Welcome to the March edition of This is WA

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March 2020


Travel and Lifestyle News from Western Australia


Welcome to the March edition of This is WA, bringing you the latest travel and lifestyle news from across Western Australia. 

What's Hot


West Australians are being encouraged to holiday locally following the launch of one of the State’s biggest intrastate marketing campaigns. Using the playful slogan ‘Do it in WA,’ the campaign will entice West Aussies to explore their own backyard by offering a range of holiday deals for travel across the State, to be launched online in the coming days. Swim with the biggest fish in the sea, take a selfie with the happiest animal on the planet, experience the magic of the Kimberley region, drive the Great South West Edge and walk on the whitest beaches alongside kangaroos, or explore Australia’s sunniest capital city – now is the perfect time to discover, or rediscover, what a holiday in WA has to offer.

World's biggest fish spotted at Ningaloo

Actor Lincoln Lewis swimming with whale sharks at Ningaloo. Credit: Sean Scott Photography

The world’s biggest fish has been spotted at World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef, heralding the start of the whale shark season. Last year, more than 30,000 people travelled to Ningaloo Reef to swim with whale sharks, who migrate to Western Australian shores between March and July each year to feed on plankton and krill. Ningaloo Reef remains one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks. Not only are sightings reliable - with one of the highest interaction rates, boasting 96 per cent last season - but they’re responsibly run by a small group of licensed professionals to ensure a sustainable and eco-friendly whale shark experience. Discover more on the WA whale shark season in the feature below.

Kimberley cruising and waterfalls in 2020

Punamii-Uunpuu (Mitchell Falls) in the Kimberley. Image credit: Gary Annett photography and the Wunambal Gaambera people

Heavy rains experienced in the Kimberley region of WA is good news for travellers planning a visit in 2020, as it means flowing waterfalls and striking green landscapes against towering red rock formations. Now is the perfect time to start planning a Kimberley cruise adventure – with the season set to begin in April. Experience the pristine waters of Australia’s last frontier in style, onboard small cruisers such as True North, Great Escape and Kimberley Quest – which meander through secluded gorges, and past towering red cliffs and pockets of rainforest that aren’t accessible to larger vessels, inclduding getting up close to some of the region's epic waterfalls.

New for the 2020 season – both the Kimberley Quest II and True North vessels have undergone major luxury refits. Kimberley Quest II has had all new appliances installed, modernised guest cabins, larger alfresco areas, and a complete galley refurbishment; plus the addition of luxury decking throughout the vessel. True North undergoes an annual refit before each season, however this year included major improvements to the current sundeck with additional seating, new tabletops and daybeds, and updates to the bar area. 

UFC returns to Perth

Perth will host its second top-level Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) when the event returns to the RAC Arena on June 7, 2020. With only 12 UFC events held each year – and only two or three of those hosted outside North America – this will be the only UFC pay per view event scheduled for Australia this year. Pay-per-views are the top tier of UFC events, attracting massive global audiences. The return of the globally popular spectacle is expected to attract thousands of visitors to WA. For further details on tickets and travel packages visit the website.

WA wins at National Tourism Awards

WA tourism businesses have taken home 10 medals for excellence at the 2019 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, held on March 6. Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures and Swan Valley Visitor Centre were the big WA winners, with both being inducted into the tourism Hall of Fame after taking out gold medals for the third consecutive time in the Unique Accommodation and Visitor Information Services categories respectively. Horizontal Seaplane Adventures, who offer tours to Australia’s only horizontal waterfalls in the Kimberley, also took home a silver medal in the tourist attractions category.

With five gold medals in total, the other WA operators that secured top-spot were Balingup Heights Hilltop Forest Cottages in the self-contained accommodation category, and for the second year running, Kimberley Quest for tour and transport operators and Two Feet and a Heartbeat for excellence in food tourism. 

Pullman Bunker Bay Resort Margaret River Region received two medals - winning silver for luxury accommodation and bronze for businesses event venues. Go Cultural Aboriginal Tours and Experiences took home silver in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Tourism category, and Holberry House in Nannup won bronze for hosted accommodation.

The awards have been operating for more than 30 years, and recognise and celebrate Australia’s best tourism businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to excellence. Visit the website for the fill list of national winners.

The ultimate Kimberley heli pub tour

Kimberley Heli Pub Tour

Travellers to the Kimberley can visit some of the most iconic stations on the famous Gibb River Road on a new Heli Pub Tour with Helispirit. Departing from Kununurra, the first stop is Home Valley Station’s Dusty Bar for lunch and a beverage. Guests will then fly over the Pentecost River Crossing and alongside the breathtaking Cockburn Range before landing at El Questro for drinks and snacks at The Swinging Arm Bar. The final stop on the tour is the Hoochery Distillery – WA’s oldest continuously operating rum distillery. Here, guests will enjoy a private tour, rum tasting and snack paddle, before returning with a scenic flight over Kununurra as the sun sets over the spectacular Ord River.

Lifestyle & Culture

Celebrate WA at the State Makers Festival

State Makers festival

Celebrating WA food, wine and art, State Makers will return to Perth’s iconic State Buildings from March 19 to April 12. Featuring decadent long table dinners, art workshops and wine tasting, the festival will welcome back Michelin Star chef David Thompson, former Long Chim bar chief James Connolly and wine legend Paul McArdle, alongside the State Buildings’ food and beverage champions and talented artisans. Highlights include a collaboration dinner by David Thompson and Wildflower head chef Matthew Sartori in the grand Postal Hall, a Great Wine and Guilty snacks masterclass with award-winning director of wine Emma Farrelly, and a series of Sunday brunches held in the stunning Wildflower restaurant rooftop space. Located in Perth’s CBD, the State Buildings connect three iconic heritage buildings – formally known as the Lands, Titles and Treasury buildings - into a now vibrant cultural destination, and is home to luxury boutique hotel, COMO The Treasury.

Headliners announced for readers and writers festival

Los Angeles-based Australian author Matthew Reilly is set to headline the inspiring, intriguing and thought-provoking Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival. The author will visit the Margaret River region to talk about his latest book, The Secret Runners of New York - a time travel story centred on rumours of a global apocalypse – in sync with this year’s festival theme Future Tense. The festival’s line up also includes Walkley Award-winning Australian columnist, author, broadcaster and social commentator Jane Caro, who will discuss her latest book Accidental Feminists; author and journalist Tracey Spicer AM; Russian-born, Israeli-Australian writer Dr Lee Kofman; and lifelong activist, acclaimed author and former leader of the Australian Greens Bob Brown, who will share his inspirations and thoughts as told in Planet Earth. The three day festival – running from May 15 to 17 - will be held at the recently opened Margaret River HEART arts hub, while feature events will be hosted across the region, including at Voyager Estate and Swings Taphouse.

Classic cars to descend on historic Albany

Albany Classic Motor Event

The coastal city of Albany in WA’s South West will be transformed into a temporary race circuit during the Albany Classic Motor Event. The event will feature cars which completed in the original event – the 1936 Albany TT Trophy – such as the Bartlett Special, Terraplane, and Lagonda. From May 30 to 31, the event will see more than 150 vintage and classic cars racing through the streets of Albany, overlooking ANZAC Peak Park and the Princess Royal Harbour, ranging from vintage wire wheels, post-vintage and classics, to open wheel racers and big cube muscle cars. Visitors can also enjoy plenty of entertainment, including food stalls with regional produce, live bands, children’s activities and an arts and crafts market.

Celebrate good food in Perth this April

Perth’s Good Food Month will return in April 2020, offering a fantastic line-up of events and bespoke food experiences, highlighting the city’s culinary excellence. Highlights include a collaboration dinner between Wildflower’s Matthew Sartori, Yarri’s Aaron Carr and Matt Blackwell from GOMA in Brisbane; a High Tea with celebrity patissier Adriano Zumbo; and the return of the ever-popular Night Noodle Markets at Perth’s Yagan Square from March 25 to April 5.

Food & Wine

Meelup Farmhouse opens in the Margaret River region

Meelup Farmhouse

The Margaret River region in WA’s South West has welcomed the opening of a new coastal farmhouse dining experience. Meelup Farmhouse, nestled in a private pocket of Eagle Bay, offers a fresh take on traditional dining in a relaxed setting complemented by the charms of a hobby farm. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinners, the menu focuses on grazing and sharing options; with seasonal picnic hampers available to purchase and enjoy on the lawn amongst the olive trees.

Historic hotel reopens as Coogee Common

The old Coogee Hotel – a historic pub overlooking Coogee Beach just south of Fremantle – has been given a new lease of life. Re-opening this month as Coogee Common, the former abandoned site has been transformed into a restaurant, lounge bar and gardens, thanks to the team behind popular Fremantle bakery-restaurant Bread in Common - Scott Brannigan and Nic Trimboli – and property developer Adrian Fini. In preparation for the opening, the team has spent two years rehabilitating the land and cultivating a market garden to supply fresh seasonal produce, which is harvested daily and used for both the Coogee Common and Bread in Common restaurants. The seasonal and chef’s tasting menus are built around what’s harvested on the property; with any produce that’s not available from the gardens all sourced locally. The historic buildings comprise of a public bar, private dining rooms, larger spaces for up to 120 guests, plus a cooking school.

New wine bar in Northbridge

Northbirdge Dining Room and Wine Store. Image Source: @northbirdge_diningroom

Perth's cultural hub of Northbridge last month welcomed the opening of a new wine bar. Northbirdge Dining Room and Wine Store is a casual small bar, bottle shop and restaurant located on William Street. Featuring wines by small producers that have a story to tell, they can be purchased by the bottle, the glass or as a takeaway, and sit alongside a rotating list of craft beers and Australian spirits. The separate dining room features a restaurant menu influenced by the Mediterranean, with a focus on local ingredients.

Subiaco welcomes brewery pop-up

Having brewed out of its Busselton farm for the past two years, Rocky Ridge Brewing Co has recently opened a pop-up Perth cellar door and bar in the inner-city suburb of Subiaco. Located inside the historic Vic Hotel, Rocky Ridge Subiaco pours favourites and new releases across eight taps, as well as providing a range of merchandise and packaged stock for take-away. The family owned business focuses on sustainable brewing and sourcing the best local produce, most of which is produced on the family farm in WA’s South West.

Tours, Attractions & Accommodation

Empowering and sustainable hiking launches in Perth

The Hike Collective in the Perth Hills

The Hike Collective is one of WA’s newest tour products, offering local tours and experiences on Perth’s best hiking trails. The ecotourism operation takes its guests to all corners of the city, including the Perth Hills, covering the region’s national parks, wildlife, and metropolitan beaches. Tours start from three kilometre lake trails to 19 kilometre Bibbulmun Track adventures, with all the hikes located no further than a one hour drive of Perth’s CBD. The company’s mission is to provide an environment to nurture mental health through hiking experiences, by mobilising the power of movement, connection and nature – with a focus on providing a sustainable hiking experience.

Crown Towers receives five-star Forbes rating

Perth's Crown Towers

Perth’s Crown Towers has become the first WA hotel to receive a five-star rating in the Forbes Travel Guide. The hotel joins only two other Australia properties – The Darling in Sydney and Crown Towers in Melbourne – to receive the lucrative rating. Forbes Travel Guide is the only independent, global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas. Five-star rated properties are deemed to be outstanding with virtually flawless service and amazing facilities, with just over 300 properties across the globe having achieved the accolade. Crown Towers is Perth’s largest luxury hotel, with premium resort facilities, and located just 10 minutes away from the city centre and walking distance to Perth’s Optus Stadium.

Sample sweet treats with Harvest Tours

Harvest Tours, based in the Margaret River region, has started offering a new Sweeties Tour with a Difference. The full-day wine tour showcases the sweet food and wine artisans of the region, with guests being treated to chocolate, fudge, honey, nougat, coffee, sweet wines and liqueurs; and includes a two-course lunch at Flutes Restaurant. The experience is $170 per person, including transfers, tastings and lunch.

Discover Broome’s Chinatown with Bingi through a Porthole

Bingi through a Porthole is a new Aboriginal tour uncovering Broome’s rich pearling history and culture in the heart of Chinatown. Guests can join local Aboriginal man Neville Poelina on a walking tour to discover his personal tales as a third generation pearl diver, and his experiences growing up in Broome, including stories of the bustling streets of Chinatown and the influences Asian people had on Broome. Known as the pearling capital of Australia, Broome is located in the Kimberley region of WA’s North West.

WA towns named in top 10

Albany in WA's Souh West

The coastal towns of Albany and Margaret River in WA’s South West have been named in the top 10 list in Wotif’s annual Aussie Town of the Year 2020 awards, which recognise Australia’s top ten trending holiday hotspots for the year. Coming in at number seven, the charming city of Albany was recognised for its rich history and heritage, being the oldest settlement in WA, and fantastic family appeal. At number nine, Margaret River received acclaim for the region’s premium wines, stunning beaches and sense of adventure. The Wotif awards are based on a location’s affordability, accommodation offering and demand, as well as traveller reviews on leading online travel site wotif.com.

Ningaloo Centre opens new reptile exhibit

Visitors to Exmouth, located in WA’s Coral Coast and one of the towns where visitors can experience the wonders of World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef, can now discover the region’s native reptiles at the Ningaloo Centre. The new exhibit provides visitors with an up-close experience of the region’s unique and varied reptile species, all of which are found within Cape Range National Park and nearby Pilbara region. On display are several species of pythons and monitor lizards; Centralian Blue-Tongue skinks and Northern Spiny Tailed Geckos. This exhibition complements the Ningaloo Centre’s existing 55,000 litre aquarium, which is one of Australia’s largest live coral exhibits, and home to more than 50 different species of animals native to the Ningaloo Reef.

Discover WA’s rich mineral on a new mine tour

Visitors can discover the magic of gold on Go West Tour’s new Gold Mine Experience tour of Newmont Boddington Gold – one of Australia’s largest producing gold mines, located just under a two hour drive south of Perth. The 90-minute tour will allow guests to get behind the scenes of a working gold mine. The tour will also cover the history of gold mining in Boddington, with an opportunity to try panning for the prized mineral.


Ningaloo’s gentle giants back for 2020 season

Whale shark at Ningaloo Reef

It's that time of year again: the world's biggest fish is returning to World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef, as Western Australia prepares for another successful whale shark season.

Last year more than 30,000 people travelled to Ningaloo Reef to swim with whale sharks, who migrate to Western Australian shores between March and July each year to feed on plankton and krill.

Ningaloo Reef remains one of the best places in the world to swim with the whale shark. Not only are sightings reliable - with one of the highest interaction rates, boasting 96 per cent last season - but they’re responsibly run by a small group of licensed professionals to ensure a sustainable whale shark experience.

Australia’s Coral Coast CEO David O’Malley said with 11 passionate eco-tourism operators, clear water and on-board photographers, the magical moments you share with the marine life of Ningaloo Reef will stay with you for a lifetime.

“Ningaloo is one of the only places you can swim with Australia’s big three – manta rays, humpback whales and the gentle giants of the sea, the whale sharks.”

“Visitors can expect an authentic, humbling and life-changing experience, in some tours only about 10 minutes from shore.”

The Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions manages whale shark interactions through a licensing program that protects both the whale sharks and swimmers.

Whale shark swim tours have begun operating from Coral Bay and Exmouth, and will continue through until late June (in Coral Bay) and late July (in Exmouth), allowing visitors the opportunity to have a face-to-fin encounter with the friendly giants – which are around six to 11 metres in length. 

The Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area covers more than 600,000 hectares, with scenic stretches of coastline, beautiful beaches and plenty of wildlife; and includes the rugged canyons and gorges of the Cape Range National Park to explore.

At 300 kilometres long, Ningaloo Reef is one of the world’s largest and most accessible fringing reefs. Visitors can walk straight off the beach and snorkel in the underwater wonderland teeming with brilliant coloured coral, manta rays, sea turtles and more than 500 species of tropical fish.

Exmouth, the northern gateway to the Ningaloo Coast, is located 1,250 kilometres north of Perth with Coral Bay being just 1, 130 kilometres. Qantas operates 12 flights per week from Perth (just under two hours) to Learmonth airport, including special weekend fares available until October 12 on selected Friday to Monday flights, when booked at least 45-days ahead of travel.

With greatly reduced one-way hire car rental fees between Perth and Exmouth with Avis Australia and Hertz, visitors can self-drive experience other Coral Coast highlights such as Geraldton, Kalbarri and Shark Bay, or keep exploring north along the Warlu Way.

For further information on swimming with whale sharks and booking a trip to the Ningaloo Coast visit www.westernaustralia.com.



Kickstarters Gascoyne Dash

April 9 to 12 | Carnarvon | WA’s Coral Coast

The Kickstarters Gascoyne Dash is a genuine desert race, featuring extreme off-road racing machines. The 400-kilometre event provides a challenge for even the toughest competitors, with off-road cars taking on motorbikes to determine who will be crowned ‘King of the River.’ Situated between the seaside town of Carnarvon and Gascoyne Junction, it presents some of the harshest and remote country in WA.

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Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro

April 22 to May 2 | Margaret River Region | WA’s South West

The top 36 ranked male and top 18 ranked female surfers in the world will descend upon the Margaret River region to surf its world-class waves at the 2020 Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro. The event will see thousands of spectators flock to the region’s best breaks to watch the world’s elite surfers take on the famous waves. The Margaret River Pro has been awarded World Championship Tour status as it offers some of the best surfing conditions in the world.

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Margaret River Region Open Studios

April 25 to May 10 | Margaret River Region | WA’s South West

More than 100 painters, sculptors, illustrators, jewellers, printmakers, glassblowers, ceramicists, photographers and furniture makers will participate in this year’s Margaret River Region Open Studios event. Held across 16 days, visitors and art enthusiasts will have the rare chance to visit private art studios and meet established and emerging artists from across the Margaret River region for a unique behind-the-scenes creative experience. Celebrated local artists participating in the event include Leon Pericles, Rachel Coad, Rebecca Cool, Lauren Wilhelm, Ian Mutch, Christian Fletcher and John Miller.

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First National Kimberley Lake Argyle Swim

May 2 | Lake Argyle | WA’s North West

Each year the First National Kimberley Lake Argyle Swim departs from a deep water start in the heart of Lake Argyle and finishes in the spectacular Bamboo Cove near the Lake Argyle Boat Ramp and Resort. Swimmers can choose to race between two distances - 10 or 20 kilometres - with event categories including solo, duos and teams of four. Situated 75 kilometres from the town of Kununurra in the Kimberley region, Lake Argyle is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the Southern Hemisphere. Recognised as one of the most spectacular places to visit in Australia, the event provides experienced swimmers with an unsurpassed outback adventure.

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Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster

May 15 to 24 | Kununurra | WA’s North West

Experience the magic of the Kimberley at the Argyle Diamonds Ord Valley Muster. One of Australia’s most successful female artists, Jessica Mauboy, will headline the Muster’s pinnacle event – the Aviar Helispirit Kimberley Moon Experience on May 16, alongside former Noiseworks and INXS lead singer Jon Stevens, award winning duo Busby Marou and Aboriginal singer-songwriter Emily Wurramarra. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the 10-day festival will take over Kununurra and surrounds with a wide variety of unique experiences, including Comedy in the Park hosted by Harley Breen, Aboriginal culture and dance, food events, wellness sessions, popular talent quest Muster Idol, a country rodeo, a special event to commemorate the anniversary celebrations, and a new Ord Valley Muster Closing Night Party on May 24.

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Denmark Festival of Voice

May 29 to 31 | Denmark | WA’s South West

The Denmark Festival of Voice is an intimate festival held in the beautiful coastal town of Denmark, in WA’s South West. The festival is a celebration of the human voice, with a special focus on community singing. Each year the festival brings together an inspiring line-up of local, national and international artists performing a cappella and accompanied by choirs, ensembles and groups. The event will also feature individual performances, as well as a number of community concerts and workshops.

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Jazz by the Bay

May 29 to June 1 | Dunsborough, Busselton and Margaret River | WA’s South West

The Margaret River region will be swinging, scatting and jiving on the June long weekend when the annual Jazz by the Bay returns to town. With events held across Busselton, Dunsborough and Margaret River, the festival hub takes place at Lions Park in Dunsborough, with free community concerts on Saturday and Sunday. Jazz by the Bay brings together local, interstate and international talent for an eclectic mix of free and ticketed live soul, rhythm and blues, big band, bebop and swing events at a range of great venues including wineries, pubs, theatres and galleries.

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WA Day Festival

May 29 to June 1 | Perth

The WA Day Festival is a proud occasion for all West Australians to come together to celebrate the people, lifestyle and culture with activities for the whole family to enjoy. The 10-day festival will be held across the State, with events in Perth, Fremantle, Albany, Bunbury, Pinjarra, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Newman, Onslow and Port Hedland.

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Truffle Kerfuffle

June 19 to 21 | Manjimup | WA’s South West

The annual Truffle Kerfuffle is a weekend long celebration of Manjimup’s famous black truffles and the region’s local produce. Held at the beginning of truffle season in WA’s South West, festival goers will enjoy interactive and hands on experiences. Join truffle hunters and their truffle dogs to search for prized truffles, visit the festival village to meet the producers and get a taste of the region, or get a truffle fix at a range of exclusive dining events. The region is the largest producer of black truffle in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Media contact:
Tiana Anderson

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For more events on Tourism WA's calendar visit westernaustralia.com/events.

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