Western Australia Road Trip

We flew from Singapore to Perth, Australia on February 8, 2020. The flight arrived at about midnight. The airport was extremely quiet. I was ready for an intensive customs check for which Australia is famous. Mostly, Australian customs officers are renowned for making sure you do not bring any food into the country. However, the guy we had was actually really chatty and was quick to move us through with no real check. That was fine by us given that it was late and we were tired. We asked a lady working at an airline booth to call our hotel for us and she was happy to help. However, we stood outside waiting for about a half hour or more before it arrived. Hotels in Australia have a checkout time of 10 am which seems crazy to us. We are used to having a check-out time of noon. We asked for a late checkout and we were given until 11 am. This airport hotel was one of the cheapest ones we could find but it was pretty bare bones.

Nicola had been to Australia before but this was my first time. The last time she was here she visited New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and central Australia. We had decided to visit Western Australia (WA) because I have never been to Australia at all and Nic had not been to WA. Also, we know some people in WA that we could visit with. Rona and Colin live in Perth. We had visited with them in Dubai in 2013 when they were moving away. I wrote about that visit in my post entitled Arabian Nights and Days. Rona is a family friend from when Nicola, Moire and Haydn lived in Scotland. They now live in Freemantle (just outside Perth). Additionally, we met Jen and Peter (Frostie) earlier this year on our cruise from Italy to Mauritius. They live in Busselton, Australia on a farm. They gave us their contact information on the cruise with a very generous invitation for us to come and stay with them.

On our first morning in Perth, we took public transportation from our hotel near the airport to Freemantle. All of the busses and trains are integrated so for $5 AUD we bought a ticket to the Perth train station by bus and the train from Perth to the Freemantle train station. There was a big music festival happening in Freo (how Aussie’s refer to Freemantle – they shorten most names) and the train was filled with young Aussies, many of whom were very drunk. Rona and Colin picked us up at the train station.

Instead of going right to their place, they dropped us off at the Weekend Market in Freo. We wandered around for a while and I bought a cool sign for my gazebo. I also bought a pair of new sunglasses that had good UV protection. After the market, we stopped at a pub for a beer and some local music. We also went to an Optus store to buy a sim card for our phone. We got an amazing plan that was $20 AUD for 45 GB for one month plus unlimited texting and calling. Again, it just makes us more and more frustrated with the cost of Canadian cell phone plans.

Rona and Colin have a beautiful home with a great swimming pool. We showered in an outdoor shower as it was such beautiful weather. We are so grateful for their hospitality. They cooked dinners for us and fed us breakfasts every day. When you have been on the road for 11 months a little feel of home and home-cooked meals are so welcome. And they definitely made us feel welcome. We hope someday we can reciprocate and we can have them stay with them.

The next day we went back to Perth by train to pick up our rental car. We booked a small economy car from Thrifty for two weeks. We booked it on our BMO Rewards and the cost was about $19 AUD per day. It was a nice surprise to learn that Thrifty gave us a free upgrade to a brand-new VW SUV. It was large and roomy but likely used more gas than a small economy-sized vehicle would. I was very glad to have the extra room.

In Perth, we went to the King’s Park and Botanic Garden. It is a large and beautiful park space in the centre of Perth. There are extensive walking trails throughout the park and we walked almost 10 km in and around the park. It has beautiful views of the city and river from above. We actually just laid on the grass for a while and had a snooze. It was relaxing and peaceful.

On another day we drove to Caversham Wildlife Park. It is about a half hour from Freo and costs $30 AUD per person. It is a wildlife park with animals that are native to Western Australia mostly as well as many that are native to Australia but not WA. There are kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats, and many more animals I have never seen before. There are also many kinds of birds including emus, kookaburras, tawny frogmouth, penguins and more. There are also many reptiles and mammals including snakes, lizards, dingoes, and echidnas. They have a schedule of shows throughout the day including a farm show, meeting the wombats, meeting the koalas, feeding kangaroos, and feeding the penguins. At the farm show, I went up and tried cracking a whip… see the video below. We got our picture taken with both a wombat and a koala. Unfortunately, you cannot hold them but you can pet them with the back of your hand. It is a free-for-all when it comes to feeding the kangaroos.

One of the most popular things to do in the Perth area is to go to Rottnest Island to see quokkas. A quokka is a small marsupial about the size of a house cat. They are mainly nocturnal but Rottnest Island is a protected area for the quokkas so they come out and about and are not completely afraid of humans. The thing to do is to try to get the ultimate selfie with a quokka. You have to get down to the ground level and many of the selfies that you would find through a Google search are quite hilarious. It almost looks like they are trying to photobomb your picture but trust me when I say it is a challenge to get them into your selfie and get them looking at the camera. See some of our photos below. To get to Rottnest you need to take a ferry and pay an admission fee. It can be fairly expensive but if you look online you might find a good deal by buying online. You have to make sure to be careful of where you are leaving from. A return ticket from Perth including the island is $109 AUD but from Freemantle is $70 AUD (same-day return). We bought the “telethon saver” online for $49 AUD from Freo. There is also a couple of ferry companies so check both for the best deal. On the island, there are a few options including walking the trails or renting a bike. Research before you go.


After our visit with Rona and Colin, we headed towards Busselton. Busselton is 223 km drive south of Perth. Along the way, we stopped to go to Penguin Island. Penguin Island is 45 minutes south of Perth and is home to the largest colony of Ferry (Little) Penguins in Australia. The island is quite small and is only a 5-minute ferry ride to get to. There is actually a sandbar that extends from the mainland to the island and some people try to walk over to the island. However, it is very dangerous and people have drowned trying to do the walk.  You can buy ferry-only tickets for $18 AUD or tickets for ferry + discovery centre for $27 AUD. We bought the ferry-only tickets but then decided to go to the discovery centre and bought the tickets there for $9 AUD. On the island, you can walk around the whole island in about two hours. Note however that it is extremely rare to see the penguins out in the wild. They go out in the ocean during the day and come back after sunset. You cannot stay on the island and the last ferry is before sunset. Apparently, there are different times of the year when it is more likely but not for us in February. Additionally, the discovery centre has a group of penguins that are either being rehabilitated or were rescued. They do a show a few times of day mostly around their feeding time.


We continued on to Busselton to visit with Jen and Frostie. They used to farm asparagus but still own the farm. Every evening the fields are filled with kangaroos. Frostie took us out in his truck to see the kangaroos. These guys were very different from the ones in the wildlife park. You could not get anywhere close to them because they would bolt. There was also a female and her joey that came to their water well most evenings for a drink. These were red kangaroos and there were hundreds of them all over the place. During the day they hide out in the trees to stay out of the heat.

On the first day there, Jen and Frostie took us for a day of sightseeing in the Margaret River region.  Apart from the natural beauty of the area, Margaret River is famous for its wineries. Since we are not big wine drinkers (although we think we should learn), we did not visit any wineries apart from driving into one for a view. We drove through the Karri Forest to see the towering Karri trees. We took some roads that clearly needed a 4-wheel drive to navigate. Jen packed us a lovely picnic lunch and we stopped for a while in the Karri forest. We visited the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse which is the most south-westerly point in mainland Australia. I bought a barmah hat which I am not sure if I will wear much in Canada but it was cool to have one. All in all, it was a great day. Thanks to Jen and Frostie for being our tour guides. We cannot imagine a better way to experience the area than that.