Spring in the South West hails an influx of gorgeous wildflowers, families of whales and clear blue skies. The wet weather ebbs, making it the perfect time for people to come out and play. Here’s our top 10 picks of things to do from September to November in Australia’s South West.
Search for rare and unique wildflowers with a local guide
Western Australia’s wildflower season sees flowers bloom from the top of the state to the bottom, for almost half a year. In the South West, buds start to show in August, with full bloom traditionally around October/November. Looking for the best places to find wildflowers in the South West? Try the Stirling Range, where you can take a guided wildflower walk with a local expert at Mt Trio Bush Camp.
Wildflowers in Cranbrook. Image by Shoot It WA
Stand tall among the tree tops
Did you know you could climb two old fire lookout trees in the Southern Forests and Valleys? That’s right, you can scale the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree and the Gloucester Tree, both near Pemberton. Climb up each tree’s ladder (giant pegs that have been hammered into the tree’s trunk) to the top viewing platform, where you’ll get 360-degree views of the treetops and natural surrounds below. For something a bit more family friendly, head to the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, a beautiful suspended walk (40m above the ground) through old tingle trees.
Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, near Walpole by Frances Andrijich
Go off-road with a local tour operator
Spend a day four-wheel driving in the off-road wilderness of the region’s national parks, or – better yet – let a local guide do the driving so you can enjoy the ride. You’ll be rewarded with some of the most pristine, untouched landscapes in the South West – remote and unspoilt by large foot traffic. For a real 4WD challenge, visit Yeagarup Dunes a large moving sand dune system that offers plenty of off-road adventure, or take a guided Beach & Forest Eco Adventure tour with Pemberton Discovery Tours. For other exciting 4WD tours near Albany and Porongurup check out Down Under Discoveries.
Yeagarup Dunes near Pemberton by Frances Andrijich
Picnic by a tranquil lake
When was the last time you went on a picnic? Pack up your favourite provisions – fresh is best, so stop by your nearest farmers market pre-picnic adventure – jump in the car and head to one of many top picnic spots in the South West. Try the tranquil Honeymoon Pool, located on the lower part of the Collie River in Wellington National Park. Here, you can hire kayaks from Kiosk at the Dam and go for a paddle. While you’re here, spend some time exploring Collie and surrounds by taking a tour or hiring SUPs from local Collie-based company Traaverse. For perfect picnic spots further south, try Pemberton Pools, the Warren River campsite in the Warren National Park; and anywhere along the Blackwood River.
Honeymoon Pool in Wellington National Park by Frances Andrijich
Walk the Cape to Cape or the Bibbulmun Track
The 135km-long Cape to Cape Track is a hiker hotspot in spring. It’s easy to see why – the track is the perfect vantage point to spot whales and dolphins from the shore and is home to a whole variety of coastal wildflowers. Pick a section and go for a gentle stroll, challenge yourself with an all-day or all-track hike, or take a guided tour with Cape to Cape Explorer Tours or Walk Into Luxury. The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world’s great long distance walk trails, stretching nearly 1,000 kilometres from Kalamunda, in the Perth Hills, to the historic town of Albany on the south coast. This Top Trail passes through the heart of the scenic South West, becoming particularly beautiful around Manjimup and Pemberton, where wildflowers are an abundance in spring. For guided hikes, get out with Denmark-based operator Dirty Feet Tours.
Visit two of the region’s iconic lighthouses
Did you know the South West is home to the tallest mainland lighthouse in Australia? Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse stands proudly at the tip of the cape in Augusta, overlooking the Southern and Indian Oceans. Climb to the top of the lighthouse and see what you can spot, plus check out the new interpretive centre. At the top of Cape Naturaliste, you’ll find the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, which offers views of the Cape to Cape. A short walking track from here to the free viewing platform is a great place to sight whales from September to December. For an immersive experience, go next door to Koomal Dreaming for an Aboriginal tour, where you’ll gain insight into the area’s history and the native flora and fauna surrounding it.
Go on a whale-watching tour
Spot migrating humpback, southern right and blue whales on a whale watching charter boat tour from Augusta (June through to September) with Whale Watch Western Australia, Naturaliste Charters or All Sea Charters, or Busselton and Dunsborough (September to December) with All Sea Charters. For a bit of extra thrill, hop on board with Jet Adventures. On a whale-watching tour, you’ll cruise up and down the coast in search of the world’s largest mammals, who often frolic just beneath the surface and right next to the boat. These mighty creatures look majestic from the shore, and even more magnificent in the water, so a whale-watching tour is a must for those wanting an unforgettable experience. For a different perspective, take a flight with Scenic Helicopters and see if you can spot the whales from above!
Follow these epic art trails
The South West has been an inspiration for many artists, resulting in a number of forest art trails that combine both nature and art into one. Roll into the charming town of Nannup where the tulips come into bloom and the town blossoms for the Live Lighter Nannup Flower & Garden Festival – Tulip Time, running from August 15 to September 20 in 2020. A visit to Northcliffe’s Understory Art & Nature Trail – a unique ‘art in nature’ 1.2km walk trail that leads you through pristine native forest and past sculptures, artworks, stories, poetry and music – is also a must. Follow the PUBLIC Silo Trail in the Great Southern and Australia’s Golden Outback to see giant grain silos with iconic street art murals by internationally renowned artists. Two of them are in Australia’s South West, so make sure to stop and see them next time you’re in Albany and Pingrup. Also on the journey are the small towns of Mount Barker and Katanning, where you’ll find an array of public art gems simply by walking the streets. For other art ideas, visit the street art in Bunbury and check out the latest exhibition at Bunbury Regional Art Gallery, make sure to visit the Margaret River Region Open Studios from September 17 – 23, 2020.
Try a water sport with adventure tours or equipment hire
Hankering for a bit of fun on the water? Give a water sport a go this spring. Try water skiing at Lake Stockton near Collie, stand up paddle boarding along Koombana Bay in Bunbury, or kayaking down the Blackwood River. Many operators offer canoe, SUP and kayak hire in the region so you can try these water sports for yourself! Alternatively, take a tour to canoe along the stunning Margaret River with Margaret River Discovery Co, or go exploring off the coast of Bunbury, with eco-cruises already running from the Dolphin Discovery Centre and dolphin swims beginning in November. The Busselton Jetty has a huge range of water attractions; from the underwater observatory, to sunset train rides with a glass of wine, and underwater dining.
Go mountain biking
The South West region is a mecca for mountain bike and cycling enthusiasts, with an outstanding network of trails that take casual riders and serious mountain bikers into the heart of the region’s wildflower country and native forests. Take the 1000km Munda Biddi trail, for example, which traverses from Perth to Albany. The trail winds through unspoilt river valleys and magnificent forests with purpose-built campsites and roomy camp huts along the way, plus you can arrange pick-up and drop offs with local operators Time Travel Tours & Transport in Nannup and Pemberton Discovery Tours in Pemberton. Another great place to jump on your bike is Collie, which is ready to welcome adventurers with the recent completion of the Arklow trail network. Wind your way through the 36kms of mountain bike trails in the Arklow forest, immersed in the stunning natural environment of Collie and surrounds. There is even an Arklow adaptive trail as part of the network, built to accommodate hand cycles and allow mountain bikers with disability the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of adventure! In Margaret River, join a fat bike tour to explore Boranup Forest with Margaret River Adventure Co., or combine a wine tasting tour with electric mountain bikes with Easy Ride Tours.
This article was published in partnership with Australia’s South West – check out their website to start planning your ultimate South-West Spring getaway!