When planning my trip to Australia, I would say that almost everyone that I spoke with who had been to Australia gave me the following advice:
“You HAVE to go to Western Australia!”
“And why is that?”I would ask.
Possible Responses That They Could Have Said:
“Because it has a horizontal waterfall!”
Granted, this is a generalization. However, this exact exchange happened with enough people that it stuck in my head and convinced me to book a flight to Perth on my Round the World adventure. I figured I would just find out why Western Australia was so great once I got there.
I wish I could say I went snorkeling with the whale sharks or figured out what a “horizontal waterfall” is. Alas, the truth is, since everyone failed to be specific about what to do in Western Australia, I was ignorant of what kind of options there were. I ended up doing none of the above.
One thing I did quickly realize upon landing was that I should have allowed for more than one week in Australia’s largest and wealthiest state. Western Australia is 1 million square miles of sprawling, isolated, rugged Australian Outback, with a population of 1.9 million people, 1.4 million of whom live in Perth. 0.4 million of whom are sprinkled around the other 999,900 square miles of the state alongside one of the world’s last populations of wild camels. Of all the places to see and things to do, I spent my week in two places, doing two things: walking around historic Fremantle and drinking premium wines in Margaret River. And it was marvelous.
The residents of Fremantle were particularly friendly. I was lured into a twenty minute conversation with the informal gathering of elderly Italian Australian gentlemen that met on the mall bench in front of the grocery store on Thursday afternoons. Later my travel buddy was beset by the kindest Jehovah’s Witness grannies that you will ever meet, who were adorable and encouraged us to share one pamphlet on the suffering of the world to save trees. We were also wished a good journey by several non-senior citizens as we passed them on the streets. Good on ya, Freo!
I also spent a small amount of time in Fremantle being terrified by the spooky tour of the Fremantle Prison, which tells the tale of Australia’s convict past.
The Torchlight Tour of this once-largest maximum security prison in Australia is not for scaredy cats: cat o’ nine tails whipping posts, soundproof isolation cell blocks, gallows room, people hiding and jumping out to scare tourists. There was no shortage of ghost stories either. One prisoner was accidentally decapitated during his hanging and his ghost is said to haunt the gallows room. Group photos taken in the room have often had a distortion over the heads of the people in the photos. Fremantle Prison was also home to the escape-proof cell, expressly designed to hold Moondyne Joe, who had escaped from the local prison no less than FOUR times before they moved him into Fremantle. He then escaped from Fremantle SEVEN times, but not once from the escape-proof cell.
Margaret River was so named by Alfred Bussel, after the woman he loved unrequitedly. Unrequitedly because she was his first cousin and refused to marry him. In fact, she never saw the river that was named after her. I do not know what happened to Mr. Bussel, but I can tell you what happened to Margaret River: it became a great wine region. I took Bushtucker’s Great Wineries Tour, a 10am to 5pm hard day’s work of sampling the great wines, chocolate, cheeses and beers. Margaret River’s 127 wineries produce 4% of Australia’s wines, which win 25% of the national wine awards.
Fremantle and Margaret River are just as deserving of being on the highlights list of Western Australia, so I guess I now know what I’ll use as reasons to convince others to visit Western Australia.
“Because Perth is RIGHT on the ocean!”
“Because you can drink oh-so-much good wine in Margaret River!”
“Because you can eat the most delicious barramundi sandwich of your life at Sardines Cafe in Fremantle!”
Note: I also now know what responses I should not use to convince people to go to Western Australia.
Do Not Respond With:
“Because you can go to a sold out movie in the suburb of Innaloo in the middle of nowhere and be stuck there for hours on a Sunday!”
“Because the red light district is conveniently located by the train station and backpacker area!”
“Because some of the Perth hostels are very possibly also used by sex workers!”