After living in beautiful Perth for 5 months, we thought it was time to travel around again. Because staying in one place for a longer time is something we find quite difficult! So during February and March 2017, we made an awesome trip through South West Australia for 3 weeks. We started off in Perth of course and made a big round trip of 4343km in total.
In this article, we will tell you all about the route we have taken and give you tips on how you can follow this 3-week route and what to see along the way. The route takes you through the Margaret River region, the Golden Outback, all the way to the white beaches of Esperance and through the goldfields including the town Kalgoorlie. Along the way, you see many beaches, forests with huge trees, stunning National Parks, but you will also cross the real outback. In short: Enormously varied and totally complete!
A car in South West Australia
First of all, you can’t make a road trip without a car, van or campervan! We made this trip with our own car, a Holden Commodore. We bought the car in Perth because it’s fine in the city and we had enough space for our surfboard and there easily fits a bed in the back for camping. Preferably we would have bought a 4WD, but a normal car is fine too!
Of course, you can rent a car or a van or something likewise, but it is pretty expensive. Count on at least 50 dollars a day. However, if you make a roundtrip for only several weeks through South West Australia, it is still doable. Look for affordable vans at websites like Wicked Campers, Travellers Autobarn, Britz, Mighty, Hippie Camper and Lucky Rentals.
However if you are planning to travel around Australia for a longer time, it is smarter to buy a car. You will pay a lot of money at once, but afterwards, you can sell the car again. Look for example at Gumtree, the online marketplace from Australia. There is a lot on offer on this site for cars and vans etc.
↠ Also read: Buying a Car or Van in Australia: Complete Guide
Amazing night sky of South West Australia
Our route through South West Australia
Perth is the perfect starting point for a road trip through South West Australia. With a population of over 1.8 million, this is the fourth largest and most remote city in Australia. Of course, you can stick many days in Perth after or before this route, but because we already lived in Perth, this one starts from Perth. Please note that we are reasonably slow travelers because we like to see everything well and also check out the unknown places. If you want to travel faster and only want to see the real highlights, you will be able to do this route in a shorter timeframe.
Day 1. Perth – Bunbury
Distance: 245 km
The South West Australia route starts in Perth, from where we first drive towards Bunbury. To get there, we recommend making your way inland, which not many other people do (or where tourists don’t know anything about!) Most people take the highway from Perth to Bunbury, but it’s much more fun to do some sightseeing along the way isn’t it? You will see some unique places in this area, without any tourists!
- Depart early in the morning to Pinjarra, one hour south of Perth. It is a small town where you can find Edenvale Homestead: a historical little village with museums and other interesting galleries.
- From Pinjarra drive to Harvey where you can visit the Harvey Dam and the Harvey Cheese factory where you can taste delicious cheeses. Don’t forget to pop into the Tourist Info, to supply yourselves with some nice brochures of the areas that you are going to visit. And since there are not many tourists popping by they love to help you!
- You can make a little detour to Collie, where you can visit a Coal Mine Museum, although we didn’t really think it was worth the detour (25km detour)
- Or you can drive straight to the Honeymoon Pool. This is a part of the Murray River where you can take a refreshing dip! It’s a lovely area and during summer there will be many locals camping and swimming. It is in the Wellington National Park, where you can also visit the King Jarra, a huge tree.
- There is one very exciting stop left before reaching Bunbury, and that is Gnomesville. This village of gnomes emerged after someone thought it was nice to put a gnome in a hollow tree next to the road. Other locals followed her lead and soon there was a little gnome village. Today it exists of thousands of gnomes placed by the many visitors of this village.
- Now continue to Bunbury where you can camp outside of town which is a bit cheaper.
Camp: Australind Tourist park near Bunbury
Day 2. Bunbury – Busselton
Distance: 60 km
Today is only a short drive, but before you hit the road again, it is first time to discover Bunbury.
- First stop is the Dolphin Discovery Centre. Some wild dolphins will visit this bay regularly and they will come up really close. Best time to visit is in the morning. There is a nice beach to chill and wait for the dolphins.
- Halfway to Busselton, you’ll find the Tuart Forest NP. Tuart trees can only be found in the South West Australia area so it’s a unique eucalyptus forest.
- And the next stop is Busselton. One of the main hotspots is the Busselton Jetty. With its length of 1,8km, it is the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. You can chill at the nice beach next to the jetty, snorkel underneath the jetty, walk the long jetty or take a little train ride to the end and back. It is also an amazing spot to watch the sunset!
Camp: Busselton Jetty Tourist Park in Busselton
Day 3. Busselton – Yallingup
Distance: 60 km
Today you will enjoy the most beautiful beaches in South West Australia. There are a lot of beautiful spots on a pointy shaped piece of land above Dunsborough and Yallingup that you visit today!
- First, visit the beautiful lighthouse of Cape Naturaliste. This is at the top of this point.
- Next, you can try to find the miniature pinnacles. It’s on a (good) gravel road and there is a nice walk along the coast, although we never found the pinnacles themselves haha.
- A bit further down you will find Bunker bay, with a nice beach called Shelly cove. The views from there are amazing!
- Continuing the road you will pass Sugarloaf rock. This huge rock in the ocean creates some awesome views.
- And then it’s time to chill at the beautiful white sand beach of Eagle Bay! The water looks amazing and it’s ideal for a plunge!
- On the way back down you can visit Meelup Beach and Castlerock Bay for some more beaches.
- You can stay the night in Yallingup where you can watch the sun go down at the beach, or go fur a sunset surf session!
Camp: Yallingup Beach Holiday Park in Yallingup
Day 4. Yallingup – Margaret River
Distance: 100 km
Visiting a stunning cave, some nice beaches and taking care of your inner selves: that’s what’s on the menu today!
- The first stop will be the Ngilgi Cave which is very close to the campsite. This is the first cave out of three that you can visit these days. For this, you can buy a 3-caves ticket which is way cheaper than paying the single price for all three. You can go for a semi-guided tour through the beautiful lighted caves.
- Afterwards, it is time for a beach again: Smiths Beach. Here you can find the stunning Canal Rocks where the ocean makes it ways between the beautiful rock formations through little canals.
- Next beach is Injidup Beach which is great for surfing.
- Now it’s time for your inner selves, with a stop at the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. Feel like a kid in the candy shop while you can taste some of their delicious chocolates!
- Still hungry? Then it’s time for some cheese tastings at the Margaret River Dairy Company.
- Time to quench your thirst too, next stop is the Cowaramup Brewing Company where you can taste some delicious craft beers.
- Or do you prefer wine? Ask at the Wine Centre which winery suits you best. We can recommend the Brookwood Estate and Ashbrook Estate Winery.
- To finish the day you can visit Cowaramup Bay which is great for watching the sunset.
Camp: Riverview Tourist Park in Margaret River
Day 5. A day in Margaret River
Distance: 0 km
Today we’ll visit more around Margaret River. There is a lot to see in this area.
- Start off with a visit at Ellensbrook Homestead. This old homestead lies at a beautiful piece of land. You can find the Meekadarabee Falls after a short walk and there is also an old well.
- You can’t leave Margaret River without a surf! Margaret River Mouth is the perfect beach for this, or to watch the surfers and chill in the sun.
Camp: Riverview Tourist Park in Margaret River
Day 6. Margaret River – Conto’s campground
Distance: 75 km (including a side trip to Jewel Cave)
Today you can try more wineries and see some stunning caves.
- What is a better start of the day than tasting some wine in the morning? Our first visit will be Voyager Estate. Even if you don’t like wine, it is worth a visit. The property is huge and the gardens are beautiful!
- Another nice winery to visit is the Leeuwin Estate. It’s not so spectacular as the first one but still a great visit.
- Now it is time to visit the most beautiful cave in the area: Lake Cave. As the name says, there is a lake in this cave with a floating table. It is just stunning with all the beautiful lighting inside.
- Via the Boranup Drive, a beautiful gravel road through the forest, you will go to the next cave: the Jewel Cave. This is the most modern cave out of the three. It is way bigger than the other ones, with huge open areas inside.
Camp: There is a free bush camp at Boranup drive. If it’s full you can drive back to Conto’s Campground which is a very nice bush camp!
Day 7. Conto’s Campground – Nannup
Distance: 125 km (via Hamelin Bay and Augusta)
Today you’ll visit a lighthouse and swim with stingrays.
- First, drive to Augusta where you can visit the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. This lighthouse is located at the point were the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean meet. The audio-guide will tell you all about this place.
- Next spot is Hamelin Bay. This white sand bay is home to the Hamelin Bay Jetty and to some stingrays! You can often find those friendly wild rays close to the old boat ramp. They are not afraid of people, and they come to check you out when wading in the water.
Camp: You can look for a campground close to Hamelin Bay, but when we were there it was a long weekend and we needed a reservation since everybody goes camping on long weekends. That’s why we looked for a free bushcamp and ended up close to Nannup.
Day 8. Nannup – Pemberton
Distance: 140 km (via the northern route)
There is a lot to see today. Visit several lakes, a cute little town and a Truffle and Wine company.
- Our first visit is Barrabup pool. This natural pool is the ideal place to start the day with a fresh plunge in the water!
- Afterward, you can visit another natural pool called Greenbushes Pool. Also a nice place for a dip.
- Close to here you can find the Cornwall Pit, an old Lithium mine which has a lake inside.
- Drive further to Bridgetown, a cute little town which is famous for its scones. Visit one of the cute pottery and cafes. They will serve you the best scones and some tea in nice pottery. You can also visit Suttons Lookout, which gives you a view over Bridgetown.
- Next place is Manjimup where you can find the Truffle and Wine company where you can do some wine tastings and learn about finding truffles.
- In this place, you can also find the Manjimup Timber Park, a nice park where you can see some old timber machinery and an old fire watch tower. You can climb up a tower next to it which gives you the best views over the park.
- For the next stop, you will need insect repellant! We are going to the Diamond Tree Lookout. It’s a huge tree with iron rods all around which forms a ladder. You can climb it all the way to the top, but be careful! There are many March Flies here, so make sure that you are covered in repellant and keep your car doors and windows shut!
- After this stop, drive to the final place: Pemberton. Here you can go for another plunge at the Pemberton pool.
Camp: Pemberton Caravan Park
Scones and tea at the Pottery and Tea Room
Day 9. Pemberton – Northcliffe
Distance: 146 km (including the Karri Forest Explorer Tourist Drive and a side trip to D’Entrecasteaux National Park)
Today we drive a beautiful loop which shows you everything that this area has to offer. We also visit a stunning National Park.
- First, we visit the Gloucester Tree. Again, bring enough insect repellant! This is another tree that you can climb. It’s 60 meters high and the views from up there are insane!
- This is also the start of the Karri Forest Explorer Tourist Drive, where you drive up to Big Brook Dam, which isn’t that big :P. Make sure you drive the loop in this direction because there will be some one-way lanes later on the loop.
- After this dam, the road continues as a gravel road which leads you to Big Brook Arboretum where you can see some big trees.
- A bit further down this road, you can find Big Karri, a huge Karri Tree.
- Continuing the loop track, you go left back on a sealed road and a bit further right to a one-way gravel road (Thornhill Road) which leads you through Beedelup NP.
- At the end of this drive you go left back on a sealed road and a bit further you go left again to visit the Beedelup Falls. There is a nice walkway with a swing bridge.
- You will have to go back to the main road to continue the loop drive and go straight to Old Vasse Road which is unsealed again (main seal road bends to left). Here you can find the Heartbreak Trail, a very nice drive through the forest. Make a stop to enjoy the view at Maiden Bush and the Warren Lookout.
- After the trail, visit the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, the third big tree that you can climb. Those 3 trees used to be lookouts to watch for bushfires.
- Next stop is the Cascades where you can walk a trail to visit some nice lookouts over the stream.
- This was the last stop of the tourist drive and it will continue back to Pemberton. You don’t need to go there though, because you can head south towards Northcliffe to visit Windy Harbour in D’Entrecasteaux National Park. Its a beautiful national park with many stunning beaches. A lot of those are only accessible by 4WD, but with 2WD you can still visit Point D’Entrecasteaux where you can see some amazing cliffs and rock formations.
- After some great views and lookouts, go back to Northcliffe to set up camp.
Camp: Sid’s Campground. We really recommend this place! It’s like a luxurious bush camp set up at a farm.
Climbing Gloucester Tree
Day 10. Northcliffe – Walpole
Distance: 103 km
There are some special trees in the planning today! And also some beaches of course.
- Head towards Walpole today, but first drive the Great Forest Trees Drive, in Shannon NP. At this 48km loop track, you can visit the Shannon Dam, the Snake Gully Lookout, and the Big Tree Grove.
- Leave the trees for a bit and visit Mandalay Beach which is also part of the D’Entrecasteaux NP.
- A bit further you can find Mt Clare where you can walk up to a nice lookout. There is also an awesome Tingle Tree where you can walk through!
- In Walpole, visit Coalmine Beach where you can also visit Coalmine Beach Lookout with a great view over the Nornalup Inlet.
- Another great visit it the Giant Tingle Tree, as the name reveals, it is a giant Tingle Tree, worth a visit!
- At Circular Pool you can see some rapids along the river.
- If you like art combined with nature we could recommend the SwartBrick Art Trail in the forest along North Walpole Rd.
- Last visit will be the Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout, where the views are spectacular!
Camp: A bit out of town at a farm you can find Ayr Sailean, a very nice campsite with free wifi and free washing machine!
The Giant Tingle Tree
Day 11. Walpole – Albany
Distance: 127 km
Today we see some of the best beaches in South West Australia! And we also climb some trees again.
- Via Peaceful Beach drive to Conspicious Cliffs where you can find a stunning beach with a nice lookout.
- Another must see around Walpole is the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. This walk takes you all the way up to 40 meters at the treetops and the views are spectacular!
- Next, make your way to Denmark (not the country :P) where you can find the Green Pools. This beach is so stunning, especially on a clear day. Via a short walk, you can also visit the Elephant Rock.
- From Mount Shadfort you have a great view over the bay.
- Next is Shelly Beach in West Cape Howe NP. The white sand and the clear water stands out and when you pass the viewpoint. It’s a beautiful beach to take a rest.
- Continue your way towards Albany where you can visit the Albany Windfarm.
- South of Albany, you can find the Tornidirrup NP. There are several stunning beaches and viewpoints in the park that are worth a visit. If you go around sunset you might see some kangaroos too! Spots to check out: The Gap, Natural Bridge, Blowholes, Jimmy Newells Harbour, Goode Beach, Frenchman Bay, Misery Beach and the Salmon Holes
Camp: We camped a bit land inward on a free camp next to the road.
Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk
Day 12. Albany – Porongurup National Park
Distance: 52 km
Today you’ll see more from Albany and make your way to Porongurup National Park.
- We faced some bad weather while we were in Albany, but there are beautiful beaches around this town, which you can visit with good weather. You can also visit some of the old buildings, a museum and you can find a replica of the Brig Amity boat which brought the first European settlers from Sydney to Albany.
- After Albany, make your way towards Mt Barker, a bit North of Albany. Close to here is Porongurup NP with some beautiful walks. You can visit the Tree in a Rock, which is a tree that grows on top of a rock. There are some more beautiful walks, but because of the weather we had to leave them for the next day, but you might be able to do them today!
Camp: Porongurup Range Tourist Park, a nice campground on the edge of the National Park
Day 13. Porongurup National Park – Needilup
Distance: 240 km (included the Stirling Range Drive)
A very rewarding walk and two national parks are on the planning today. Plus, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a lot of wildlife!
- Today we walk the Granite Skywalk in the Porongurup National Park. It’s a beautiful walk, with a steep climb via some rocks and a ladder at the end. The view from the top is so amazing!! It is 4,4km return.
- Go more north to visit the Stirling Range National Park, where you drive the Stirling Range Drive. This red gravel road brings you along some nice viewpoints. We can definitely recommend walking towards the Central Lookout.
- Now drive towards Bluff Knoll, the famous mountain of this NP, and if you are lucky, you might even spot some Emus along the way! We didn’t have time to climb it, but if you can manage some time, it’s worth a visit!
- Leave the NP, but be careful, there are many kangaroos in this area! Set up camp at Needilup.
Camp: There is a free camp close to Needilup next to the road
On top of the Granite Skywalk
View from Central Lookout in Stirling Range NP
Day 14. Needilup – Ravensthorpe
Distance: 450 km (incl. all roads in Fitzgerald River National Park)
Today, visit one of the larger national parks in Australia called Fitzgerald River NP. A park with plenty of wildlife: while visiting we saw Emu’s, Kangaroos, Wallabies and a snake.
- Start the day with a visit to Point Ann were you have a great view over the coastline, and it is also the start/finish of Rabbit-Proof Fence No 2 walk. We recommend watching the movie ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ which gives you a great view of the history here.
- You have to drive back on the gravel road to the main road to visit the eastern part of the NP. You follow a long gravel road into the park again to find some paved roads at the end. There used to be a bridge to Hopetoun which is close to this National Park, but it was flushed away during a flooding in March 2017. I’m not sure if you can reach it now, or that you need to drive all the way back over the gravel road after your visit. If so, this will be signposted.
- First visit the Hammersly Inlet, a peaceful bay.
- Next stop is Cave Point, where you can enjoy a beautiful view
- Now it’s time to visit a nice and quiet beach called West Beach. Because of the closed bridge, there was no one here on this white sandy beach.
- Via a small bridge and some dunes, you can reach Mileys Beach. We saw some kangaroo tracks on this beach!
- From the Barren Lookout, you can see the other side of the bay, where Hopetoun is. We could see the broken bridge from this point.
- If the road is open again, Hopetoun is worth a visit. If not we would recommend to drive the gravel road back and head towards Ravensthorpe.
Camp: Ravensthorpe Caravan Park
Day 15. Ravensthorpe – Esperance
Distance: 200 km
Today we head towards Esperance, which is famous for the most beautiful beaches of Australia and especially of South West Australia!
- But first, visit Stokes National Park where there’s Stokes inlet, a nice bay.
- After this visit, quickly drive to Esperance where you’ll first go to the Rotary Lookout. From here you have a great view of the white beaches. It’s also the start of a scenic drive around Esperance: the Great Ocean Drive.
- Next stop on the ocean drive is a beautiful white sand and clear-water beach, the first of many, called West Beach.
- Close to this beach is also Blue Haven, just as beautiful!
- A bit further you can find Twilight Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. It’s great to jump in the water and you can walk/swim to the island of rocks close to the beach.
- Next, you pass a Windfarm.
- And then you’ll arrive at Pink Lake, which isn’t always pink, but you might be lucky to see it! This is also the end of the scenic drive.
Camp: Esperance Bay Holiday Park
Day 16. Esperance – Cape Le Grand National Park
Distance: 73 km
Today we go to Esperance’s main attraction: Cape Le Grand National Park, famous for its beach where you can chill with kangaroos!
- You have to go early to the park if you want to stay the night at Lucky Bay Campground. This is a luxurious bush camp, but it will get busy here and you can’t make reservations. We were ‘lucky’ that it rained that day so it wasn’t busy, but the next day people were lining up at 9 a.m. already to claim a spot (before people had left their campsite already).
- You can even see some kangaroos on the campsite, from where you can take a short walkway to the beach at Lucky Bay. The beach is a bit wet and hard, so not the best beach to chill, but the kangaroos that will visit you make it up!
- But there is more to see in the NP. You can also find Mississippi Point, where you can not see the beach because it is completely covered with a thick layer of seaweed.
- There is also Cape Le Grand Beach in this national park, a nice white beach.
- The remote campground is a very nice spot to watch the stars at night.
Camp: Lucky Bay Campsite
Day 17. Cape Le Grand National Park – Norseman
Distance: 269 km
Today we’ll have some more time to chill and explore Cape Le Grand National Park.
- You can visit Hellfire Bay, another stunning beach.
- You can also climb Frenchman Peak, from where you have the best views over the park.
- And do you have your beach selfie with a kangaroo already? Otherwise, you might need to chill a bit longer at Lucky Bay.
- Afterward, you can make your way back to Esperance and head up north towards Norseman.
Camp: 30 km south of Norseman is a free campsite next to the road.
Day 18. Norseman – Kalgoorlie
Distance: 189 km
There is not much to see in Norseman so continue heading North. You’ll come into Goldfields area now, where there are many gold and abandoned mining towns.
- First place to visit is Coolgardie, a small mining town where you can find a nice old hotel building.
- Continue to Kalgoorlie, the biggest outback mining town of Australia. First visit the famous Flying Doctors.
- Next is the Hannah’s North Tourist Mine, an interesting place where you can learn all about mining and see some huge machines!
- Directly next to Kalgoorlie is a place called Boulder. Here you can find the Metropole Hotel.
Camp: Discovery Camps Kalgoorlie Goldfields
Day 19. Kalgoorlie towards Merredin
Distance: 300 km
Today we visit some ghost towns and a huge open mine.
- Start off with visiting some old mining towns, that are (almost) completely vanished. First up is Broad Arrow, a town that had 2400 inhabitants, 8 hotels, 2 banks 2 breweries and much more. Now there is only one hotel left.
- Next is Kanowna Ghost town, a former town which is gone now. You can still see the roads and some signposts. You can also visit the old Cemetery, which was used for mining later too!
- Kalgoorlie is still an active Mining Town, one of the biggest, and you can find a huge open mine here called The Super Pit. There is a lookout over this massive hole, where you can see the huge Haul Trucks driving down below like little toys. 4 times a week they blow things up in this mine, which is awesome to witness.
- Another nice visit is the WA Museum of Kalgoorlie which is quite interesting.
- To split up the big drive back to Perth you can already leave in this direction and drive towards Merredin. There is not much to see along this drive.
Camp: 50km before Merredin is a free campsite next to the road. Enjoy the stars in the pitch black sky!
The famous Super Pit
Day 20. Merredin – Perth
Distance: 300 km
Continue going back to Perth, where you’re gonna end the South West Australia trip today. There is not much along the way. At Northam, you can visit the Burlong Pool. We already visited the Wave Rock before, but this might be a nice detour. Or you can extend your trip with a visit to the Perth Hills. Arriving in Perth, this will be the end of an awesome road trip through South West Australia!
Yay for road trips!
Camping in South West Australia
On a road trip, you, of course, spend the night outside in nature. But how do you do that in South West Australia? Do you just park your car somewhere along the road or do you go to official campgrounds? In any case, what you should know is: it is forbidden in Australia to go wild camping unless it is on a so-called rest area. These places are specially designated for this purpose. Outside of the rest areas, don’t park somewhere along the road or on a lawn or your risk a hefty fine! But how do you find these places where you are allowed to camp? Along the bigger roads there are usually plenty of free rest areas to be found, so chances are that you will probably encounter one.
In most places, you can also find regular campsites and at almost all roadhouses you can camp as well. Regular campgrounds cost about 35 dollars per night in South West Australia. You can also stay overnight at a State Campground. These are often somewhat simpler campsites with basic facilities, which are usually located in a National Park. This costs you 7,50 AUD of 10 AUD per person per night in South West Australia. You can find all State Campgrounds and book some of them on this website.
You can buy the book ‘Camps 9’ in store with all the free and paid campsites in Australia, but an even better tip is downloading the app Wikicamps. This app actually works the same as the book, but on your phone (so more convenient!) and is also much cheaper. Yes, the app costs a bit of money, but that is worth it! You really find all the camping spots in Australia and you can also see reviews from other people and what the price is. Ideal!
You can download the app here for iPhone, and here for Android.
Great spot at Conto’s Campground
We ended this road trip with 4342 km
South West Australia was truly one of the best road trips we have made through Australia, mainly because it is extremely diverse! What do you think of the route we have taken? Which places would you like to visit?
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