Western Australia

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Covering almost one third of Australia, this is by far the largest state. Much of the state is covered by desert and there are no major (well none are high!) mountain ranges. Much of Western Australia's economy is based on mining and the usually barren landscape has made prospecting easy. The main interests for walkers are the small mountain ranges scattered around the state and the coastline. The most unique feature of the state is its extremely large number of endemic plants and the south-western corner is the most outstanding wildflower region of the country. It's worth visiting just for the flowers.

The biggest problem for visitors is the sheer size of the state and the lack of public transport. When you consider the state to be the size of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland combined, you realise distances are vast. Combine this with the lack of water (rainfall is very low) and most bushwalking is restricted to the south-western corner within reasonable reach of the capital, Perth (within 500km).

For bushwalkers, there are some interesting landscapes and great wildflower displays but do not expect to find wilderness here. There are very few National Parks and what there is, seems to be managed in a similar manner to the forest reserves which are run as tree farms. The Conservation and Land Management department (CALM) manage all of the forestry and park lands and there is great debate within the state about whether they are doing a good job. Not every one agrees with fire management methods used - if you regularly burn the forests then you will not get major bushfires.

Anyway, the major effect for bushwalkers is that many trees have a fire blackened trunk as they burn most sections of forest (including most national parks) on a ten year cycle. This was disappointing after seeing the tourist advertising of pristine clean tree trunks. There were some exceptions but expect to many see fire effected forests. There is one positive effect of fire, they encourage orchids and ground plants to flower and flowers are an important feature of walks here.

The major show piece for bushwalkers is the longest track - the Bibbulmun Track. This runs for 963 km from the suburbs of Perth to Albany. Another major walk in the south-west corner is the Cape to Cape walk which follows the coastline near Margaret River. The other recognised standard walk in the south-west is the traverse of the Stirling Range.

Many other walks are possible in the south-western corner. There is a lot of uninhabited coastline west from Mandalay Beach and also east of Albany which includes Fitzgerald River - there are no tracks but the coast is reasonably easy to follow. One of the problems is water, or the lack of it, and most days are from water site to water site. There are also some signposted circuit walks of several days based around Dwellingup, 100km south-east of Perth. Unfortunately, information to these and many other walks is almost impossible to obtain. One walker has put forward a proposal to produce a guide of overnight bushwalks - whether this gets past the planning stage will be interesting to see as most aspiring writers do not realise the sheer volume of effort and time required.

North from Perth, there is a lot of undulating country for 600km to the next major attraction, the Murchison River. This provides an interesting gorge walk and 500km further north are a series of gorges in the Pilbara region. In the far north, there is some excellent walking in the tropics at the Bungle Bungle Range (restrictions apply) and also in the vast region known as The Kimberley. Access to the far north is very difficult unless you have your own four wheel drive vehicle and lots of time as most walking areas are a long way off the highways. There are some organised walking tours to the far north and these are popular with many walkers.

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Photographs and text are copyright 1998-2015 John Chapman.
Last updated : December 8th 2015