Autumn in Western Australia (well at least in Perth and the South West) always feels like a strange in-between time for me. Beach weather lingers on well into April most years, yet the days are getting noticeably shorter and the nights longer. And the evening air has a definite chill to it that wasn’t there a few months ago!
I feel slightly sad when I think of summer slipping away, but at the same time welcome the cooler weather and rainy days. As much as I love summer, sometimes the heat gets too much. Autumn is much better for picnics and bush walks and enjoying the outdoors away from the coast.
Top Four Holiday Destinations for Autumn in Western Australia:
1. Ningaloo Reef Marine Park – Exmouth and Coral Bay
If you’re not quite ready for the end of summer beach weather then the best thing to do is escape Up North where the usual four seasons don’t apply. It’s hot all year round on the Ningaloo coast, a desert paradise with some of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. The Ningaloo Reef fringes the coastline for 260km, supporting a healthy ecosystem thriving with coral, turtles, manta rays, over 500 species of fish, and whale sharks.
This is why my number one pick of destinations to visit at this time of year has to be Coral Bay, a tiny remote town on the Ningaloo coast situated next to an incredibly beautiful beach with coral reefs to snorkel over just 50 to 100 metres offshore.
The weather and conditions at Ningaloo from April onwards are paradise, with warm ocean water temperatures and hot days that are neither too hot nor too windy like they are in summer. It’s so perfect for swimming and snorkeling and walking on the beach, the three main things to do at Coral Bay that don’t involve an organised tour.
Autumn in Western Australia means Whale Sharks at Ningaloo!
Every year the whale sharks arrive at Ningaloo around the beginning of autumn and stick around right through into winter. A few years ago when I was last staying in Coral Bay during autumn, we took the opportunity to swim with these awe-inspiring creatures on a full-day boat trip. Let me tell you, it is an experience to put on the bucket list!
The boat trip takes you kilometres out to sea while a spotter plane searches for whale sharks. As soon as whale sharks are spotted the boat powers full-speed to the location. Jumping into the ocean, the water is impossibly deep and disorienting and all you can see is dark blue nothingness… that is until the massive whale shark emerges into view. Snorkeling alongside it, it’s impossible not to be awed by such a huge and gentle creature, dark blue in colour with a pattern of white spots like stars. Whale sharks appear to swim slowly and effortlessly, but they’re faster than you’d think – I had to kick and swim like I was in a race just to keep up with them!
2. Margaret River
With a huge variety of beautiful natural scenery and so many things to do and experience, Western Australia’s Margaret River Region is a destination for all seasons. But in many ways Autumn is the ideal time to visit Margaret River, simply because it’s the best of both worlds: the lack of crowds and some of the cosiness of winter, and plenty of fine sunny weather that’s almost like summer!
Margaret River’s mild and mostly-sunny autumn weather is absolutely perfect for enjoying the outdoors on a picnic or hike, or even spending a day on the beach. Many autumn days are warm enough for an enjoyable swim, and even at the more popular beaches like Smiths or Meelup you’ll likely be one of only a few people there.
But then again Autumn in Margaret River also has some cool and rainy days thrown into the mix where you’ll be wanting to light the log fire in the cosy chalet, go for a scenic drive through the Boranup Forest or descend underground into a cave. Days like these are great for wine tasting and long winery lunches too!
Another big plus for visiting the Margaret River Region in autumn is that the ocean waves tend to be much bigger than they are in summer. Obviously, if you’re a surfer the big swells will be the number one visit to head Down South!
It’s also a fantastic time of year to do a section of the Cape to Cape Track or visit some of the scenic coastal spots such as Redgate or Sugarloaf Rock. Huge crashing waves make the views all the more spectacular.
And if you’re there at the right time you’ll have the chance to watch some of the world’s best surfers in competition at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, held every Autumn since 1985 at Surfer’s Point (Margaret River Main Break).
3. Nannup, Balingup and Bridgetown – the Blackwood River Valley
The Blackwood River Valley in WA’s South West is absolutely gorgeous from the second half of Autumn right through into Winter. Unlike destinations that are over on the coast, it feels to me as if the cosy inland Blackwood Valley towns come alive as the weather cools down and the days shorten.
The mornings are cool and crisp with mist settling in the vales and valleys, and the temperature during the day is not too hot and generally not too cold either – perfect for bush walks and picnics.
Towards the end of Autumn the magnificent karri trees begin to shed their pale grey bark, exposing the beautiful salmon pink/golden orangey colour beneath… however at the beginning of Autumn when it still feels like summer there may be some pesky march flies around. The Blackwood Valley is just to the north of the main karri belt, and there are plenty of pockets of karri in amongst the predominant jarrah and marri forests especially around Nannup and south of Bridgetown.
The best place to see deciduous autumn leaves in Western Australia!
The Blackwood River Valley also has its fair share of deciduous trees lining its streets and gracing its parks and gardens. The leaves on these trees start turning orange, red and yellow in late April and May, around the same time as the karri trees shed their bark. The best place to go if you want to see the warm Autumn colours is the Balingup Tree Park, which features trees from all over the world. Have a picnic in the park and go for a stroll along one of several trails that meander through the trees and gardens.
4. Rottnest Island
I love Rottnest Island and visit it as many times a year as I can, no matter what the season. But there is definitely something extra special about Autumn on Rottnest. Although the summer crowds have long gone, you still get plenty of beautiful warm sunny days long into Autumn. I think it’s my favourite time of year to be on the island, even more so than summer.
Apart from the reduced crowds, the main reason I love Autumn on Rottnest so much is because it is the best time of year for snorkelling, which happens to be one of my favourite hobbies and one of the best things to do on Rottnest.
Contrary to what you might expect the water temperature of the ocean surrounding the Rotto actually gets a little bit warmer as the weather begins to cool down. This is because Autumn hails the arrival of the Leeuwin Current which flows down from the tropics carrying warm water, and along with it coral spawn and tropical fish lavae.
Autumn weather conditions also contribute to a fine snorkeling experience. The days are still reasonably warm well into April and it tends to be less windy than during winter and spring.
Last Updated: 12th September, 2015.
First posted on 10th April, 2015 by Bonny.
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