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 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, in south-west Western Australia, takes around three and a half hours and there’s enough to see along the way to make a day trip of it or even a longer journey if you want to swim, dive, surf, spot wildlife and marine life, and explore the beachside towns en route.
You can even break up your Perth to Margaret River drive with an overnight stay along the way at Bunbury, Busselton or Dunsborough. Or, if you’re on holidays, stay a couple of nights for the area’s wonderful beaches and clear waters, and whale-watching in season.
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, you’ll get so much more out of renting a car and self driving from Perth to Margaret River.
Once you arrive in the Margaret River region, you can do some sightseeing and wine tasting on tours with local experts, and we’ll cover Margaret River wine tours in another post, however, self-driving really is the way to go for swimming and surfing so you have freedom to choose your beaches depending on changing weather conditions. Keep in mind that the surfing region of Margaret River covers a whopping 130 kilometres from Capes Naturaliste to Leeuwin.
For foreign travellers who prefer not to self-drive from Perth to Margaret River, we have tested out a transfer from Perth with South West Charter Vehicles and Winery Tours, who we can highly recommend; they are fantastic. Once in the region you can do tailored private excursions or book small group tours. This is a great way to go for first-time visitors who might be nervous about driving from Perth to Margaret River. If you’re not, we highly recommend you hire a car.
Driving from Perth to Margaret River – Where to Stop on the Way
Driving from Perth to Margaret River is a real delight, especially when you break up the journey at places like Bunbury, Busselton and Dunsborough.
Perth to Bunbury
Driving from Perth to Margaret River your first stop will be laidback Bunbury, 175km from Perth (allow at least two hours). While it’s not the prettiest beach town, it’s a great place to rest and stretch your legs.
It’s also a good excuse to call into the ethical Dolphin Discovery Centre.There are no dolphins jumping through hoops here! The Dolphin Discovery Centre focuses on research, conservation and education about the bottlenose dolphins and other native marine life in the area. While the site is currently closed for redevelopment until December 2018, you can still do a 90-minute Wild Dolphin Cruise with marine biologists to see wild bottlenose dolphins swimming, playing and feeding in the still waters of Koombana Bay, their natural environment.
Bunbury has lovely heritage attractions as well. Head to Bunbury Visitor Centre in the old train station on Carmody Place for an informative map and do a self guided tour of the top Bunbury 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, Ngalang Wongi Aboriginal Cultural Tours and offers a Dreaming Town Tour of Bunbury to learn how the traditional Noongar people of the region lived and hunted.
Bunbury to Busselton
Driving from Perth to Margaret River, from Bunbury you’ll follow the Bussell Highway southwest for 57km to charming Busselton, then follow the signs to the town centre. Named after a local pioneering family, Busselton is a family-friendly holiday town with 30kms of sandy beaches and the famous Busselton Jetty, one of the most visited sights in Western Australia.
The restored heritage-listed wooden jetty is over over 150 years old and at 1.8 kilometres long is the longest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and second longest in the world. A popular thing to do in Busselton is the Busselton Jetty Underwater Observatory tour which takes you to the end of the pier on a small jetty train (and back again after the tour), where you’ll descend eight metres for a 40-minute guided tour to observe over 300 different marine species and beautiful coral.
After the jetty, a Whale Watching Cruise from Busselton is high on most visitor’s list of things to do in Busselton if passing through during whale watching season (early September through December) then this 2.5 hour whale watching tour is an absolute must. Departing from Busselton Jetty, it offers some of Western Australia’s best whale watching opportunities.
In addition to seeing the endearing humpback whales and the calves, you’ll spot dolphins, sea birds and seals. The cruise includes morning tea, a CD of images, and complimentary anti-nausea wristbands if you’re prone to sea-sickness.
If considering staying overnight in Busselton, then you must do the Meet the Woylies Tour. Woylies, also known as brush-tailed bettongs, are a rare, nocturnal macropod related to kangaroos. Unfortunately they’re critically endangered so this tour is your only opportunity to view these adorable creatures roaming free in the bush.
The tour takes you to an exclusive purpose-built woylie viewing site at a conservation sanctuary, where in addition to spotting the colony of woylies, you might also see other nocturnal wildlife, including quendas and possums. The tour includes pick-up/drop-off, billy tea, locally made biscuits, and bush tucker and part of the tour price goes toward the valuable work of the sanctuary.
There are some lovely historic buildings to visit in Busselton and the Busselton Visitor Centre has lots of info and maps on local sights. If you like the idea of seeing Busselton and beautiful Geographe Bay from the air, you might like to try an exhilarating Busselton Beach Tandem Skydive with a Busselton beach landing!
Busselton to Dunsborough
From here you’ll take Caves Road, which goes all the way south through the Margaret River region to Augusta. But your next stop is 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 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 has excellent nature trails, where we always have our cameras ready to get a snap of some wildlife, such as the local kangaroos.
If you’re here for a spot of surfing or swimming, note that the waves at the beaches here are much calmer than what you’ll find further south, so it’s a good opportunity to have a surf or simply catch some rays and enjoy 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.
Again, if you’re driving from Perth to Margaret River during whale watching season (Sept-Dec) and didn’t have time to do a tour in Busselton, then board a Whale Watching Cruise from Dunsborough. Also 2.5 hours long, it’s the same as the cruise above, but it departs from Quindalup Boat Ramp in Dunsborough. Book ahead so you don’t miss out as this is one of the most popular things to do in Dunsborough in season.
From here, your next stop is Yallingup (pictured above; 12km away, and 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 post we’ll cover Exploring the Margaret River and getting a taste of the wine, waves and caves of the region.
Where to Stay on The Way from Perth to Margaret River
Where to Stay in Bunbury
Located in the heart of Bunbury, the Quality Hotel Lighthouse is just minutes from the beach, this smart hotel has rooms with balconies and Indian Ocean views (you’ll need to book rooms with views), free WiFi, an indoor pool, and on-site private parking. Guests love the country breakfasts and cuisine made with fresh, locally sourced produce.
The Quest Bunbury Apartment Hotel, opposite Koombana Bay Beach, is just 300m from the Dolphin Discovery Centre. It has stylish, serviced apartments, including studio apartments and 1, 2 and 3-bedroom apartments. There’s also a swimming pool, tennis courts, free in-room movies, and unlimited free WiFi.
Opposite the sea, Bunbury Seaview Apartments offer stunning ocean vistas – you’ll need to book an apartment with sea views and balcony – and some units open right onto the swimming pool area. Some apartments have kettles, microwaves and toasters, others a full kitchen with oven, stove-top and fridge if you’re settling in for a bit. There’s on-site parking.
Where to Stay in Busselton
Busselton’s most luxurious lodgings are at the sleek, oceanfront Aqua Resort Busselton, which has stunning apartments with polished wooden floors, floor to ceiling windows, superb kitchens with dishwasher, oven and microwave, and private balcony or terrace with alfresco dining with barbecue and 8-seater table. There’s a swimming pool, fitness centre, and tennis courts, and Margaret River wineries a 20-minute drive away.
At the back of the historic Esplanade Hotel Busselton, this comfortable albeit old-fashioned accommodation is just a few minutes stroll from Busselton Jetty and beach. Expect spacious motel-style rooms with kitchenettes with microwaves, kettles and toasters. There are balconies or terraces, free WiFi, and parking.
The beachfront Abbey Beach Resort Busselton offers considerable more comfort, with big plush studios and apartments with separate living rooms and large balconies. The studios have kitchenette while the apartments have fully equipped kitchen facilities with proper ovens. There’s a gym, sauna, squash and racquetball courts, a children’s playground, barbecue areas, and two swimming pools.
Where to Stay in Dunsborough and Surroundings
The spectacular Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, 10kms northwest of Dunsborough, near Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, has some of the most luxurious accommodation in the area, with sweeping bay and beach views, a stunning swimming pool, an award winning spa, and wonderful villas with kitchens and direct access to the gorgeous white-sand beach and aquamarine water.
Alternatively, the heavenly Empire Spa Retreat, just 4.5kms out of Dunsborough, offers beautiful accommodation set across a stone and timber farmhouse. No beach access but the 12 acres of vineyards, with alfresco dining overlooking a lake and dam makes up for it. There’s a fireplace if you’re staying in winter.