A Word With Layne Beachley and Kirk Pengilly

WAmbassadors Kirk Pengilly (Australian musician) and Layne Beachley (surfer, author and speaker) visited Perth and Ningaloo Reef on a trip to Western Australia in May 2018. Here’s what they have to say about their WA experience, which included encounters with whale sharks, an eco-glamping stay at Ningaloo Reef, Perth walking tour and winery and distillery visit.

What were the highlights from your recent travels to Perth?

KP: I have to say, all of it was fabulous. From the city tour with Two Feet & a Heartbeat Walking Tours to the helicopter ride out over Rottnest and onto the Swan Valley, landing at Mandoon Estate Winery. Wow!!!

LB: Seeing how much Perth has grown up was surprising and exciting. It has become a real cosmopolitan city filled with underground bars, exceptional restaurants, cultural experiences and venues. I also loved the walking tour because it gave us the opportunity to enjoy Perth as a ‘local’ and the food was amazing.

Any unexpected surprises from your Perth travels?

KP: Certainly, the walking tour of Perth highlighted how much the city has changed and grown. It now has an amazing nightlife of great bars and restaurants, some of which we sampled during our stay. Perth never really had that a decade or more ago. Yagan Square and surrounds was awesome – I would love to see it in summer.

LB: Perth seems to be more livable than in previous years. With the quality of restaurants and the new stadium and public transport options, the whole city pleasantly surprised me.

How would you describe Perth to someone who has never visited?

KP: It is a beautiful city laid out around the Swan River with many fabulous dining experiences and bars. There’s a real relaxed and friendly feel about it and everything’s easy to get to.

LB: Kirk said it all! It’s a city worth visiting. Fremantle and Cottesloe Beach are close by and having the beach less than 30 minutes from the CBD makes it all the more inviting and livable.

Layne Beachley and Kirk Pingilly at Mandoon Estate, Perth.
Photo: Mandoon Estate, Perth

What would your ultimate day out in Perth involve?

KP: A leisurely pushbike ride along the shore of the Swan River to an alfresco dining experience with friends – with WA wine of course.

LB: A walk or ride at Fremantle or preferably a surf at Cottesloe Beach, followed by breakfast at one of the alfresco cafes on the beachfront, then a bit of shopping in town. Cocktails and dinner at one of the city’s amazing restaurants or wineries. There are so many options!

Have you noticed much has changed in Perth since previous travels to the capital city?

KP: Yes indeed. The dining/food and nightlife options of Perth city are now on par with other major cities around the world. A huge change from a decade ago.

LB: The city of Perth is clean, full of vibrant energy and an exciting place to be.

What were the highlights from your recent travels to Ningaloo?

KP: We loved staying at Sal Salis – very special resort. The communal dinners were great, meeting new people from all walks of life and sharing stories. But of course, heading out to the reef and swimming with whale sharks was breathtaking and the biggest highlight. It was great to see so much wildlife around, land and sea.

LB: The untouched rawness of the area around Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef was spectacular. I loved the endless stretch of white sandy beaches, the turquoise blue waters and I loved the comfort and facilities of the eco resort. As a beach lover, of course the beaches captivated me, along with the warmth and clarity of the ocean and the bustling marine life around the coral reef. The whale shark dive was simply spectacular!

Accommodation at Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, near Exmouth
Photo: Sal Salis

Any unexpected surprises from your trip to Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef?

KP: We got to see so much more than the spectacular whale sharks. Minke whales swam by, stingrays etc. I loved the respect and protocol the tour operators showed to the reef and sea life too, to make sure they aren’t distributed or affected by our presence.

LB: The food at the resort was exceptional, along with all of the local spirits and wines to taste. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful too! Despite the region being promoted to the world as a tourist destination, it has remained rugged and clean thanks to the respectful efforts of the local tour operators.

Layne Beachley, swimming with Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Reef.
Photo: Ningaloo Reef - Credit: Chris Jansen

Can you describe your whale shark experience in three words?

KP: Incredible, surreal, gentle

LB: Humbling, inspiring, ethereal

You’ve visited many parts of Western Australia, including Margaret River and the Kimberley – are there any other areas of the State you’re wanting to explore?

KP: At this stage, I would love to spend way more time exploring the Kimberley and Margaret River region – I feel I have only really scratched the surface with all they have to offer. Also, I haven’t been down to Cottesloe and surrounding beaches in years – it would be great to see what’s happening down there these days.

LB: The wonderful thing about WA are the variety of options to choose from. We have spent time all over but still haven’t visited Cape Arid and Lake Hillier which are also on the bucket list.

Favourite WA restaurant?

KP: That’s a really tough one – we did love The Standard which I had read about in a great review in the Virgin Australia magazine prior – we actually went there twice on this visit. Petition Kitchen was fabulous too.

LB: Seriously? Can I give you my top three from our latest visit because I am yet to have a bad meal in WA. Petition Kitchen, The Standard and Wild Swan at Mandoon Estate.

WA beverage of choice?

KP: I love Rose, and I haven’t met a bad one from the Margaret River region yet…

LB: All of the locally crafted gins made for the perfect G&T at the end of each day.

Petition Kitchen
Photo: Petition Kitchen

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