Welcome to Western Australia’s south coast: a part of the world where surf meets turf and the landscape can be both dramatic and dangerous. It’s a part of the world where locals happily share the addresses of neighbourhood highlights with visitors, but keep the really good spots to themselves. (No biggie: it’s so beautiful down here that even the popular spots are capable of dropping jaws).
This part of the world shines year-round, but the south coast seems tailor-made for the Australian summer. The water glows blue, the mood is carefree and hitting the road comes with the promise of discovery and adventure.
Western Australia’s southern coastline – an area that stretches from Esperance right the way around to the southern tip of Margaret River – is a sizable chunk of land. But take the time to explore and you’ll be richly rewarded. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Founder Amy Hamilton’s love letter to Indochina isn’t just an essential destination in the Great Southern: Liberté is an essential destination in Western Australia. This small bar’s Gallic accent asserts itself via the bistro-inspired front room and Belle Époque-style dining room, while Vietnamese flourishes pepper the menu. Steak tartare gets crunched up with fried shallots, seasonal greens are hit with Maggi seasoning and fried garlic, and profiteroles are stuffed with a Vietnamese coffee ice-cream. Snappy cocktails and local beers and wine round off a compelling package.
Peaceful Bay Fish & Chips
The fish and chipper at the local caravan park might be Peaceful Bay’s only restaurant, but gee it’s a good one. That’s because the Phillips family – owners of the caravan park – go out and catch all the fish they serve, ensuring visitors to their postcard-perfect corner of Australia get a true taste of the region. A soda-water batter and tallow in the fryer makes for a supremely crisp fish lunch or dinner. Plein-air dining and being literally across the road from the sea are further reasons to set aside a few hours here.
10 East Ave, Peaceful Bay
Denmark Heritage Cider Co
Thitikarn and Stuart Douglass, it would seem, don’t believe in taking short cuts. Over a decade ago, the couple planted an orchard of more than 15 varieties of tart heritage apples here in Scotsdale: not especially great for eating, but ideal for turning into the dry, expressive ciders that Douglass fell for while living in England’s south-west. In addition to still (better known as “scrumpy” to cider connoisseurs) and sparkling vintage ciders, Denmark Heritage Cider Co also sells a lively apple-cider vinegar.
218 Glenrowan Rd, Scotsdale
Matt Wilson, brewer and one of the owners behind this family-run brewery, once said his dream was for Wilson Brewing to be Albany’s biggest employer. If the Wilsons keep up their rapid growth, they might well soon get there. Whether it’s the Wilsons’ core range or their regular collaborations with other like-minded WA brewers, this Great Southern success story is fast winning fans around the state. Drop in to the brewpub to taste the latest – the new-release oyster pale ale brewed with local akoya pearl oysters is a must-try – alongside burgers, buffalo wings, nachos and other beer-adjacent ballast.
47768 South Coast Highway, Albany
Discover (and run) secret south coast trails
Maintain (or begin) your fitness regimen and explore lesser-seen locations with this guided group run. Participants meet at Lights Beach before setting off on a 13-kilometre run that takes in sand, sea, peppermint groves and plenty of local history. In addition to getting the heart rate up, the tour also doubles as a crash course on local fauna and flora. A muffin and a cuppa – and, if the weather is warm, a post-run swim – makes for an ideal end to the morning.
Pop a wheelie
Why ride a bike when you can ride a fat bike? More air in the tyre means more traction, more suspension and more flotation: ideal for going off-road and hitting the beach, ridgelines and forest trails that dot the southern coast. Fat bike rides begin at Boranup Lookout, where riders get to know their steeds before being led through towering karri forests and onto soaring beach cliffs and coastal dunes. This operator also has permission from the Parks and Wildlife Service to take its bikes through the spectacular Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park.
West Beach holiday house, Esperance
The seven friends you invite to stay here are going to owe you big time. They’ll owe you for the commanding views over Esperance’s popular West Beach and township. They’re going to owe you for being so close to the cycle and walkway that hugs the glorious coastline. And they’re going to owe you for all that R&R that comes with a getaway involving this much space, natural light and fresh air. Perhaps they could start by running an errand to nearby Aurelia’s Ice Creamery & Cafe to pick up some homemade pies, sausage rolls and Southern-style fried chicken for the house? Otherwise, swinging a booking at the newly opened Siam Thai Cuisine would also be a suitable way for them to curry your favour.
Garden View Retreat
Warning: a stay at this private guesthouse may trigger garden envy. It may also inspire you to start working on your green thumb once – and if – you head home. After you’ve finished exploring the square acre of landscaped gardens, retreat to the pool and continue your detox. Pets, incidentally, are welcome to join you on your getaway at this fully fenced property. There’s even enough space for a boat and jetski. On the rare instances you feel like escaping the greenery here in West Beach, the excellent nearby Taylor St Quarters combines bright, contemporary Mod-Oz cooking with views of Esperance Bay. At Fish Face, local seafood is the star of the show: the specials section of the constantly changing chalkboard menu is as good a place as any to start making dinner plans.
Airbnb - Garden View Retreat
Sound good? You could take this trip and more, thanks to Airbnb’s Once Upon a Summer competition. There are seven $15,000 Airbnb travel coupons up for grabs, for use anywhere in Australia. All you have to do is write an up to 50 word story on what memories you want to make this summer. The competition closes December 11. Enter now for your chance to win.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Airbnb.