Perth + APT Western Wildflowers Wilderness tour

Sarah Bolton on 28 October 2008
As one of the Australian Tourist Board's Premier agent I aim to visit Australia every year, and try to see and do things that I haven't covered before. My sister and her family live in Perth, and therefore Perth is normally always included in my trips, and this year was no exception. This October I took my dad with me (mum had been over for 2 months earlier in the year for the birth of her 3rd grandchild!), and we flew to Sydney with Etihad before connecting onto Qantas through to Perth. I hadn't flown with Etihad Airways before, and was very pleasantly surprised - I'd go so far as to say they're probably the best economy service I've experienced in recent years.

The first couple of days we spent in Perth at the Novotel Langley hotel (my sister having only just moved back into her house the day before we arrived following major renovations!). This hotel is in a good central location, near to the Swan River and downtown area. Bedrooms were comfortable and spacious (they needed to be with the amount of luggage we had!!), and breakfast was of a good standard and variety - including Asian options.

After the stay in Perth we joined APT's "Western Wildflower Wilderness" coach tour. October is spring-time in Australia, and Western Australia (WA) is renowned for its spring wild flowers. Not being much of a gardener myself, I did wonder whether dad's choice of tour was really going to be that interesting for me, but I was glad to be proved wrong! Yes, there was the general wildflower theme and we made a point of stopping to see the various shrubs, trees, plants etc - in fact, it was me that ended up running around taking lots of photos of all the wild and wacky-looking as well as the beautiful flowers. I may not be able to get any to grow for me (green fingers is something I lack!), but I am able to appreciate them. But the tour manager and driver were also full of usual information, stories and anecdotes about Australia in general, history, the places we were going through. So as we passed alongside "The Pipeline" we were told the story of how it came into being to get water to the Goldfields - we were also shown a wonderful DVD called "Constructing Australia" which brought this to life. (Being a retired Civil Engineer this was probably dad's highlight!!) The tour started in Perth and went through to Hyden on day 1 - the town closest to Wave Rock. I've always wanted to see Wave Rock, but had heard through the rumour mill that it wasn't worth the effort of getting there - well, I'd like to set the record straight - IT IS! From there it was on to Kalgoorlie, via Coolgardie. Coolgardie was the centre of WA's original gold rush, and it was fascinating to look round its museum to see just how hard life was for people then. One of the interesting things to note there is the width of the streets - these had to be wide enough to turn around a camel train - yes, you read right! Camels were the best form of transportation then, especially as they really were in the outback with very little access to water.

Kalgoorlie is still the largest producer of gold in Australia - though now done in Super Pits rather than mines. One of the great side-trips we did was to go down one of the disused mines that is now open as a museum, and be guided underground by one of the former miners. Then on to Esperance and Albany on the south-west coast, including information on the numbers of Australians who went to WW2 from there - and viewing a wonderful memorial to them. Valley of the Giants on the way up to Margaret River was another place I'd been looking forward to going - although I'm afraid of heights. I managed to make my way round the Treetop Walk with my heart in my mouth. Dad and I then left the tour there as we had a train to catch - and made our own way back to Perth.

Some people may be wary of taking a coach tour, but in fact it's a wonderful way of getting around - somebody else does the driving and you are fully escorted by very knowledgeable, helpful and friendly tour guides and drivers.