|Maureen Jones// Photo courtesy of the author|
Maureen Jones is a traveler and a travel agent with over 30 years of experience. She is the president of the Los Altos, CA-based All Horizons Travel, Inc., a member of the Signature Travel Network.
I came here for several weeks to explore the Margaret River Wine Region, and I was invited to give a presentation to the Western Australia Tourism Board on travel trends from the U.S.A and tour new properties since my last visit.
I have been many times to W.A. and it is three time zones and five hours from Sydney.
Only 1 percent of foreign travelers go to W.A. The three icons of Australia are Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef and the Outback. It covers 2.5 million square miles and is equivalent in size to Europe. Spanning the entire region between longitude 113 degrees to 129 degrees and latitude 14 degrees to 35 degrees, it has 12,500 miles of coastline.
W.A. has five regions, which vary greatly. There are more millionaires in Perth than anywhere else in the world, all due to the mines. They export iron ore, pink diamonds, and anything else you can think of. W.A. is a happy state, very well organized and well run. Unemployment is at 1 percent, minimum wage is $20 an hour, fantastic socialized medicine, reasonably priced homes, summer 12 months of the year and 9 out of 10 people own a boat. Citizens are mostly of British background, with Italians close behind. Every immigrant I spoke to said it was the best thing they ever did, to move to Western Australia. Australia lost 20 percent of its men in World War 11 so they were welcoming immigrants. Transportation within the city is free, and every morning I took a walk along the promenade of the Swan River and met lots of people all enjoying the fresh air.
Apart from Perth, no building is allowed to be taller than a tree. Hotels told me that they have 100 percent occupancy which is due to the mine traffic. I saw very few tourists.
You should go there July- September to see the 100,000 species of wild flowers. A wonderful sight. There is $1,000 fine if you pick a flower. The Kings Park Botanical Gardens in Perth is a great place to see them all in sections by region. The Indian Pacific train takes 72 hours from Sydney, a great experience.
Fremantle, thirty minutes from Perth is the port where the cruise lines dock. A very historic town, with lots of good fish restaurants. This is where the America’s Cup yacht races took place.
The five regions are Perth, Coral Coast, North West, Golden Outback and the South West. My favorites are the Coral Coast which has the Ningaloo Reef which I think is better than the Great Barrier Reef, and the North West which covers the Kimberly, Broome and Bungle Bungles. This is some 1,300 miles from Perth.
I went to do a story on food and wine. They have 125 wineries in the Margaret River and the Leeuwin Estate won the No. l gold medal in the world for its Chardonnay which was a shock to the judges who had never heard of the Margaret River. California’s Robert Mondavi wanted to buy the winery, but the family refused. He was their mentor for years. Most of the wineries are small, and don’t export, but Leeuwin does. They have lovely gardens, excellent restaurants, and give cooking classes.
A must is to go to Cape Leeuwin and visit the lighthouse which has been in operation since l840. The cape is where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, and it is known as the Whale freeway. 30,000 whales use this route to the Antarctic each year. 5,000 miles to the Antarctic from this spot, and 7000 miles to South Africa.
Some of the little hamlets I went thru didn’t have a policeman. He visits one day a month. I have never seen so many gorgeous beaches, with no one on them. This is a sparsely populated State.
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