Day trip out of Perth

HOP on a five-hour flight to Perth, drive up to its northern surrounds, breathe in sunshine and nature - and feel worlds away.

Imbibe views of the Coral Coast, discover wildflowers, get up close to sea lions, and eat fresh lobster - lots of it.

Spanning the northern suburbs of Perth to just south of Dongara, the Indian Ocean Drive is a scenic journey to the coastal towns of Cervantes, Jurien Bay and Dongara- Port Denison, to name a few.

The first stop is Cervantes (a two-hour drive north of Perth on the Indian Ocean Drive). Make this little fishing town a base from which to swim, go fishing, explore the desert and take a lobster factory tour.

Near Cervantes, is the Pinnacles Desert nestled in the heart of Nambung National Park. Here, thousands of limestone spires up to 5m tall puncture the skyline, making it one of Australia's most awe-inspiring landscapes.

Nambung National Park, made up of huge swathes of coastal heathland, is also home to a host of native plants. Just taking in the lush sea of flora - wattles, yellow-tail flower, white clematis and banksia species - is divine. Try to spot western grey kangaroos, cockatoos and emus too.

Caution: Western Australian law forbids the picking of wildflowers (below). Defy this and expect a hefty fine of up to A$2,000 (S$2,300).

Just 2km south-east of Cervantes is Lake Thetis, one of five sites in Western Australia that feature strange stromatolites or mounds of sheet-like rocks. Take a 1.5km walking trail around the lake to check out the formations, like layers of lasagne in sedimentary form.

Back at Cervantes, stroll past its jetties to the Lobster Shack, a western rock-lobster factory. The family-owned operator won a bronze medal for Tourist Attraction and Excellence in Food Tourism at the 2013 Western Australian Tourism Awards, so your visit is quality-assured.

Tour the shack, and learn how the delicious crustacean is processed, packaged and exported live to other countries.

Also, jump on the company's 68-foot vessel, Shack Attack, and head out for a half-day morning boat tour. Experience the livelihood of a lobster fisherman.

The best part: Choose a lobster from the day's catch, have it taken back to the Lobster Shack, and cooked for your yummy lunch.

Book at: A 20-minute drive north of Cervantes is Jurien Bay, (220km or 2.5 hours drive from Perth).

Dive and snorkel at Jurien Bay Marine Park. About a fifth of Western Australia's sea lion population lives and breeds in the marine park. Join a sea lion charter and frolic with the sea mammals.

Or sky dive and enjoy breathtaking views of the park before landing on Jurien Bay's powder white sands.

For those with a little more time, head to Monkey Mia, a world-famous dolphinwatching spot (a day's drive or a two-hour flight from Perth).

Part of Shark Bay World Heritage area, the calm waters attracts pods of friendly dolphins to the shore on most days. Trained rangers pick a handful of visitors to feed the mammals each morning, but you're likely to spot them frolicking in their marine playground, leaping into the air wild and free, at any time of the day.

Switch up the pace on land: Get on a four-wheel drive trip and go for a camel ride, which can be booked at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort right on the beach.

To up the adrenalin ante, dive with the manta rays or swim with upto 12m-long whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef (a two-day drive or a 2.5-hour flight from Perth).

Ningaloo Reef made it to Huffington Post's list of 27 Best Places in the World to Swim in its April post - the only Australian spot to be listed.

In an issue last November, a Post writer describes the experience of swimming with the whale sharks, which visit between April and June each year: "No, they won't eat you as they are filter-feeding animals, but their very presence will get your adrenalin running."

Before you head home, drink in Perth's café culture as you enjoy free wi-fi access in the central business district. Residents love that the scene is getting funky with a string of urban villages mushrooming from Mount Lawley to Subiaco.

Print Hall is a four-level dining and bar hipster hangout. The venue pays homage to its heritage-listed history, the old Newspaper House.

Perth's landmark Cottesloe Beach Hotel is the perfect place to enjoy sun, sea and sand, and a southern Italian-inspired menu (Cott & Co Fish Bar) right on the beach.

Not sure what to get the folks back home?

At Leederville Farmers Market, there's grass-fed beef, dairy and fruit. It is held every Sunday in the heart of the café district, near the Oxford and Newcastle street corner.

At Perth Home Grown, buy delicious preserves, honey and nuts, and loads of home-baked goodies from breads and cookies to organic teas, till June 29.

With clean air, clear skies and easy ocean road trips, Perth makes a great getaway that is a heartbeat from home.


Make stops: The Coral Coast has long stretches of road, so take regular breaks. Watch speeds: The maximum speed limit is 110kmh on the open road.

Stock up: Food and fuel stops are available only every 100km to 300km along the main highway. Stock up as necessary.

Day trip out of Perth

For self-dive itineraries, go to: www.

For packages, go to: http://www.

This article was first published on June 10, 2014.
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