Designer Wayne Hemingway likes holidays that put his family to the test. But when he took them camping in remote Western Australia, not everyone agreed

We were warned when we called in at the mother of all outdoors shops in Perth: "You don't wanna go up there for long, mate - 50 degrees, 98 per cent humidity, and if the mozzies and sand flies don't get ya, the crocs will."

We were warned when we called in at the mother of all outdoors shops in Perth: "You don't wanna go up there for long, mate - 50 degrees, 98 per cent humidity, and if the mozzies and sand flies don't get ya, the crocs will."

Yeah, yeah, we'd heard it all before. We had travelled in the Northern Territories and North Queensland and lived to tell the tale - now we were heading off on a camping trip to the Kimberley region of northern Western Australia. So it was torches, Leatherman tools, all-weather matches, folding shovels, fishing lines, tropical-strength insect repellent and the bare minimum of clothes.

We had a rendezvous with our friends in Broome and planned the next day's first-light start on the drive north. We had planned to "do" the Gibb River and Tunnel Creek Roads, visiting Mount Hart and the Bell River, Lennard River, Windjana and Brooking Gorges. But it was April, the rains hadn't let up, and the authorities made it clear that these routes remained closed. When you have seen pictures of these gorges, and come through an English winter looking forward to swimming in pristine pools at the base of waterfalls with no competition for space from other tourists, you can't just give up and go back and sit by the pool. We rang around and found that the region around El Questro, some 1,100km north-west of Broome, was accessible via the Great Northern Highway.

Armed with a guide to "priceless campsites and rest areas in North of WA", we looked forward to a low-cost week seeing sights that few have experienced. Our first stop was to be a camping spot near Fitzroy Crossing and Geike Gorge. Then we heard on the radio about a giant saltwater croc that had terrorised a couple camping by The Fitzroy River. The mothers' anxiety levels started audibly to rise, and even though the men explained that we were hundreds of kilometres inland and that it was small, relatively harmless freshwater crocs that inhabited this part of the Fitzroy, camping here was out of the question. It meant a night instead in the only motel on that 600km stretch of road.

Towns such as Fitzroy Crossing prompt philosophical discussions amongst liberal Independent on Sunday readers like ourselves. These towns are predominantly aboriginal settlements. Many of the indigenous population survive by state hand-outs and have housing built for them. But it's quite a shock and very sad when you see just how many wander about in a state of friendly alcoholic stupor. Having driven through pristine bush, you arrive in towns full of discarded car parts, furniture and broken bottles.

Next morning, with the mums a bit calmer and with reassurances from the locals that there were only "freshies" in the river here, we persuaded some locals to come with us for a walk in Geike Gorge. With only the sound of kookaburras and gullahs echoing off the vertical cliffs of the gorge, this felt like the start of what we had travelled here for. But a giant python, an unidentified small brown snake, and a couple of "freshies" just metres away from us sent the mums into the kind of terror that made it obvious that this bit of our adventure was over.

With the mums back in the car, the eldest lad swam in the river and survived. He was proving a point. But back in the 4WD it took a bit of work to make our marriage survive.

So it was back to Broome for a relaxing evening watching a film at the historic outdoor Sun Cinema, and a spot of fishing. The sea is teeming with fish, and the town is teeming with hard-drinking fishermen who refer to their wives as "fishing buddies". These "fishing buddies" don't read Elle Decoration, they pore over Reel Women. In fact the only person who doesn't fish in Broome seems to be the butcher. Needless to say we caught nowt, while the locals seemed to reel in a big 'un with every cast.

I think the idea of our wives becoming "fishing buddies" allowed us to find out if a less challenging adventure was possible up to a remote beach camp - Cape Leveque. The Rangers Office gave us the go-ahead as long as we had ropes to get us out if we got bogged. We set off again.

We decided to refer to the "mud maps" in our camping book and drove through the mangroves to Quandong. There we found magnificent unspoilt beaches, fossilised forests that are not even in the guide books (they would be major visitor attractions in most countries), crystal clear warm seas and rocky outcrops. The younger kids played on a beach that looked as if no human had ever set foot on its white sand, while the mums prepared their beds in the back of the LandCruisers. A few drinks and the mums' anxieties abated. We all slept in the tropical air under the crispest of starry skies. This was why we were here, a beautiful remote part of the globe where for a few days you can really forget about, and can't access the modern world (mobile phones don't work anywhere around here) and are free of the human dangers that can threaten travel of this kind in parts of Central America and Africa.

It wasn't long before nature reminded us that it still rules here. Sand flies had got into one of the tents and the cars (serves the mums right) and bitten some of us from head to toe. To stop the itching we headed for the water, donning stinger suits because of the danger from jellyfish. But joining us for a swim were some small sharks. From the rocks, the excitement of spotting turtles gave way to terror as the parents of the small sharks started to cruise around.

The stinger suits wouldn't be much use here so it was a quick exit from the sea. A combination of searing heat, bodies covered in red lumps and a sea full of dangerous beasties sent the mums into "that's enough" mode and the men realised that their adventure was in severe danger. It was divorce or Perth. We chose Perth.

The epitome of the current European image of Australia, the city offers laid-back sophistication and a wonderful climate. The food is superb, the supermarkets have the most tempting deli counters, the radio stations like Triple J play great music, and the wonderful parks always seem to have a cultural event or concert going on.

If there is a more agreeable city in the world to base a holiday or to live in than Perth then I have yet to find it.

On our last day we bought an apartment there.

GIVE ME THE FACTS

How to get there

The author travelled as a guest of Travelmood (08700 664 556; www.travelmood.com). It offers return flights to Perth and internal flights to Broome from £759 in November.

Hertz (08708 448 844; www.hertz.com) offers fully-inclusive 4x4 hire from around £340 per week.

Where to stay

The Blue Seas Resort Broome (00 61 8 9192 0999; www.blueseasresort.com.au) offers apartments sleeping one to four people from A$160 (£65).

Quality Suites Moonlight Bay (00 61 8 9193 7888; www.broomeaccommodation.com.au) 51 Carnarvon Street, Broome has double rooms from A$190 (£78).

Further information

Contact Tourism Australia (09068 633 235; calls cost 60p per minute; www.australia.com) and see www.westernaustralia.com

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