The word magical is thrown around too often, but for some places it’s not an exaggeration. In fact, in the case of Western Australia—the state that takes up the western third of the country but is far less explored than places like Sydney and Melbourne—that word only begins to describe the splendors held within.
While much of WA, as it’s abbreviated in true Aussie style, is the Australian outback, it boasts a whopping 12,900 miles of ruggedly beautiful coastline abutting the cerulean Indian Ocean, most of which is completely wild and untouched. This alone would make it an appealing destination for beach aficionados, as quite a bit of it could be considered the most jaw-dropping virgin beach imaginable (a lot of it on islands, too). However, add to that a prolific amount of natural wonders—think horizontal waterfalls, extensive coral reef, whale sharks (March to July), sandstone domes, pink lakes, red sand beaches, white sand dunes, and quokkas, the adorable pocket-sized marsupial that seems to be always smiling—and you have a more complete picture of what’s possible.
But you don’t have to be an adventurer to appreciate this inspiring part of the world. There’s quite a bit that appeals to lovers of the culinary arts, too, as well as wine and design.
The thing about Western Australia is that there is no one way to do it. There are seemingly endless possibilities, which may daunt some couples but excite others. The only given is flying into Perth, its capital, where the bucolic Swan River hits the ocean. From the U.S., Singapore Airlines is an attractive way to go, especially for couples who hope to break up the trip with a day or two in one of Asia’s most exciting cities. Once in Perth, it becomes quite clear that even though it's a metropolis, it’s an intimate and walkable one (the population is nearing 2 million; the total WA population is almost 2.6 million, which is, coincidentally, the same number of square kilometers in the entire state).
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Perth is a lively place to kick off a journey around WA, especially as it’s become known for its small-bar scene—these 100-people-or-fewer boîtes are often themed and boast imaginative design and impeccable drinks. In addition to fun nightlife, there’s plenty to do: Take a walking tour with a local via Two Feet & a Heartbeat, a great thing to do at the beginning in order to pick up tips on the city’s many well-hidden gems; in the summer, check out food markets and outdoor concerts on the waterfront, wander the prolific street art, and drink perfect coffees in the many espresso bars. Eating is its own category, since there’s so much fantastic cuisine to be had. Try the rooftop Wildflower (where the highly native menu changes according to the Aboriginal calendar’s six seasons per year), industrial-chic Petition Kitchen for delectable Aussie comfort food, and Santini Bar & Grill for bright Mediterranean-Italian, all exceptional and enhanced by romantic atmosphere.
When it’s time to sleep, turn to the QT Perth, a delightfully bold and plush boutique hotel with irresistible sexy black bathtubs, not to mention the coziest bathrobes ever. (A Ritz-Carlton is coming soon to the waterfront, and the chic Quay Hotel recently opened there, too.) The intimate, efficient, and aesthetically appetizing Alex Hotel is a boutique-y boîte that, along with its dimly lit, small–plate-slinging Shadow Wine Bar, perfectly illustrates everything that’s so right about Perth these days.
There’s also the hipster-approved port city of Fremantle nearby, a sort of artsy Williamsburg 30 minutes from Perth that makes a perfect day’s stroll, especially on foot or bike with Fremantle Tours, authorities of what’s lovingly referred to as Freo. Street art, surf shops, historic markets, microbreweries (it’s the home of beloved Little Creatures), distilleries, record shops, bookstores, and hot independent restaurants are just some of the draws. For the latter, don’t skip Strange Company for drinks and live music or Bread in Common, where you won’t feel guilty about carb-loading.
Even if just for a night, Rottnest Island is a fun outing, a 30-minute ferry ride that offers a chance to take a selfie with a quokka (as Chris Hemsworth did recently on his visit) and get close and cozy in Discovery Rottnest Island’s eco-luxe tents overlooking a sandy beach that's perfect for a private picnic. Off Perth’s coast there’s an island with penguins (closed late June to September for breeding season), and another with sea lions to kayak with.
Margaret River and the Southern Forests is the destination for premium wine in the country (as well as surf on the west coast), but like all things Australia, there’s nothing pretentious about the scene that also plays host to increasingly vibrant artisanal spirits and craft beer purveyors (hit up Caves Road Collective, a beautiful wedding venue, too, for all of the above). There are about 110 cellar doors—what we’d refer to as wineries, and most don’t need prior bookings—with Vasse Felix being the first in 1967 and still one of the very best (its Cabernets and full-bodied Chardonnays should be required sipping; even better when done in its private cellar or over a beautiful lunch). It’s a several-hour drive from the city, easy and comfy at the hands of Perth Luxury Tours, passing kangaroos in open fields along the way. (The company takes couples on daylong tasting tours from Perth with lunch, or can transport them for longer overnights.)
In this peaceful region, Cape Lodge is the place of honeymoon dreams. The luxury boutique hotel whose acclaimed restaurant is set on a serene pond—the degustation menu makes for a night to remember—is adults-only, outfitted with decadent beds, serves a scrumptious breakfast, and is the perfect jumping-off point for much exploration. There are farm visits (think just-pressed organic olive oil at Olio Bello, with beautiful glamping tents next door), cultural nature walks, and didgeridoo-accompanied cave explorations with the local Aborigine-run outfit Koomal Dreaming (they also do fishing tours), surf lessons (Smiths Beach is a perfect place to learn; warm up afterward with breakfast and coffee at Lamont’s), and spectacular walks.
Adventurous types can take on the entire four-day Cape to Cape Track—Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin, with huts along the way for camping—while those who like the idea but want a plusher experience should opt for a portion with Walk into Luxury, an operator that lines up luxurious accommodations along with wine-fueled lunches and spa experiences on the way. Spring (America’s fall) brings 2,500 wildflower varietals and whales—humpbacks, blue, and southern right—by the way. If visiting in the warmer months, don’t miss the opportunity to dip into the Injidup Natural Spa, a pool of swirling crystalline water among boulders.
Further in town are charming eateries like Morries, with its jazz nights, and Yarri, with its sustainably sourced land and sea dishes, distilleries like Margaret River Distilling Co. ,where one can blend and bottle their own gin using local botanicals (the program is called Giniversity), and other small-town gems like the eclectic Margaret River Bakery and Margaret River Collective shop next door. By the way, those who don’t make it there can get a taste of WA vino in Swan Valley, close to Perth, at estates such as Mandoon. This bucolic hub of not only vineyards but craft chocolates, coffee, and cheese is also the starting point of the 10-day-long Western Australia Gourmet Escape festival each November, spanning Perth and Margaret River.
True foodies should consider another appealing time of year to venture to Western Australia’s South West: June through August, when the Périgord black truffles grown in Manjimup are being sniffed out and dug up with the help of adorable kelpies (the town also has a cherry festival each summer). You can get in on the action and also taste the goods at Truffle & Wine Co., one of the largest exporters to Europe and beyond. Around the delightful weekend-long Truffle Kerfuffle festival each June are also pop-up dining experiences worth the flight alone, such as chef Paul Iskov’s Fervor (look for his singular culinary escapades—hyperlocal and with foraged ingredients—around Western Australia).
Further afield at the Ningaloo Reef—Pippa Middleton honeymooned there, at the exclusive beach safari camp Sal Salis—there's a proliferation of migrating humpback whales (the season is the American fall), and in Broome, you'll experience pearl farms where you might get to open a clam and keep the natural jewel inside, along with horizontal waterfalls. Broome is in The Kimberley, hard to reach but raw, wild, and worth it, with some of the oldest land on the planet. Recently the world’s largest dinosaur footprint was found there. In Esperance, you’ll find the most exquisitely colored lakes that call for a drone. Couples who want to truly get in touch with their surroundings can camp with Aboriginal custodians in the outback in the North West, listening to stories told around the fire by elders.
When it comes down to it, Western Australia is like a choose-your-own-adventure book—the possibilities are endlessly exciting, shockingly pretty, and infinite.