These Western Australia road trip itineraries cover the best of the west in four breathtaking drives – from Margaret River, where you can swim, surf, drink, and eat to your heart’s content, all the way up to Broome, where you can savour a sunset over Cable Beach’s creamy sands from the back of a camel.
Western Australia is opening its borders so now is the time to plan and book a trip. As you can’t travel overseas, hire a 4WD campervan or motorhome and take a week or a month or more to discover Australia’s biggest and most breathtakingly-beautiful state, home to Australia’s most jaw-dropping beaches, towering forests and gobsmacking gorges.
Imagine: endless white-sand beaches, lapped by crystal clear waters, and pounded by superb waves; rugged bushland inhabited by curious-looking creatures, marked by strange rock formations; and arid outback deserts blooming with weird-looking wildflowers, populated by even stranger characters.
Our four Western Australia road trip itineraries cover all of Western Australia’s highlights, from The Pinnacles, just north of Perth, where you can do a sunset and sunrise stroll through this spooky golden moonscape to Purnululu, where you can fly over monolithic red rock formations or camp overnight at their base to enjoy them from below.
You could swim with whale sharks or manta rays at Ningaloo Marine Park before snorkelling the coral reefs to gaze at the kaleidoscopic colours of the local marine life or explore Karijini National Park, where you can rock-hop through spectacular gorges before rewarding yourself with a swim in an icy-cold waterhole.
And let’s not forget Shark Bay, where you can watch the cheeky dolphins at Monkey Mia before learning about bush tucker and Dreamtime stories on an indigenous cultural tour with one of Australia’s best tour guides – or hit the water with him on a kayak tour.
Our Western Australia road trip itineraries are essentially our favourite drives – and we’ve driven every route writing and updating Australia travel guidebooks over the years, so we know these roads like the backs of our hands. Here’s how to experience the best of the west in four drives.
Western Australia Road Trip Itineraries – Best of the West in 4 Drives
For many foreign travellers to Australia, Western Australia would become their favourite part of their big trip down under. Yet few ‘easterners’, as Western Australians call their compatriots from Australia’s eastern seaboard states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, make it over to the west.
It’s a long journey across the desolate Nullarbor Plain – four to five hours by plane, three days by train, much longer if driving – yet it’s this remoteness, sense of isolation, and the state’s sparse population that make the colossal state of Western Australia so intriguing and so compelling.
The best way to explore Western Australia is on your own wheels and we recommend hiring a 4WD campervan or motorhome for the most freedom and flexibility. With such wonderful local produce – and wine! – your little kitchen will get well-used. You’ll save money on accommodation, making your biggest costs vehicle rental and fuel. What’s not to love?
Western Australia Road Trip Itineraries
Perth to the Southwest for Wildlife, Walks, Waves and Wine
Perth – Dunsborough and Margaret River – Denmark – Albany – Esperance – Perth
Western Australians boast that they’ve got the country’s best beaches – the widest, longest stretches of sand, the finest grains, fairest colour, the clearest, cleanest sea. Once you’ve experienced WA beaches you won’t argue with them. Just don’t go home and say that to an Easterner.
This Perth to the Southwest drive is one of the best Western Australia road trip itineraries you can do for riding waves at sublime surfing spots, indulging in brilliant wines and gourmet meals, walking pristine bush tracks, watching whales, climbing the Australia’s tallest trees, and kicking back on deserted beaches in the company of kangaroos.
While you could get a taste of the Margaret River in a long weekend, to explore more of the southwest you really need a week. Take two weeks and you can decelerate to a slower west-coast pace.
From Perth, zip down the highway and hightail it to sleepy beachside Busselton for fish and chips by the wooden jetty before hitting Dunsborough, a dreamy spot with picturesque rocky coves and white sand beaches. See our Perth to the Margaret River itinerary for our recommended stops along the way and things to do en route.
Explore the rugged coast between Dunsborough and surfing mecca Margaret River beach, following whatever side road or dirt track takes your fancy, bush walking and swimming along the way, before heading inland to sample the local wines and gastronomic delights of Margaret River town. You could easily spend a few days discovering the Margaret River region’s wine, waves and caves.
When you’re done, take the scenic coastal route to gorgeous Augusta where you can stretch your legs – or spend a night, depending on how long you have. Then head to Pemberton to climb a ladder up an old Karri tree to a lofty 60 metres for breathtaking vistas. See our Margaret River to Denmark road trip itinerary for tips for where to stop en route.
At Walpole, you can do the Treetop Walk through the Tingle forest at the Valley of the Giants, then cruise the coast to lovely Denmark and stop there for a night or two before continuing to Albany, an atmospheric seaside town with fine heritage buildings and fantastic beaches, where you can watch whales from July to October, and from November to June go diving and swimming.
Take the South Coast Highway from Albany to Esperance and Cape Le Grand National Park, where the Bay of Isles’ enormous camel-coloured rocks contrast beautifully with the cobalt-blue sea. Enjoy beachcombing with kangaroos and explore the islets, home to sea eagles, penguins, dolphins, and fur seals.
Backtrack to Albany to take the Albany Highway to Perth. Or, you could add a few days to walk a couple of sections of the 964 km Bibbulmun Track that wends its way through aromatic bushland from Albany to Perth. You can arrange drop-offs and pick-ups with local B&Bs on route.
Where to Stay
If you’re not doing this drive in a campervan or motorhome, Pullman Bunker Bay Resort boasts a striking swimming pool and is slapbang on the beach and Dunsborough’s Bay Village Resort & Spa has attractive apartments. In Yallingup, historic Caves House Hotel has heritage rooms while adjoining Seashells Resort Yallingup offers rooms and apartments with kitchens. Smiths Beach Resort has beach houses, villas and apartments. There are studio apartments in Denmark with water views, Albany’s BIG4 Middleton Beach Holiday Park has villas with sea views, hilltop Bremer Bay Resort is a 10-minute walk from the beach, and Esperance Island View Apartments has sea views.
Perth North to the Central Coast for Sea Life and Seafood
Perth – The Pinnacles (Cervantes) – Geraldton – Kalbarri – Denham (Monkey Mia) – Coral Bay – Exmouth – Cape Range National Park
Allow at least a week – although ten days to two weeks is far better – for this wonderful drive north of Perth to Exmouth and Cape Range National Park. Punctuated with stops at fishing villages, opportunities to feast on fantastic seafood, as well as enjoy the ocean and marine life, this is easily another of the best Western Australia road trip itineraries.
Aussies like to pile into the car at sunrise for an early start but noon is a more fitting departure time for a weeklong drive along the laidback central coast to arrive in time for a sunset meander through the sandy moonscape of The Pinnacles. Dine on fresh crayfish at Cervantes soon after the sun goes down. Locals eat early here.
The leisurely drive north takes you through gorgeous lush green countryside, blanketed with wildflowers in season. Call into low-key fishing towns, Jurien and Dongara-Port Denison, for tranquil harbours and breathtakingly beautiful beaches. Geraldton, with its grand old pubs with porticoes, and an excellent marine and shipwreck museum, makes a fine stop for a day or two.
Cruise the coast to Kalbarri, a popular family spot for school holidays, a somnolent seaside town other times. Beloved for its superb swimming, body surfing, and fishing, all of which make it hard to leave town it’s also the departure point for nearby Kalbarri National Park and Murchison River for golden cliffs, striking rock formations, deep river gorges, and excellent hiking, rock-climbing and canoeing opportunities.
When you can drag yourself away, you’ll need to leave at the crack of dawn for the long drive to Denham, Shark Bay World Heritage Area, and Monkey Mia, so you can take the opportunity to spot wildlife on the way, such as eagles, emus, kangaroos, and wallabies. Don’t forget to fill the thermos with tea.
At Monkey Mia, you can feed the dolphins, sail out on a marine life-spotting cruise to see dugongs, loggerhead turtles, sea snakes, and more dolphins, or do a bushwalk with indigenous tour guide, Darren ‘Capes’ Capewell, arguably one of Australia’s best guides. With a 4WD, you can tackle the corrugated sandy track to François Peron National Park for dramatic scenery and camping under the stars.
Set the alarm clock for an early start on your day of departure as you have another long drive ahead of you. Crunch over metres-deep miniature cockleshells at Shell Beach to swim in crystal clear water and gawk at ancient stromatolites at Hamelin Pool. Lunch at Carnarvon, famous for its farmers market and fresh seafood, then push on to Coral Bay and Ningaloo Marine Park for snorkelling, diving and swimming with whale sharks.
When you’re ready to move on, do the long haul to Exmouth to snorkel turquoise waters and explore remarkable gorges at the Cape Range National Park. Fly or drive back to Perth, or if you’re up for more, start the next itinerary.
Where to Stay
Jurien Bay Motel Apartments are a short stroll to the beach, while Jurien Bay Tourist Park has self-contained cottages. Kalbarri Seafront Villas are across the road from the beach, Kalbarri Blue Ocean Villas are a short walk from the river and beach, while Murchison View Apartments have sea view units with balconies opposite the beach. Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort has everything from budget tent and caravan sites to waterfront villas. In Denham, Tradewinds Seafront Apartments is opposite the beach and has kitchens. The Ningaloo Reef Resort at Coral Bay has motel rooms and apartments with kitchens while Ningaloo Lighthouse Holiday Park at the base of Vlaming Head Lighthouse has camping and caravanning sites and striking red-painted hilltop ‘Lookout Chalets’, pictured above.
From Exmouth to Broome for Gorgeous Gorges and Gobsmacking Beaches
Exmouth – Tom Price and Karijini National Park – Millstream-Chichester National Park – Port Headland – Broome
This drive from Exmouth to Broome for gorgeous gorges and gobsmacking beaches is another of my favourite Western Australia road trip itineraries and this one is best done in a week or if you love bush-walking, rock-climbing and swimming in waterholes, take two weeks. Make sure to pack a tent so you can camp out under the stars at some stunning national parks in the ruggedly beautiful Pilbara region.
If you’re continuing on from Exmouth, you’ll need to leave early for the long cruise on the North West Coastal Highway before heading inland at Nanutarra Roadhouse for the desolate drive via Paraburdoo to Tom Price, where you should pick up supplies before venturing into Karijini National Park.
Make the Dales Gorge campsite your base for exploring Karijini’s breathtakingly beautiful gorges, stunning waterfalls and idyllic swimming holes. You could easily spend a few days walking and climbing the sheer ravines and cooling down with a swim in the natural rock pools.
While the trails are sign-posted, you can also do guided walks with rangers who can identify the wildflowers and birdlife and tell you where not to tread – yes, there are snakes! From Dales Gorge, you can climb down to Fortescue Falls and tranquil Fern Pool and Circular Pool and walk around the cliff tops.
Another walk takes you deep into Kalimina Gorge, where another peaceful pool awaits you. Knox Gorge offers spectacular vistas of Joffre Falls, while Oxers Lookout offers the most jaw-dropping views of all, of the junction of four gorges, Joffre, Hancock, Red and Weano.
From Karijini, bump across the dusty road via ghost town Wittenoom, shut down long ago after an asbestos scare (keep the windows up!), to the 2,000-sq-km Millstream-Chichester National Park. The drive takes you through dramatic landscapes of basalt ranges dotted with spinifex and tabletop mountains and plateaus similar to those in the USA’s Monument Valley.
After the long drive, stretch your legs on the 7km Murlunmunyjurna Trail then reward yourself with a swim in a natural rockpool. Choices include Chinderwarriner Pool and Crossing Pool, both serene waterholes dotted with lilies and shaded by palm trees, and Python Pool, surrounded by golden cliffs and palms. There are bush camps at Snake Creek, Deep Reach Pool and Crossing Pool.
Stay overnight at Port Hedland – you don’t need longer than that, trust us! – before doing the day’s drive north to Broome, where you can reward yourself with a swim on Australia’s finest stretch of sand at Cable Beach, a sunset camel ride, a superb fresh seafood feast at fabulous pubs and restaurants, and inspiring Aboriginal art at local galleries.
Where to Stay
Beachside Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort has spacious rooms and apartments with sea views, while there are plenty of camping spots in the national parks. We highly recommend booking a safari style tent at the eco-friendly Karijini Eco Retreat. In Port Headland, your best bet is either the waterfront Discovery Parks Port Headland or the Port Headland Esplanade Hotel which has a restaurant and bar. Broome has an abundance of brilliant accommodation, from the Mangrove Hotel overlooking Roebuck Bay to the iconic Cable Beach Club Resort and Spa on heavenly Cable Beach, one of Australia’s best beaches.
From Broome to Kununurra for a Quintessential Kimberly Crossing
Broome – Dampier Peninsula/Cape Leveque – Buckaneer Archipelago/Horizontal Falls – Derby – Gibb River Road – (Drysdale River National Park & Kalamburu) – Kununurra – Purnululu (Bungle Bungles)
This Broome to Kununurra drive is another one of the best Western Australia road trip itineraries and it’s another drive that you could do in a week if you had to, but could easily extend to a few weeks if you had the time, and depending on how adventurous you are.
From Broome, slide along the 4WD-only pindan (red sand) track to the Dampier Peninsula and indigenous-managed Cape Leveque. Camp beside pristine white sand beaches and azure-coloured waters, backed by red cliffs, and get lessons from the locals in the art of catching crabs which you can cook up for your supper.
Drive on to Derby to see the big silver boab trees and feast on delicious seafood overlooking the enormous wooden pier where the big boats that helped along Western Australia’s mining boom dock.
From here you could hop on a flight to the Buckaneer Archipelago where you can take a breathtaking boat ride through the natural phenomenon of Horizontal Falls. (This is also possible from Broome).
Stock up on supplies of water, food and fuel before hitting the 645-km Gibb River Road, the ultimate outback adventure, that sees few Australians, let alone foreigners, taking on the challenge of this corrugated dirt road.
Your efforts will be rewarded with beautiful bush landscapes, magnificent deep river gorges that carve through golden-red cliffs, and natural rock pools. Just pay attention to the ‘no swimming’ signs – this is crocodile country!
Don’t miss diversions off the Gibb River Road include the spooky bat caves at Tunnel Creek, a glide along tranquil Geike Gorge for wonderful wildlife-spotting and ancient Aboriginal rock carvings, and treks through Emma and Windjana Gorges. You can sleep under the stars at bush camps and friendly outback cattle stations on the route that are equipped for travellers.
Those skilled at 4WD-ing can take the rough-as-guts road north to Drysdale River National Park and Aboriginal-owned Kalumburu. The track can disappear in parts after the wet season (November to April) so check road conditions with the Derby tourist office first, where you can organize entry permissions from the Aboriginal lands authorities.
Stop in for some crocodile watching at Wyndham before heading on to Kununurra, a good base for boat trips on the awesome expanse of Lake Argyle and scenic flights across the remote landscape to see the colossal striped domes of rock that make up the Bungle Bungle range at Purnululu National Park.
Where to Stay
At Derby, the Spinifex Hotel has an outdoor pool while Derby Lodge Self Contained Apartments have a barbecue area. In Dampier, the Dampier Mermaid Hotel has basic motel rooms, although there are many more options in Karratha, from Discovery Parks Karratha, which has everything from caravan sites to cabins, to the Best Western Karratha, which has apartments and a pool. At Kununurra, the Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments offer some of the smartest lodgings in town, while Discovery Parks Kununurra is right opposite Lake Kununurra and has a pool. At El Questro Station, there are handsome bungalows at The Station while Emma Gorge Resort has safari style tents with private bathrooms and a pool.
From Kununurra you could return south to Perth or drive on to the Northern Territory and Darwin. More Western Australia and Northern Territory road trip itineraries coming soon.