Western Australia (WA) covers a third of the Australian continent; nearly the size of India, yet with less than half a percent of that country's population. Always revelling in its isolation from the more populous eastern states, Western Australia is, like them, primarily a suburban state: three-quarters of its 1.7 million inhabitants live within 100km of Perth and almost all the rest live in communities strung along the coastline. Having gone to one of Perth cruises you'll understand that Perth itself retains the leisure-oriented vitality of a young city, while the port of Fremantle resonates with a largely European charm. South of Perth, the Margaret River Region's wooded hills and trickling streams support the state's foremost wine-growing and holiday-making area. To the southeast, the giant eucalypt forests around Pemberton further soften a land fed by heavy winter rains; the state's intensively farmed wheat belt stretches to the east, an interminable man-made prairie. Along the Southern Ocean's storm-washed coastline, Albany is the primary settlement, a rejuvenated resort with the dramatic granite peaks of the Stirling Ranges just visible from its hilltop lookouts. To the east, past Esperance on the edge of the Great Australian Bight, the deserted monotony of the Nullarbor Plain extends to South Australia, while inland the Eastern Goldfields' Kalgoorlie is the sole survivor of the century-old mineral boom on which WA's prosperity was originally built. While the temperate southwest of WA has been relatively tamed by colonization, the north of the state is where you'll discover the raw appeal of the bush. The virtually unpopulated eastern deserts are blanketed with spinifex and sparse communities of Aborigines, while the west coast's winds abate once you venture into the tropics north of Shark Bay, home of the amicable dolphins at Monkey Mia. From here, the mineral-rich Pilbara region fills the state's northwest shoulder with the often-overlooked gorges of the Hamersley Ranges at its core. Visitors are also discovering the submarine spectacle of the Ningaloo Reef, lapping the North West Cape's beaches - some consider it superior to Queensland's Barrier Reef. Northeast of the Pilbara, Broome, once the world's pearling capital, is indeed a jewel in the cyclone-swept coastline of the rugged Northwest, and an ideal preliminary to the Kimberley's wilderness and hard-won cattle country. Generally cut off by floods in the wet season, the Kimberley is regarded as Australia's last frontier, its convoluted and inaccessible coasts washed by enormous tides and inhabited only by isolated Aboriginal communities and crocodiles. On the way to the Northern Territory border, the surreal enigma of the Bungle Bungle massif is one of Western Australia's greatest natural wonders, carefully protected by minimal development. If you hope to explore any significant part of the state's million-and-a-half square kilometers and in particular the remote and fascinating Northwest, your own vehicle is essential, although you'll get to the most interesting places by combining buses with local tours. Either way, WA offers an essential mix of Outback grandeur, albeit more dispersed than elsewhere, and it's beginning to attract tourists from the more popular "Eastern States", as the rest of Australia is known in these parts. All these you'll know in one of Perth travel. WA's climate is a seasonal mix of temperate, arid and tropical. Winters are cool in the south and very wet in the southwest corner, while in the tropics the temperature sits around 32A°C but with no rain and tolerable humidity: this is the dry season. Come the summer, the enervating "Wet" (from Dec to March) washes out the north while the rest of the state, particularly inland areas, crackles in the mid-40s heat. The southern coast is the only retreat for the heatstruck, although the temperate west coast is cooled by dependable afternoon sea breezes - in Perth known as the "Fremantle Doctor". A variety of climatic conditions does Western Australia attractive to visiting at any time year. And the huge quantity of interesting places, opportunities for rest and entertainments, unique flora and fauna, historical cities, magnificent beaches and unusual souvenirs, diving with sea animals on the Reef and fields of exotic field colors - all this has transformed Western Australia into one of the largest tourist centers.