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Fly five hours west of Moscow and you’re in Lisbon; these two vastly different cities are separated by 4,000 kilometres (2,485 miles) and umpteen European countries. Fly about five hours west of Sydney and you’re in Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Although the differences between these spots aren’t quite as drastic as those between Portugal and Russia, there are still some important distinctions.
People from the eastern states occasionally joke that Western Australia is a little behind — banter that’s at least on point when describing their clocks. Perth and the rest of the state trails Sydney and Melbourne by two hours during winter, then three hours during summer because Western Australia does not observe daylight savings time.
That huge time difference is only one of the things that makes Western Australia feel a little detached from the rest of the country. Perth is often described as the most isolated city on Earth, 2,100 kilometres (1,304 miles) from its nearest state capital Adelaide, and a four- or five-hour flight from Australia’s two biggest cities: Sydney and Melbourne. It’s difficult to overstate just how vast Western Australia is; the state covers 2.6 million square kilometres (976,790 square miles), so it’s roughly the size of France, Turkey, Kenya and Spain put together.
And there aren’t many people to populate all that terrain, with Western Australia’s state population a mere 2.6 million, including three quarters of those people in Perth. Intrepid travellers who venture into the outback regularly go hours without encountering human life, let alone a petrol station; the Nullarbor is home to the longest stretch of straight road in Australia and on Earth (the 146 kilometres, or 90 miles, between Balladonia and Caiguna), as well as the world’s longest golf course, the 1365-kilometre (848-mile) Nullarbor Links.
All that unspoiled space provides fertile soil for some seriously impressive scenery. The otherworldly limestone pillars that form the Pinnacles, the world’s largest colony of stromatolites in Hamelin Pool in Shark Bay, the martian Wave Rock in the Hyden Wildlife Park and the beehive-like sandstone domes that are the Bungle Bungles are just a few of the astonishing landscapes you can find within Western Australia.
This point comes as no surprise for anyone who’s hopped off the plane in Perth from a different part of the world: Western Australia is seriously sunny. In fact, Perth proudly enjoys more days of sunshine (265) than any other Australian capital city (Melbourne and Sydney receive 185 and 236, respectively), so don’t forget your sunglasses!
Another great thing about the sun in Western Australia is that it sets over the sea, supplying a string of scenic spots to watch the sun slink into the Indian Ocean: Try Perth city beaches like Cottesloe and Scarborough, or the gorgeous strips of sand in the southwest around Margaret River and on the long road trip north of the capital to Broome. Seaside sunsets are something that the eastern states are deprived of, for obvious reasons.
Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane all house both AFL and NRL teams, and the different codes of football are shared across a lot of regional Australia. Not in Western Australia. In the Wild West, ‘footy’ only means one thing: Australian rules football, something the state is obsessed with, especially since local AFL clubs West Coast and Fremantle cut the ribbon on a brand new 65,000-seat stadium at the start of the 2018 season.
Every corner of the country boasts its own mouth-watering produce, but Western Australia enjoys especially fresh food to sink your teeth into. Seafood is a particular speciality — the Geraldton rock lobster, South West marron and Mandurah crab are to die for — and the gourmet foodie scene in Perth, as well as around tourist hotspots like Margaret River and Broome, stacks up against anywhere else in Australia.
Wine is another thing that’s done well all over Australia, but Margaret River is arguably the country’s best grape-growing region, producing world-class bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sémillion and Sauvignon blanc that every thirsty traveller needs to try for themselves. The craft beer culture in Perth — spearheaded by Fremantle institution Little Creatures, a must-visit attraction in the historic port city — also comes straight out of the top drawer.
It would be remiss of us to finish an article about Western Australia without mentioning the humble quokka, the cat-sized marsupial that carries the title of ‘world’s happiest animal’. Catch the ferry to Rottnest Island to see what all the fuss is about. Western Australia is crawling with wonderful animal experiences, including the chance to swim with whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef and ride camels at sunset along Cable Beach in Broome.