Scale the world’s highest fire tree
Most people know about the giant trees of southwestern WA, but did you know you could climb one of the tallest – without a safety net? Thrill seekers can climb the 165 steel pegs that spiral around the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree near the town of Pemberton to take in the view from the old fire-spotting ‘cabin’ 75m above the ground in the tree’s canopy. In high winds, the cabin can sway 1.5m in either direction, titillating the brave (or foolish) souls that take on this behemoth.
Pegged in 1988, the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is the tallest of a trio of fire lookout trees you can climb in the southwest’s towering Karri forests. Fire spotters used these Karri giants for surveillance in the 1930s and ‘40s, until planes took over the task in 1972.
Get wet on the Spider Walk
A total reimagining of the hiking experience, the Spider Walk requires you to rock-hop, wade and swim on a challenging outback obstacle course through Hancock Gorge in Karijini National Park. Although it’s no walk in the park, this adventure is great fun for older kids and adults alike – assuming you’re sufficiently coordinated and prepared to get wet.
From Weano Recreation Area in the park’s west, climb down a long steel ladder into the gorge and follow the swiftly flowing ‘trail’ to the Amphitheatre, a small stone arena that faces a pretty waterfall. Next up is the Spider Walk; a narrow, water-filled chasm that you negotiate by bracing your bare feet against the highly polished rock and shimmying along just above the water. It’s not as difficult as it looks, but it is sure to get your heart pumping!
You can splash through the next watery chasm or climb to stay high and dry in order to reach Kermit’s Pool, a bright green, impossibly deep waterhole perfect for swimming.
Meet the locals at Penguin Island
It rates as one of the world’s most significant, city-based marine sanctuaries and you’ll find it just 42km south of Perth: a string of rocky limestone islets protecting WA’s largest colony of little penguins. Ride the local ferry or paddle 700m from the mainland on your own kayak to enjoy guided walks and visit the Penguin Experience Discovery Centre and its underwater observatory for close-up views of rescued and rehabilitated little penguins. Around 1000 pairs of wild little penguins – the world’s smallest and noisiest – call this 12.5-hectare island home.
Bring snorkelling gear to explore the underwater cliffs laced with brilliantly coloured coral fans on the island’s northern tip, or spend a morning on the designated Little Penguin Dive Trail that begins south of the Discovery Centre.
And although you can’t set foot on neighbouring Seal Island where great piles of sluggish Australian sea lions warm themselves on the sand, paddlers hovering just offshore get great views of these rare creatures.
Kayak the Dampier Archipelago
Midway up WA’s rugged coastline, beyond the rusty ironstone hills of the Burrup Peninsula, you’ll find an archipelago of reef-fringed islands to snorkel, fish and camp in solitude. Clustered in a 45km-radius from land and irresistibly close for travellers with a kayak or tinny, 42 islands, islets and rock outcrops nurture coral gardens and nurseries of stingrays, turtles and reef sharks.
Out of the water, the landscape is just as remarkable. In 2014, WA proclaimed Murujuga National Park its 100th national park, finally affording protection to the mainland’s Burrup Peninsula and the largest concentration of ancient, Indigenous rock art the world has ever discovered.
Etched with an estimated 100,000 petroglyphs, these 30,000-year-old rock canvases extend beyond the Burrup Peninsula to the Dampier Archipelago islands, too, where fascinating finds are within reach just over the spinifex dunes. The islands are completely undeveloped so you’ll need to be totally self-sufficient, which is all part of the adventure, of course.
Spotlight through Stockyard Tunnel
Providing one of the best beginner caving experiences on the West Coast, Stockyard Tunnel disappears 300m through an ancient limestone seabed. Named because the tunnel and the exposed gully at either end form a natural stockyard, this was a popular drovers rest 150 years ago, providing shade and drinking water for weary cattle and workers.
In Stockyard Tunnel you can explore crevices and climb up into tiny tunnels and squeezes decorated with subtle pink and yellow hues derived from iron oxides, haematite and goethite. Tiny stalactites grow high above where floodwaters can’t reach.
In this strangely barren place, try switching off your torch and exposing your senses to the inky darkness. After 15 minutes, a welcoming glow will lure you back into the sunshine to marvel at beehives and swallow nests high on the gully’s limestone walls. Known for its prolific wildflowers, this hidden oasis is a rare find and a great way to beat the summertime heat.
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