Lifestyle Travel The colours of winter
The colours of winter
Written by Jasmine Heyden
Sunday, 01 July 2007

Global warming could well be transforming the planet in the next century, but you need not experience climactic upheaval to enjoy a rich tapestry of landscapes and micro-climates in one area. Forget drab grey skies and rainy days, Western Australia sprouts its most vibrant colours during the winter months.


walcottinlet.jpgThe famous "horizontal waterfall" at Walcott Inlet in the Kimberley

As the mercury dips, the crimson jewels of the Kimberley and the Pilbara shine their brightest. Winter signals the beginning of the dry season up north, with months of flooding just a sodden memory for holiday-makers. May through to July is the best time to experience the big red, with temperatures averaging 32 degrees.

Kununurra, nestled in the heart of the Kimberley, is the ideal base from which to explore the region. With the roads reopened, four-wheel driving (and four-wheel drive tours) is probably the best way to spend your days up north. Operators are based in Kununurra and most other Kimberley towns (Broome, Derby, and Halls Creek). Scenic flights over the Buccaneer Archipelago, Lake Argyle, and the national parks are an even more captivating way to look around.

For the mad-keen motoring enthusiast, the internationally-acclaimed Australian Safari takes place in WA for the first time in the event's history. The world's best off-road rally drivers kick off the race from Kununurra on August 24 (finishing in Perth on September 1). Basing your getaway around marquee events like the Safari or the recent Ord Valley Muster (May 18 to June 4) allows you to dip into exciting side trips like visiting the spectacular Horizontal Waterfall near Derby or spend a few days getting to know the area before you knuckle down to enjoy the big event.

While every town has a motel and caravan park, get back to nature by camping under the stars. Some brilliant places to pitch a tent include the mysterious Bungle Bungles, Karijini National Park in the Pilbara, and Wolfe Creek, a 885m diameter meteor crater (the second largest in the world!) on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert (and if you like a scary campfire yarn, it was the inspiration for the fictional horror movie "Wolf Creek").

Fishing is a delight up north, with Walcott Inlet a particularly popular spot. Queenfish, Mangrove Jack, Trevally, Salmon, Fingermark, and of course Barramundi are all up for the catching.

For those who prefer getaways with style, consider a few days at one of the resorts on Broome's famous Cable Beach or the fabulous Voyages El Questro Wilderness Park and Homestead - a million acres of working cattle station and an unforgettable experience (but not cheap at $1780/night for two). Other stations offer more down-to-earth prices.


swanvalleyvineyard.jpgThe colours of the Swan Valley

With WA's isolation from the eastern states, we are bound to do things different here. The colours of winter in the temperate Perth and South West transform the normally dry areas into lush green countryside.

On the edge of the city, the hospitality strip of the Swan Valley moves up a gear during winter. Whether it's the Duckstein Brewery, the iconic Margaret River Chocolate Factory, or one of the many cafes or restaurants, anywhere in the valley is a great place to inure yourself from the cold with a warm meal and warmer smiles.

For the city folk, townships just north of Perth bloom in the winter months, providing scenic overnight or weekend escapes. The Gingin and Moore River areas are a huge surprise this time of year. Two nights in one of the local bed & breakfasts overlooking rolling green hills are sure to set the mind at ease. Cap off the experience by sampling a drop from one of the burgeoning wineries in the area (such as Riseborough Estate). For even more serenity, try New Norcia, Australia's only monastery town.

Perth itself is a brilliant destination for out-of-towners looking for a fix of culture. The colder months (June to September) this year sees the City of Perth in the thrall of the Winter Arts Festival, a cavalcade of music, theatre, ballet, and art. For further details on what's happening at the festival now, go to .


thredboski.jpgThe snow is plentiful at Thredbo

There is no snow in WA but don't let that deter you from enjoying what the Europeans take for granted. Flights have never been cheaper, so why not take advantage, hop over to Canberra, hire a car for the short drive to the Snowy Mountains, and spend several days below zero?

With Australians winning Winter Olympic Gold Medals in recent years, the Snowy Mountains ski fields have gained greater prominence on the world stage. Facilities and man-made snow production have improved to the point that snow skiing is possible for much of the year.

Skiing, snow boarding, snowball fights, or fine dining in front of a log fire: whatever your idea of leisure, adding snow introduces an element of magic you won't find in your own backyard.

Every resort offers lessons for all ages and something different. Perisher Blue operates a supertube for expert boarders. Thredbo now even hosts Jazz and Blues Festivals. Whether you choose these resorts or Mt Hotham, or Mt Blue Cow, or others, your winter wonderland awaits. There's a snowman out there somewhere with your name on it!


WA images supplied courtesy Tourism Western Australia