Since I have been living and working in Melbourne, visiting my friend Kelly in Perth was my first travel adventure outside the state of Victoria. Even though a nonstop flight from Melbourne to Perth is only about 4 hours, I hadn’t realized how isolated Perth really is. It’s actually one of the most remote state capitals in the world. With a time difference of exactly 12 hours ahead of Virginia Beach, I could only think that I was about as far away from home as I could get. Western Australia almost made me feel like I had entered an entirely new world. WA even has quarantine for fruits, vege and plants for domestic travelers in attempts to try and limit the spreading of certain pests and diseases. Perth is a relatively new city and the architecture of all the buildings reflects its modern development supported by WA’s huge mining success, so there is plenty of money circulating in the area.
The turquoise beaches surrounding Perth were by far the most stunning part of the region. The nearby city of Fremantle is also worth a visit. Kelly took me to the Fremantle Prison which I found a most appropriate field trip given Australia’s history. It was a pretty interesting tour, but I remember being shocked the most about the level of hygiene they maintained. Each inmate ate every meal in their cell and if I remember the dates correctly, they used buckets for the bathroom up until the 1960s. After a major riot in 1988 that sparked a fire which caused $1.8 million worth of damage, the prison eventually closed in 1991.
Just a 45 minute ferry ride off the coast of Perth lies Rottnest Island and this was by far my favorite adventure with Kelly! We hired bikes to explore the 11km long island and discover the number of beautiful beaches that line the coast. But aside from the clear blue waters, Rotto is most famous for the quokka, the island’s only native land mammal. The quokka is an adorable marsupial related to the kangaroo about the size of a domestic cat that can only be found on small islands off the coast of WA. When Kelly and I did some brief research about the quokka via the ever reliable Wikipedia, we both found it hard to believe that the source claims the quokka as a nocturnal animal because we saw them just about everywhere on the island. I couldn’t believe how friendly and approachable these little critters are. And they hop! They are just so precious when they hop! They seem to be intrigued by the human race because some of them get so close that you can take a selfie with their cute smiling faces. In fact, someone coined the term “#QuokkaSelfie” last year and it became an internet phenomenon.
No trip to WA is complete without a visit to the Margaret River region. About a 3 or so hour drive south of Perth are more blue water beaches and picturesque scenery to discover. Kelly and I enjoyed the better part of the day just watching the abnormally large 8-10 foot waves crashing in from the Indian Ocean. The area is also dotted with a number of caves, Mammoth Cave being the one we visited. This cave is well known for the extinct animal fossils found within, and let me just express my disappointment when I say how sad I am that the giant kangaroo is no longer around. Other sites worth noting in the area are the Boranup Forest, Yallingup and Sugarloaf Rock in Naturaliste. I would definitely make an effort to come back through this area and check out a few of the local wineries.