Western Australia covers 2,529,880 square kilometres and is the largest state in Australia. However, although it occupies nearly one third of the total land mass, its population of two million represents only one tenth of the nation's total.
Moreover, of the two million in the entire area of this huge state, 1.4 million live in Perth, so the rest of the state is sparsely populated indeed. Even so, if it is compared with its neighbour, the Northern Territory, Western Australia has ten times the population in only twice the area, so even sparseness is relative.
He landed near Shark Bay at Cape Inscription and left a pewter plate nailed to a tree with an inscription recording his visit. 81 years later, in 1697, Willem de Vlamingh was skillful enough to be able to navigate to exactly the same place and retrieve the plate, which is now in the Rijksmuseum in Holland, leaving another in its place, which is now in the Maritime Museum in Fremantle.
The first Englishman to pass this way was William Dampier in 1688, but it was not until 1791 that Britain claimed this part of the continent, when Commander George Vancouver hoisted the British flag at Possession Point, near Albany. The British were concerned that the French might attempt to found a colony in this area, so in 1826, Darling, the Governor of New South Wales, dispatched Major Lockyer to Albany in the brig Amity with a total of 44 men, including 23 convicts, to establish a settlement and pre-empt any similar French move.
In 1827, the Swan River was explored by Captain James Stirling and there was discussion as to whether to establish the major settlement at Albany or on the Swan River. Eventually the decision went in favour of the Swan River and on 2nd May 1829 Captain Charles Fremantle established the new Swan River Colony.
It was intended that this should be a state for free settlers, but the temptation to import convicts to ease the burden of clearing land proved too great and transportation to Western Australia started in 1850 and continued until 1868. 9,718 convicts were brought to the colony, out of a total population in 1869 of 23,000.
It was the discovery of gold in the 1880s which changed the fortunes of Western Australia . The first find was in Halls Creek in the far north, but soon further discoveries were made in the south of the state, culminating in the gold rush in Kalgoorlie in 1893. Kalgoorlie has been producing gold ever since. Other minerals are produced in Western Australia too and the state is also famous for its wheat, but most visitors will be coming for the climate, rather than for the minerals or agricultural produce.
Western Australia is famous for sunshine and for beaches, and for a modern relaxed lifestyle. In fact, many visitors see only the relatively populated south-west, but, interesting though that area is, there is far more to the state than that and those who venture further north are rewarded for their efforts.
Free camping in Western Australia
Western Australia towns