Bali has been Western Australia’s playground for holidays for over 30 years, but over the past few years it’s been getting quite a bit of bad press.

Although Bali has changed radically since I first visited in 1983, I still really enjoy a few days in a resort environment with a couple of day trips into the mountains soaking up the culture, a little time shopping, and a few evenings sipping beers or cocktails watching the sunset.

Dream Holidays in Bali.

But there’s always the question about whether to gamble the relative safety of a Western Australian holiday against the adrenalin charged excitement of a new culture with scenery unfamiliar to the eye, and holidays in Bali are just that.

To go or stay, that is the question.

Gamelan music, frangipani, rice paddies, temples, religious offerings, inexpensive artifacts, sweet smells of incense, cheap designer gear, markets, authentic nasi goreng and Bintang bear, are just some of the sensual memories a Bali encounter might bring to mind.

A different culture just a few hours from Perth.

Geographically Bali is just a short skip and jump away from Perth; about  three and a half hours flying time if you’re still counting minutes after a farewell duty free drink in the departure lounge of Perth’s laid back airport, just long enough for you to mentally pack up your troubles and  put on your baggy boardies ready for your holidays in Bali.

Tropical vs Mediterranean?

Because Bali is so different to everything Australian it feels like a veritable world away.

holidays-in-bali-jo-castroWestern Australia has a Mediterranean climate to the south (although it’s hot and tropical to the north), while Bali is typically tropical all over the island.

Different Cultures

Bali might in comparison be poor when judged by materialistic Western standards but it is rich in culture, art, spirituality and mythology but it is arguably one of the most beautiful islands in the world steeped in a complex culture.


Western Australia on the other hand is amazing. It has a cosmopolitan culture grounded in the mining industry, it’s about the size of India, approximately half that of Europe and it covers one third of the continent of Australia. Perth’s nearest interstate city is Adelaide, a mere 2,700kms away! As yet, I have no intention of doing anything truly pioneering like traversing that distance with a camel, but there’s still time.


Travel south from Perth and there’s little traffic, a scant and scattered population; lots of white, uncrowded, sandy beaches; vineyards, rivers, inlets, estuaries, fruit growing areas, and towering forests.

holidays-in-bali-jo-castroAdd a few jewel coloured parrots flying wild, and who wouldn’t start thinking ‘garden of Eden, while to the  north of the State are largely undiscovered reefs and long stretches of beautiful, red, lonely hinterland of the Kimberley Region.


Western Australia is inspiring … it makes you want to put on a rucksack and hiking boots, or grab your suitcase and swimmers, hitch the bike or the surfboard to the car and go somewhere interesting, do something different or see something unusual, maybe even indulge in a little pampering or retail.

Riverglen Chalets, Margaret River

In SWA you can stay in the heart of a forest, close to the sea and pay $180 or so, for something like a rustic, timber cottage that sleeps 4, with it’s own juliette balcony perhaps overlooking a dam. Romantic. You can walk for miles along coastal and inland tracks without any thought of being pestered by anybody trying to sell you something, and you don’t have to watch out for rabid dogs – in fact you probably won’t see a dog.

You’re unlikely to get an upset tummy in WA, and dengue fever is pretty much off the radar. You can’t hire nifty little scooters, but you can hire cars and campervans and probably be much safer as a result.  It seems I’m leaning towards safety over adventure, but I’m not.  I love Bali.

Adventure is the champagne of life. G. K. Chesterton

In Bali you can go white knuckle, white water rafting.


In WA you have (among other rivers) wonderful stretches of The Blackwood River to kayak for instance.


In Bali, spicy and exotic, inexpensive, adventurous … ahh yes! But coffee. Eeeuww, sorry! Bali coffee can be as thick and tasteless as mud. While in Western Australia the coffee is fantastic and varied and for some (pretty pricey) degustation lunches you can’t beat the winery restaurants down south.

But in Bali you have the excitement of new and interesting flavours that you’re possibly unfamiliar with. My advice is to eat from well frequented restaurants, and avoid anything uncooked.


Heading away from the madding crowd is an option – who wouldn’t enjoy eating lunch with these views in Bali?



Bali wins almost every time because the attention to detail is always superb – which establishment in Western Australia could beat the sheer romanticism of the frangipani flowers scattered across the steps and fairy lights leading the way to an al fresco restaurant in Ubud at night?



You’re going to get much better bang for your buck in Bali, and if you like 5 Star accommodation with all the trimmings, then Bali might well still be within budget.

Things that bite

Mosquitos. You’ll need a tropical strength mossie repellant at dusk and dawn in Bali because they’re ferocious and dengue fever is not uncommon. In SWA we do have mosquitos, sometimes the size of helicopters, blood suckers of the insect world (without briefcases), that sail in for a six week or so period at the end of spring, and yes Ross River Virus could be the (somewhat unlikely) result of being bitten.

Beer and Wine

In Western Australia you’ll be replacing the very drinkable Bintang beer for some wonderful local brews – Little Creatures, Moody Cow, Bootleg, Duckstein,  Colonial  and well over 100 different brands of wine, arguably some of the best in the world – and although some have prices to match their reputation, you can still get a bottle of excellent local plonk for around $16 at cellar doors.



Security: No doubt about it, but you’re probably not going to beat the safety of Western Australia in many places in the world. It’s clean and there are laws (lots of them). In Bali, you need to be aware of your own personal safety at all times, and take precautions when it comes to food and water.


Beaches: Nusa Dua, Kuta, Uluwatu are lovely, and the surf’s not half bad either. On the other hand surfing conditions along the South West Australian Coast are fantastic and  Margaret River hosts some of the world’s best surfers each year.


Ah, do I hear you bleat, “Bali beaches are soft and sensual and tropical with palms fringing the sand?” Yes, I have to agree.

WA beaches are wide, open, often windswept and open to the gaping layer in the ozone, but for sheer uninterrupted vistas and purity of air and environment, they’re hard to beat. What do I wish? That some enterprising company would be allowed to build beach huts and small cafes  so close to the surf that that you could nip in for sustenance or some cool refeshment every now and then.

Cable Beach, Jo Castro
Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia. Copyright Jo Castro 2013

Just think, they could offer fresh white towels topped with a Banksia flower or a rosy red Grevillea, and white muslin drapes, and why not beach massages too?


In Bali you’ll be entertained with  beautiful  traditional dancing, and theatrical shadow dancing and if you’re looking for things to do in Bali, check out this post: 29 Awesome things to do in Bali.


In WA we have Civic Video! Ok, I’m joking. We have some of the best cultural entertainment on offer in the world in Perth that takes place at fabulous venues and stadiums which are easy to get to, and still fairly easy to park at.

The beautiful view from King’s Park in Perth

Think of King’s Park on a sultry summer’s evening listening to a world class act, or Leeuwin Wine Farm, or Brooklands, or the Bridgetown Blues Festival for outside venues and how about The Ellington, in Gloucester Street (check) for a sophisticated taste of the New York jazz scene in Perth.

I’m glad I live in Western Australia. I love it for its vast open spaces and promise of the Outback. I love it for its beaches and forests and eggs benedict at a café on the waterfront in Bunbury on a Sunday morning.

But do I love Bali too? Oh yes, because it’s so easy to get to and at just over three hours away I love it for the simple fact that it is as diametrically and culturally opposed to everything Australian, as you can possibly get.

And it is as beautiful, really beautiful, as the day is long.

Getting There

If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Bali shop around. My advice is to stay somewhere reputable, and check out the prices of flights at different times of the year too. Avoid the monsoon season. You might like to try Zuji for flights and check out what they have to offer. We booked flights to Bali via Zuji for a family holiday.

So where would you rather holiday? Bali or Western Australia and why?

If you like this post you might also like: How to create a Balinese Garden in Your Backyard

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  1. Your comparison of the two area is excellent. You did such a complete and detailed work on this story. It’s very impressive.

  2. An excellent comparison Jo. I must admit that up until lately, I would often head to Bali for our winter escape but since I have seen a friend suffer badly from Dengue Fever, I have decided not to take the risk at the moment! WA has so much to offer and I will be focusing on exploring our own state! I love the north…weeks either spent in Broome or driving through the Kimberleys are what I love to do so we will be doing more of this when we can!

  3. I have been to Bali twice – the first time was 38 years ago with a girlfriend and the second one three years later with my husband – then my boyfriend. We haven’t been back since. B.H. thinks it is best to remember it the way it was. He may be right, but I would def go back if I had my way. Bali is so popular with Sandgropers because it is close and cheap to get to and live in. I know W.A. is wonderful and we are going back there one day, but if I lived there now I would want to holiday in Bali. I hear that there are still plenty of low key places to stay away from the horror of Kuta! Love your post 🙂

  4. noel morata

    Wow, if I was a close flight to Bali I would go all the time, it truly is exotic and exciting in every word…so many different areas around the Island I have yet to explore. Thanks for sharing!

  5. You know what’s ironic is that I’m a map “freak”. I always have been and hence have a really good since of direction. Most of the time – ha, ha. It wasn’t until I read this that I put the proximity of WA and Bali together, Johanna! This is the first I had heard of a ”
    bad rap” on the country but of course we don’t get near that kind of news here that you do. I’m glad that I no longer drink coffee because liquid mud does not sound pleasant. And thank you for the mosquito heads up. I’ve earned my time in life and I will plan outside of biter season ha, ha! 🙂

  6. I love the comparison you made between WA and Bali. I can see why it’s such a popular place despite the close proximity. I’ve always associated Bali to exotic everything and beautiful beaches and wow.what a short flight. It looks like WA offers so much too and I’m learning more with each of your post. Sometimes, home is just as fun to explore.

  7. I have been to neither place and also didn’t realize that Bali was just 3 1/2 hrs away by air. I suspect I’m more of a western Australia type of person but would love to visit Bali – just once and get a taste of all that you described.

  8. They are both so different, Leigh … you’re right. I love them both for different reasons. Hope you get to visit both one day 🙂

  9. Thanks Mary – glad that you are enjoying my posts of ‘home’ and ‘away’, and thank you for reading and commenting. I do appreciate it.

  10. Thanks for your comments Mike, and yes life is too short for bad coffee and mosquitos isn’t it!

  11. Exactly Noel! It is exotic and exciting and we don’t realise how lucky we are to have one of the most coveted and beautiful islands on our doorstep – we should be trying to protect it.

  12. Thanks Jan! Wow, 38 years ago! It will have changed considerably. When we visited 30 years ago, Kuta was still a tiny little place with dirt roads leading down to the low key beach. Yes, there are still quiet, dreamy places to discover – hope you get back one day.

  13. WA does have so much to offer Jenny and we are lucky to have it all on our doorstep. Glad you liked the comparison though, and glad that you have experienced Bali on winter escapes in the past. I think we are fortunate to have had holidays in such an exotic and tempting island.

  14. Great story, really well written, and with a few lol moments 🙂 Each of your points was so true about Bali although I am yet to visit WA for a comparison, hopefully this year 😉

  15. Thanks Gourmet Getaways! Hope you get to WA one day soon for some gourmet moments too 🙂

  16. Hi Jo, I haven’t been in both places. You’re comparison of them sounds like they’re both a win and win choice. They’re both beautiful places with so much to offer yet they’re completely different worlds. You’re lucky to live in the paradise of SWA while having an easy access to another kind of paradise of Bali. I hope to visit both sometime soon. Interesting post.

  17. Thanks Marisol! Yes, I think the fact that in WA we are so so far from everywhere, that to have an exotic and culturally completely different country almost on our doorstep makes Bali as much of an enigma as WA. Both so different and yet so close (comparitively!). Hope you do get to both sometime soon 🙂

  18. Very interesting take on things, I’ve been to Bali and Australia but not Western Australia sadly but I when I go there eventually I’ll let you know 🙂

  19. I must say Jo that we haven’t been to Bali for quite a few years even though as you say it is only 3 hours away. Perhaps I prefer the laid-back Australian holiday – and with all we have to offer right here in our stunningly beautiful south west corner, who could ask for more! What I love particularly about overseas travel though is the culture and the food – you can only get authentic in the country where it originated. Great post Jo – you almost have me wanting to visit Bali again.

  20. There are parts of Bali that I do love, and parts that I hope to never see again (Kuta Beach comes to mind). I was in Australia 30 years ago, and would love to go back. I have to vote for both 🙂 Lovely photos!

  21. I’m the same as you Nancie – love both, for very different reasons. And that’s how it should be 🙂 And as you say too – Kuta is not one of my fave places either. Thanks for popping by and glad you enjoyed the photos 🙂

  22. Ha Ha Jill! Glad it had that effect on you 🙂 It is so different to our lovely south west corner but the culture and the scenery is an exotic lure for me. Hope you get back one day though.

  23. Hi Becky, aha, so WA will definitely have to go on your list. It’s so different to the rest of Aus!! Yep, it would be great to meet up with you when you do 🙂

  24. I’ve always thought that a quality life is about being aware of contrast. Poor quality food makes the good food that much better. One night of insomnia makes the sleep-filled nights even more appreciated. Your blog post really does put the SWA experience into perspective by providing an interesting comparison. We’ve never been to Bali, but this post says ‘it would be a good idea,’ and would provide contrast to the lovely life in SWA.

  25. Exactly, Wanda 🙂 There are always downsides to paradise, and upsides to places that may not necessarily be viewed as paradise. It’s all in the contrast and making interesting comparisons rather than judgements.

  26. Bali is looking beautiful in pictures, Next month in 2022, I am planning to visit to Bali, I hope your this informative general knowledge about Bali will help to explore my travel experience in Bali. Thanks for sharing!

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