Your go-to list to keeping cool this summer in the South West.
Use this list of the top 10 things to do during summer for an ultimate getaway in Australia's South West. From epic road trips and reconnecting with family and friends, to lazy days and long lunches, to discovering marine life you'll see nowhere else - #SummerintheSouthWest lasts well beyond Christmas & New Year - skip the crowds and plan your trip for February 2021, when you're bound to find a stretch of pristine coastline or a tranquil inland lake all to yourself.
1. Find pristine beaches
Australian beaches are some of the best in the world, and in the South West we have more than 1000km of pristine coastline to explore. We recommend you make it your mission to visit the recently reopened Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks, which has protected bays of peppermint-tinged waters amidst giant boulders. The car park and facilities here have been upgraded so there's never been a better time to wander out yonder to discover this unique spot in Denmark's William Bay National Park.
Other top beaches we recommend are Geographe Bay in Busselton (home of the Busselton Jetty), Smith's Beach in Yallingup and Middleton Beach near Albany. Also don't miss the picturesque rock pools at Injidup Natural Spa and The Aquarium near Yallingup, the impressive blue hues of the waters at Eagle Bay and Meelup Beach near Dunsborough, and sifting your toes through the white sand of Little Beach in Two People's Bay Nature Reserve near Albany.
2. Under the sea
Summer means some of our favourite marine-life comes out to play! Did you know that in Bremer Bay you can spend a day on board a charter boat tour to witness the largest known pod of orca (killer whales) in the Southern Hemisphere? From January until early April each year these incredible creatures frequent the canyon, so make sure to add Bremer Bay to your summer itinerary! You can hop on board a tour with Naturaliste Charters or Whale Watch Western Australia.
In the waters of Bunbury's Koombana Bay, wild dolphins roam from November to April. Visit the Dolphin Discovery Centre during summer (open daily from 8am, closed Tuesdays) for a chance to see these playful marine mammals as they visit the shallows of the bay outside the centre. You can also embark on a Dolphin Swim Tour for an up-close experience, or join the daily Eco Cruise to see them frolicking, sleeping and hunting out at sea. Then relax and enjoy a coffee and a bite to eat at the beachside cafe.
Further south, visit the Margaret River region's Hamelin Bay near Augusta. In the shallows of this pristine white sand beach near the boat ramp and old jetty, wild rays glide along the ocean floor in search of fish scraps left behind by the fishermen. Don't miss an incredible - but socially distant - encounter with these friendly rays.
For snorkellers and divers, enjoy swimming through the region's three dive wrecks: The Lena in Bunbury, The Swan in Dunsborough and The Perth in Albany. One of the best artificial reefs in Australia can be found below the Busselton Jetty, where you can delve below the surface on a tour of the Underwater Observatory, or take an Undersea Walk along the sea floor.
3. Festive feels
The South West has an ever-growing calendar of events, and summer is one of the best times to embrace gourmet foodie festivals, outdoor concerts and world-renowned sports competitions.
You won't want to miss the 2021 Bunbury Fringe Festival from January 22 to 30, where you can enjoy a selection of cutting edge, diverse, eclectic shows - think everything from stand up, to music, improv, comedic theatre, poetry, storytelling and more! Browse the line-up of events and book your tickets now.
Calling all Pinot-lovers! Raise your glass at this brand new event in the Southern Forests and Valleys this February 11-14. The first ever Pinot Picnic is a chance to wine and dine your way through Manjimup and Pemberton with a four-day celebration of extraordinary pop-up pinot themed events, or take the experience home and indulge in local gourmet picnic hampers paired perfectly with regional pinots. From sparkling soirées, tasting masterclasses, vineyard experiences, to wine-matching brunches, lunches and dinners, there's no doubt it's the season for pinot! Stay in the loop by subscribing to the mailing list on their website - tickets on sale soon!
For all beer-inclined, the 2021 South West Craft Beer Festival is an absolute must. Taking place in Signall Park in Busselton on February 27, this is the perfect opportunity to sip and savour the best golden nectar the South West has to offer. The festival showcases more than 120+ refreshing local brews alongside enticing cuisine and groovy local beats. Secure your ticket now!
Foodies will love the 2021 Taste Great Southern Food Festival which celebrates 11 days of culinary experiences from over 20 chefs all across the Great Southern. In 2021, events from March 18 to 28 will include long lunches, degustations, premium pairings, festivals, community markets, free events, award winning wine and local produce tastings, just to name a few. Check out the event line-up and book your tickets now.
4. Mountain bike adventures
The South West is a mecca for mountain bike enthusiasts of all skill levels. There's an outstanding network of trails that take casual riders and serious mountain bikers into the heart of the region's wildflower country and native forests.
In Collie, try the recently upgraded Arklow Trail Network, situated just 5km from north of Collie town on Harris River Road. Here you'll find over 35km of trails to ride - from a 9.2km Adaptive Trail loop suitable for families and long easy rides along Railway Rise and Jarrah Jaunt, to the 7.5 km of old school, blue and single tracks of Rays Trail involving complex twists and turns, and the 4.5km challenging blue rocky climb of Trail 7 with multiple log rides and the sweet reward of a rapid roller coaster descent - there's something for everyone here.
Across the region there's plenty of other trails to be explored; from the 1000km-long Munda Biddi, to the Wadandi Track in Margaret River, the Old Timberline Trail in Nannup, Relentless Blue MTB Park in Pemberton, and the Downhill Mountain Bike Trail in Albany, plus many more. Check out our list of top mountain bike trails for more exhilarating adventure.
5. Water sports
Summer in the South West means a water-lover's paradise, and what better way to cool off from the summer heat than by spending a day on the water? The region's lengthy coastline makes it an ideal place for water-based activities such as surfing, windsurfing, kite surfing, and sailing. Meanwhile, the many inland lakes and fresh water courses that wind their way through the valleys provide playgrounds for water sports such as canoeing, kayaking and water-skiing.
The Blackwood River, stretching from Boyup Brook to Augusta and meandering through Bridgetown, is considered one of WA’s premier canoeing destinations. During summer, the calm waters of the Blackwood provide long stretches of river ideal for families. Our tip: BYO canoe, or hire one from the towns along the river.
In Wellington National Park near Collie you can hire kayaks and SUPs from local tour operator Traaverse. Also seek out Lake Beedelup in Pemberton at RAC Karri River Valley Resort, Deep River in Mount Frankland National Park, Walpole’s Frankland River and Coalmine Beach at Nornalup.
For those that like to lux-it-up, sail aboard one of the last fully operational pearling luggers in the calm blue waters of Geographe Bay this summer with Willie Cruises.
6. Like a local
There's nothing quite like experiencing the region like a local - and summer is a great time to do it. Take a tour with a local operator to see epic locations through their eyes. We recommend a 4WD Beach & Forest Eco Adventure Tour with Pemberton Discovery Tours - where you'll see one of the world's largest moving sand dune systems at Yeagarup Dunes and experience tricky-to-access national parks with the comfort of a local expert.
In Walpole, join a WOW Wilderness Eco Cruise to learn about the history of this area from a hilarious local guide, all while you cruise down the Walpole inlet towards biodiverse and untouched landscapes. In Margaret River, explore the actual Margaret River on a canoe tour with Margaret River Discovery Co. and see a local's perspective on the beauty here. You may think you know the region well, until you see it like a local!
7. Winery long-lunches
It wouldn't be a summer holiday without an excess of food and wine, and there's no shortage here in the South West.
Are you looking for an eight-course degustation, complete with matching wines? How about a decadent picnic, with equally pleasing scenery to match? Or what about a classic pub lunch, designed to warm the heart and feed the belly? With a range of dining venues and options – varying from a café-style brunch or à la carte lunch, to a degustation or gourmet shared platter – there’s a food option for even the most discerning eaters. No matter where you go in the South West, you'll be able to sit back, relax and get ready to indulge!
Here are some venues that are delivering the goods this summer:
The newly renovated Swings & Roundabouts in Yallingup has relaxed outdoor dining and delicious food and wine perfect for your summer of indulgence.
Clairault Streiker in Margaret River are hosting vineyard picnics this summer so you can keep things classy yet casual.
Aravina Estate is hosting their 15 Days of Summer event from December 27 to January 10, where you can enjoy fresh taphouse beer, oyster shucking, live music on the lawns, a pizza and Aperol bar and free wine tastings.
Singlefile Wines in Denmark offer wine tastings of Great Southern drops, with byo nibbles that can be enjoyed on the lawns. You can also book a private tasting here for an ultimate experience including a vineyard walk.
8. Plunge pools
Ready to do a bomby into a pristine natural pool!? There are so many tranquil and idealistic swimming spots in the South West that are perfect for cooling off this summer. Try the green sanctuaries at Honeymoon Pool in Wellington National Park, Minninup Pool near Collie, Barrabup Pool near Nannup or Fonty's Pool in Manjimup - all of which are perfect for making a splash! Find turquoise-blue lakes at Black Diamond Lake, Stockton Lake and Lake Kepwari near Collie, ideal spots for lounging on a floatie all summer long.
9. Catch and camp
Summer is a great time for a camping holiday, complete with a spot of fishing. Luckily, there's a wealth of camping and fishing spots across the South West - from sites with stunning views of the coast, to lovely spots nestled under the peppermint trees. We recommend you try Windy Harbour Campground in Windy Harbour for easy access to nearby beach fishing spots.
10. The South West Edge
Want to experience it all this summer? Discover a journey into the heartland of an undisturbed, uncrowded Australia with this road trip that will change you forever.
The South West Edge is a 12 day adventure that traverses 1200km from Perth to Esperance, taking you through wine regions, towering forests and along marine life-rich coast before heading across the outback.
It will fill your lungs, leave you in awe, and have you breathing more deeply. It feeds your soul with discovery and wonderment; every turn giving you a new experience. Find out more about The Edge at www.thesouthwestedge.com.au