132km (82 miles) N of Perth

It's the last thing you expect to see in the Australian bush -- a Benedictine monastery town, with elegant European architecture, a fine museum, and a collection of Renaissance art -- but New Norcia is no mirage. Australia's only monastic town (and still a working community) retains an aura of peace and quiet and calming spirituality. The town and surrounding farm were established in 1847 by Spanish Benedictine missionaries. Visitors can tour beautifully frescoed chapels, marvel at one of the finest religious art collections in Australia, attend prayers with the monks who live here, and stock up on Abbey Wines, Abbey Ale, or famous New Norcia nut cake from the monastery's 120-year-old wood-fired oven.

New Norcia is an easy 2-hour drive from Perth. From downtown, take Lord Street, which becomes Guildford Road, to Midland, and follow the Great Northern Highway to New Norcia. Day tours from Perth are available (check with Perth's WA Visitor Centre, under "Visitor Information" earlier in the chapter).

You can get information and book guided tours at the New Norcia Tourist Information Centre, New Norcia, WA 6509 (tel. 08/9654 8056; www.newnorcia.wa.edu.au), in the Museum and Art Gallery, just off the highway. It keeps the same hours as the museum . Book lodging in advance, especially in the wildflower season of August through October.