Chapter 4: Weather, Wilderness and Wildlife in Western Australia
Planning your itinerary on the basis of the weather or wilderness is a daunting task. But, when you do it right, nothing can be more rewarding and fulfilling! When caravanning around WA, you must choose the most favourable route and weather. Poor weather poses challenge and it can actually cause distress and greatly reduce the enjoyment of your vacation.
Climate of WA
Western Australia, which is the second largest state in the world, has a variety of climates and different time-zones. Situated 300m-600m above sea level, depending on your distance from the coast and season, the weather differs around the state.
The Mediterranean climate is described as tepid in summer and wet in winter.
Also known for its coral reefs, WA’s coastal waters are teeming with marine life. The South of WA experiences Mediterranean and temperate climate while the Northern ends of WA has tropical and monsoonal climates. WA’s interior, on the other hand, has an arid or desert-like climate.
With Perth as the Sunniest Capital of WA, and flawless blue skies all year round, WA offers the best outback experiences for caravanners. The highest temperature observed in WA is 50.5 °C at Mardie Station in 1998 while the lowest recorded temperature is -7.2 °C at Eyre Bird Observatory in 2008.
Average Summer temperature in WA ranges from 15 0C- 31 0C
Average Winter Temperature in WA 9 0C- 18 0C
Average Rainfall in Western Australia ranges from 300ml/ 12 inches in Wheat belt to 1400ml/ 55 inches in Northcliffe. Nevertheless, from November until March, precipitation exceeds the rate of rainfall, causing excessive dryness.
Annual Rainfall in Western Australia is 8 inches to 60 inches.
The hills of Southwest WA and Perth Hills get occasional snow. The average snow in Stirling Range is surveyed to be less than 2 inches with a lifespan of less than 24 hours.
Perth has temperatures ranging from 29 0C in February to 12 0C in June, until August, while Margaret River region has 25 0C to 8 0C. On the other hand, Broome has a mild daytime temperature, with its highest being 29 0C. The worst climate in Broome is during the Green Season with tropical rain storms, storms and cyclones.
Wilderness of Western Australia
WA’s wilderness has around 13,000 varieties of plants. WA’s wilderness offers unparallelled adventure.
Known as one of 17 mega diversity spots on earth due to its abundant plants and animals, WA also has the largest woodlands (intact-temperate), known as the Great Western Woodlands (GWW). WA is best known for its Geraldton Wax plant and 12,000 species of wildflowers that blossom for 6 months every year. The striking truth is that 60% of these are exclusive to WA and can be found nowhere else on the planet!
Known all over the world for its unique flora and fauna, Down South has various plants species that evolved differently than in other places on the planet. With most areas covered in gum trees, WA has thousands of other similar species distributed throughout the territory. WA is also known for having the tallest trees in the country like Karri and Tuart, 500 years.
These are giant trees with extraordinary girth. Karri Trees are also called the Princely Trees of the Plant Kingdom. With an average height of 65m, the finest Karri Trees can be found on the banks of Warren River.
A startling fact about Karri trees is that the colour of its bark is silver at the start of winter then it turns golden crimson to yellow or even deep pink as the season progresses! Historically, Karri trees were used as lookouts; and today, iron rods forming an upward spiral pattern can still be seen in some of the oldest remaining karri trees in WA.
Caravanners interested in enjoying the ambiance of karri forests can find the best of them at Denmark, Nannup, Porongurup, Albany, Augusta and Margaret River. Top Karri trees to visit when in WA are Gloucester Tree in Pemberton; Diamond tree in Manjimup and Dave Evans Bicentennial tree at Warren National Park.
Eucalyptus trees play a huge part in the West Australian history and culture. WA has an exclusive specie of Eucalyptus popularly known as Jarrah or scientifically as Eucalyptus Marginata. Found in the South Western part of WA, jarrah trees are celebrated for its superlative quality of wood and resistance to infestations.
Jarrah forests can be found in Perth, Margaret River area, Bunbury Walpole, Bridgetown, Albany and Gingin.
Banksia is a flowering plant widely distributed along the coastal regions of WA. It is also used as part of the cut flower trade for ornamental purposes. Reaching up to 25 ft in height, Banksias do not grow in all parts of Australia. The commonly grown varieties in WA are Banksia brownii in Stirling Ranges and Banksia Verticillata in Two Peoples Bay.
For caravanners interested in enjoying Banksia woodlands, Perth has the best! With about 740 species of Banksia in WA, forming 41.7% of the world’s total Banksia population, statistics reveals that South Western WA has about 63 exclusive Banksia species.
On the Swan Coastal Plain of Perth, you will find the trademark flora of Perth- Tuart and Banksia adorning the horizon uniformly.
One Billy Goat Plum is equivalent to 50 Oranges!
Native to WA’s rich plant species, Billy Goat Plum is the world’s richest source of Vitamin C. Also known as Kakadu Plum, it was used extensively in the Aboriginal culture as a medicine to treat sores, infections and skin diseases. Tasting sour to sweet according to its ripeness, Billy Goat Plum has a floral and pleasant aroma to it.
One Billy Goat Plum will give you 1240-5000 mg of Vitamin C, which greatly exceeds over-the-counter supplements. Having anti-cancer properties, the special plum is noted as a strong plant that grows in harsh conditions and hence, generating Vitamin C for its own defences.
If you wish to have farm-fresh Billy Goat Plums when in WA, visit the eastern and western regions of Kimberly where many Billy Goat Farms are located.
Unrelated to the ferns of the hinterland, Cycad Palms are another flora, native to WA. These palms are conifers of varying sizes. Sought after as garden plants, there are varied species of cycad palms in WA. To make the most out of WA’s Cycadian tour, visit the Gascoyne Park in Woodvale where 5.2 hectares of Cycads palms stand.
Western Australia is over-brimming with beautiful wildlife; native to the hinterland. The star attraction of WA’s wildlife is its hundreds of different Wildflower species. The best places to see wildflower blooms are Wave Rock, Golden Outback, Coral Coast and King Park Botanical Garden. You can even see all of the 11 wildflower trails from Coral Coast to Perth!
Wildlife in Western Australia
From the rarest reefs, gorgeous manta rays and friendliest dolphins to the green meadows of karris in the Southwest, the fauna of Western Australia is as abundant as its Flora. In fact, apart from the exotic animals like the Black Swans, Red Kangaroos and Rainbow Lorikeets, Western Australia is also globally renowned as a biodiversity hotspot!
Home to 141 Mammals species, of which 25 are distinctive, WA also has 439 reptile species, with 187 of which are found nowhere else. Home to exotic marine life forms, Western Australia boasts of 1600+ fish species as well as countless World Heritage reefs.
Teeming with striking native animals, one cannot hike a mile of WA without encountering one native specie. With most of the wildlife being nocturnal, rescheduling your hike at dusk or dawn will help you spot the native animals effortlessly.
The Big Red
Kangaroos can be seen anywhere when you’re Down Under. But, when in WA, the red kangaroos or popularly called the Big Red are the most common kind. Although you can see an equal ratio of grey and red kangaroos, WA is known for Big Red.
The largest marsupial on Earth, the Big Red can reach up to a height of six feet and 80Kg in weight, almost equal to an adult male with healthy body mass.
The best places to caravan to, in order to spot Big Red are in Cape Range National Park, Shark Bay, Dryandra Woodland and Cervantes.
Black Footed Rock Wallaby
Commonly known as the Warru, Black footed Rock Wallabies are native to WA. They live in colonies of 10-100. Growing up to half a metre, Black footed rock wallabies are rare now. Black footed rock wallabies are herbivores.
The best place to see the black footed rock wallaby when caravanning in WA is at Yardie Creek Gorge in Cape Range National Park.
Popularly known as dalgyte in Western Australia, Bilbies are found along the coast. Known for being rapid breeders, Bilbies can weigh up to 3kg and are part of the bandicoot family. If you want to see Bilbies, you must look up Project Eden. The project is about breeding bilbies at Shark Bay and releasing them to Francois Peron National Park.
Some other ideal locations to spot the endangered bilbies are at Scotia Sanctuary, Yookamurra Sanctuary in Kimberley, Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Perth and Shark Bay.
Commonly known as thorny dragon, this peculiar animal is a native to Western Australia and is known for its camouflaging abilities. With a body full of conical spines, a thorny dragon changes from mild colours in summer to darker shades in winter. Local to the arid and dry places of WA, thorny devils are mostly found in Spinifex.
If you’re interested in meeting these harmless Thorny Devils, caravan to Carnarvon, Shark Bay or Exmouth.
The most common wombat found in WA is the Southern hairy-nosed ones, also known as the cutest marsupial on the hinterland. Known to have stronger teeth than grey kangaroos, Wombats were hunted as meat by the Aborigines. To date, the erratic population of Wombats are kept steady by breeding programs.
The best place to come across cute and furry wombats when in WA is the Perth Zoo.
From strange wombats to biofluorescent reptiles, WA has many native and threatened animals in both natural and man-made habitats. To enjoy the best of wildlife when in WA, visit the magnificent Wildlife Park called Caversham Wildlife Park. The place houses koalas to wallabies, kangaroos, wombats, bats, dingoes and echidnas!
Most popular birds in WA
Mostly known for the sporadic migration routes and expansive birdlife due to the same, WA is a sought after birding-hotspot. Ranging from the Kookaburra fairy tales to the endless seabirds (about 90 species) on the Abrolhos Island alone, the birds in WA are rare as well as exotic. Renowned as being home to 240 varieties of birds, WA has 35% of the nation’s total bird count.
The official emblem and bird of the state of Western Australia, the Black Swan was a marvel never before seen by the first Europeans who came to Australia. Commonly seen in the wetlands of WA, Black Swans prefers salt water lakes and are occasionally nomadic.
The best places to spot the Black Swan in WA are in Perth at Lake Monger or Bibra and Oyster Harbour or Lake McLarty in Albany. Moreover, Kimberley also has Black swan breeding in and around Lake Campion, Lake Eda, Lake Gregory and Argyle Diamond Mine.
Fairy or Little Penguins
Every winter, some 1000 Little Penguins will be found nesting on Penguin Island. Growing up to a height of 33cm, these are also called fairy penguins. Most islands located on the southern coast of WA support large groups of fairy penguins.
The best way to interact with these little blue fairies is to take a ferry to Penguin Island, Halls Head, Albany or Point Peron.
Locally known as twenty-eights after their distinctive twen-ty-eight call, the Australian Ringneck is subdivided into four species. Mostly found around eucalypt trees and woodlands, the twenty-eights eat a wide range of food including honey, insects and fruits!
Additionally, the WA government requires a license to keep more than four Ringnecks. To observe Australian Ring Necks visit the arid areas of WA like Pilbara and the southern ends.
Green Pygmy Goose
A cute duck with green-coloured back, crown and neck, the Green Pygmy Goose is known to breed in the hollows of trees.
To watch Green Pygmy Geese when caravanning in WA, visit areas like the Lily Creek Lagoon, Kununurra; Lake Campion, Broome; Parry Lagoons, Wyndham and Argyle Diamond mines.
Often seen elegantly resting on the yellow sands of Monkey Mia beach, Australian Pelicans have a white body, black wings and pink bill. The waterbird has a wingspan of 2.3 to 2.6 m and weighs 4-13 kg.
The best places to see the Australian Pelican in WA are Adele Island, Albany, Lake Kununurra, Lake McLarty and Augusta.
Another interesting bird that is endemic to WA is the Western gerygone. Dwelling in the temperate jungles of WA, Western gerygones like moist tropical climate. They are commonly seen in places like Pilbara, Derby, Broome and Kununurra.
Filled with multiple and diverse Bird Observatories, make sure to have a Caravan Birding Trip to the Broome Bird Observatory or to head to Roebuck Bay to see 175,000 birds.
Marine Life Exclusive to WA
Ranked No#1 for World’s best marine adventures, the extravagantly striking coral reefs are not the sole attraction of WA. Stretched 12,500 km, WA has huge coastlines that promise double the water boarding fun. WA has rich marine life with whales, stingrays, sea lions, dolphins and schools of fishes.
For a caravanner, it is much more adventurous to watch exotic marine life in their natural habitat rather than in marine parks or zoos.
Whale watching is one of the most famous activities in Western Australia due to its large number of rare and exotic whale species. From Minke whales to the Rare Blue or Humpbacks, the best time to spot the whales is during the migratory season in May until December. The migrations extend all the way from Albany until Broome, it is the longest whale migration trail on earth.
The best places to observe whales when caravanning around WA are Exmouth, Dunsborough, Augusta and Perth.
Here’s one of the few places on earth where you can actually swim with sharks! The largest number of whale sharks can be spotted at Ningaloo Reef during the season of coral spawning from March until April.
Caravanners who want to go whale shark watching after March can head to Coral Bay, Shark Bay or Exmouth. Make sure to keep a 3m distance when swimming with sharks to avoid its fins lashing on you.
The most fun interaction people can have with marine life is with dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins in particular are always eager to please their human fans.
One can walk in knee-high clear water and have the dolphins brush against their legs at exclusive places like Monkey Mia where dolphin sightings are daily, rather than annually or seasonally.
Caravanners can also interact with dolphins at Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, Mandurah and Rockingham.
The best place to observe WA’s acrobatic Manta Rays are at Ningaloo Reef. Having the ability to jump, barrel-roll and glide with ease, Manta Rays are observed throughout the year in WA.
The best places to catch a glimpse of Manta Rays are Coral Bay and Exmouth from June to November.
Mostly seen ashore throughout the year, the right time to watch sea turtles is during hatching, when they trot along the crystal beaches of WA. The state’s coral coast is also known for the endangered loggerhead turtle, which breeds at Dirk Hartog Island, Muiron Islands and Shark Bay World Heritage Area.
To watch sea turtles, a caravanner must go to Ningaloo. Other turtle species you can find there include flatback, hawksbill, loggerhead and green.
Shark Bay has 10% of the world’s total dugong population. Diving with dugongs is a much enjoyed marine interaction for tourists and caravanners alike. If you like scuba diving, try the amiable dugongs for company when in Western Australia. Also known as sea cows, there are 11,000 dugongs at Shark Bay that can be spotted throughout the year at Coral Bay, Exmouth and Monkey Mia.
With its 1600+ fish species, WA is one of the most researched marine hotspots in the world. The Ningaloo Reef area alone is home to about 500 fish species.
Known as a prime seafood and freshwater fish hotspot, WA is also the source of most of Australia’s Abalones, Barramundis, Baldchin Groper, Marron, Spanish mackerel and the trademark WA dhufish.
The best places for fishing in WA are Exmouth, Kalbarri, Abrolhos Islands, Coral Bay, Shark Bay, Montebello Islands, Busselton Jetty, Cape Arid and Fitzroy River.
Another WA attraction is its corals, mostly found along the Ningaloo Reef. Being the world’s largest fringing reef, the Ningaloo Reef stretches 20km into the ocean, occupying an area of 5000km2. With about 300 varieties of corals and hundreds of fish species, Ningaloo is also a famous whale watching destination. Caravan to AQWA in Perth to observe pristine marine life, which WA is famous for.
View Previous Chapters…
CHAPTER 1: Caravanning Western Australia: Galaxy Caravans’ Adventure Guide
CHAPTER 2: Revisiting History And Culture In Western Australia
CHAPTER 3: Food and Drinks To Not Miss When In Western Australia