A Southwest Short Circuit
- 1 Week
Pressed for time? This itinerary offers a taste of the best of the state – city life, colonial history, beaches, wildlife, wine, forests and lonesome rural roads.
Base yourself in either Perth or Fremantle and spend three days exploring: don't miss Fremantle Prison, Cottesloe Beach and Kings Park. Is the New Museum for Western Australia open yet? Ferry out for a day on Rottnest Island, then hire a car and head south, stopping first at Bunbury for a visit to the Dolphin Discovery Centre. Continue on to Geographe Bay, basing yourself in either Busselton or Dunsborough, and spend the rest of the day at the beach. Pick up a map of the Margaret River Wine Region and spend day six checking out the wineries, surf beaches and caves, all of which are close by. Sleep in the Margaret River township that night. The next morning, head to Augusta via Caves Rd and take the scenic detour through the karri forest along unsealed Boranup Drive. Visit Cape Leeuwin, where the Indian and Southern Oceans collide, before heading back to Bunbury on a picturesque rural drive through Nannup and Balingup. From here it's a two-hour drive back to Perth.
Indian Ocean Dreaming
- 2 Weeks
Beautiful beaches, spectacular sunsets and diverse wildlife are your constant companions on this cruise along the Turquoise Coast and beyond.
Take Indian Ocean Dr north from Perth to Cervantes for a crayfish dinner and sunset over the otherwordly Pinnacles Desert. Assess the native blooms at Lesueur National Park and take your 4WD (and a torch) to see the Stockyard Gully Caves. Follow the flowers out to the coast, then hit the cafes and museums of Geraldton. Try kitesurfing on for size, then move on to the wonderful Kalbarri coastline. Paddle a canoe in the gorges before catching the outback vibe on the long drive to World Heritage–listed Shark Bay. Spy some dolphins and dugongs at Monkey Mia, and sign up for an Indigenous cultural tour. Check out the stromatolites of Hamelin Pool, before putting in more road time on the stretch north to Carnarvon. Drop into Gnaraloo for world-class waves before arriving at tiny Coral Bay and Exmouth, where whale sharks, humpback whales, manta rays and turtles inhabit the exquisite Ningaloo Marine Park. You can fly out of Exmouth, drive back to Perth in two days, or push on to the gorgeous gorges of Karijini.
- 1 Month
This is the biggest adventure in the west, leaving Broome during the dry season and traversing the rugged heart of Kimberley by 4WD.
From Broome, the first stop is the Dampier Peninsula, with its Aboriginal communities, beautiful beaches and mud crabs. It's also your last saltwater swim. Take the back road to Derby and its boabs, then roll onto the Gibb River Road. Lennard River is the first of many inviting gorges here. Explore wildlife and more gorges at Mt Hart and remote Mornington Wilderness Camp, and look for examples of Wandjina art at Galvans Gorge and Mt Elizabeth Station. Turn off onto the Kalumburu Road, check the road conditions at Drysdale River and drive on to the Mitchell Plateau, with its forests of livistona and astonishing waterfalls. Discover the area's ancient rock art before hitting the northern coast for some top-flight fishing at Honeymoon Bay, just beyond the mission community of Kalumburu.
It's all downhill from here as you retrace your route back to the Gibb, then turn left for wonderful Home Valley Station, where someone else can do the cooking and the soft beds make a happy change from camping. Nearby El Questro has gorges aplenty, none more beautiful than Emma Gorge near the resort. Soon you're back on asphalt, but not for long as you take in the amazing bird life of Parry Lagoons Nature Reserve. Let Wyndham's Five Rivers Lookout blow your mind with its view of Cambridge Gulf, before heading for the civility of Kununurra, with its excellent eateries and bountiful supplies. Sign up for some fruit-picking work if you're interested, canoe down the mighty Ord River, or jump back behind the wheel for the wonders of Purnululu National Park and the orange-domed Bungle Bungle Range.
Darwin and the Northern Territory are beckoning, or you can follow the Great Northern Hwy back to Broome, stopping in at beautiful Geikie Gorge for a relaxing boat cruise: any freshwater crocs? If you don't spy any, don't worry – there are plenty at nearby Windjana Gorge, sunning themselves on the riverbanks. En route, grab your torch and wade through the icy waters of Tunnel Creek National Park, with its bats and rock art. From Windjana, plant the pedal back to Broome, where the price of beer probably won't bother you as much as it did a month ago.
Jewels of the Pilbara
- 1 Week
You'll camp most of the way on this missing link between Ningaloo and Broome, with long empty beaches, shady pools and some surprisingly good food.
From Exmouth, take Burkett Rd back to the highway and head north, turning off at Nanutarra for the long, scenic haul up to Tom Price. After stocking up, spend the next few days camped in Karijini National Park, exploring sublime gorges and engaging in a spot of peak-bagging among the state's highest mountains. Don't miss a swim at Hamersley Gorge en route to the relaxing, shady pools in Millstream Chichester National Park. Check out the mesas and breakaways of the Chichester Range before dropping down to the coast, assessing the petroglyphs at Murujuga, then on to lovely Point Samson for snorkelling. Take the North West Coastal Hwy directly to Port Hedland and indulge in some urban eats before camping at remote Eighty Mile Beach, where you might spot nesting turtles. Your last leg is a long stretch of nothingness (how amazing!) as you skirt the Great Sandy Desert to arrive in tropical Broome.
The Southwest Uncut
- 3 Weeks
Western Australia's southwest is a magical corner of the continent. This itinerary checks off the main highlights over three weeks – give it a month to really relax into it.
Spend three days in Perth and Fremantle – the WA Shipwrecks Museum is a must – then beach yourself for a day on Rottnest Island or hit the wineries in the underrated Perth Hills. Truck south to Geographe Bay – stopping at Rockingham to wade out to Shoalwater Islands Marine Park – before overnighting in Busselton. After a morning walk along the town's epic jetty, continue for two nights in Margaret River township, exploring the local breweries, wineries, surf beaches and caves.
The following morning head to Augusta via Caves Rd, detouring along scenic Boranup Drive with its karri trees. At Cape Leeuwin, pinpoint the exact spot where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, then continue to sleepy Pemberton. Highlights include more wineries, three national parks and the Karri Forest Explorer scenic drive. The next day, visit the extraordinary Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk near Walpole and overnight in hippie-meets-city Denmark. Assess the beaches, wineries, breweries and restaurants here, before continuing to history-rich Albany. Spend two days here swimming (summer), whale watching (winter), and exploring coastal national parks and the poignant National Anzac Centre.
Head north for more Great Southern wineries at Mt Barker before tracking east to Porongurup National Park. Spend the next day (or two) tackling the mountainous tracks either here or at Stirling Range National Park.
From here the driving distances get longer. Continue to the South Coast Hwy and at Ravensthorpe hop down to Hopetoun – it's a three-hour drive from the Stirling Range (spend the afternoon at the beach). The following day, head back to the South Coast Hwy and continue east around 2½ hours to Esperance. Base yourself here for two days, spending one of them exploring Cape Le Grand National Park.
The following day, head west to Brookton, turn north on the Great Southern Hwy and follow the Avon Valley to classically colonial York – allow 3½ hours. For a leisurely final day back to Perth, stop at the Swan Valley en route for craft beer and wineries.