The Essential Guide to an Australian West Coast Road Trip
When people normally think about an Aussie-based road trip, they usually think of the East Coast, with its beautiful beaches, beautiful people, and perhaps most importantly, excellent nightlife. However, the West Coast is an underrated holiday destination that should definitely be considered, especially for young backpackers. It’s slightly more challenging, and a lot quieter than its eastern counterpart, but it is certainly one of the most beautiful road trips you’ll ever do. In this guide, we’ll run through the best of the best in the West Coast - from Perth up to Broome.
Perth and The Pinnacles
Starting off our list is the beautiful city of Perth, which you can get to grips with extremely quickly. Take a day trip to Fremantle and explore the infamous prison, or simply have a beach day! The beaches in Perth are absolutely stunning. Why not try the beach walk from Fremantle to Cottesloe, where incredible artwork and sculptures are exhibited on the beach?
In the city itself, take a walk up to the view point at the Kings Park; the views of the city and marina are unparalleled. Elizabeth Quay is also a beautiful walk, especially on a sunny day. A great day trip from Perth is Rottnest Island, which is home to the infamous quokka. Dubbed the happiest animal on earth, quokkas are amazingly friendly, and people often take selfies with the cute animals, as they appear to smile for the camera!
Next take the ferry from Fremantle, and hire a bike for the day – it’s a fantastic way to see the island and spend a day out of the city. Just half an hour out of the city is Swan Valley, home to beautiful vineyards, wineries, breweries, and chocolatiers. As you head further north, make sure you check this valley out, as it’s home to Western Australia’s oldest wine growing region, and makes for a really enjoyable day. Make sure to try Maison Saint-Honore, an unreal French-inspired café, and Olive Farm Wines, which has over 25 premium wines to taste, as well as an attached café, called the Cheese Barrel, which pairs the wines with an array of local and international cheeses.
For some of the West Coast, you can drive along the Indian Ocean Drive - which means you can see the amazing white sands and blue ocean as you journey up north. Next up is Nambung National Park, which is home to the spectacular Pinnacles. These eerie limestone pillars resemble tombstones, and are scattered across the dessert in their thousands, and visitors can walk amongst them. Try to visit at either sunset or sunrise. Above this is the Cervantes, which is home to Lake Thetis; a lake teaming with stromatolites, which are the oldest living life forms in the world.
Exmouth and the Kalbarri and Karijini National Parks
The next section has some spectacular snorkel spots, hikes, beaches, and more. First up is Kalbarri National Park, which is a beautiful area, with hikes that take you both along cliffs next to the sea, and along huge canyons further inland. Be sure to spend a few days here to fully immerse yourself in the beauty that is Kalbarri. A few highlights would be Nature’s Window, Natural Bridge, Island Rock, and the Loop Trail. The trail is tough but one of the best hikes you’ll experience. Then there is Monkey Mia at Shark Bay. Don’t be fooled by the name, as there are no monkeys there! However, there is a dolphin resort, in which five adult females are fed daily by volunteers at this national park. The staff take extreme measures to not interfere with the dolphins’ natural patterns of behavior, and these are still wild dolphins. Further north is Coral Bay, and the snorkeling here will blow your mind. Just meters from shore, there is the most colorful reef, with an incredible variety of fish, turtles, and sharks. It is an incredible experience, and a must-do in this road trip.
The small resort town of Exmouth, located around located 1,270 kilometers north of Perth, is probably most famous as an ideal base for whale shark swimming, which is an incredible experience, and a once-in-a-life-time opportunity - if you get the chance to do it, then go for it! However, in certain seasons you may also get the opportunity to swim with humpback whales, so make sure to time your visit according to the seasons! There is also Cape Range National Park, which again, has some beautiful beaches and opportunities to snorkel. Turquoise Bay has the most beautiful beach, with some fantastic snorkeling.
Further inland you’ll find the Karijini National Park, which is full of gorges, creating stunning scenery and epic hikes. Brace yourself and wade in some icy cold waters as you hike through to get to some incredible locations. Hancock Gorge is fantastic; be prepared to rock climb along gorge walls, as well as climb and duck to make your way through a two hour hike. At the end, take an icy dip in the gorge pool – sounds terrifying, but it’s well worth it. Another highlight would be Fern Pool, which has a beautiful waterfall, and is great for a morning swim. Head to Weano Gorge to finish your time in Karijini on a high - just please be careful when approaching Handrail Pool, and hold on tight, as it is extremely slippery!
Our final main stop, in Broome you’ll be able to enjoy amazing sunsets, café, camels, and beaches. Cable Beach literally has it all - the sunsets are magical, the sea is glorious, and the beaches are amazing, and you can actually ride a camel on it! If you have both time and money, book a trip up to the Kimberley’s - a national park just further north; it’s only really accessible via a 4x4, and is an incredibly tough track, so a tour is always a safe bet when exploring there. In Broome, make sure to catch every sunset you can, as well as stopping by Sun Pictures, the oldest outdoor cinema in the world, and The Zookeeper’s Store restaurant for brunch. Time your trip right to catch the unforgettable Staircase to the Moon, a natural phenomenon in which the full moon reflects on the sea at a perfect angle to create an image of stairs - it is both beautiful, and a huge party in Broome!
If nature and wilderness is your thing, then West Coast is a perfect trip. In as little as three weeks, you could experience some amazing things, like swimming with the biggest fish in the sea, watching wild dolphins be fed in their natural habitat, hiking though incredible national parks, and more. It is beyond worth it.
This article was originally published in July 2018 . It was last updated in January 2020