to merit the long drive to them? If we did go to them, what other places could be seen on such an excursion. Are there other trips from Perth that you would recommend instead?
judilie is offline  
May 13th, 2009, 03:14 PM
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IMO, that would be a big NO. We visited Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie this past November. We'd planned to spend three nights in Kalgoorlie, but left a day early, as it just didn't appeal to us.

Not worth the drive or time involved to get there IMO unless you're into mining big time.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 13th, 2009, 03:16 PM
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As far as what I'd suggest instead of Kalgoorlie, head south. You can't go wrong in SW WA, but you'll need time to experience the area.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 13th, 2009, 09:23 PM
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Melnq8 - Do you have any specific suggestions for SW WA?
judilie is offline  
May 14th, 2009, 06:05 AM
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We recently returned from spending one night in Perth and six nights further south. We were staying in Busselton but think the Margaret River area might be more convenient. We really enjoyed Freemantle, the magnificient forests, cycling along the Indian Ocean and using the smaller less travelled scenic routes where possible. It was a relaxing week to regroup before continuing on.
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