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 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.
AccessPlus WA Deaf Advice for travellers with hearing impairments.
Bargaining is not part of commercial culture in Western Australia. But you can always try!
Dangers & Annoyances
Dangerous animals around WA include snakes, crocodiles, sharks and jellyfish – but if you exercise a bit of common sense, you're 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 2018, 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 in WA. 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.
Between 2000 and 2019, there were 15 fatal shark attacks in WA, mostly involving surfers at remote beaches. Around popular coastal and city beaches, shark-spotting methods include nets, spotter planes, jet skis and surf lifesavers.
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 2017. 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 dugite, brown snakes 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 so 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.
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 hotspots such as Northbridge where many venues enforce lockouts in the early morning – 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 drinks served 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 in Australia 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 lifesavers and flags mark out patrolled areas. Even so, WA's surf beaches can be dangerous places to swim if you aren't used to 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; look 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. There's also an International Youth Travel Card (IYTC), issued to people between 12 and 30 years of age who are not full-time students: see www.isic.com.au/about/the-cards/youth-card-iytc.
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 a WA landline 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 Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
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 sheepishly 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 Home Affairs (www.homeaffairs.gov.au).
- Many European passport-holders are eligible for a free eVisitor visa, allowing visits to Australia for up to three months at a time within a 12-month period.
- eVisitor visas must be applied for online. 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.
Electronic Travel Authority (ETA; 601)
- Passport-holders from many of the European countries eligible for eVisitor visas, plus passport-holders from Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and the USA, can apply for either a visitor ETA or business ETA.
- ETAs are valid for 12 months, with multiple stays of up to three months permitted.
- ETA visas cost $20; apply via travel agents worldwide, or online.
- Short-term Visitor visas have largely been replaced by the eVisitor and ETA. However, if you're from a country not covered by either, or you want to stay longer than three months, you’ll need to apply for a Visitor visa.
- Standard Visitor visas allow one entry for a stay of up to three, six or 12 months, and are valid for use within 12 months of issue.
- Visitor visas cost from $355.
Work & Holiday (462)
- Nationals from 20-plus countries including Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, Indonesia, Israel, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Peru, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, the USA, Uruguay and Vietnam who are aged between 18 and 30 can apply for a Work and Holiday visa prior to entry to Australia.
- Once granted, this visa allows the holder to enter Australia within three months of issue, stay for up to 12 months, leave and reenter Australia any number of times within those 12 months, undertake temporary employment to supplement a trip, and study for up to four months.
- The application fee is $450.
Working Holiday Maker (WHM; 417)
- Young visitors (aged 18 to 30) from Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and the UK are eligible for a Working Holiday visa, which allows you to visit for up to 12 months and gain casual employment.
- Holders can leave and reenter Australia any number of times within those 12 months.
- Holders can only work for any one employer for a maximum of six months.
- Apply prior to entry to Australia (up to a year in advance) – you can’t change from another tourist visa to a Working Holiday visa once you’re in Australia.
- Conditions include having a return air ticket or sufficient funds ($5000) for a return or onward fare.
- The application fee is $450.
- Second Working Holiday visas can be applied for once you're in Australia, subject to certain conditions.
If you want to stay in Australia for longer than your visa allows, you’ll need to apply for a new visa (usually a Visitor visa 600). Apply online at least two or three weeks before your visa expires.
Although largely informal in their everyday dealings, Western Australians do observe some (unspoken) rules of etiquette.
- Greetings Shake hands when meeting someone for the first time and when saying goodbye. Female friends are often greeted with a single kiss on the cheek.
- Invitations If you're invited to someone's house for a barbecue or dinner, don't turn up empty-handed: bring a bottle of wine or some beers.
- Shouting No, not yelling. 'Shouting' at the bar means buying a round of drinks: if someone buys you one, don't leave without buying them one too.
Responsible Cultural 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 arrival of smartphones and other internet-enabled mobile devices. Many backpacker hostels and public libraries offer wi-fi connections; in smaller towns visit community centres. At your accommodation, if wi-fi is not totally free, you might still get a certain amount of data gratis, then pay-per-use after that.
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 costs, 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…
Most travellers will have no contact with WA police or the legal system. If you do, it’s most likely to be while driving.
Driving There’s a significant police presence on WA roads – police have the power to stop your car, see your licence (you’re required to carry it), check your vehicle for roadworthiness and insist that you take a breath test for alcohol (and sometimes illicit drugs).
Drugs First-time offenders caught with small amounts of illegal drugs are likely to receive a fine rather than go to jail, but the recording of a conviction against you may affect your visa status.
Visas If you remain in Australia beyond the life of your visa, you’ll officially be an ‘overstayer’ and could face detention and then be prevented from returning to Australia for up to three years.
Arrested? It’s your right to telephone a friend, lawyer or relative before questioning begins. Legal aid is available only in serious cases; for Legal Aid office info, see www.legalaid.wa.gov.au. However, many solicitors do not charge for an initial consultation.
In general, Western 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 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 Western Australia 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 Perth's daily paper is the West Australian (www.west.com.au), aka The West; the Australian and Financial Review are also widely available. There's also a Sunday tabloid called the Sunday Times.
- Online See www.perthnow.com.au for breaking news, and www.xpressmag.com.au and www.scenestr.com.au/perth for live music and culture.
- Radio Tune in to the ABC on the radio – pick a program and frequency from www.abc.net.au/radio.
- TV Networks include the commercial-free ABC, multicultural SBS, and commercial TV stations Seven, Nine and Ten.
- DVDs Those 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 (AUD$), 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 petrol station or the 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 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 the cultural norm in WA, but around 10% 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.
Travellers cheques have fallen out of fashion these days. 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 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, with late-night shopping on Friday.
Banks 9.30am–4pm Monday to Thursday, 9.30am–5pm Friday, some open Saturday morning
Petrol Stations 7am–10pm; many open 24 hours
Post Offices 9am–5pm Monday to Friday; some 9am–noon Saturday
Pubs and Bars Pubs 11am–midnight (food service typically noon–2pm and 6pm–8pm); bars 4pm–late
Restaurants Lunch noon–2pm; dinner 6–9pm (often later)
Shops 9am–5pm Monday to Saturday (to 9pm Friday in Perth), 11am–5pm Sunday
Supermarkets 7am or 8am–8pm; some open 24 hours.
Australia Post (www.auspost.com.au) is the nationwide provider. Most substantial WA towns have a post office, or an Australia Post desk within a local shop. Services are reliable, but slower than they used to be (recent cost-saving cutbacks are to blame). Express Post delivers a parcel or envelope interstate within Australia by the next business day; otherwise allow four days for urban deliveries, longer for country areas.
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
Western Australia 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 (around two weeks) school-holiday periods during the year that shift 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 al fresco or courtyard areas.
Taxes & Refunds
Australia has a flat 10% tax on all goods and services (the GST), with the exception of basic food items (milk, bread, fruits and vegetables etc). This is included in quoted/shelf prices. A refund is sometimes possible under the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS): see www.abf.gov.au/entering-and-leaving-australia/tourist-refund-scheme.
Australia's 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).
- 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) covering 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 Western Australian 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 good weather, beaches and big open spaces, Western Australia is a wonderful place to travel with the kids. 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 on the Dampier Peninsula and along the Gibb River Road.
- Ningaloo Coast & the Pilbara
Coral Bay has plenty of safe-water options...and there are whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef!
- Margaret River & the Southwest
Geographe Bay features broad beaches, Yallingup has a surf school, and plenty of 'Margs' craft-beer breweries and wineries are kitted-out for kids. You might also spy some whales off the coast.
- Monkey Mia & the Central West
Visit the world-famous dolphins of Monkey Mia, feed the pelicans at Kalbarri or learn about Indigenous culture on a guided tour.
- Perth & Fremantle
Parks, beaches, museums, bike paths, playgrounds and festivals. Many big-ticket attractions – the Aquarium of Western Australia, Perth Zoo, the the Maritime Museum, the Art Gallery – have hands-on exhibits.
West Coast Australia for Kids
Getting to know Australia's native fauna, either in the wild or in wildlife parks, will create lifelong memories for your kids. Australia's wildlife can be dangerous, but in reality you're extremely unlikely to strike any problems if you keep your distance.
The WA sun is more of a concern. Don't underestimate how quickly you and the kids can get sunburnt, even on overcast days. The standard routine for locals is 'slip, slop, slap': slip on a shirt, slop on some high-protection sunscreen (SPF 30-plus) and slap on a broad-rim hat. Avoid the beach in the middle of the day: head out in the morning or late afternoon instead. Keep the kids hydrated, too – they can get a little crispy around the edges if you leave them outside for too long.
Many motels and larger caravan parks have playgrounds and swimming pools, and can supply cots, highchairs and baby baths. Motels and hotels in touristy areas may also have child-minding services. Top-end and midrange hotels usually welcome families with children, but some B&Bs market themselves as child-free havens.
Eating Out with Children
Dining with kids in WA rarely causes any hassles. If you sidestep the flashier restaurants, children are generally welcomed. Cafes are kid friendly and you’ll see families getting in early for dinner in pub dining rooms. Most places can supply highchairs.
Dedicated kids menus are common, but selections are usually uninspiring (ham-and-pineapple pizza, fish fingers, chicken nuggets etc). If a restaurant doesn't have a kids menu, find something on the regular menu and ask the kitchen to adapt it. It’s usually fine to bring toddler food in with you.
If the sun is shining, there are plenty of picnic spots around the state, many with free barbecues.
Babies & Toddlers
Perth and most major towns have public rooms where parents can change nappies; check with the local visitor centre. Most Western Australians are relaxed about public breastfeeding or nappy changing: a parent using the open boot of a car as a nappy-changing platform is a common sight!
Little kids and babies do require car seats in WA (as elsewhere in Australia). All the big car-hire agencies can supply these (for a fee), but you generally have to install them yourselves (not difficult – just a bit fiddly). Alternatively you can bring your own: the major airlines let you carry them for free.
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 booster seats for a fee.
The biggest challenge is a sudden attack of the 'are-we-there-yets?'. Adults – let alone kids – can find long WA drives tedious. Books, computer games, iPads, CDs...all of the above can help. Consider hiring a car with a back-seat screen for playing DVDs. Snacks are also essential for journeys where shops might be 200km or further apart.
Have a word to the kids about insects, snakes and spiders, stressing the need to keep their distance (kids do tend to prod things with sticks). While bushwalking, make sure they wear socks with decent shoes or boots.
Surfing & Swimming
- Scarborough Beach Surf School Lessons in Perth for kids aged 11 and over.
- Yallingup Surf School 'Microgrom' lessons for the under-10s.
- Scarborough Beach Pool Perth's best swimming pool, if it's too windy to surf.
- Sorrento Beach Enclosure Safe swimming in the sea in Perth's northern reaches.
- Midwest Surf School Teach the kids to carve it up on Geraldton's back beaches.
Wildlife Parks & Zoos
- Perth Zoo Such a well-planned zoo; you'll want to stay all day.
- Bunbury Wildlife Park Marsupial and avian encounters, with a swamp to explore across the road.
- Caversham Wildlife Park Excellent wildlife meet-and-greet in the Swan Valley on Perth's northeastern fringe.
- Malcolm Douglas Wilderness Park Tropical crocs and jabirus populate this park near Broome.
- Barna Mia Nocturnal Animal Sanctuary Torchlight tours to see rare marsupial bilbies, quendas, dalgytes, boodies, woylies, wurrups; south of Perth in the Peel Region.
We’re Hungry, Mum
- Green's & Co There are kids' games out the back in this hip Leederville cafe.
- Ocean & Paddock Kid-focussed seafood in Albany (the best fish and chips in WA?).
- Parkerville Tavern Kids hit the sandpit at this cheery historic pub in the Perth Hills.
- Jetty Seafood Shack Fab and fast fish and chips in Kalbarri, with outdoor tables for messy consumption.
- Town Beach Cafe Kid-conducive cafe fare in Broome, with fabulous bay views to boot.
Amusement Parks, Water Parks & Rides
- Adventure World White-knuckle rides including the 'Black Widow' and the 'Kraken', plus pools and water rides at this Perth amusement park.
- Perth Royal Show Funfair rides, show bags and farm animals.
- Elizabeth Quay Water Hyperactive spraying jets and fountains at Perth's redeveloped riverfront precinct.
- Hyde Park Playground Fabulous fun times (a lake, a water park and lots of lawns) in Highgate (Perth).
- If you're on the right part of the coast at the right time of year, you'll definitely see whales from the shore: see www.whalewatchwesternaustralia.com for info.
- Organised whale-watching boat trips depart from Perth, Fremantle, Dunsborough, Augusta, Albany, Bremer Bay, Coral Bay, Broome, Kalbarri, Exmouth and the Dampier Peninsula.
- If you are heading out in a boat, make an informed choice that allows you to keep your distance: research suggests that human interaction with sea mammals potentially alters their behavioural and breeding patterns.
- When booking accommodation and hire cars in advance, specify whether you need equipment such as cots, highchairs and car booster seats.
- If you're travelling with an infant, bring a mosquito net to drape over the cot.
- Bring 'rashie' shirts for the beach and warm clothes if you're travelling south in winter.
- Anything else you forget can be easily purchased when you arrive.
- For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
- Child concessions (and family rates) often apply for accommodation, tours, admission fees, and air, bus and train transport, with discounts as high as 50% of the adult rate.
- Babies and kids under four or five 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 the major airlines kids aged two and under travel for free, provided they don't occupy a seat (they sit on an adult's lap, with a special seat belt). Child fares usually apply between three and 11 years.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used across Australia.
If you come to Australia on a tourist visa then you're not allowed to work for pay – but 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.
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.
Adzuna (www.adzuna.com.au) Website for general employment; good for metropolitan areas.
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.
Job Shop (www.thejobshop.com.au) WA-based recruitment agency specialising in jobs for WA as well as the Northern Territory.
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.
Department of Parks & Wildlife (www.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 popular, but 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).