How to Plan the Ultimate Western Australia Road Trip
We are taking you down under to the wild West of Australia! We are going to some of the most remote and untouched parts of the world full of breathtaking scenery, beaches, and plenty of amazing Aussie wildlife! Planning the perfect road trip is the best way to explore this region! But where to start?
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What is Western Australia known for?
Western Australia is not only the largest state in Australia, but also one of the most desolate. With miles and miles of arid outback covering the majority of the landscape, distances can seem far, far away (much like most of Australia! 😉) But don’t let that distract you from visiting! “WA” is known for it’s diverse and breathtaking scenery from the vineyards of Margret River to the coral reefs along the Coral Coast! A coastal drive along the west coast is the ideal way to visit many of the top spots!
When Should I Visit Western Australia?
This will majorly depend on where you are going. For the Southwest Coast (South of Perth), I would visit during Australia’s summer months of December – February. The water is much colder down there because of the icy water coming up from the Southern Ocean. If you have dreams of swimming in Lucky Bay’s crystal-clear water all day you better wait until it’s warm enough to swim! It would be the complete opposite for the Coral Coast and up (North of Perth)! The summers are almost TOO HOT and being out in the Australian sun for too long will give you severe heat exhaustion. (Take my word for it!) Start your trip from May – July for dry season weather and cooler temperatures.
How Long do I Need for a Western Australia Road Trip?
Australia is such a large and magnificent country that I am sure you could spend your entire LIFE exploring its beautiful places and never see enough. BUT the reality is we all gotta pay the bills somehow, so we have to work with limited vacation time! If you just want to see one region of WA and really get a good tour and immersion, 10 days – 2 weeks would be a good outline. If you want to do a full tour and see the entire coast, you need at least 4 weeks!
How do I Even Start to Plan a Road Trip in Western Australia?
The first step to any trip starts with where you want to go. If this place has been on your bucket list for a while, you might already have some places in mind. If not, do a quick Google or Pinterest search and come up with a few ideas. The next crucial step is figuring out how much time you have and how many places you realistically will be able to visit. At the end of the day, there is never enough time so you will have to make sure you know what you would be okay with cutting out in the long run.
I like to actually look at a map and explore driving times in this step because you don’t want to spend your entire trip just driving from place to place (although that is definitely part of the journey ♥). Google My Maps is a GREAT resource to help you map out your adventure because you can then download it to use offline when you don’t have reception. (No, you won’t have reception. I told you, it is desolate!) This will start to form your basic itinerary of your trip.
What kind of vehicle do I need?
While exploring possible stops, make sure to check if they require 4-wheel drive. Some locations are more remote than others and might require some experience in off-roading and camping off-grid (more on that below). There are PLENTY of places to explore on all paved roads so don’t sweat it to much if that sounds like too much for you! But this will help determine which type of vehicle to get. If you are staying on paved roads, a campervan is the way to go. There are multiple sizes that can accommodate numerous different amounts of people. For 4WD, there are some vans equipped but many opt for a “Troopy” (usually a Toyota Land Cruiser) and a caravan trailer. There is also always the option to hire the 4WD vehicle and just tent-camp through your journey. This is really all going to depend on how much experience you have camping and what modern luxuries you don’t mind living without. Some vehicles have full kitchens or bathrooms inside while others require use of amenities at campsites.
Some of the Australian rental companies are:
Where do you camp?
Speaking of campsites, where do you actually camp?! There are numerous different options at various price points. There are some “free-camps” where you basically can park and catch a few Z’s. Not too much in the sense of amenities but if you are really trying to save some pennies, it is doable! Two great apps for finding campsites are CamperMate and the THL Road Trip App. There are filters for free camps where you can find out more information.
The next option is a paid site. These are in caravan parks and resorts where you are basically paying to park your camping vehicle. Most have both powered and unpowered sites. Unless you plan on using a lot of appliances or charging your electronics, you don’t necessarily need powered sites every night! If you are tent camping, these sites are often grassy or offer some sort of protection from the ground (but not all of them ☹). Many of the caravan parks have camp kitchens, showers, laundry, toilets, and sometimes a pool! Some also have small suites or cabins available in case you do get tired of your sleeping arrangements!
Another option is a farm stay. These are usually at the cattle stations where you can go and experience life out on the farm. Some have campgrounds similar to a caravan park, but some have full accommodations.
Check out Western Australia Farm Stays Here
What should I pack?
Most of Western Australia is a dusty desert. Make sure to pack plenty of loose-fitting long-sleeved clothing. You need to protect yourself from the harsh Australian sun. Hats, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen is required! "Slip, slap, slop" is a saying here in Australia for a reason! Bathing suits are also a must because you are always going to want to jump into the water every chance you get! Final must is bug repellent or fly screens. There are SO MANY bugs and creepy crawlies in Australia (sorry it’s the harsh truth!!) so make sure you have something to protect you from things that go bump in the night! If you plan on diving or snorkeling, I recommend bringing your own gear. There are so many opportunities to just walk right off the beach into a coral reef, so you’ll want to be prepared at any moment!
Off-Roading and Off-Grid Camping
There are numerous opportunities in Western Australia to take unpaved roads into parts of National Parks or along coastal tracks or beaches. While this will certainly give you a remote and private vacation, there are some precautions you should take. Much of the 4WD tracks require driving through soft sand so make sure to check which tire pressure is required before heading off. Many of the tracks have pumps at the start but always check with the closet petrol station (often called roadhouses) to make sure you’re all set. If you plan on camping in these remote areas (which is definitely possible with numerous campsites around!) make sure you are prepared to be living completely off-grid. Some campsites require you to bring your own chemical toilet, your own supply of water, and don’t offer any amenities or power. It is best to be fully self-sufficient as this is true wilderness camping.
A few examples of off-grid campsites include:
Where Should I Go on a Western Australia Road Trip?
There are two main factors that will determine which itinerary you should follow. The first being how much time do you have and how remote do you want to go? I have broken down a few routes you can mix and match to make your perfect trip!
10 days – 2 weeks: The Southwest Edge
Starting in Perth, make your way south along the coast. This route gives you an unbelievable diversity of scenery and things to do with shorter driving distances between locations (usually no more than 3 hours). Stop in Busselton and see the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. Then snake and curve along the coastal roads of the Margret River Region. Many beautiful beaches and swimming holes can be found here perfect for an afternoon dip or surf. There are numerous world-renowned wineries hidden between the giant forests. Stop in for a delicious meal or wine tasting! Find Hamelin Bay, a small coastal campground where local stingrays come hangout on the beach! Make stops in Albany or Denmark to marvel at the elephant sized boulders that sit along the beaches. Climb high into the forests at the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk and take in the scenery from a different perspective. Make your way all the way east to Esperance and marvel at the piercing blue waters and abundance of sea life. Then finally, loop back up past Hayden to see Wave Rock and drive through the Wheatbelt to make it back to Perth.
This route is jam packed FULL of fun adventures but still could be done in a reasonable amount of time. Much of this route is all on paved roads but if you are wanting to off-road, Cape Le Grand and Duke of Orleans Bay right outside of Esperance would be ideal for this! Some of the clearest water and whitest sand in the world! And the chance to see kangaroos on the beach!
2-4 weeks: The Southwest Edge + The Coral Coast
If you have a little bit more time than two weeks, I suggest adding the Coral Coast to your trip. Take in all of the Southwest Edge in about a week, then head up past Perth towards Exmouth. This route is a bit more stretched out with towns fewer and farer between, so you need the extra time to make it all the way up the coast. (You could do this route in 2 weeks alone if you didn’t want to do the Southwest!) The Coral Coast is a treasure trove of water fun from boating to diving to just soaking up the sun! This route is ideal for people who love to be in and around the water!
Starting in Perth make your way north to Cervantes. This small town is known for their rock lobster industry so stop at The Lobster Shack and have lunch. Explore the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park and witness a bizarre circumstance where large limestone pillars have formed over hundreds of thousands of years! Do even more exploring in Kalbarri National Park. This rugged landscape has formed over millions of years and has amazing swimming spots, gorges, and outlooks that don’t require 4WD! If you are looking for a 4WD adventure, stop in Shark Bay and camp on Dirk Hartog Island. This is one of the most remote places ON EARTH and the entire Shark Bay region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you don’t have 4WD, don’t worry! You can check out Monkey Mia Resort and enjoy some of the best amenities on the road and get a peek at their local dolphins that hang out along the beach! Your next stop is Coral Bay which is the first place heading North than you can experience Ningaloo Reef. This fringing reef is one of the most untouched and is beaming with a variety of hard corals and fish! There are numerous tours that will take you out to snorkel the reef, swim with manta rays or whale sharks, or scuba dive. I recommend doing as many as you can afford because this place is truly magical! The final stop is Exmouth, one of the larger towns along the reef where you can find all kinds of accommodations and entertainment. From here, you can make a one day 13-hour journey back to Perth or choose some favorite or missed spots to stop at along the way back down.
4+ Weeks: The Southwest Edge + The Coral Coast + Broome
If you genuinely want to explore the entire state of Western Australia, you need at least 4 weeks! Spend your first 10 days along the Southwest Edge, spend two weeks exploring the coral coast, but then don’t stop in Exmouth. Instead, continue the journey all the way up to the coastal town of Broome. This is one of the largest cities in Western Australia and has an international airport that will make for easier travel home. In this region though, towns are even further apart with most requiring at least a 6–7-hour drive between each! This also is one of the most remote parts of Australia and would be a great option for those interesting in off-roading and off-grid camping.
Continuing on from Exmouth, follow the coast north to Onslow to take in coastal views. Then move inland to Karijini National Park to explore some of the oldest rocks in the world. Magnificent scenery, beautiful gorges, and excellent swimming holes make this a must-see. There are a mixture of paved and unpaved road making this a great stop for anyone! Then head north back to the coast and explore some of the desolate stretches of rocky red coastline. Make your way to Broome to experience an otherworldly landscape with layers and layers of red rock all around. Take in a sunset at Cable Beach, take the boat out to do some pearl farming, or just enjoy the tropical feels of your resort pool. Broome is a great jumping point for trips into the Kimberly. There are numerous tours that depart from Broome that will take you on a 4WD adventure if you don't have one! You can venture into the Kimberly yourself but it does require a little extra precaution. Find out all you need to know here!
Depending on your interests, you could mix and match any of these itineraries into what you want. Many people also start in Broome and work their way back down to Perth or even all the way back down to Esperance and beyond! There are so many great driving options through Australia, and it really will give you a feel for the country! Just be prepared to deal with a lot of long distances, dirt and sand, kangaroo roadkill (sad but true!😂), and loads of FUN!
Make sure you are always drinking plenty of water! Dehydration and overheating can occur quickly in the extreme Australian climate. Always stock up on water every chance you get because you never know when your campground might not have accessible drinking water!
Find the perfect time to go! Some experiences (like swimming with the whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef) only occur during certain times of the year. There are SO MANY amazing tours and excursions you can do here so just make sure you know the right time to do them. Mantra rays, humpback whales, sea turtles, baby sharks, you name it! Migrations and weather changes will affect what wildlife you will see throughout the year!
Stop for gasoline (or petrol as the Aussies call it!) There are seriously long distances to drive out here so anytime you see a petrol station, you better fill up. Many of the petrol stations are called roadhouses and have a (limited) offering of food and drinks.
There is VERY limited cell phone reception! Telstra is the main service provider out here so you might even consider getting a temporary sim card in Perth or one of the other major cities. Just remember what actually uses service on your phone (like navigation!!) and make sure you have alternative options. This is why it is SO important to plan your trip before you go! You could easily get lost so stay safe and make sure you always travel with a map.
While this is a relatively remote and safe place to travel, make sure to avoid driving in the dark. Not only for the safety of avoiding wildlife, but also because we have all seen Wolf Creek... Keep your valuables locked up in your vehicle during the day or keep them at home.
Enjoy the adventure! One of the best things about road tripping is you really have the freedom to move around and do as you please. Even if you have a detailed itinerary ready to go before you leave, just go with the flow once on the road and enjoy the journey. If you really love one stop, stay there for a few extra days!
I hope this guide has helped you start planning a fun adventure into Western Australia! Have you ever been on a massive road trip? What was your favorite part?
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