By ZOE CARTER and MEGAN SMITH
It’s bohemian, it’s free-spirited, it’s that hippie aunt who pops into family holidays and makes things a little more interesting. It’s Fremantle -” just call me Freo -” WA, and it’s only a train ride away from Perth.
Plan to visit Freo on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and make the markets your first stop. The town’s tie-dyed heart, the Fremantle Markets, has everything from fresh organic produce to local art to just plain strange knickknacks. And amid it all is a mass of people and buskers creating a warm-hearted hullaballoo that could only be Freo.
From the markets, head to the famed cappuccino strip on South Terrace for some of the best people-watching this side of the equator. Grab a cuppa when the American sailors are in town, boys, and there will be plenty of eye candy to go with your coffee. After a caffeine shake-up, both the eerily historic Fremantle Prison and the grandly gothic Fremantle Arts Centre are worth a visit.
In the evening, Fremantle has a wealth of watering holes. Those after a pint on the waterfront should head for Little Creatures, a Freo landmark, with a superb wine list and great microbrews in a big open warehouse on the water. Both the cafe strip and the waterfront in Fremantle have a wide selection from high dining to cheap eats. Stroll along and follow your nose to find whatever your palate craves.
In contrast, Margaret River is renowned internationally as one of Australia’s premium wine-producing regions, and any trip to Margs has to start with the vines. Almost any Margaret River winery is worth a stop. Voyager, Vasse Felix and Gralyn (a small boutique winery that only offers cellar door sales) stand out.
Wine is not all that is on offer at Margaret River, though. In recent years, the town centre has increasingly become an upscale collection of gourmet restaurants catering to any taste and most budgets. Meanwhile, away from the town centre, Margs is a haven for alternative living. Surfer vans dot the coastline which has some of Australia’s best breaks, while artist studios are tucked away between wineries.
Perhaps, however, the best winery alternative in Margaret River is the Bushtucker Tour. This kayaking/hiking tour goes over the area’s indigenous history and serves bush tucker meals. If you’ve never eaten a witchetty grub, this is your chance.
If going to Margaret River, consider staying at Bayshore Beachside Resort in Dunsborough, a gay-owned accommodation in a gorgeous location.
Those happy to venture a little further afield should consider Albany -” a civilised hour in the air gives you time for aeroplane food, a magazine, a bit of a look at the brilliant patchwork of golden canola, green wheat and purple Salvation Jane and then you’re breathing the fresh south coast air.
A ten minute taxi ride into town and you can grab your latte from the home of all things gourmet, Bayshore Merchants, and be sitting on Middleton beach three and a half hours before your partner arrives in the car with your luggage.
Albany’s a kooky place -” one of the earliest settlements in WA, the historic former whaling town is also the place to find Dog Rock (hey! it looks like a dog!), one of the most beautiful natural harbours in Australia. Think Sydney with less development, as well as secluded beaches perfect for romantic meanderings or refreshing your beloved’s sense of humour after that longish drive.
Highly recommended is Little Beach, in the Two People’s Bay National Park, which has sand so white it squeaks underfoot and water so brilliantly turquoise that for once the tourist brochures are understated.
When to go? Spring is a great time to catch wildflowers in the local national parks, summer offers a milder alternative to the baking heat of a Perth summer, while July to October is the ideal time to catch the Southern Right whales and humpbacks frolicking in the harbour.
Western Australia’s warm weather is ideal for those perfect waves.