Western Australia is known for it’s beautiful deserted landscapes, beaches, national parks and ocean life. A roadtrip to the North includes all of these treats with plenty of absolute beauty to be seen. From Perth you can either head out to Exmouth or directly to Karijini National Park and drive back along the coast. The total trip is about 4500 kilometers and will need at least two weeks.
In order to do all the main attractions and sights you don’t necessarily need a four wheel drive. Almost all roads are paved and thus is very accessible with any generic car. However, with a 4×4 you can explore more remote areas in some places and go a little deeper. For example, snorkel beaches in Coral Bay and explore gorges in Karijini National Park.
Best time to go
Most websites suggest the best period to go up North is between March and September. Although our road trip started off in the beginning of December, we still had very pleasant temperatures and great weather. Rainy and cyclone season is from December until March. Therefore it’s better to go after this period to enjoy cooler temperatures and have a chance of seeing waterfalls.
The best and cheapest way to do this road trip is by camping with either a self containing vehicle (i.e. van or campervan), a car with sleeping possibilities or a tent. There are also hotels and (a few) hostels along the way but they cost almost four times more than if you camp. Furthermore the camp spots are mostly inside the national parks and therefore are more beautiful than any hostel or hotel could ever be. I bought cheap camping gear in K-Mart (tent, camping chair, matras, sleeping bag, …) which worked out perfectly in the end as it gave me the chance to sleep along the most beautiful beaches of Western Australia! Another piece of advice is to go install the App Campermate or Wikicamp on your phone which shows you all campingspots with prices and facilities.
15 Day Itinerary
Day 1: Lancelin – Pinnacles – Lake Indoon (free camping)
Pack your car and get groceries, drinking water (at least 2-3 liters / pp) and camping gear before you head out on your adventure! Make sure you are prepared for a beautiful but deserted drive up North. Make your first stop in Lancelin and head out to the sand dunes. This massive area is worth going to and if you are up for it you can also rent a sandboard. After that make your way to the Pinnacles. A scenic drive will take you around the mystical rock formations with the ocean in view in the far off distance. If you chose to go camping, you should try to reach the free camping spot at Lake Indoon. A very beautiful spot with showers, BBQ and drinking water readily available.
Day 2: Geraldton – Pink Lake – Kalbarri National Park
Drive north towards Geraldton where you can go for a lunch and have a nice afternoon at the beach. After you had a rest drive on to Kalbarri National Park. On the way you will pass by the Pink Lake which gets it’s color from special algae. In Kalbarri we stayed at Big River Ranch campsite which had really nice facilities such as a fully equipped kitchen, a swimming pool and hot showers.
Day 3: Kalbarri National Park coastal sceneries
Kalbarri is a rather big National park with beautiful cliffs and hikes. On your first day, drive along the coast and stop at the lookouts where you might be able to spot whales and dolphins. If you want to snorkel, make your stop at the Blue Holes (better in the morning because there is less wind). Also make a stop in the small town of Kalbarri which has a beautiful calm beach which is very suitable for watersport fanatics (Kite and Windsurfers especially).
Day 4: Kalbarri National Park Nature’s window Hiking trail (9km) – Shark bay
One of the must dos and must sees of Kalbarri is Nature’s Window. You can either go only to Nature’s window by following a 1km trail or you can walk the well worth 9 km return hiking trail. Few people have died while walking this trail because of dehydration. So make sure you have at least 3 liters of water on you per person and try to go early in the morning (before 9 AM) and you will be more than fine. This hike will take you about two to three hours. On the way you will have magnificent views of the canyon and if lucky you just might experience some wildlife encounters.
Afterwards drive to the Z-bend and make your way to Denham and Shark bay.
Day 5: Denham and Shark bay : little lagoon – eagles buff lookout – drive along the coast
Have a nice and relaxing day after the long drive. Explore the Little Lagoon in the morning and go for a swim or snorkel (not that much to see but still interesting). In the afternoon drive South along Shark Bay Road and stop at the lookouts where you can see cliffs and perhaps some dolphins.
Day 6: Denham – Monkey Mia – Shell beach – Hamlin pool (stromatolites) – Carnarvon – Coral bay
Get up early to get to Monkey Mia before 7.45 AM because this is when the dolphins will come towards the shore. Even though it might seem an unnatural phenomenon it is still really worth going to.
On your way to Coral Bay from Monkey Mia are several beautiful spots to discover. One of my favourite spots was Shell Beach. As the name implies a wide beach full of shells with the most clear water I have ever seen .
A little bit further you can experience where the origin of living organisms come from.
Stromatolites is what they are called and are only to be seen in Western Australia. Although this phenomenon is only a few rocks in the water the scenery from this place is magnificent!
Have a little stop over in Carnarvon to get new supplies for your next few days and drive on to Coral Bay. Try to reserve a camping spot before you arrive because they might ask for a higher price or it might be full because there are only two camp spots in the whole area.
Day 7: Coral bay and Ningaloo reef
Snorkel over the most beautiful coral and colorful fish or go on a dive/snorkel tour with Manta rays or even Whale Sharks (if you are travelling during March – September).
Day 8: Coral bay – Exmouth – Cape Range National Park
Go for a last snorkel in the morning and slowly make your way to Exmouth and your campsite in Cape Range National Park. We chose to sleep at Osprey bay which was pretty much next to the beach. Be aware that these campsites only have basic facilities (e.g. a toilet without water!) so bring your own water and cooking gear.
Day 9: Cape Range National park : snorkel tours
Grab a map at the Discovery Centre and go explore all the nice snorkel bays:
- Osprey bay (from November till February is turtle hatching season)
- Turquoise bay
- Oyster Stacks
- Tulki Beach
Day 10: Cape Range National Park
Snorkel in the morning and do a little hike in the afternoon. We did the Yardie Creek trail. It is only about 2 km and has a nice view on one of the gorges.
Day 11: Cape Range National Park – Exmouth – Karijini National Park
Prepare yourself for a long drive to what people say is one of the most beautiful parks of Western Australia, Karijini National Park. You can either stay in the Eco retreat with drinking water and showers or in Dales gorge with only toilets and no running water. I also advice you to buy a fly net because they will try to crawl into your eyes, ears and up your nose!
Day 12: Karijini National Park
If you are staying at the ‘eco retreat’ you can start doing hikes from there or drive 10 km to several other hiking trails. If you are staying on Dales campsite then you can start exploring Dales gorge with it’s beautiful natural pools.
Day 13: Karijini National Park
Explore Karinjini one more day before your drive back to Perth.
Day 14: Karijini – Mount Magnet (10 hours)
Your 17 hour drive back to Perth will start here and you can split your drive up however you want. It will be a long and boring drive so get up early in the morning and don’t overthink, just start driving.
Day 15: Mount Magnet – Perth (7 hours)
Perth and civilization welcome you back!
- Bring enough water
- Make sure you have cash on you to pay for the National Park entry fees
- Bring warm clothes as the wind along the coast can make for some cold evenings
- You don’t need an extra fuel can but make sure refuel your vehicle in time
- If you don’t have a self contained vehicle then we recommend to buy a gas cooker
- Make sure to renew your car’s oil in time
- Flies are everywhere and especially in Karijini they try to fly in your nose, eyes and ears. Buy a hat and fly net before you head off (they only cost around 5 AUD).
Have a safe trip and let us know how you experienced your trip up North!