Regional travel: your guide to the best road trips in Western Australia

As Australia begins to ease state travel restrictions, it’s time to pencil in those holiday plans again and devote the rest of 2020 to exploring the natural wonders in our own backyard. Here, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the beautiful, and often underrated, local gems to visit in Western Australia after the state relaxed their travel restrictions on 18 May. 

The new restrictions allow travel to resume within four defined regions:

  • Between South West, Great Southern, Wheatbelt and Perth-Peel regions
  • Between Mid-West, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions (excluding the biosecurity zone)
  • Within Goldfields-Esperance region (excluding the biosecurity zone)
  • Within Kimberley Local Government areas (the Commonwealth’s biosecurity zone remains in place)

So, to help you plan an adventure within the guidelines, here are some of the best road trips for each region and a handy guide for future travel.

Western Australia road trips
Nine Mile Beach, Esperance. Image: Tourism Australia

Mid-West, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions

Coral Coast – Perth to Exmouth

Not only is the Coral Coast road trip extremely scenic, yet it also lets you uncover two World Heritage-listed sites in one short trip. The first World Heritage area to explore is Shark Bay. Travel along Denham-Hamelin Road stopping at Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, home to some of the largest and oldest living fossils on the planet. Then at the tranquil Shell Beach, made up of billions of tiny shells, followed by Eagle Bluff for a birds-eye view of marine life. From there, head to Monkey Mia and keep an eye out for the area’s famous bottlenose dolphins. Continue up north, passing through Carnarvon to reach the second Heritage area, Ningaloo Reef – the largest and one of the most accessible fringing reefs on Earth. Factor in some time to explore and snorkel with the abundance of marine life. Experience some of Ningaloo’s top snorkel trails, swimming beaches, fishing spots and surf breaks at Bluff Barrel, the Tombstones, Three Mile Camp and Gnaraloo Bay. Next, keep driving to the chilled-out seaside town of Coral Bay followed by Exmouth. At the northern tip of the Ningaloo Reef is the ideal place to swim with whale sharks, if that’s available.

Western Australia road trips
Snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef. Image: Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef
Paraburdoo to Karijini

Drive to Western Australia’s Karijini National Park, the all-natural adventure park where you can spend your days navigating cavernous gorges, climbing some of the oldest rocks on the planet, and swimming beneath cascading waterfalls. Begin the journey in Paraburdoo and establish a base at Tom Price. You’ll want to stock up on all the essentials here, like fuel and food because there is minimal available in the park. Embark on the drive to Karijini and explore the local surrounds including Dales Gorge, the Fern Pool, Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool for a refreshing afternoon swim. Plan your next days with visits to Oxer Lookout, Weano Gorge, Joffre Falls Lookout and Hamersley Gorge where there are a range of outdoor activities to do. Find a detailed itinerary here.

Western Australia road trips
Karijini National Park. Image: Tourism Western Australia

South West, Great Southern, Wheatbelt and Perth-Peel regions

Perth to Pemberton and Margaret River

From the city to the forest, then the forest to the coast, this road-trip has a little something for everyone. Soak up Western Australia’s South West with a scenic drive through the heritage-listed town of Jarrahdale, followed by the tranquil Serpentine Falls and the historic town of Collie. Be sure to make some stops along the way to enjoy many walks and hike trails. Continue to Pemberton while passing through the quaint towns of Boyup Brook and Bridgetown followed by Manjimup, home to incredible forests of jarrah trees up to 600 years old.

From there, journey on to the Margaret River region where you’ll find picturesque vineyards, amazing surf and an array of gourmet produce. We recommend stopping at some of the National Parks along the way including Cape Leeuwin. Plus, Mammoth Cave, which is one of only a few caves in WA that contains fossils. Then make your way back to Perth through Busselton and the Bunbury. Allow a few days to complete this journey, because the stops along the way are definitely worth it. Check out a full itinerary here.

Margaret River region. Image: Vasse Felix
Perth to Albany and Porongorups

If you enjoy impressive rugged scenery and exhilarating views than this trip is for you. Starting in Perth, travel about three hours down to Kojonup along on Albany Highway. Once you’re there, make a stop at the indigenous cultural centre of Kodja Place and the Rose Maze to learn a little bit of WA’s history. From there, journey on to Mount Barker where you can sample some of the local produce as you pass through. Just a half-hour drive from there you’ll find the scenic mountain range that is the Porongurup National Park – a mecca for botanists, wildflower enthusiasts, bird watchers and photographers. For some epic views, hike towards Castle Rock and climb the Granite Skywalk, a suspended walkway with birds-eye views.

After Porongurup, travel the short distance to Albany along the south coast of Western Australia. While you’re there, admire the might of the ocean from the viewing platforms at both The Gap and Natural Bridge lookouts. If you’re lucky, you might even see some whales. From Albany, the choice is yours to either continue in the direction of Margaret River, passing through the picturesque town of Denmark and Pemberton, or head back to Perth the way you came. Find a suggested itinerary here.

Western Australia road trips
Granite Skywalk, Porongurup National Park. Image: Tourism Australia

Goldfields-Esperance region

Esperance

Once regional borders open up again one of the best road trips to do is along Western Australia’s south coast, connecting Esperance with Fitzgerald National Park, Hopetoun and Albany – making a detour to the impressive Wave Rock formation in the Wheatbelt town of Hyden. However, while these regional borders are closed, we recommend making the most of your time simply exploring the beaches of Esperance and Cape Le Grand National Park. Uncover a string of white-sand beaches including Lucky Bay and Blue Haven as well as the paradise islands of the Recherche Archipelago. Spend the day bushwalking through the coastal trails, fishing or snorkelling in the clear waters.

Of course, you can’t miss out on seeing one of Australia’s most famous natural wonders, Lake Hillier, the bubble-gum pink coloured lake. Located on Middle Island, the largest of the Recherche islands, this striking phenomenon can be accessed by chartering a plane or boat with nearby tour operators in Esperance. Another popular stop is Cape Arid National Park, just east of Esperance. This untouched paradise is known for its excellent bushwalking and beach fishing. Most of its trails are only accessible by four-wheel-drive but they’ll take you to some pretty secluded spots.

Western Australia road trips
Lucky Bay. Image: Tourism Australia
The Golden Quest Discovery Trail

The Golden West Discovery Trail runs from Coolgardie through to Laverton, winding through quirky towns and rugged terrain. Head northeast along the trail, passing through Ora Banda and Goongarrie to Menzies, a small mining town known for its proximity to the Antony Gormley Sculptures that are eerily scattered across the vast Lake Ballard’s dry salt bed. Continue north, stopping at Niagara Dam before arriving in Kookynie, where you can try your hand at fossicking for gold. If you’re after a bit of adventure, you can then take the unsealed road to Leonora and the gold rush ghost town of Gwalia. Then, venture through the outback landscapes to Kalgoorlie-Boulder and explore the largest city in the Australian Outback. It’s recommended to split this drive up into a three-day trip. Check out a more in-depth guide here.

Kimberley region

Kununurra to Broome via Gibb River Road

Keeping within the Kimberly region, Gibb River Road is a true outback experience that’ll have you passing through cattle stations, remote wildlife sanctuaries, and stunning gorges. Just note, you’ll need to purchase a National Park Pass before you leave. Then plan it so you get to witness the Ord Valley and Lake Kununurra at sunset for a breathtaking view. If the option is available you might even choose to cruise along one of these lakes. From there, drive from Kununurra to Wyndham, a town known for great fishing. If you’re looking for a place to stop El Questro would be your best bet, otherwise, be sure to check out Home Valley Station for canoeing and gorge walks. Make your way to Mount Elizabeth and close by you’ll find Wunnumurra Gorge, Manning Gorge and Galvans Gorge – all great for a pit stop and a swim.

Further into the heart of the Kimberley, drive through the popular Mornington Wilderness Camp and Imintji Wilderness Camp, the perfect base to explore Bell Gorge, Lennard Gorge and the picturesque Windjana Gorge. Then, make your way to Derby, stopping by Tunnel Creek National Park – Western Australia’s oldest cave system. From Derby, follow the road to Broome, stopping at Cable Beach and enjoy some time to unwind after your journey, after all, that is what the town is famous for. Check out the suggested route here.

Western Australia road trips
Kimberley Emma Gorge. Image: Tourism Australia

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