Each week, we spotlight a dream vacation recommended by some of the industry's top travel writers. This week's pick is coastal Australia.
I had always wanted to take a leisurely road trip along the coastal region south of Perth, said Margo Pfeiff at the Los Angeles Times. Perth itself is a sun-soaked marvel of a city, and the corner of Western Australia that lies below it is "remarkably" diverse, with 600 miles of coastline, several national parks, and six wine-growing regions. A friend and I finally made the tour last March, as Australia's summer turned to fall, and Perth put us in the right mood. The city has 1.7 million residents, but there are 19 white-sand surfing beaches in the metro region, and in Kings Park and Botanic Garden, a 1,000-acre green space, you don't feel like you're in a city when rainbow lorikeets are flitting among the banksia blossoms.
From Perth, we took State Route 2 south to Margaret River, the town at the heart of a region known for its wine, cheese, tender Arkady lamb, and freshwater crayfish. We stocked up at the Margaret River Farmers' Market, "the epicenter of all things edible," then started making day trips from our cottage three miles from the sea. A bit of winery hopping took us to Vasse Felix and Cape Mentelle Vineyards, and we regularly hiked the headlands and beaches of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Over morning coffee at the cottage, we watched peacocks grazing with the sheep on a neighbor's farm.
Heading inland, we drove into the Southern Forests, where among one stand of 400-year-old trees, we strolled on a walkway strung 120 feet off the ground in the forest canopy. After an overnight in Albany, a former whaling outpost full of old taverns, we were on to Esperance, stopping frequently for closer looks at the many "strange and fantastical" blossoms that make Western Australia the best place in the world to see unique wildflower species. On Woody Island, a ferry ride away from Esperance, we searched for tiny penguins in the bush after some snorkeling. The next afternoon, in Cape Le Grand National Park, we fared even better, finding kangaroos bouncing in the surf and lounging on the "blindingly white" sand of Lucky Bay.