A vast landscape inhabited only by a scatter of residents stretching up to northern Australia.
The largest city is Perth, a friendly oasis of sophistication where gleaming skyscrapers overlook quiet colonial suburbs on the banks of the Swan River.
A short drive to the west is the restored port town of Fremantle and a chain of beautiful surf beaches, but it is a long drive to the next settlement inland - the gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie.
To the south, the coastal towns of Albany and Denmark provide an excellent base for hiking and whale-watching, and the Margaret River area has beautiful national parks, friendly wineries and deserted beaches, cooling towards temperate forest regions. Go north and you pass the rock formations of the Pinnacles, the visiting dolphins of Shark Bay and the pearl farms of Broome.
Southwest Australia itinerary ideas
Our Southwest Australia highlights
Dive off Ningaloo Reef
A highlight for snorkelers and divers is the Ningaloo Marine Park. The reef is just 328 feet (100 metres) off shore from the sandy beaches of Coral Bay and the Cape Range National Park.
Eat at a seafood restaurant in Kalbarri
Explore the Murchison River and the gorges of the Kalbarri National Park before sampling freshly caught fish in the restaurants in town.
Visit the vineyards of Margaret River
The Margaret River region produces over 20 per cent of Australia's premium wine, and combines tranquil vineyard landscapes with stunning Indian Ocean beaches.
Visit the lighthouse at Cape Leeuin
Spend some time at the lighthouse at Cape Leeuin. This is the most southwesterly point of Australia, where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.
Drive through the tall trees of the karri forests
A self-drive is a great way to explore the southwest, and a highlight is the drive through the tall trees of the karri forests near Pemberton.