Western Australia: Blooms in the dust

MORAWA feels like the middle of nowhere.

Over 100km inland from the coast of Western Australia, and with a population of about 600, it may as well be the middle of nowhere.

The isolated red-dirt roads, the abandoned streets, the two-storey pub that gives the distinct impression that it's for locals only and the one clothing store that smells like mothballs, all leave visitors wondering if they've walked into an Australian Outback stereotype.

Yet, for a few months of the year, this tiny town's rough edges soften, tourists are tolerated (if not welcomed) and Morawa literally blossoms - it's wildflower season.

From August to October, carpets of flowers cover the rolling hills of the region, drawing visitors from all over.

More than 12,000 varieties (that's flowers, not visitors) spring up in Western Australia after the winter rains and, with more than 60 per cent being unique to the state, it makes WA one of the world's top spots for flora spotters.

While flowers dot many of the West Australian fields at this time, Mullewa, Morawa and Mingenew are the most popular places to view them in concentrated clusters. Seas of white and pink are common, with Rhodanthe chlorocepha flowers coating the landscape.

Coalseam Conservation Park offers one of the best vantage points for hunting wildflowers, including the elusive Wreath Leschenaultia - a strange species that fans out to look exactly like a wreath laid on the ground.

The helpful staff in the tourism office (you can't miss it as you drive through) can point out exactly where the best spots are for particular flowers, and provide good maps.

The president of the Morawa Tourist Information Centre, Marie Marks, says that last year, the season was spectacular but short-lived.

"The season started in early July, which is about normal," she explains. "But the main flowers that people come to see diminished very quickly with the hot weather and lack of rainfall."

Marks, who has been associated with wildflowers one way or another for over 26 years, says she loves the "community-driven" area.

Locals colloquially refer to the Rhodanthe wildflower varieties as "everlastings", possibly because they can be dried. But, sadly, the term is misleading; this season of colour will end.

Come late October, the wildflowers make way for a blistering hot summer, and Morawa will slip back into its familiar role as a sleepy little town, keeping its colourful secrets buried beneath the dusty red soil ... until next year.



Getting there: Air New Zealand have a direct flight from Auckland to Perth, where you can rent a car and drive north. Alternatively, you could fly to Geraldton and rent a vehicle from there.

Accommodation: Options are limited in Morawa, so if you stay in the town, book a chalet at the caravan park - they are new and spotless. Otherwise, try basing yourself in Geraldton and driving out for the day.

Topics:  travel western australia

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