A fourteen day “Best of Western Australia” road trip

If you only have limited time in Western Australia here is a fourteen day drive which begins and ends in Perth covering the amazing  South West which is the most visited region in Western Australia outside of Perth, and heading inland north to the beautiful Coral Coast.   Here is an easy fourteen day self drive tour which introduces you to some of Western Australia’s best landscapes:


From Perth you need to get onto the Kwinana Freeway heading south (just follow the signs, you really can’t miss it).  Once on the Freeway you have a very straight run to Bunbury, experiencing free conditions all of the way.  The Kwinana Freeway becomes the Forrest Highway, and it is a very good, new road.  This route bypasses the coastal town of Mandurah.  If you do wish to visit Mandurah the exit is well signposted.  When you reach Bunbury, which is Western Australia’s second biggest city, you have the option of visiting the town, or taking the bypass down to Busselton.  Bunbury is a very pleasant coastal city, and is certainly worth seeing and stopping for a drink in the city’s cappuccino strip.  If you take the bypass, simply follow the signs to Capel and onto Busselton.  Because of the new road, it is only a two and a half hour drive to Busselton these days, but if you wish to stop, once you get to Capel it is the beginning of wine country, and there are wineries open, you can also picnic in some of the forests.  It is certainly worth stopping in Busselton as it is a popular tourist destination, and it is worth visiting the jetty, which is the longest in the Southern Hemisphere, and which has a very interesting marine viewing centre near its end.  The Busselton Visitors Centre is excellent, and worth visiting to pick as much information about the South West as you could possible carry.

From Busselton you can continue on the bypass to Dunsborough, or take the coastal road through some of Busselton’s outlying suburbs.  Busselton to Dunsborough is only a short drive of about 20 minutes or so.  The drive from Perth to Dunsborough is only three hours non-stop.  If you wish to take it very easy you can make Dunsborough your overnight stay, or continue to Margaret River (about another 30 minutes), or even stay at the popular coastal town of Yallingup or, if your budget will stretch that far, the exclusive Bunker Bay Resort.  To be honest, it doesn’t matter where you stay – the next day will be spent sightseeing, and all of these towns are reasonably close to each other.


It doesn’t matter where you spent the night, or which way you choose to travel, but you should drive a circular route which takes in (starting from Dunsborough) Cape Naturaliste, Caves Road to visit the beaches at Yallingup, Gracetown and Prevelly, The head down to Augusta and Cape Leeuwin, move north to Margaret River and Cowaramup and back to Dunsborough.  Take as many as the side roads as you like to visit the many wineries, the gourmet food providores, the pub breweries, the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, the shops and galleries, and choose to eat and any of dozens of restaurants.


Wherever you are staying head down Caves Road or the Bussell Highway and turn onto the Brockman Highway.  Turn right onto Stewart Road and follow that to the Vasse Highway, where to turn right and head to Pemberton.  From Margaret River to Pemberton is a journey of about one and a half hours.  Pemberton is a timber town that is surrounding by Karri forests.  The Karri tree is one of the world’s tallest and straightest trees, and if you are brace enough you can climb the 72 metres to the fire watch platform at the top of the tree.  From Pemberton keep following the Vasse Highway, which is a very pretty drive, to the South Western Highway, and follow this down to the coastal town of Walpole.  This portion of the drive should also take about one and a half hours.  You could chose to stay in Walpole, or move further east to Denmark, depending on what time you arrive.  If you do arrive late morning or early afternoon then make sure that you visit the Valley of the Giants, in this case they are giant Tingle trees, and do the Treetop Walk.  There are plenty of lovely drives and very easy walks in and around the Valley of the Giants, so you could spend the afternoon quite easily admiring the majestic trees.


As the crow flies its only about 60 kilometres from Walpole to Denmark, but don’t worry about the crows, as you really don’t want to drive directly between the two towns when there is so much beautiful coastline to see including: Walpole and Nornalup Inlets, Broke Inlet, Peaceful Bay, Coalmine Beach, Conspicuous Cliffs, Mandalay Beach, wineries, a meadery and lots of small farms where you can try a whole range of handmade goodies.


Once again, the direct drive to Albany is only 50 kilometres, but you do want to ensure that you see Wilson Inlet, Ocean Beach, West Cape Howe.  A lot of artisans are based in Denmark, which is a very pretty town, and Albany is an historic town which has many heritage buildings, a replica of the brig Amity, some beautiful, rugged coastline and Whaleworld, a former whaling station that is one of the best attractions in Western Australia.  In winter Albany is a popular spot for whale watching.  The town has two harbours: Princess Royal Harbour, Oyster Harbour and also King George Sound. Albany also has some highly acclaimed restaurants, so if you do want a special night out, this is the place to do it.


From Albany Head out onto the South Coast Highway, heading towards Esperance.  At King River take the left fork onto Chester Pass Road, and follow it until you get to Stirling Range Drive, where you turn left and head into the carpark.  The Stirling Ranges are the highest mountains in Western Australia, and there are a number of bushwalks you can do, each of varying degree of difficulty.  If you wish, you can walk up to Bluff Knoll, the highest peak, for some spectacular views.  From the Stirling Range National Park, follow the road through the wheatbelt towns of Borden, Gnowangerup, Tambellup and Katanning to Wagin.


Make sure that you visit Wagin’s famous Woolarama to learn everything there is to know about wool and sheep.  From Wagin head north up the Great Southern Highway.  On this route you pass through the town of Narrogin and reach the small town of Brookton.  At Brookton you turn right onto the Brookton Highway, and then left State Route 120 (just follow the signs to Beverley and York).  Beverley has an aviation museum you may wish to visit, and York is one of WA’s most celebrated historic towns.  There is a good motor museum in York, and many historic buildings, so is worth stopping in for a while.  From York continue heading north until you reach Northam.  You are travelling through prime wheat belt country, which is one of Australia’s richest agricultural areas.

The journey to Northam, without stops is about three hours.  From Northam follow the signs to Goomalling, and then follow the signs to Wongan Hills.   From here you head north through the very small towns of Kondut and Ballidu to Pithara, where you turn right onto the Great Northern Highway and head for Dalwallinu, which is about a two hour drive from Northam.


If you are fortunate to be doing this trip in wildflower season, from early August through to about October, you will be fortunate to see much of the land covered by carpets of colourful flowers on this portion of the trip.  If you are travelling outside of those times, the landscape is still interesting as you see farms, rocky outcrops, and some very interesting historic buildings.  Follow the great Northern Highway to Wubin, where you veer left onto the Wubin-Mullewa Road.   Now it’s just a matter of following this road to Mullewa, but on the way you do pass through many small towns, the latest of which are Perenjori and Morawa.  The drive to Mullewa should take about three hours without stops.  From Mullewa turn left onto the Geraldton-Mt Magnet Rd (heading towards Geraldton) and then turn right at Tenindewa onto the Tenindewa-Yuan Rd.  This road becomes the Chapman Valley Road, and you stay on it until you get to Nabawa.  Turn right at the Nabawa-Northampton Road, which takes you to the North West Coastal Highway, where you turn right for the short drive in Northampton.  There are signs in Northampton pointing the way to Horrocks Beach, Port Gregory and Kalbarri.  Turn left off the highway to follow Horrocks Rd, then turn right again and follow the signs to Port Gregory. Just before reaching Port Gregory is George Grey Drive, which is also known as Port Gregory-Kalbarri Road.  This road runs along the pink Hutt Lagoon for some way and later on enters the Kalbarri National Park.  Just before you enter the township you will see the cliffs to your left, and these are certainly worth exploring for the great views.


Kalbarri is a great fishing and tourist village which has a good surf beach, safe lagoon for swimming and fishing, a river for boating and spectacular gorges for exploring.


Drive to the North West Coastal Highway and turn left, heading towards Carnarvon.  The turn off for Shark Bay is just past the Overlander, a well known service station that is impossible to miss.  Turn left onto Shark Bay Road and head towards Denham.  This road is about 130 kilometres in length and it is worth stopping to see the Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool, Shell Beach, and any of the lookouts.  You can stay in either Denham, which is the main town and has good facilities, or drive 22 kms further on to Monkey Mia, where there is a resort and caravan park.

DAY 11  SHARK BAY     

Monkey Mia is famous for its dolphins, which come in each morning to be fed by hand.  They are wild dolphins and come in about three times each morning to be fed.  You can get up very close to them just by wading in to the shallow waters, but you may not necessarily be chosen to feed them.  Shark Bay is a very special area and it is possible to stand at the lookouts on the cliff faces to see sharks, rays and dugongs swimming in the waters below.  There are plenty of beaches, great fishing and lots of exploring to be done here.


Retrace your journey back to the main highway where you turn right and stay on the road until you reach Geraldton.  Geraldton is the main commercial centre on the Coral Coast and is a pleasant port.  You can get great views from the HMAS Sydney Memorial, where you can read the story of this tragic naval encounter.  It is only about a half hour drive to Dongara, but it is worth stopping on the way at Greenough Historical Village, where many historic buildings are kept well-preserved.  Dongara-Port Dennison is a cray fishing centre.


Head south on the Brand Highway then turn right onto Indian Ocean Drive which you follow to Jurien Bay.  Pass the small fishing villages of Leeman and Green Head, and if you feel like a swim, try Dynamite Bay in Green Head which is a safe and protected little beach.  Jurien Bay is now a popular tourist resort with lovely beaches and good fishing.


Continue south to the cray fishing town of Cervantes.  Just south of Cervantes is Nambung National Park, where The Pinnacles Desert is located.  It is really worth stopping here to explore The Pinnacles, which is a rare natural formation that was formerly a sea bed.  There is a good Interpretative Centre there too which explains the origins of the Pinnacles.  Keeping south, passing Wedge Island to Lancellin, which is one of the world’s great windsurfing spots.  Keep heading south until you see the signs for the Gravity Discovery Centre near Two Rocks.  If you like, this too is worth visiting if  you have any interest at all in the Universe.  Once you get to Wanneroo you’ve hit Perth’s suburbs, and here you have a chance to wend your way onto the Mitchell freeway for a quick drive back to Perth, or stay on Wanneroo Rd to get a better look at Perth’s suburbs.

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