Disability awareness in WA is excellent. Legislation requires that new accommodation meet accessibility standards, and discrimination by tourism operators is illegal. Many of the state's key attractions provide access for those with limited mobility and an increasing number are addressing the needs of visitors with visual or aural impairments. Contact attractions in advance to confirm the facilities.
Lonely Planet Download the free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
National Information Communication & Awareness Network Australia-wide directory providing information on access, accommodation, sports and recreational activities, transport and specialist tour operators
National Public Toilet Map (www.toiletmap.gov.au) Lists more than 14,000 public toilets around Australia, including those with wheelchair access.
People with Disabilities WA (www.pwdwa.org) Website detailing WA's major disability service providers.
Tourism WA (www.westernaustralia.com) Website highlighting all accessible listings (accommodation, restaurants, tours etc).
VisAbility Support for people living with blindness and vision impairment.
Bargaining is not appropriate in Western Australia.
Dangers & Annoyances
Dangerous animals include snakes, sharks and jellyfish, but travellers are very unlikely to encounter any of these. The state is generally a low-crime area, although care should be taken after midnight in central nightlife areas like Northbridge in Perth.
Australia is home to some seriously dangerous creatures. On land there are poisonous snakes and spiders, while the sea harbours deadly box jellyfish and white pointer sharks. The saltwater crocodile spans both environments.
In reality you're unlikely to see these creatures in the wild, much less be attacked by one. Far more likely is a hangover after a big night, or getting sunburnt after not wearing sunscreen.
A Bit of Perspective
Despite the recent increase in fatal shark attacks in WA, statistically it's still very unlikely that visitors will be attacked. Blue-ringed octopus deaths are even rarer – only two in the last century – and there's only ever been one confirmed death from a cone shell. Jellyfish kill about two people annually, but you're still 100 times more likely to drown.
On land, snakes kill one or two people per year (about the same as bee stings, or less than one-thousandth of those killed on the roads). There hasn't been a recorded death from a tick bite for over 50 years, nor from spider bites in the last 20.
Box Jellyfish & Marine Species
There have been fatal encounters between swimmers and box jellyfish on the northern coast. Also known as the sea wasp or 'stinger', they have venomous tentacles that can grow up to 3m long. You can be stung any time, but from November to March you should stay out of the water unless you're wearing a 'stinger suit' (available from sporting shops).
If you are stung, first aid consists of washing the skin with vinegar to prevent further discharge of remaining stinging cells, followed by rapid transfer to a hospital; antivenin is widely available.
Marine spikes from sea urchins, stonefish, scorpion fish, catfish and stingrays can cause severe local pain. If this occurs, immediately immerse the affected area in water that's as hot as can be tolerated. Keep topping up with hot water until the pain subsides and medical care can be reached. The stonefish is found only in tropical Australia; antivenin is available.
In northwest WA, saltwater crocodiles can be a real danger. They live around the coast, and are also found in estuaries, creeks and rivers, sometimes a long way inland. Observe safety signs or ask locals whether an inviting waterhole or river is croc-free before plunging in. The last fatality in WA caused by a saltwater crocodile was in 1987, and attacks occurred in 2006, 2012, 2015 and 2016.
For four to six months of the year you'll have to cope with flies and mosquitoes. Flies are more prevalent in the outback, where a humble fly net is effective. Repellents may also deter them.
Mozzies are a problem in summer, especially near wetlands in tropical areas, and some species are carriers of viral infections. Keep your arms and legs covered after sunset and use repellent.
The biting midge (sandfly) lives in WA's northern coastal areas. Locals often appear immune, but it's almost a rite of passage for those heading north to be covered in bites. Cover up at dusk.
Ticks and leeches are also common. For protection, wear loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves. Apply 30% DEET on exposed skin, repeated every three to four hours, and impregnate clothing with permethrin.
From 2011 to 2016, there were nine fatal shark attacks in WA, and most involved surfers at more remote beaches. Around popular coastal and city beaches, shark-spotting methods include nets, spotter planes, jet skis and surf lifesavers. Almost 900 sharks, including 220 great whites, are also monitored by a government program.
In early 2014, a three-month trial using baited lines was launched around Perth and southwest beaches, but while 68 sharks were caught and shot, none were great whites. Following protests from environmental and animal-rights groups, the catch-and-kill policy was discontinued after the trial. However, the WA Fisheries Department has the authority to trap and kill individual sharks deemed to be a risk to public safety.
Reducing Risk of Shark Attack
This list of shark safety guidelines is from WA's Department of Fisheries. See www.sharksmart.com.au for more information.
- Swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.
- Swim close to shore.
- Swim, dive or surf with other people.
- Avoid areas close to bird rookeries or where there are large schools of fish, dolphins, seals or sea lions.
- Avoid areas where animal, human or fish waste enters the water.
- Avoid deep channels or areas with deep drop-offs nearby.
- Do not remain in the water with bleeding wounds.
- Look carefully before jumping into the water from a boat or jetty.
- If spearing fish, don't carry dead or bleeding fish attached to you and remove all speared fish from the water as quickly as possible.
- If schooling fish or other wildlife start to behave erratically or congregate in large numbers, leave the water.
- If you see a shark, leave the water as quickly and calmly as possible – avoid excessive splashing or noise.
There are many venomous snakes in the Australian bush, the most common being the brown and tiger snakes. Unless you're interfering with one, or accidentally stand on it, it's extremely unlikely you'll be bitten.
Australian snakes have a reputation that is justified in terms of the potency of their venom, but unjustified in terms of the actual risk to travellers and locals. They are endowed with only small fangs, making it easy to prevent bites to the lower limbs (where 80% of bites occur) by wearing protective clothing (such as gaiters) around the ankles when bushwalking.
The bite marks are small and preventing the spread of toxic venom can be achieved by applying pressure to the wound and immobilising the area with a splint or sling before seeking medical attention. Application of an elastic bandage (you can improvise with a T-shirt) wrapped firmly, but not tightly that circulation is cut off, around the entire limb – along with immobilisation – is a life-saving first-aid measure.
The redback is the most common poisonous spider in WA. It's small and black with a distinctive red stripe on its body. Bites cause increasing pain at the site followed by profuse sweating and generalised symptoms. First aid includes application of ice or cold packs to the bite and transfer to hospital. White-tailed (brown recluse) spider bites may cause an ulcer that is very difficult to heal. Clean the wound thoroughly and seek medical assistance.
Hospitals have antivenin on hand for all common snake and spider bites, but it helps to know which type you've been bitten by.
Bushfires are a regular occurrence in WA, so in hot, dry and windy weather, be extremely careful with any naked flame. Even cigarette butts thrown out of car windows can start fires. On a total-fire-ban day it's forbidden even to use a camping stove in the open.
Bushwalkers should seek local advice before setting out. When a total fire ban is in place, delay your trip until the weather improves. If you're out in the bush and you see smoke, even a long distance away, take heed – bushfires move fast and change direction with the wind. Go to the nearest open space, downhill if possible. A forested ridge is the most dangerous place to be during a bushfire.
Western Australia is a relatively safe place to visit, but you should still take reasonable precautions. Don't leave hotel rooms or cars unlocked, and don't leave valuables unattended and visible in cars.
In recent years there has been a spate of glassings (stabbings with broken glass) at Perth venues. If you see trouble brewing, it's best to walk away. Take due caution on the streets after dark, especially around hot spots such as Northbridge where many venues enforce lockouts after midnight – that is, if you're not inside the venue before a certain time, you will not be able to gain entry.
There have also been reports of drinks spiked with drugs in Perth pubs and clubs. Authorities advise women to refuse drinks offered by strangers in bars and to drink bottled alcohol rather than that in a glass.
Australian drivers are generally a courteous bunch, but rural 'petrolheads', inner-city speedsters and drink drivers can pose risks. Open-road dangers can include wildlife, such as kangaroos (mainly at dusk and dawn); fatigue, caused by travelling long distances without the necessary breaks; and excessive speed. Driving on dirt roads can also be tricky for the uninitiated.
More bushwalkers actually die of cold than in bushfires. Even in summer, temperatures can drop below freezing at night and the weather can change very quickly. Exposure in even moderately cool temperatures can sometimes result in hypothermia.
If you're keen to explore outback WA, it's important not to embark on your trip without careful planning and preparation. Travellers regularly encounter difficulties in the harsh outback conditions far from potential assistance, and trips occasionally prove fatal.
Popular beaches are patrolled by surf life-savers and flags mark out patrolled areas. Even so, WA's surf beaches can be dangerous places to swim in if you aren't used to the often heavy surf. Undertows (or 'rips') are the main problem. If you find yourself being carried out by a rip, just keep afloat; don't panic or try to swim against the rip, which will exhaust you. In most cases the current will stop within a couple of hundred metres of the shore and you can then swim parallel to the shore for a short way to get out of the rip and swim back to land.
On the south coast, freak 'king waves' from the Southern Ocean can sometimes break on the shore with little or no warning, dragging people out to sea. In populated areas there are warning signs; in other areas be extremely careful.
People have been paralysed by diving into waves in shallow water and hitting a sandbar; check the depth of the water before you leap.
The most common card for discounts on accommodation, transport and some attractions in WA is the International Student Identity Card (www.isic.org), issued to full-time students aged 12 years and over. See the International Student Travel Confederation (www.istc.org).
The ISTC also has an International Youth Travel Card (IYTC or Go25), issued to people between 12 and 26 years of age who are not full-time students. Benefits are equivalent to the ISIC.
Embassies & Consulates
The principal diplomatic representations to Australia are in Canberra, but many countries are represented in Perth by consular staff.
Remember that while in Australia you are bound by Australian laws. Your embassy will not be sympathetic if you end up in jail after committing a crime locally, even if such actions are legal in your own country.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Drop the zero from the area code when calling from outside Australia (ie +61-8). If you're calling a WA number while in WA, you can drop the 08 prefix.
|International access code||0011|
|Australia's country code||61|
|WA area code||08|
|Emergency (police, fire, ambulance)||000|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Global instability has resulted in increased security in Australian airports, in both domestic and international terminals. Customs procedures may be a little more time-consuming but are still straightforward.
For comprehensive information, contact the Australian Customs Service.
On arrival, declare all goods of animal or plant origin, as it's vital to protect Australia's unique environment and agricultural industries. If you fail to declare quarantine items on arrival, you risk an on-the-spot fine of over $200 or even prosecution and imprisonment. For more information contact the Australian Department of Agriculture (www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity).
- Alcohol – 2.25L
- Cigarettes – 50
- Other goods – up to $900 value; or items for personal use that you will be taking with you when you leave.
All visitors to Australia need a visa – only New Zealand nationals are exempt, and even they receive a ‘special category’ visa on arrival. Visa application forms are available from Australian diplomatic missions overseas, travel agents or the website of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (www.border.gov.au). All visitors require a visa, although New Zealanders receive one on arrival. Residents of Canada, the US, many European countries and some Asian countries can apply online.
Many European passport holders are eligible for an eVisitor visa, which is free and allows visitors to stay in Australia for up to three months. eVisitors must be applied for online and they are electronically stored and linked to individual passport numbers, so no stamp in your passport is required. It's advisable to apply at least 14 days prior to the proposed date of travel to Australia. Applications are made on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website (www.border.gov.au).
Electronic Travel Authority (ETA; 601)
Passport holders from eight countries that aren't part of the eVisitor scheme – Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the USA – can apply for either a visitor or business ETA. ETAs are valid for 12 months, and allow stays of up to three months on each visit. Apply online at www.border.gov.au.
Short-term tourist visas have largely been replaced by the eVisitor and ETA. However, if you are from a country not covered by either, or you want to stay longer than three months, you'll need to apply for a visa. Tourist visas cost from $135 and allow single or multiple entry for stays of three, six or 12 months and are valid for use within 12 months of issue.
Work & Holiday (462)
Nationals from 16 countries including Argentina, Chile, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay and the USA between the ages of 18 and 30 can apply for a work and holiday visa prior to entry to Australia. It allows the holder to enter Australia within three months of issue, stay for up to 12 months, leave and re-enter Australia any number of times within that 12 months, undertake temporary employment to supplement a trip, and study for up to four months.
Working Holiday Maker (WHM; 417)
Young visitors (those aged 18 to 30) from Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and the UK are eligible for a WHM visa, allowing visits of up to one year for casual employment.
The emphasis of this visa is on casual and not full-time employment, so you're only supposed to work for any one employer for a maximum of six months. A first WHM visa must be obtained prior to entry to Australia and can be applied for at Australian diplomatic missions abroad or online (www.border.gov.au). You can't change to a WHM visa once you're in Australia, so apply up to 12 months before your departure to Australia.
If you want to stay in Australia for longer than your visa allows, you'll need to apply for a new visa (usually a tourist visa 676) through the Department of Immigration and Border Protection at www.border.gov.au. Apply at least two or three weeks before your visa expires.
Responsible Indigenous Travel
There are a range of protocols for visiting Indigenous lands, but it's always courteous to make contact prior to your visit. In many cases you must acquire a permit to enter, so check with local Indigenous Land Councils and police stations before visiting.
Some Indigenous sites are registered under heritage legislation and have conditions attached, or may only be visited with permission from their traditional custodians or in their company. Don't touch artworks, as the skin’s natural oils can cause deterioration. Dust also causes problems – move thoughtfully at rock-art sites and leave your vehicle some distance away. Respect the wishes of Indigenous custodians by reading signs carefully, keeping to dedicated camping areas and staying on marked tracks. Remember that rock art and engravings are manifestations of sacred beliefs and laws.
When interacting with Indigenous Australians, you'll generally find them polite and willing to share their culture with you – but it must be on their terms. Show respect for privacy and remember that your time constraints and priorities may not always be shared. In some areas, English is not a first language, but in others many people speak English fluently. Body language and etiquette often vary: the terms ‘thank you’, or ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, may not be used in some areas, or direct eye contact may be avoided. So take note of local practices: take them as they come and follow the cues. Some Aboriginal communities are ‘dry’. There may be rules relating to the purchase and consumption of alcohol, or it may be forbidden altogether.
Internet cafes have virtually vanished across Australia with the growth of smartphones and other internet-enabled mobile devices. Many backpacker hostels and public libraries offer wi-fi connections. In smaller towns visit Community Resource Centres. The cost ranges from around $5 an hour in Perth to $10 an hour in locations that are more remote.
The best bets for free wi-fi connections are public libraries and cafes. Wi-fi is becoming almost ubiquitous in accommodation; it's sometimes free in hostels but is often charged for in caravan parks and hotels.
Sign up for a travel-insurance policy covering theft, loss and medical problems.
Some policies exclude designated 'dangerous activities' such as scuba diving, parasailing or even bushwalking. Ensure your policy fully covers you for activities of your choice. Check you're covered for ambulances and emergency medical evacuations by air.
Third-party personal-injury insurance is included in vehicle registration cost, and comprehensive insurance is usually included when hiring a vehicle, though consider reducing your excess to offset costs in the event of an accident.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings.
Checking insurance quotes…
Police have the power to stop your car and see your licence (you're required to carry it), check your vehicle for road-worthiness and compel you to take a breath test for alcohol.
First-time offenders in possession of small amounts of illegal drugs are likely to receive a fine rather than go to jail, but a conviction may affect your visa status. If you remain in Australia after your visa expires, you will officially be classified as an 'overstayer' and could face detention and expulsion, and be prevented from returning to Australia for a period of up to three years.
In general Australians are open-minded about homosexuality, and in WA gay and lesbian people are protected by anti-discrimination legislation and share an equal age of consent with heterosexuals (16 years).
Perth has the state's only gay and lesbian venues and its small scene is centred around Northbridge. It's very unlikely you'll experience any real problems, although the further away from the main centres, the more likely you are to experience overt homophobia.
- Visit Gay Australia (www.galta.com.au) Lists WA members offering accommodation and tours.
- Q Pages (www.qpages.com.au) Gay and lesbian business directory and what's-on listings.
- Living Proud Information and counselling line.
Tourist-information offices usually have serviceable town maps. For more detailed information, the Royal Automobile Club of WA (www.rac.com.au) has road maps available (including downloadable route maps). UBD publishes a handy South West & Great Southern book.
Hema Maps (www.hemamaps.com.au) Best for the north, especially the dirt roads. The website has a wealth of planning information and specialists apps and GPS navigation systems can be purchased.
Landgate (www.landgate.wa.gov.au) State-wide maps as well as topographical maps for bushwalking.
- Newspapers Key newspapers are the West Australian (www.west.com.au) or the Australian (www.theaustralian.com.au), a national broadsheet, from Monday to Saturday, and the Sunday Times (www.perthnow.com.au) on Sunday.
- TV networks include the commercial-free ABC, multicultural SBS, and commercial TV stations Seven, Nine and Ten.
- Radio Tune in to the ABC on the radio – pick a program and frequency from www.abc.net.au/radio.
- DVDs sold in Australia can be watched on players accepting region 4 DVDs (the same as Mexico, South America, Central America, New Zealand, the Pacific and the Caribbean). The USA and Canada are region 1 countries, and Europe and Japan are region 2.
All prices are given in Australian dollars, unless otherwise stated.
Bank branches with 24-hour ATMs can be found statewide. In the smallest towns there’s usually an ATM in the local pub. Most ATMs accept cards from other banks and are linked to international networks.
The Australian dollar is made up of 100 cents; there are 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 50¢, $1 and $2 coins, and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes.
Cash amounts equal to or in excess of the equivalent of A$10,000 (in any currency) must be declared on arrival or departure in Australia.
Changing foreign currency or travellers cheques is usually no problem at banks throughout WA.
Credit & Debit Cards
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted and a credit card is essential (in lieu of a large deposit) for car hire. With debit cards, any card connected to the international banking network (Cirrus, Maestro, Plus and Eurocard) will work. Diners Club and Amex are not as widely accepted.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Tipping is not required in WA, but around 10 to 15% is appropriate if you feel service in a restaurant has been exemplary. Many cafes have a tip jar on the counter for loose change and this is usually shared between all the staff.
With the ease of electronic means of payment, travellers cheques have fallen out of fashion. Still, Amex, Thomas Cook and other well-known international brands are easily exchanged and are commission-free when exchanged at their bureaux; however, local banks charge hefty fees (around $7) for the same service.
Outside Perth, shops may not open on weekends. Vineyard and craft-brewery restaurants usually open only for lunch, while many cafes also open later for dinner. Most central-city stores in Perth and major shopping malls open seven days a week.
Banks 9.30am–4pm Monday to Thursday, 9.30am–5pm Friday, some open Saturday morning
Shops 9am–5.30pm Monday to Thursday, 9am–9pm Friday, 9am–5pm Saturday, 11am–5pm Sunday
Mail services are generally efficient, and main cities and towns all have centrally located post offices. In smaller centres, postal services may be offered by bookshops or information centres.
New Year's Day 1 January
Australia Day 26 January
Labour Day First Monday in March
Easter (Good Friday and Easter Monday) March/April
Anzac Day 25 April
Foundation Day First Monday in June
Queen's Birthday Last Monday in September
Christmas Day 25 December
Boxing Day 26 December
The Christmas season is part of the summer school holidays (mid-December to late January), when transport and accommodation are often booked out, and there are long, restless queues at tourist attractions. There are three shorter school-holiday periods during the year that change slightly from year to year. Generally, they fall in mid-April, mid-July and late September to mid-October.
- Smoking Banned on public transport and planes, in cars carrying children, between the flags at patrolled beaches, within 10m of a playground and in government buildings. It's also banned within bars and clubs but permitted in some alfresco or courtyard areas.
Taxes & Refunds
The goods and services tax (GST) is a flat 10% tax on all goods and services with the exception of basic food items (milk, bread, fruits and vegetables etc). By law the tax is included in the quoted or shelf price of goods, so all prices we list are GST inclusive.
If you purchase goods with a minimum value of $300 from any one supplier (on the same invoice) no more than 60 days before you leave Australia, you are entitled under the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) to a refund of any GST paid. The scheme only applies to goods you take with you as hand luggage or wear on the plane or ship when leaving. You can collect your refund at the airport up to 30 minutes before departure. At Perth Airport, the refund counter is just after passport control. Using a recently launched app speeds up the process. For more information, contact the Australian Customs Service.
- The two main telecommunications companies are Telstra (www.telstra.com.au) and Optus (www.optus.com.au).
- Mobile (cell) services are provided by Telstra, Optus, Vodafone (www.vodafone.com.au) and Virgin (www.virginmobile.com.au).
- Local calls from private land lines cost 15¢ to 30¢, while local calls from public phones cost 50¢; both allow for unlimited talk time. Calls to mobile phones attract higher rates and are timed.
- All of WA shares a single area code (08), but once you call outside the immediate area, it may be classed as a long-distance call.
- PIN-protected phonecards can be used with any public or private phone. Some public phones also accept credit cards.
- Australia’s mobile networks service more than 90% of the population but leave vast tracts of the country uncovered, including much of inland WA.
- Perth and larger centres get good reception, but service in other areas can be haphazard or non-existent.
- Telstra has the best coverage, especially in the more remote north, but if you’re sticking to the southwest and northern tourist areas, coverage is largely similar, so shop around for a good deal from the four mobile operators.
- Australia’s mobile network is compatible with most European phones, but generally not with the US or Japanese systems. The main service providers offer prepaid SIMs.
0011 International calling prefix (the equivalent of 00 in most other countries).
61 Country code for Australia.
08 Area code for all of WA. If calling from overseas, drop the initial zero.
04 All numbers starting with 04 (such as 0410, 0412) are mobile phone numbers. If calling from overseas, drop the initial zero.
190 Usually recorded information calls, charged at anything from 35¢ to $5 or more per minute (more from mobiles and public phones).
1800 Toll-free numbers; can be called free of charge from anywhere in the country, though they may not be accessible from certain areas or from mobile phones.
1800-REVERSE (738 3773) or 12 550 Dial to make a reverse-charge (collect) call from any public or private phone.
13 or 1300 Charged at the rate of a local call. The numbers can usually be dialled Australia-wide, but may be applicable only to a specific state or STD district.
Note: Telephone numbers beginning with 1800, 13 or 1300 cannot be dialled from outside Australia.
Australia is divided into three time zones: the Western Standard Time zone (GMT/UTC plus eight hours) covers most of WA; Central Standard Time (plus 9½ hours) covers the Northern Territory, South Australia and parts of WA's Central Desert and Nullarbor regions near the border; and Eastern Standard Time (plus 10 hours) covers Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland. So when it's noon in Perth, it's 1.30pm in Darwin and Adelaide, and 2pm in Sydney or Melbourne.
Daylight saving time – where clocks are put forward an hour – operates in most other states during the warmer months (October to March), but not in WA.
There is no charge for using public toilets throughout Western Australia. The National Public Toilet Map (www.toiletmap.gov.au) lists more than 14,000 public toilets around Australia, including those with wheelchair access.
For general statewide information, try the WA Visitor Centre in Perth, Tourism Western Australia (www.westernaustralia.com) or the Department of Parks & Wildlife (https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au).
Around WA, tourist offices with friendly staff (often volunteers) provide local knowledge, including info on road conditions.
Travel with Children
With lots of sunshine, beaches and big open spaces, Western Australia (WA) is a wonderful destination for children of all ages. Australians are famously laid-back and their generally tolerant, 'no worries' attitude extends to children having a good time and perhaps being a little bit raucous.
Best Regions for Kids
- Broome & the Kimberley
While there's wildlife interaction like camel rides and crocodile-park tours, it's the camping, gorge swimming and Indigenous culture that kids will remember, particularly in the Dampier Peninsula and along the Gibb River Road.
- Ningaloo Coast & the Pilbara
Coral Bay has plenty of safe-water options and like-minded families.
- Margaret River & the Southwest Coast
Geographe Bay features family-friendly beaches, Yallingup has a surf school and Bunbury has the Dolphin Discovery Centre and Bunbury Wildlife Park. The region also features whale watching.
- Monkey Mia & the Central West
Visit the world-famous dolphins of Monkey Mia, feed the pelicans at Kalbarri or learn about Indigenous culture and 'Country' on a guided tour.
- Perth & Fremantle
Open spaces, beaches, kid-friendly museums, bike paths, playgrounds and festivals. Many major attractions – including the Aquarium of Western Australia, Perth Zoo, the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Maritime Museum – have hands-on, kid-friendly exhibits.
West Coast Australia for Kids
Interacting with Australia's native fauna, either in the wild or in wildlife parks, will create lifetime memories for your kids. Australia's wildlife can be dangerous, but in reality you're extremely unlikely to strike any problems if you take sensible precautions.
The sun's harshness is more of a concern. Don't underestimate how quickly you and your kids can get sunburnt, even on overcast days. A standard routine for most Australian parents is to lather their kids in high-protection sunscreen (SPF 30-plus) before heading outside for the day. It's a habit worth adopting. Avoid going to the beach in the middle of the day. Head out in the morning or mid-afternoon instead.
On really hot days, dehydration can be a problem, especially for small children. Carry fluids with you, especially on long car journeys.
Many motels and larger caravan parks have playgrounds and swimming pools, and can supply cots and baby baths. Motels in touristy areas may have in-house children's videos and child-minding services. Top-end and midrange hotels usually welcome families with children, but some B&Bs market themselves as child-free havens.
WA is generally a safe place for women travellers, although the usual sensible precautions apply. Avoid walking alone late at night in major cities and towns, and always keep enough money aside for a taxi home. The same applies to outback and rural towns with unlit, semi-deserted streets between you and your temporary home. Lone women should be wary of staying in basic pub accommodation unless it appears safe and well managed.
Lone hitching is risky for everyone, but women especially should consider taking a male companion.
Eating Out with Children
Purchase memory cards and batteries in larger cities and towns, as they're cheaper than in remote areas. Most photo labs have self-service machines from which you can make your own prints and burn CDs and DVDs.
Babies & Toddlers
Perth and most major towns have public rooms where parents can nurse their baby or change nappies; check with the local visitor centre. While many Australians are relaxed about public breastfeeding or nappy changing, some aren't.
Many eateries lack a specialised children's menu, but others do have kids' meals or will provide smaller servings. Some supply high chairs.
Medical services and facilities are of a high standard, and baby food, formula and disposable nappies are widely available. Major car-hire companies will supply and fit booster seats for a fee.
The biggest challenge is a sudden attack of the 'are-we-there-yets?'. Adults – let alone kids – find the long drives tedious. Bring along books, computer games, iPads and child-friendly CDs. Consider hiring a car with a back-seat screen for playing DVDs.
Snacks are essential for journeys where shops might be 200km or further apart, and toilet paper is also a blessing.
Have a word to the kids about insects, snakes and spiders, stressing the need to keep their distance. This is particularly important for kids who like to prod things with sticks. While bushwalking, make sure they wear socks with shoes or boots.
Surfing & Swimming
Wildlife Parks & Zoos
- There are wildlife parks throughout WA, especially in tourist areas. Many have walk-in aviaries, so prepare for a freak-out when an over-friendly parrot lands on little Jimmy's shoulder. Watch out for emus: those beady eyes and pointy beaks are even more intimidating when they're attached to something that's double your height.
We’re Hungry, Mum
- Beaches are a big part of the WA experience. Ensure the kids swim between the flags, and ask the locals about the safer beaches.
Amusement Parks, Water Parks & Rides
- If you're on the right part of the coast at the right time of year, you'll definitely see whales from the shore.
- Organised whale-watching boat trips depart from Perth, Fremantle, Dunsborough, Augusta, Albany, Bremer Bay, Coral Bay, Broome, Kalbarri, Exmouth and the Dampier Peninsula.
- When booking accommodation and hire cars in advance, specify whether you need equipment such as cots, high chairs and car booster seats.
- If you're travelling with an infant, bring a mosquito net to drape over the cot.
- Bring rash shirts for the beach and warm clothes if you're travelling south in winter.
- Anything you forget can be easily purchased when you arrive.
- Child concessions (and family rates) often apply for accommodation, tours, admission fees, and air, bus and train transport.
- Babies and infants will often get into sights for free. Note that the definition of 'child' can vary from under 12 to under 18 years.
- Accommodation concessions generally apply to children under 12 years sharing the same room as adults.
- On major airlines, infants travel for free provided they don't occupy a seat – child fares usually apply between two and 11 years.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
If you come to Australia on a tourist visa then you're not allowed to work for pay – working for approved volunteer organisations in exchange for board is OK. If you're caught breaching your visa conditions, you can be expelled from the country and banned for up to three years. Those travellers who wish to work while in the country should investigate the Work & Holiday and Working Holiday Maker visas.
WA is experiencing a labour shortage and a wealth of opportunities exist for travellers (both Australian and foreign) for paid work year-round.
In Perth, plenty of temporary work is available in tourism and hospitality, administration, IT, nursing, childcare, factories and labouring. Outside Perth, travellers can easily get jobs in tourism and hospitality, plus a variety of seasonal work. Some places have specialised needs; in Broome, for example, there is lucrative work in pearling, on farms and boats.
Denmark, Margaret River, Mt Barker, Manjimup
Backpacker accommodation, magazines and newspapers are good resources for local work opportunities.
Australian Jobsearch (www.jobsearch.gov.au) Government site offering a job database.
Career One (www.careerone.com.au) General employment site; good for metropolitan areas.
Department of Human Services (www.humanservices.gov.au) The Australian government employment service has information and advice on looking for work, training and assistance.
Gumtree (www.gumtree.com.au) Great classified site with jobs, accommodation and items for sale.
Harvest Trail (https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest) Specialised recruitment search for the agricultural industry, including a 'crop list' detailing what you can pick and pack, when and where.
Jobfinder (www.jobfinder.com.au) Online job listings.
Job Shop (www.thejobshop.com.au) WA-based recruitment agency specialising in jobs for WA as well as the Northern Territory.
Adzuna (www.adzuna.com.au) Website for general employment; good for metropolitan areas.
Seek (www.seek.com.au) General employment site, good for metropolitan areas.
Travellers at Work (www.taw.com.au) Excellent site for working travellers in Australia.
Lonely Planet's Volunteer: A Traveller's Guide to Making a Difference Around the World provides useful information about volunteering.
Go Volunteer (www.govolunteer.com.au) National website listing volunteer opportunities.
i-to-i (www.i-to-i.com) Conservation-based volunteer holidays in Australia.
Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) Volunteer travel opportunities.
Transitions Abroad (www.transitionsabroad.com) Listings of volunteer opportunities.
Volunteering Australia (www.volunteeringaustralia.org) Support, advice and volunteer training.
Conservation Volunteers Australia A nonprofit organisation focusing on practical conservation projects such as tree planting, walking-track construction, and flora and fauna surveys. Most projects are either for a weekend or a week, and all food, transport and accommodation is supplied in return for a contribution to help cover costs.
Department of Parks & Wildlife (https://dpaw.wa.gov.au) Current and future opportunities at national parks all over WA. Online, click on the Get Involved tab and then Volunteering Opportunities. Opportunities vary enormously, from turtle tagging at Ningaloo Marine Park to feral-animal control at Shark Bay. Working with the dolphins at Monkey Mia is a popular option (contact: email@example.com). Those concerned with the welfare of dolphins should be aware that swimming with dolphins in the wild is considered by some to be disruptive to the habitat and behaviour of the animals.
Willing Workers on Organic Farms (www.wwoof.com.au) WWOOFing is where you do a few hours of work each day on a farm in return for bed and board. Most hosts are concerned to some extent with alternative lifestyles, and have a minimum stay of two nights. Join online for $70. You’ll get a membership number and a booklet listing participating enterprises ($5 overseas postage).
Earthwatch Institute Offers volunteer 'expeditions' focusing on conservation and wildlife.
STA (www.statravel.com.au) Volunteer holiday opportunities in Australia − click on 'Planning' on their website then the volunteering link.