Tag Archives: western australia

ElizabethQuayPerth

How Perth got cool: article for Rough Guides

I’ve been visiting Perth for many years and, yes, it did used to live up to its Dullsville name.

But not any more. On my most recent visit to Perth I found a hip city shaking off its early-to-bed past and emerging as a city break destination to rival any other in Australia.

My article for Rough Guides introduces the new Perth, one of hip bars, cool restaurants and luxury hotels.

You can also find out more about Perth here.

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Swimming with humpback whales: piece for the Times

On August 1st 2016 for the first time people were allowed to swim with the world’s largest migration of humpback whales, off the coast of Western Australia.

I joined the very first group to head out from Sal Salis near Exmouth, with Murray on his boat Wave Rider. But finding a whale that was moving slowly enough, without a calf, and in the right place, turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined.

We swam with whalesharks, watched humpbacks breaching and diving just a few metres from the boat and soaked up the ‘winter’ sunshine (25 degrees) – but there was no humpback whale swim before lunch.

Fortunately in the afternoon our luck changed and finally, after much trial and error, we shared the water with a humpback whale. It was incredible.

Read more about my experience in my article for The Times.

Photo courtesy of Jana of Soul and Sea Photography.

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Grown Up Guide to Western Australia for High 50

People say that Western Australia is the “real” Australia – and it’s certainly the state I’ve fallen most in love with.

So I was delighted to work with Tourism Western Australia on a project for High 50, putting together a series of articles introducing this fantastic destination’s adventures and vast landscapes to their readers.

Read my articles on the links below.

A thirst for adventure: five top WA adventures

48 hours in Perth

A foodie guide to Margaret River

Marine encounters: from whale sharks to manta rays

Five top treks: from flying across the Kimberley to cycling the Munda Biddi

Itineraries for the perfect trip: 4 days, 7 days and 14 days

A year-round destination: when to visit WA

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Western Australia: my highlights


Last summer I travelled around Western Australia updating the Rough Guide to Australia. As part of my research I was asked to select my highlights. You can find these in the new guidebook, which can be bought at the link below, but here’s a taster of my top three.

NINGALOO MARINE PARK:
Enjoy superlative snorkelling and diving at “the barrier reef without the barriers” DSC_4062

THE KIMBERLEY:
The stunning, untamed Kimberley is the country’s last frontier and a backdrop to real adventure IMG_0041

PURNULULU NATIONAL PARK
Accessible only by 4WD or air, the striped beehive domes and narrow gorges of the Bungle Bungle massif make the trek worthwhile. IMG_9930

Buy the all-new guidebook here:

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My top 10 trips of 2013

In 2013 I spent a third of my year on the road, taking 31 trips.

Some of these were short breaks close to my North London home,  others took me as far afield as Macau, Australia and the USA. Every one of them was interesting, inspiring and worthwhile – but of course there were favourites.

Here is my countdown of my top 10 trips of the year:

10. Walking on the much underrated  Isle of Man. Thanks to Visit Isle of Man.

9. Quadbiking, canyoning, hiking and river tubing in Highland Perthshire. Scotland. Thanks to Highland Perthshire.

8. Food and culture in Macau. Thanks to Macau Tourism and Hume Whitehead.

7. Butler for a day at the Lanesborough hotel, London. Thanks to the hotel, Daniel Jordaan and Luchford APM.

6. Boat trips, snorkelling and seafood in Cyprus. Thanks to Visit Cyprus and Kallaway.

5. The world’s shortest flight in Orkney.  Thanks to Visit Scotland and Loganair.

4. Krakow and Zakopane for the BGTW AGM 2013. Thanks to Representation Plus and the Polish tourist board.

3. Green spaces and great food in Glasgow. Thanks to People Make Glasgow.

2. Hiking in  Gran Canaria. Look out for my article on this in the Express on Saturday January 4th. Thanks to Macs Adventure.

1. Swimming with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Thanks to Tourism WA.

 

I would like to thank everyone who helped with my travel plans in 2013. Looking forward to working with many of you again in 2014. Happy new year!

Hotel review: The White House, Swan Valley

There is nothing quite like staying with friends. When I stayed with Shelly and Ian they made me breakfast every day. They let me use their tennis court and their bikes. They introduced me to their kids and their horses. And they helped me to plan the perfect day of touring the wineries and restaurants of the surrounding Swan Valley.

But Shelly and Ian are not my friends; they are the owners of the White House bed and breakfast. And what a bed and breakfast it is. The White House is a truly spectacular home, with wooden floors, ancient fireplaces, gorgeous verandahs – and just one guest room. Or rather, suite of guest rooms. All of this was mine for the night: my own entrance and hallway, a lounge complete with piano, a dining room with a large fireplace, a double bedroom, a separate bathroom, an outside seating area.

I wasted no time in settling in to my new home. I made tea and sat on the verandah just outside the bedroom door as the sun set and then ran a bath in the clawfoot tub and began sinking into thoughts of which wineries I might try tomorrow.

I had no idea, frankly, but fortunately Shelly already had this all figured out for me and over a glass of wine she talked me through the valley. Giving me a map, she noted all sorts of things, from which wineries to visit to the spot where Captain James Stirling decided that he was going to build a brand new colony, and left me with enough recommendations to fill a week.

On one her recommendations was Sittella’s, just the other side of the river and accessed by footbridge, which I visited for lunch the next day. Here I did a fantastically informative tasting with cellar manager Shannon and dined on delicious red snapper washed down with a cracking shiraz. Shelly clearly knew what she was talking about.

Her other recommendations included the oldest two wineries in the valley: Houghton’s and Sandalford. I dutifully visited both and was not disappointed  – at least, not by anything other than the fact I had to drive. The wines were fantastic and, in my amateur opinion, rivaled the wines of more famous Margaret River further south.

On my return to the house Ian and Shelly were keen to hear about my day and to tell me more about the history of the area. The Swan Valley is one of Western Australia’s oldest settled areas, with Guildford one of the state’s first three towns, along with Fremantle and Perth.

The house itself probably dates back about 100 years and it is lovely to be staying somewhere historic in a country where this can be rare. Antique furniture fills the rooms and the décor is in keeping with the age of the house. Even better, it reflects the fact that this is a house, with family portraits filling the walls and homely touches in every room. By the second night I am very much at home, ranging around the rooms as if I own the place – and certainly fantasizing that I do.

When it comes to time to leave, it is just like leaving a friend’s house. No impersonal speedy checkout here, we take our time saying goodbye and as I drive back onto the main road I am genuinely sorry to go. How often can you say that about a hotel?

 

Norfolk Hotel, Fremantle

Staying above a pub may not sound to you like the most glamorous experience – and in many respects you would be right.

Taking a room above a pub often means entering through a back door, passing the kitchen on your way upstairs. It often means a compact room, equipped with just the basics. But it often also means plenty of traditional character, a great central location and friendly service.

This is what a stay at the Norfolk Hotel is all about. We arrived in the afternoon and were checked in to our cosy room with a warm smile. It may not have had a luxurious bathroom or a surfeit of space, but it did have free wifi, a powerful shower, a flatscreen TV and plenty of teabags.

And so we relaxed – for about five minutes. Because we were not in Fremantle to hang around in a hotel room, we were here to explore the town’s famous nightlife, and this was Friday night.

There is no better place to spend a Friday in Fremantle than Little Creatures brewery and so we headed straight for this warehouse building on the waterfront, arriving just in time to see the sun dipping below the horizon – it was beer o’clock. We dined on delicious mussels and kangaroo and knocked back the microbrews until it was time to head back to the hotel, a short walk away in an unbeatable location on South Terrace.

The next morning, that location really came into its own. South Terrace is also called the “Cappuccino Strip” and there are so many bars and cafes along here you could eat in a different place every day for a week. We selected Gino’s, something of an institution in these parts, and ordered eggs benedict and flat whites to enjoy in the sunshine.

Back at the hotel things were just getting started for the day so we took advantage of staying in the heart of the action with a drink in the bar. The wine list at the Norfolk is superb and we relished a cracking Sandalford Estate Chardonnay from Margaret River, just a few hours south. As lunchtime rolled around we found it impossible to leave and so we stayed, sitting out on the terrace to share a seafood plate of scallops, salmon carpaccio, tempura whiting, Szechuan seasoned squid, chilli mussels, prawns, cayenne pepper whitebait and chips. Hours passed as we relaxed in the sunshine, the buzz of Fremantle surrounding us.

Yes, staying above a pub may not be glamorous. But choose the right pub and it can certainly be the right choice.