Encouraging tourists and locals to visit smaller towns and often forgotten places off the beaten track will help to revitalise these gems of Western Australia.
That is the aim of Erin Clark, who has a passion to promote exploration of the State's back roads, herself having had a 'wheat change' and moving to a hobby farm at Kellerberrin in the relatively untraveled central Wheatbelt region.
With an IT background, she founded Dark Stry with Damien Fitzpatrick and they have developed the first app-based self-guided driving tour in Australia.
This combines audio storytelling with GPS maps, immersive technology and additional points of interest to create a unique travelling experience.
The driving tour has taken several years to create and the end goal has always been to innovate the touring space of regional WA using cutting edge technology.
The first driving route has just been released to coincide with the spring tourism season and takes in the Indian Ocean Road from Perth to the Pinnacles.
Ms Clark said because the new driving tour was app-based, people could download it at their leisure and have it on their smartphone ready for their drive north to the Pinnacles.
"The app highlights points of interest along the way and uses your phone's GPS to automatically load audio and photographic information as you reach certain points on your journey," Ms Clark said.
She said hopefully many of the estimated 250,000 visitors a year to the Pinnacles would plug in to the immersive experience of the self-driving tour on the app.
"It is a value-add, giving a history or overview of places of interest along the way," she said.
"For example, we have added photographs of what the coastal towns of Cervantes, Lancelin and Jurien Bay looked like in the past.
"We show pictures of wildflowers in full bloom, with handy tips about where to find them.
"We showcase native wildlife and encourage visitors to get up close to kangaroos in Yanchep National Park.
"We tell the stories of the many shipwrecks along the coastline and on Alkimos Reef.
"And there is a full history of the other worldly landscape of the Pinnacles and how they formed in the Nambung National Park."
Ms Clark said there was imagery and commentary about places of interest as the visitor drove through these areas, which was unique in Australia and could possibly be a world-first.
She said this was just the start of many self-drive tours that Dark Stry aimed to compile in coming months.
An important aspect of the company's storytelling is to include information about the Aboriginal culture of the area.
In the Nambung region, Aboriginal people are referred to as Nyoongar (Nyungar, Noongar) and the Nambung National Park itself belongs to the people of the Yuat and Wajuk language groups.
The name 'nambung' is an Aboriginal word meaning 'crooked' and this refers to the river which flows throughout the park in winter.
This area was important to the semi-nomadic Aboriginal tribes because of water.
They would come to this place when the seasonal Nambung River made a chain of waterholes through part of the park.
The water then disappears into a cave system, and these waterholes and caves were essential to the survival of Aboriginal life.
There are many myths about this sacred place and it was said that Aboriginal people avoided the Pinnacles as they thought the standing stones were fossilised ghosts.
According to an Aboriginal legend, in ancient times, some young men used to walk along a desert path to this sacred place reserved for women.
The gods, to punish them, buried them alive.
As death approached, the young men asked forgiveness from the gods.
They brandished their weapons through the sand, and these are now stuck forever in the form of limestone spikes.
For thousands of years, the area has been a sacred place for indigenous women and 'women's business'.
Women gathered at this place to camp, give birth, hold ceremonies and forage for food.
Ms Clark said the app also explained the Aboriginal seasons and plants more generally in WA.
She said it covered the arrival of European explorers and the history behind the small coastal towns along the drive.
"The style of the tour means you can just sit back, relax and enjoy your journey," she said.
"The audio will start playing automatically as you pass landmarks along the way.
"So, you'll be served different information as you travel.
"It'll also give you tips about when to turn off to grab the best food or see something cool.
"On top of that, it's also got immersive technology, such as augmented reality filters, so you can see what an area would look like when covered in wildflowers - even if you're travelling out of season.
"It's guaranteed to make your road trip infinitely more informative and fun."
Ms Clark said every place across the vastness of WA had a story just waiting to be told.
She said all the Dark Stry content was expertly researched to make sure that historical and cultural accuracy was maintained.
"We strive to select the most unusual and quirky facts about places," she said.
"So, even if you think you've got a good understanding of WA, you might just be surprised.
"For example, did you know that both the Alkimos wreck and Yanchep National Park are rumored to be haunted?"
As a 2022 SPUR Location grants recipient of a general grant, Dark Stry has worked closely with Landgate and multiple WA partners on this app project.
This includes the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, the Department of Finance, the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage and the Small Business Development Corporation.
Dark Stry also has several app-based walking tours available for the Perth CBD, each focusing on a different topic and theme.
These include the Perth Murder and Macabre Walking Tour, Perth Enterprising Women Walking Tour, Perth Boom and Bust Walking Tour and a Perth Historic Pub Crawl.
You can download the Perth to Pinnacles tour from the Dark Stry website for $42.50, which includes access for up to five devices.
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