Driving from Perth to Margaret River – Where to Stop Along the Way
Driving from Perth to Margaret River in Southwest Western Australia is an easy drive of around three and a half hours, which is nothing in a state where road trips can take weeks. What also makes it satisfying are the stops on the way for swims on sandy beaches, engaging indigenous experiences, and self-guided heritage tours.
Driving from Perth to Margaret River, some 275kms away, takes around three and a half hours. However there’s plenty to see along the way to make it a day trip or even longer if you want to swim, dive, surf and explore the towns en route. The Margaret River is one of our favourite parts of the world and these are the stops we like to make en route.
While you can do a tour or take a bus, we think you’ll get so much more out of hiring a car and self driving from Perth to Margaret River. You could certainly do some sightseeing and wine tasting on a tour with a local expert, and we’ll cover Margaret River wine tours in another post, however, self-driving really is the way to go for swimming and surfing. The surfing region of Margaret River covers 130 kilometres from Capes Naturaliste to Leeuwin.
We have done a transfer from Perth with South West Charter Vehicles and Winery Tours (who are fantastic) and then did a series of tailored tours. That’s a great way to go for first-time visitors who might be nervous about driving in Australia, but otherwise we highly recommend a hire car.
Driving from Perth to Margaret River – Where to Stop on the Way
Perth to Bunbury
Make your first stop laidback Bunbury, 175km from Perth (allow at least two hours). While it’s not the prettiest beach town on the stretch, it’s a great place to rest and stretch your legs and a good excuse to call into the ethical Dolphin Discovery Centre.
While the site is currently being redeveloped, you can still do boat tours with marine biologists and swim with wild bottlenose dolphins at Koombana Bay in their natural environment. The centre is focused on promoting research, conservation and education about the Bottlenose Dolphins and other native marine life in the area. There are no dolphins jumping through hoops here!
Bunbury has some excellent heritage attractions as well. Head to the Bunbury Visitor Centre in the old train station on Carmody Place where you can grab some information and do a self guided tour of the attractions including St Mark’s Church (dating to 1824), the Rose Hotel (1865), King Cottage Museum (1880), and the Old Post Office and Courthouse (1880s).
For even earlier history, get in touch with Ngalang Wongi Aboriginal Cultural Tours, and sign up for the Dreaming Town Tour of Bunbury to see how the traditional Noongar people of the region lived and hunted.
Bunbury to Busselton
From Bunbury, follow the Bussell Highway southwest for 57km to charming Busselton and then follow the signs to the centre of town. Named after a local pioneering family, Busselton is a family-friendly holiday town with 30kms of sandy beaches and the famous Busselton Jetty.
The wooden jetty is over over 150 years old and at 1.8 kilometres long is the longest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The restored pier is also home to an underwater observatory at a depth of eight metres where you can observe over 300 different marine species. If you’re not up for the walk to the end, there is a small jetty train that can take you to the end and back.
There are some great historic buildings to visit here, too, so make a beeline to the Busselton Visitor Centre for more information on the local sights.
Busselton to Dunsborough
From here we take Caves Road, which goes all the way south to Augusta. But first we stop at Dunsborough, overlooking gorgeous Geographe Bay. This region is popular with divers as there’s amazingly clear water and wrecks along the rugged coast, such as former HMAS Swan, now the largest accessible dive wreck site in the southern hemisphere.
This is also the top end of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, with the last manned lighthouse in Western Australia, Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. While there are bike and walking paths along the beaches, Dunsborough is home to excellent nature trails, where we always have our cameras ready to get a snap of the local wildlife, such as the local kangaroos.
The surf at the beaches here are much calmer than what you’ll find further south, so it’s a good opportunity to catch some rays or have a dip. We love Meelup Bay, Eagle Bay and Bunker’s Bay. After your swim, grab lunch before you hit the road again. There are some great cafes in town but we’re big fans of lovely Bunker’s Beach House at Bunker’s Bay.
If you’re passing through during whale watching season in this region (early September through to early December), you definitely need to allow time for a whale watching experience at Geographe Bay. You’ll need to book ahead.
Where to Stay
Tempted to linger? Check into the spectacular Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, 10kms northwest of Dunsborough, near Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, which has sweeping bay views, a stunning swimming pool, award winning spa, and villas with kitchens and direct beach access.
Alternatively, the heavenly Empire Spa Retreat, just 4.5kms out of Dunsborough, is set a stone and timber farmhouse, on 12 acres of vineyards, with alfresco dining overlooking a lake and dam, and a fireplace if you’re staying in winter.
From here, your next stop is Yallingup (pictured above, 12km away, about 15 minutes), at the northern end of the Margaret River region. From Yallingup to Margaret River town via Caves Road, it’s just 42 km (about 40 mins).
As we said, driving from Perth to Margaret River is one of the easiest and most satisfying drives you can do in Western Australia, but once you reach the Margaret River itself, so much more awaits. In our next posts we’ll cover the wine and waves of Margaret River and Yallingup.