OUTBACK BARD The west coast of Australia has long drawn some of the country's greatest writers, photographers and artists. But few have captured the essence of this stark, ruggedly beautiful territory like local resident and author Tim Winton. His most famous work, Cloudstreet, begins on the Abrolhos Islands; his latest novel, Dirt Music, is set in a fictional lobster-fishing town along this coast. Tuck your guidebook into the glove compartment and go traveling with Winton. He expertly steers the reader through a landscape of contradictions as harsh and tender as the people who populate it.
THE OTHER GREAT REEF Inhabited only by lobster fishermen and their families for just 14 weeks of the year, the remarkable Abrolhos Islands encompass some of the finest coral reefs in Australia. The Geraldton-based Abrolhos Island Tours operates half-day chartered floatplane trips to this tropical archipelago of 122 islands, costing about $85 per person. Each excursion starts on the picturesque East Wallabi Island for a walk along the pristine sands of Turtle Bay and includes a snorkeling expedition and light refreshments. The underwater scenery is breathtaking, and it's not unusual to see lobsters walking across the reef. The tour ends with a flight over the islands and reefs where, from an altitude of only a few hundred meters, it's easy to spot the spout of a migrating humpback whale or the remains of one of the many shipwrecks that dot the coast. Browse www.abrolhos.com.au for more details.