The untouched natural beauty and broad horizons of Western Australia makes it one of the world’s top road trip destinations. A timeless wind-in-your-hair sense of adventure, leads you through endless outback roads. And whether you’re steering along the coast in an old Westfalia or crossing The Kimberley in a 4WD, that feeling of quintessential freedom comes guaranteed.
We headed north from Perth on the Indian Ocean drive, in an old crappy Land Rover Discovery 4WD bought for 2.000$ in Fremantle. We named it Dirty Diana. On an old map we circled more than 100 national parks and reserves, plus countless camping sites. Our incredible 20 days journey took us through woodlands, wetlands and deserts, deep gorges, huge rock formations and night skies so packed with stars that we’d need a lifetime to count them all.
This is our self-drive trip in the wild Western Australia and we decided to experience it in the best way possible, camping out under canvas in some of its most remote locations.
After this adventurous and unforgettable trip, we created the ultimate itinerary to the top camping adventures in Western Australia’s outback.
Road trip in Western Australia: the itinerary
WESTERN AUSTRALIA ROAD TRIP: WHAT TO VISIT & POINTS OF INTEREST
DAY 1 Fremantle
Dreadlocks and flower power vibes. Here’s Fremantle in a nutshell. But before you go, know one thing: you won’t be calling it Fremantle…it’s Freo here, and you’d better get used to it, you’ll be hearing it a lot! Time in Freo is slow. Walk down to the Fishing Boat Harbour and check out the Weekend Markets – open Fri 8am-8pm, Sat & Sun: 8am-5pm since 1897 – we loved the vibes! Stop in one of the many cafeterias in Cappuccino Strip or for a beer at Little Creatures Brewery (40 Mews Rd. M-F 10am-late, Sat 9am-late, Sun 9am-11pm), they brew all their own beers! Check out the beautiful galleries, studios and the graffiti commissioned by locals. To reach this little town just South of Perth only takes a short suburban train ride.
DAY 2 Fremantle to The Pinnacles/ Jurian Bay
Hidden away amongst lonely dunes there is a desert of stone pillars rising up out of the golden sand. Ranging from a few centimetres to about 3m high, these mysterious rocks form ghostly shapes and shadows, especially at sunset. The Pinnacles’ origin dates back several hundreds of thousands of years and seems to be the result of a burned forest. Aboriginal legends are much more legendary. They tell that it was forbidden for young men to venture into the desert and that these rocks are the bodies of those who have defied the ban and who never returned. Despite the desert-like terrain, you won’t need a 4WD to drive along the 4 km Pinnacles Loop Track, but you can also choose the 1.2 km walking trail. A few minutes from the park entrance, you can enjoy a swim and picnic spot at Hangover Bay. You can also dive into the clear waters of Jurian Bay Marine Park and discover the local fauna snorkelling. With a little luck, you may even see dolphins or seals. The park entrance is $ 12 (or free if you purchased the WA Parks Pass for unlimited access in all state parks for 1 year).
DAY 3 Jurian Bay to Geraldton & Pink Lake
After a feast on fresh crayfish in Geraldton, head north and stop by the Pink Lake at Port Gregory known as Hutt Lagoon only 55 km south of Kalbarri. This is sure to be a huge Instagram hit as the bright pink colour really is hard to believe! Best time to see this bubblegum explosion is mid-morning or sunset on a sunny day!
DAY 4 – 5 Kalbarri National Park
The most common mistake is to think of the Kalbarri National Park as just a canyon. The park is actually split in two main sections, one coastal and one inland. Along the coastal part of Kalbarri National Park, huge waves dashing on soaring cliffs will take your breath away and easy walking trails will lead you to the discovery of great lookouts. Our favourite spot was Eagle Gorge. Also, watch out for seasonal whales while you are here!
The inland section is definitely the main attraction! Deep sunburned gorges and sensational lookouts make Kalbarri one of Australia’s best national parks. Don’t forget your camera while approaching the famous Nature’s Window, a lookout that gives you a perfectly framed viewpoint down the length of the gorge.
The entrance fee costs $12 per vehicle, but you can also consider buying the WA Parks Pass.
DAY 6 – 8 Francois Peron National Park
Continue north from Kalbarri to the UNESCO World Heritage Area of Shark Bay. This really is where the Outback meets the ocean. Imagine sunsets that tinge everything around you of an intense red-gold and night skies showcasing billions of stars and amazing meteor showers. That’s what we experienced visiting the wild Francois Peron National Park. Now imagine dramatic red cliffs and white sands running down to the clear blue sea, would you miss all this? Deep sand tracks make this NP accessible only by 4×4 vehicles. Camping facilities are really basic, but the magical contact with nature is the payback.
DAY 9 – 10 Explore Shark Bay / Monkey Mia
There’s many things to do in Shark Bay, from stromatolite boardwalks (Hamelin Pool) to dugongs, manta rays and dolphins spotting. After experiencing the wilderness of Cape Peron, spend a resting night in Monkey Mia, camping at the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin resort where, between 7.30 am and 12 noon, you can feed a pod of wild bottlenose dolphins which regularly swim to Monkey Mia’s shore. Before leaving, stop by the beautiful Shell Beach, made up of millions of tiny shells up to 10 metres deep and stretching for over 70 kilometres.
DAY 11 – 12 Shark Bay to Exmouth
The clear waters of the shimmering blue Coral Bay, near Exmouth, are within metres of Unesco World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. It is the only place on Earth where you can access a large, biodiverse coral reef so easily! This truly amazing snorkel site is also one of the world’s largest fringing reefs with tropical fish, manta rays, turtles and humpback whales. Spend two or more days here and get out in the water, you won’t regret it!
DAY 13 Explore Cape Range National Park
Located adjacent to Ningaloo Marine Park, Cape Range National Park displays spectacular rocky gorges and one of the most pristine and beautiful coastlines in the world. This stunning reserve protects both the reef and an on land area, where emus, echidnas and roos roam freely. Highlight of the park Turquoise Bay – the colours of which have to be seen to be believed!
DAY 14: Exmouth to Karijini National Park
It’s hard to pick our favourite part of the Australian road trip, but one thing we know: Karijini National Park is one of the top spots for us. Here you can really camp out under the stars and learn about the two million years of history that formed the mountains, gorges, landscapes and swimming holes of Western Australia’s second-largest national park: the Karijini National Park. Accessible even by 2wd vehicles, the Karijini offers a basic national park camping and the beautiful glamping of the breathtaking Karijini EcoRetreat ran by the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation.
DAY 15 – 17 Explore Karijini National Park
This incredibly ancient landscape and it’s turquoise swimming holes definitely worth a 2 night stopover on your Western Australia’s Perth to Broome road trip. There are many beautiful gorges and sites to visit in the 627,422 hectares of park, located just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Amongst them all, the Weano Gorge with the epic spider walk and adventurous scramble over boulders and through narrow passages to Handrail Pool, the Dales Gorge with its Fortescue Falls, perfect spot for a refreshing dip and the Joffre Falls with its fun descent into the gorge, the natural curved wall amphitheatre and the turquoise and inviting swimming holes. The gorges are all worth exploring, so give yourself the time to do this.
DAY 17-20 Karijini to Broome
There are many reasons to spend a few days in Broome and spend a few days discovering this magnificent destination. First of all, the stunning Cable Beach, a 14-mile stretch of pure white sand, set against a backdrop of red ochre cliffs and fringed by turquoise waters. Here you’ll enjoy spectacular sunsets and go for a camel ride. Don’t miss Gantheaume Point, famous for the 130 million year old dinosaur prints visible at low tide and its spectacular colourscape. Here, the red dirt and turquoise waters perfectly blend together in one of the most breathtaking views we’ve ever seen. Lastly, don’t miss the Staircase to the Moon, natural phenomenon visible only at the very low tide on certain full moon nights between March and November. To capture this rare and very unique sight head to Roebuck Bay with your camera at sunset. If you have an extra couple of days, take some real relaxation time free camping at Quondong Point, less than an hour drive north of Broome.
Western Australia: when to visit
If you are wondering when is the best time of year to visit Western Australia, know that it’s always a good time to visit Western Australia. Season after season, the natural marvels keep on coming: from the breathtaking eruption of wildflowers to the arrival of giant whale sharks and migratory whales along the coast. Having in mind your must-do experience, plan your visit to Western Australia by coinciding it with some of these fantastic events:
March ⦁ Coral spawning and start of the whale shark season
Every March, divers and snorkelers can witness two of nature’s greatest shows at the Coral Coast. On a moonlit night (7 – 10 days after the full moon), more than 200 species of coral expel their brightly colourful polyps into the ocean. Soon afterward, the world’s biggest fish, the whale sharks. Between March and July, these gentle giants of the sea spend their days basking along the reef hoovering up plankton, giving divers and snorkellers the extraordinary thrill of swimming alongside these magnificent slow-moving, creatures.
May ⦁ Whale migration
Each May, scores of humpback and whales make their way up the coast of Western Australia. It’s possible to view them from vantage points on the shore, or take a special whale cruise for a closer encounter. Don’t forget your camera!
June ⦁ Wildflower season
The wildflower season begins in the northern plains, where the outback is blanketed in vivid reds, purples and every colour in between: more than 12,000 different flower species, of which 60 per cent are found nowhere else on Earth. Time your trip between August and October to admire the best wildflower display in the world.
December ⦁ Turtle season
From December to March, green and loggerhead turtles make their way up the beaches around Shark Bay, Carnarvon and Ningaloo Reef to lay their eggs. We experienced this magical event on the Australian East Coast and we highly recommend it! To learn more and catch a glimpse of these incredible creatures the Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program invites participation in its coastal conservation work (December – January). Small groups can accompany the sunrise and night surveys with marine researchers and learn about the turtles.
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