Western Australia has the highest boat ownership per capita of any state in the country, so it’s no wonder that there’s a profusion of access ramps, waterways and information for the boating enthusiast.
WHERE TO GO
Islands | Boating in WA doesn’t get much better than around the Abrolhos Islands, where you can jump straight off your deck to snorkel and dive in pristine water filled with spectacular coral gardens and approachable marine animals. Other major drawcards are the thriving rock lobster population and the excellent fishing, rated among the best in the world. If you aren’t interested in casting a line or getting too wet, there’s still plenty to see, in the shape of migratory whales and the many species of birds to spot. There are a few public moorings to be had, but you’ll often find they are already taken, in which case you’ll need to carefully anchor in a patch of sand or mud. Be mindful that the islands don’t have public accommodation, so you’ll need to be well equipped and self-sufficient. Also, you’ll need to leave poor old Rover at home – domestic pets are prohibited. Head further north and the world-class reefs and virtually secluded islands of the Mackerel Islands make the journey to the Pilbara worthwhile. The closest town is Onslow, which is where you’ll launch your boat. If you’re planning on diving or snorkelling, you’ll be shell-shocked (no pun intended) by the array of turtles that use the unspoiled islands as a refuge. Best of all, you can turn your boating adventure into a tropical holiday, thanks to the accommodation on Thevenard and Direction islands. The summer months in the Mackerels are far too hot to enjoy anything besides air-conditioning, so plan your trip for between April and September. Nearby, the Montebello Islands, or ‘Monties’, are another popular location, with different charters on offer. View the protected coral reefs and natural landscapes alongside a variety of marine mammals such as turtles, humpback whales (in season) and dugongs, as well as a wide range of birdlife.
North | With the continental shelf only kilometres offshore and easily accessible by boat, fishing and the Ningaloo Reef go hand in hand. To fish for the really big catches, head to Ningaloo during October, November and December, when the sailfish and marlin arrive in numbers. Regular attractions also include golden and giant trevally, which grow to enormous sizes. Before you drop your motor, however, make sure you’re aware of the marine sanctuary zones designed to keep Nemo and his friends safe from harm. If you’re unsure of their placement, contact the Department of Fisheries or the Department of Environment and Conservation. Further north, the collection of more than 1000 islands in the Buccaneer Archipelago, just off Derby along the Kimberley coastline, is another hotspot. To partake in some inland boating, head to the Argyle and Kununurra lakes and explore the waters. Lake Argyle is Australia’s largest expanse of freshwater and offers some truly stunning scenery. Likewise Lake Kununurra is a popular choice for fishing and boating fanatics, with a large range of fish species to see – just don’t forget the crocs!
South | The stretch from Bunbury to Busselton is packed with opportunities to head out on the water for fishing, wreck diving and whale watching; as
a result, the local saying goes that, ‘If you can’t find something in this glorious region that floats your boat, well you’re really not trying!’ Kids will enjoy scooping crabs straight off the boat in Busselton, and spotting whale calves in Geographe Bay. Launch your boat on the northern side of the Busselton Jetty or near Abbey Beach (towards Dunsborough). Dunsborough itself is blessed with one of the
best boat ramps in the southwest, which is just near Quindalup; you’ll find a sandy beach with a small jetty where you can head straight out into a sheltered bay. Otherwise there’s a boat ramp in Old Dunsborough, but be careful of the rocks on the tides. Once you’re raring to go, head to the HMAS Swan dive wreck for underwater exploration. To catch large skippy, tailor and reef fish, ask the locals (very nicely) for directions to the Windmills, Torpedo Rocks and the artificial reef. Further south, Esperance’s coastline is so beautiful that many boaters stick to the basics… a leisurely cruise adjacent to the shore and a picnic lunch on an abandoned stretch of beach. However, a sloth-like day isn’t for everyone! You can test the waters with a rod, or head off the coast to the Recherche Archipelago. The archipelago – or Bay of Isles, as locals call it – boasts a collection of more than 100 islands, where you can spot amazing wildlife including sea eagles, and colonies of sea lions and fur seals, which come to the islands to breed. The largest of the group, Woody Island, is open for camping all year round, and offers great facilities from basic campsites to safari huts with views over the bush to Shearwater Bay. To head to the shores around Esperance or to the Archipelago, launch your boat from Esperance Harbour Boat ramp, which has loads of convenient car bays.
If you’re fishing down south you’ll need a Recreational Fishing
Boat Licence if you’re in a powered boat, unless you’re in the company
of someone who already holds a licence. Regardless of who’s got the
paperwork you still need to make sure you stay within the bag limit. If you’re
a fan of rock lobster (crayfish), abalone, marron, fresh-water angling and
net fishing, you’ll also need a licence. Upstream of Margaret River you
need a freshwater licence, but downstream all you’ll need is your rod,
tackle and bait (no licence required). There are some seriously hefty fines
if you disobey fishing regulations, especially given that it’s easy to apply
for a licence either from Australia Post or online through the Department
of Fisheries website.
Each state and territory has its own rules, regulations and licences, so be sure to look at WA’s if you are keen for some boating action. A good place to start is myboatinglife.com.au, if you’re looking at buying a boat, getting your skipper ticket, or just want to know what all the boating fuss is about.
Club Marine Mandurah Boat Show
This three-day event is jam-packed with everything you need for boating in WA. There are product reviews, jet-ski and water-skiing demonstrations, and more. Restless tagalongs can be directed towards the cooking demonstrations and fashion parades. Mandurah, Oct.
Rottnest Safety Convoy
The convoy is a great overnight trip for families, mates and individuals to learn how to travel to Rottnest safely by boat. With so many reefs and hazards along the way, you’ll also learn radios, knots, splicing, and how to correctly use safety equipment. Head to the Boating Industry Association of WA website to register, or for more details.
Departs various locations, Nov and Mar.
Hillarys Boat, Dive and Fishing Show
Receive advice from exhibitors who know the ins and outs of boating in WA. There are also boat dealers, trailer boats, fishing, dive gear and lifestyle products to be checked out. Hillarys, Mar.