The real Australia is out of the cities.
Whilst places like Sydney and Melbourne are great, the highlight of any trip to Oz are its natural wonders- the wildlife, the Great Barrier Reef, the thousands of beaches, and beautiful bush.
Western Australia is about as far away as you can get- Perth is even known for being the world’s most isolated capital city.
Oft overlooked by travelers who are keen to see Sydney and Melbourne, Western Australia is pure magic.
There’s just no place quite like it- it’s the laid back vibes Aussies are known for with some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, and land, that for the most part, has remained rugged and untouched.
Reflecting on our time in Oz at the end of the two months we spent traveling, we both agreed the week we spent in WA was a real highlight of our time there.
In fact, while Melbourne was my favourite bit of Oz, and I loved Sydney, Queensland and Byron Bay- our Western Australia road trip takes the number two spot on my ‘favourite places in Australia’ list.
An Itinerary to Hit Western Australia’s Best Bits in One Week
There’s no denying our week in Western Australia (WA) was fast-paced. We crammed as much as possible into the week we had to explore this part of Oz.
We would have loved to have a few more days, but had to be in Melbourne by a fixed date for work commitments.
Ultimately, we decided one week would be better than skipping WA entirely. And, even though we would have loved a few more days, the week we had was a cracker of a time. Our road trip was absolutely incredible- it’s impossible to imagine our trip to Oz without the time we spent exploring Western Australia.
Day 1: Arrive in Perth
Day 2: Drive Perth -> Margaret River
Day 3: Margaret River
Day 4: Margaret River to Albany
Day 5: Albany
Day 6: Albany to Esperance
Day 7: Esperance to Perth
Day 8: Final day in Perth/Fremantle, depart on overnight flight
If we were doing the road trip again, and had more time- I would have changed/added:
- More time in Perth to really see and experience the city
- At least two nights in Esperance to spend a whole day at Cape Le Grand
- Either a night in Hyden (mid-way drive back to Perth from Esperance), or spending a whole day driving back from Esperance
- Another night in Margaret River, such a cute area with loads of wineries, breweries, beaches, cafes, and bush walks to be had
How to Get Around Western Australia
We rented a car with a budget provider from Perth’s airport, which we flew in and out of.
If you’re only visiting Perth, you’ll be able to get around to the city’s key attractions using public transit and ride shares or taxis.
However, if you want to go beyond city limits, and really see the spectacular nature Oz has to offer, you’ll need a car.
When we reserved ours online, we opted for a flexible rental- in case we found a better deal in the weeks following, and made sure to add insurance. Waiting to buy insurance in person is always more expensive- often by +30-50% of what you’ll see offered when you reserve online.
If you’re worried about driving on the left in Western Australia, don’t be. It was my first time doing so, and after the first day, I felt completely at ease.
The most challenging bit was remembering the levers for windshield wipers and turn signals were reversed- not remembering to drive on the left.
Also, the roadways across WA are usually big enough and remote enough that, most of the time, we were either the only car on the road or only one of a few.
And parking wise, we rarely paid for parking- sans a handful of instances in Sydney and Melbourne. Across WA, parking was free, and at all of our Airbnbs, there was plentiful, free street parking.
Budget Tips for Road Tripping Australia
Australia is often lauded as an expensive destination, but I believe that, once you get there, the worst is behind you.
In my case, our flights in and out of Oz were cheap- less than £80 to fly to Perth from Bali, and less than £100 to fly from the Gold Coast to Singapore.
Even if you’re coming from the US, UK or Europe- check major Asian airline hubs (Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bangkok) to see if costs are lower if you route through one of them.
We traveled Australia for two months on a budget, but were by no means ‘backpacking’ in the traditional sense.
For accommodation, we stayed in private rooms with en-suite bathrooms in people’s homes via Airbnb. This meant we had privacy, but also access to a kitchen and refrigerator.
We’d decided that most days, we would treat ourselves to brunch out, as well as 2-3 coffee drinks. For other meals and snacks, we cooked ourselves. We kept costs even lower by shopping almost exclusively at Aldi across Oz.
A few times, we treated ourselves to dinners out, but for the most part, dinners were at home.
And, neither of us were drinking much while in Oz, which is why I haven’t tracked the expense below. Throughout our two months in the country, I’d estimate we each had less than 5 drinks, including wine, beer and cider tastings.
Cost per leg of our trip varied greatly, depending on the region of Oz we were visiting.
Average WA costs, all provided in AUD:
- Car Rental: $260 for 8 nights, $32 per night
- Gas: We didn’t track this closely, but most of the time, it cost ~$30-40 to fill a half tank
- Hotel (one night in Perth): $120
- Airbnbs: $50-60
- Food: $20 (inclusive of one meal out, plus coffees)
- Weekly Grocery Budget: $50-70 for two people
- Attractions: Expect to pay fees for sights like the Gloucester Tree, Tree-Top Walk in Valley of the Giants, and for any National Parks you enter. If you’re visiting several national parks, consider buying a holiday pass, which covers 14 days and costs $40- much cheaper than buying individual entrance fees at each park
What to See & Do in Each Itinerary Stop
Day 1: Arrive in Perth
After picking up our car, we headed to downtown Perth. On our first night, we stayed at a DoubleTree, located right downtown.
We’d looked at Airbnbs, but didn’t find anything super enticing, and reasoned it’d be better to be central so we could walk around easily to explore since we’d be short on time in the city.
Although we’d glanced at photos online, we hadn’t expected the DoubleTree to be so gorgeous. Newly renovated, the interiors are modern and trendy, boasting a rooftop pool with spectacular views of the city, and a fully kitted-out gym.
On our first day, we visited:
- Blue Boat House: This adorable blue lake house has become a bit of a photo magnet in Perth, which locals laugh at
- The walking path near the blue boat house: The walking trail adjacent to the boat house offers gorgeous views of the city. We walked up and down the trail for about a half hour, marvelling at how beautiful the weather was in the midst of winter
- Elizabeth Quay: Downtown area, full of shops, restaurants and outdoor watering holes
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the city. Surprised by how hip Perth was, we wished we had more time to really dig into different neighborhoods.
One of our favourite features were the bike paths all over the city, and the tally boards that show how many are cycling as a form of commuting each month.
While exploring, we stopped at Target to pick up a few warm weather necessities, as well as DuoTone cafe (great flat whites), Teassential and T2 (great tea varieties), and MOP Doughnuts for a sweet treat.
With more time in the city, we would have loved to visit Scarborough Beach and King’s Park for great views of the downtown area.
// A Guide to Perth’s Best Cafes //
Day 2: Drive Perth -> Margaret River
We started the morning with a few more explorations in the Perth/Fremantle area with breakfast at Hylin, a coffee stop at Architects & Heroes, and wander to the Rainbow Containers.
These larger than life shipping containers, brightly painted and positioned in an arc shape. A cool instance of outdoor art, and chance to stretch legs before hitting the road.
Next up, we drove to Margaret River via Eagle Bay.
En route, we stopped at the Banbury Dolphin Centre, which is a great place to spot and experience dolphins in the wild. During summer months, we’ve heard they come close to the shore in Koombana bay.
We also stopped at the Busselton Jetty, which is the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere. There’s a fee to enter, but you can take a train to the end of it, if you’re not up for walking. Take it from us- it’s looooong.
Getting closer to Eagle Bay, we stopped at Meelup Beach. A favourite among locals, this beach feels like a secret with its crystal blue water and soft, amber sand. The best bit: When we visited, there was only one other couple on the beach, serenity at its best.
We’d planned on checking out Cape Naturaliste lighthouse, but didn’t realise it closed early in the winter. With sunset approaching, we decided to head to Sugarloaf Rock, which is a beautiful bit of coastline to watch the sun sink below the horizon. There are numerous walking trails here, which we meandered while waiting for the final moment of sunset.
Post-sunset, we drove the final ~30 minutes of the day to Margaret River. We could have stayed in Eagle Bay, which is only about 10-15 minutes from Sugarloaf Rock, but decided we’d rather spend two nights in one place than constantly be on the move.
Arriving in Margaret River, we stopped at Brewhouse for pizza and pints, then checked into our Airbnb and called it an early night.
Brewhouse is the perfect spot for a chill dinner- twinkling lights, tons of patio seating with heaters scattered around, loads of brews to choose from, and live music floating through the air, it’s so lovely.
Daily drive time: ~4 hours
Day 3: Margaret River
Waking up to the sound of early morning rain, we lounged in bed for a bit.
Around 9 am, we went on a short bushwalk since our Airbnb was right on the edge of the bush.
We’d heard Hamelin Bay, about ~15-20 minutes from Margaret River, was a must-visit for the chance to spot stingrays in the shallows. Though, we knew we likely wouldn’t see them in winter, we still decided the beach would be worth checking out- and we were right.
Heaps of white sand, beautiful blue water, and swaying sand plants. Beach dreams, for real.
Even though it was cool, strolling the beach in the winter sun was such a beautiful way to spend the morning.
We made our way back to Margaret River around lunchtime, stopping at the weekly farmer’s market to try different kinds of cold brew and fresh juices. The weekly market in Margaret River is great- about 30-40 stalls in winter, and just a beautiful array of local goods.
When an early afternoon rainstorm rolled in, we took cover in Drift Cafe with large mochas, and worked on a bit of trip planning.
As the rain cleared, we headed to Colonial Brewing Co for pizza and cider pints. We loved Colonial- the outdoor area is huge, they’ve provided tons of games to entertain, and when we visited, there was live music. The entire vibe was Saturday perfection.
Before calling it a day, we popped into two wineries- Voyager Estate and Watershed.
At Voyager Estate, tastings were $8 to try three wines, which we loved sipping fireside while watching rain fall over the vineyard. Total autumnal cosy vibes.
Rounding out the day at Watershed, we only tried two wines- both of which were free to taste because they’re just a tiny sip.
With rain forecast for the evening, we were excited about a cosy night in, Netflixing, drinking hot tea and eating leftover pizza.
Daily drive time: ~1 hour
Day 4: Margaret River to Albany
With a long day planned, we popped into Brew Shack for coffee before leaving Margaret River. This tiny, wood decorated cafe was our favourite in town- mostly because of all the dogs hanging around.
Our first stop of the day was the Gloucester Tree, a 53 metre (173 feet) tree, which Aussies have stick pegs into so you can climb it. There aren’t any safety mechanisms- no harnesses or handrails. It’s literally a straight vertical climb at times, so be careful if you decide to head up it.
While my fear of heights wouldn’t allow me to climb the tree, I did enough all of the walking trails near the Gloucester Tree- it’s a beautiful area, easy to spend at least a half day exploring.
Back on the road, we stopped at the Tree Top Walk in Valley of the Giants.
This suspension bridge, 40 metres off the ground, is a gradual climb up. The views from the top are incredible, and the lower trails are worth a wander as well.
I couldn’t get over being at treetop level, it’s such as special feeling.
Back on the ground, we walked around the tingle tree trails- it seems unbelievable some of these trees are 400+ years old.
Before you leave, don’t miss the coffee and cupcake van in the parking lot- delish mochas.
Our final stop of the day, before hitting Albany, was William Bay National Park to see the Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks.
As you’d expect from the name, Elephant Rocks are larger than life, and situated in a teal pool, which makes them a beauty to admire.
Also in this area, Greens Pool and the coastline rocks are equally gorgeous- especially at sunset, as the final rays of the day hit the turquoise waters and cast a soft glow on the park land.
It’s hard to capture the the beauty of this place- but you can walk between Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks, and even swim in the clear water.
William Bay National Park is 10000% worth a stop if you’re driving from Margaret River to Denmark or Albany.
Daily drive time: ~5 hours
Day 5: Albany
On our day in Albany, we’d planned on going to a national park but the weather was rainy, windy and freezing. Instead, we ran errands, lounged, did laundry, and eventually visited a beach near town.
Even in the rain, Emu Point Beach was beautiful.
We stopped in the cafe here- Emu Point Cafe– for hot chocolate and scones before continuing back to town.
Back in Albany, we dropped into Six Degrees Cafe for a flat white, while debating what to do that evening. We decided on going to see the Lion King, which had recently come out, at the local movie theatre. At $12 a ticket, not a bad evening movie deal.
~Daily Drive Time: ~30 minutes
Day 6: Albany to Esperance
Keen to get on the road early again, we drove out to the national park we’d missed exploring the day before to see Two People’s Bay– a pristine stretch of beach, protected by heaps of rocks.
A morning stroll here was exactly what we needed before continuing on the drive to Esperance– one that would take ~5 hours, most of which was without cell service.
Esperance is a picturesque region of Western Australia, absolutely packed with stunning coastlines, and beaches as far as the eye can see.
Once in Esperance, we found ourselves with about 4-5 hours before sunset.
On the following day, we planned to wake early and visit Cape Le Grand, about 30 minutes outside the heart of Esperance.
So, on our first day, we decided to check out the local beaches.
The best beaches in Esperances are located along the Great Ocean Drive.
Esperance’s Great Ocean Drive loops the town to the region’s stunning coastline and vegetation.
On our drive, we passed West Beach, Blue Haven Beach, Salmon Beach, Twilight Beach and Nine Mile Beach.
Visiting Oz in early winter was great for cost saving (we experienced discounts nearly everywhere- from lodging to car rentals to accomodation), but meant we didn’t always have the best weather for beach days.
When we visited Esperance, it was 50-60 degrees, with bouts of sunshine and cloud cover.
Not exactly beach lounging weather, but perfect beach strolling weather- which is exactly what we did.
All the beaches we stopped at were beautiful, but we especially enjoyed West Beach and Twilight Beach.
Even on a cloudy day, the water was a surreal shade of blue, and the sand was some of the whitestest I’d ever seen, sans islands in the middle of the tropical sea.
After our beach walks, we called it an early night- grabbing hot chocolate at Dome Cafe, Subway sandwiches, veggies and hummus, and crisps for an Airbnb picnic.
~Daily Drive Time: ~5 hours
Day 7: Esperance to Perth
Early the next morning, we woke and drove straight to Coffee Cat, a cafe food truck, parked seaside by a jetty.
Fully caffeinated, we set off for Cape Le Grand, regarded as one of Australia’s best national parks.
Famous for its white sandy beaches, friendly kangaroos, and rugged coastal peaks, Cape Le Grand deserves way more attention than the half day were were able to allow.
If we had more time, I’d have loved to camp in the park or stay nearby so we could visit multiple times to soak in the area’s incredible beauty.
Our desire to visit Cape Le Grand early in the morning wasn’t just a road trip itinerary decision- we’d heard morning was the best time to spot kangaroos on the beach in Lucky Bay.
Said to have been voted as Australia’s best beach, the sand here is bright white, and the water a shade of turquoise that’ll leave you breathless.
When we first arrived to the beach, we gazed down at the beach from the parking lot- looking for roos.
We didn’t see any, and it looked like a morning storm was rolling out, so we decided to wait in the car for a few minutes before heading down to the shore.
No more than 10 minutes had passed when we happened to look up from our phones and see two kangaroos staring at us. No sooner did we make eye contact with them than they hopped on down to the beach.
We scrambled out of the car to follow them down, and were rewarded with seeing them eat and play with 3-4 other kangaroos.
Over the next hour or so, we lingered on the beach, watching roos come and go, eat and hop.
Neither of us believe in getting close to wild animals, so we kept our distance, but couldn’t believe how close they willingly came to us.
To say it was a morning full of magic moments would be an understatement.
When we finally managed to pull ourselves away from Lucky Bay, we drove over to Hellfire Bay.
In nicer weather, you can hike from Lucky to Hellfire, but with another storm rolling in, and a long afternoon/evening drive ahead of us, we opted for the short drive.
In summer, you might be lucky enough to spot dolphins here. But, even without the sea creatures, the beautiful, secluded stretch of sand is worth a visit.
When noon rolled around, we groaned. We had no interest in leaving Cape Le Grand or Esperance, and even considered pushing back our flights from Perth a day or two so we could stay longer.
In the end, work commitments won out- we knew we had to get to Melbourne on the schedule we’d agreed to.
And so, leaving Cape Le Grand, we drove back to Esperance, grabbed sandwiches and another round of coffee and then set off for the long drive back to Perth.
On the way back, we drove inland, breaking up the drive with a late afternoon walk at Wave Rock, a giant rock shaped like a wave- the result of over 60 million years of wind and water erosion.
We arrived in Fremantle mid-evening (~8 pm), exhausted but still riding high from such an incredible time exploring Australia’s gorgeous coastline.
Daily drive time: ~9-10 hours
Day 8: Final day in Perth/Fremantle, depart on overnight flight
Known as Freo to the locals, Fremantle is a buzzing hub of activity with buskers, art galleries, cafes, pubs and an eclectic range of shops.
On our last day in WA, we planned to spend half of it, adventuring Rottnest Island, and the other half exploring Fremantle.
Hailed as the best coffee in Fremantle, we started the day at the small, but punchy Attic Cafe. It’s a great place to stop en route to the ferry for Rottnest Island- we parked here just long enough to get coffee, then drove another few minutes to the ferry terminal with our morning brew and blueberry banana muffins in tow.
Planning our jaunt throughout WA, Rottnest Island was a non-negotiable stop. Even though we’d done little research about the island itself, we understood it was somewhere we had to make it.
And, so we purchased our ferry tickets in advance for a discount and crossed our fingers for good weather in Oz’s winter.
We ferried with Sealink Rottnest, which was more affordable than competitors and had a time schedule compatible with our needs (early am departure, mid-afternoon return to Fremantle). The ferry ride itself is only about 25 minutes each way, making it a quick jaunt from mainland Australia.
Because we hadn’t done much research into Rottnest, we didn’t really have a mental picture of the island.
This kind of surprise travel is one of my favourite things to try and do in an over-Instagrammed age.
In this particular instance, it meant we spent the entire day on Rottnest exclaiming our surprise over and over- the island is gorgeous. From rolling hinterland to white beaches with sparkling turquoise water, it’s an incredible place.
It is possible to cycle the entire island in a day, but we decided we’d like to have a leisurely pace, and planned on just hitting a few places.
A friend had told us the south of the island is best in the morning, so we started clockwise around the loop.
During our cycle ’round Rottnest, we visited:
- Parker Point
- Henrietta Rocks
- Salmon Beach (the colour of the water is absolutely breathtaking here, and the coral reef makes it a great place to snorkel)
- Pinky’s Beach
- The Basin
- Parker Point
- Henrietta Rocks
- Bathurst Lighthouse
Whether you visit the same spots we did or choose to explore on your own, I think it’d be hard to go wrong on Rottnest.
The entire island is a protected natural reserve, renowned for its gorgeous beaches and pristine waters. In fact, there are over 60 beaches on the island and 20 secluded bays, with a host of reefs for diving and snorkelling.
Most visitors to WA head to Rottnest in search of cuddly quokkas.
The quokka selfie put Rottnest Island on the map of many travelers, and for good reason- they’re insanely cute animals and only found on the island.
They’re a mix between a kangaroo and a rat- in fact, Rottnest got its name from an early explorer who mistook them for giant rats. The name, Rottnest, means rats’ nest, as such named by a Dutch sea captain who observed the animals in the early 1700s and dubbed them ‘a kind of rat as big as a common cat’.
Before visiting, we wondered if they’d be tough to find.
Fortunately, there were quokkas everywhere.
The best time to spot them is early morning or late afternoon- like other marsupials, they sleep during the day.
And the best place to see them?
Although, they’re all over the island, the area around Thompson Bay has the highest concentration. Wherever you see them, please remember not to touch or feed them- quokkas are wild animals.
Post Rottnest, we were looking for a cafe to do a bit of work in after wandering downtown, historic Fremantle.
Our interest in Hush came at first, because they were open an hour later than other cafes in the area. Once inside, we loved the space- minimal decor, flowers on every table, exposed beams.
With an overnight flight to Queensland on the agenda, and a few hours to spare before we had to return our car, we turned to Google to see if there were any cafes in Perth open late- a rarity in Oz.
Our search turned up a few options- all of them in Leederville. Greens & Co. had a lot of great reviews, many of which mentioned delicious cakes. As soon as we walked in and saw the cool music decor and dozens of low-hung lanterns, we were sold. Free Wi-Fi, creamy hot chocolate, and incredible array of cakes to savour for dessert made our visit here all the sweeter.
On the way to Leederville, we stopped at Cottesloe Beach for sunset, a gorgeous way to cap off our time in Western Australia.
Extra Oz Travel Tips
Language: English, with some quirky slang thrown in for good measure
Safety: Never once, traveling across Australia did we feel unsafe. Still take the normal precautions, like locking your car at night and keeping an eye on valuables, but I’d compare most of the cities and places we visited to small and big cities in the UK and US
Currency: Australian Dollar
While in Oz, I paid for most things with my Revoult card, as many things are contactless payment. I did carry a small amount of cash with me to cover tiny purchases- like a pack of gum here and there
Budget: Oz gets flak for being expensive, and while it is costly in comparison to nearby Southeast Asian countries, I found things to be a bit more affordable than in the US or UK.
As with other destinations, there are ways to scale back on spending- eating meals in, staying in hostels or camping, limiting alcohol, and so on.
Getting To WA: We flew in from Bali, which was amazingly affordable with Jetstar.
Once at the airport, we rented a car, but if you’re only in WA for a weekend (hello, visa runs), and only staying in Perth, you could take public transit to the city, and then to get around.
Where to Stay: For the most part, we stayed in private rooms with en-suite bathrooms of people’s homes. When we visited in winter, these Airbnb options were 50-60% less per night than staying in budget hotels or private rooms of hostels
When to Visit: Summer (December – February) and the fringe months before and after offer the best weather, so to speak
We visited in winter (early August), and enjoyed moderate temps (50-65 Fahrenheit most days), as well as pretty good weather (lots of sunny days, a few bouts of rain). If you’re planning on swimming and lounging at WA’s beaches, time your visit for warmer months
Tipping: Tipping is not common practice in Australia
WiFi Access: WiFi was good in big cities/towns (Perth, Fremantle, Margaret River), and a bit dodgier in smaller ones (Albany, Esperance). In all places, we had strong enough WiFi in our Airbnb to stream Netflix and do basic internet tasks (Google searches, email).
Driving through the bush and outback, you’ll lose all service for hours at a time. And, in restaurants or cafes across towns, you’ll have a hard time finding free WiFi- only a handful of the places we visited offered it
SIM Card Options: I bought a 30-day SIM upon arrival at WA’s airport with Optus. When we arrived both in Perth, and then again in Sydney from New Zealand at a later date, Optus was running 50% off deals, making a 30-day SIM with loads of data pretty affordable (~£15)
Packing Necessities: What you bring depends on the season you visit. Coming to Oz after months in SE Asia, I was concerned my clothes wouldn’t be warm enough.
We stopped at a Target in Perth to stock up on warm weather essentials at minimal cost. Key bits I picked up, which allowed me to layer with what I already had: gloves, a hat, fleece joggers, long leggings, two sweaters, and a sweatshirt.
When we finally left Oz two months later, I donated the sweatshirt and joggers, and brought the rest with me back to Asia
Road Trip Snacks: In any country I visit, whether I’m making my own meals or mostly eating out, I usually pop into a grocery store at some point, so I can try a few local treats or drinks.
In Oz, we enjoyed: Carmello Koalas; TimTams (especially, original, double chocolate, caramel and mint flavours); CherryRipe bars (cherries and coconut covered in dark chocolate); Killer pythons (huge gummy worms); Violet Crumbles (honeycomb and toffee covered in chocolate), and Cheezels (cheese covered crunchy snacks).
Have you ever been to Western Australia? Is it on your list of places to see in the world?
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