Western Australia… it’s somewhere pretty special. So many travellers favour the east coast, but I’m here to prove to you that a Perth to Broome road trip should be on your Australian bucket list, without a shadow of a doubt! So once you’ve sorted your mode of transport – whether that be a rental car or a DIY campervan conversion – pull up a chair, grab a local EMU beer (it’s a long one) and enjoy this ultimate Perth to Broome drive itinerary ….
Essential stops on the Perth to Broome drive
This West Coast Australia road trip itinerary is very detailed, taking you from near the bottom of the state right up to the top of it, stopping at most places of interest along the way. If you have less time, here’s the stops that you should be paying particular attention to on your Perth to Broome drive.
- The Pinnacles (Nambung National Park)
- Jurien Bay
- Kalbarri National Park
- Shark Bay
- Coral Bay
- Karijini National Park
- Port Hedland
If you’re not on a time limit, then why not see it all? Read on for the ultimate Perth to Broome drive itinerary…
The capital of Western Australia, Perth isn’t just a starting place for travellers of the west coast. Perth is my favourite city in Australia – yes, I prefer it to Melbourne and Sydney! It’s got lots of attractions within the city, an intriguing history, loads of water, beautiful surrounding nature and Fremantle – and anywhere that’s got Fremantle is a winner in my opinion.
It’s a great idea to spend some time in Perth before beginning your Western Australia road trip. Here, you can stock up with your K Mart camping essentials (the next one you’ll see is in South Hedland – which is nearly 2000km away and right at the end of your West Coast Australia road trip – a greater distance than that between London and Poland), buy all of your road trip food, get your vehicle serviced and mentally prepare for the odyssey ahead. You’ll probably want to see some sights too – here’s my best things to do in Perth and Fremantle:
- Shop around at the Fremantle markets
- Stroll on Fremantle harbour
- Take a drive to the Perth Hills; explore the vineyards and go to CORE orchard, and of course, get a coffee at BOLT
- See the gorgeous skyline of Perth from Kings Park
- Visit the art galleries and museums of Perth in the Perth Cultural Centre
- Eat at Annalakshmi, a pay what you wish Indian vegetarian restaurant on the harbour
For some more inspiration, check out these blog posts:
Remember you’ve got lots of camping ahead of you (well, you don’t have to camp everywhere, but it’s definitely the way to do the West Coast road trip on a budget). Bearing this in mind, you’ll probably want to stay in a hostel in Perth.
But where do I stay? I hear you ask
I have one answer for you: Fremantle’s Old Fire Station.
The Old Fire Station in Fremantle is a home away from home. It’s a small hostel that is housed in the former fire station which has a real ‘family’ atmosphere – just being in the hostel feels like a huge hug. The owners have thought of everything: there’s a fully equipped kitchen with ovens and a blender, roomy shelves in all the dorms, huge comfy sofas, a large TV with Netflix, PCs to use and good free WiFi.
The dorms are cheap and, for girls who want to run away from the boys – there’s a girls only area with separate toilets and a kitchen. And of course a downstairs courtyard perfect for music, drinking and socializing! The hostel is adorned in wall art and it still reflects some of its days as a fire station. It’s 200 meters away from Fremantle Railway Station, which is just half an hour on the train into Perth central. There’s really no other budget place to stay in Perth or Fremantle. Read my Old Fire Station Review for more information, or click here for rates and to book now.
Once you’re all refreshed (don’t forget to shower!) it’s time to leave that city behind…
Yanchep – half a day
You’re on the road! Yanchep National Park is just an hour away from Perth. There’s a few short walks in the area, but the best attraction is the range of wildlife. It’s one of the only places in Western Australia where you can see koalas, and there’s also great birdwatching opportunities and plenty of kangaroos. The National Park is small and is in a rural countryside setting, perfect for a picnic!
New Norcia – half a day
Heading slightly inland, New Norcia is an interesting place. It’s Australia’s only monastic town, and there’s some amazing architecture – but the place is absolutely deserted. It’s an interesting place to walk around and admire some of the cathedrals – but don’t expect to see a single soul! You can stay overnight at the monastery guesthouse, but they quoted us much more than they thought we would, so we just found a wikicamp near by.
Lancelin – half a day
Lancelin’s not on every West Coast Australia road trip itinerary, but it definitely should be. It’s home to the most dazzling white sand dunes; which are an awesome landscape for photos and a popular spot for sandboarding. It’s also quite fun to see how long it takes you to get to the top of one! From the summit of the dunes, you can see the Indian Ocean and the small settlement of Lancelin.
The Pinnacles – half a day
Love em or hate em, The Pinnacles are on everyone’s Perth to Broome road trip itinerary. They’re limestone formations within the Namburg National Park in a desert landscape. Plot twist – nobody knows how they got there. They’re quite cool to walk/ drive around – there’s a circular loop through the pinnacles which is pretty other-worldly! Try to get there for sunset if you can – it’s a really magical time of day anywhere on the west coast.
Hangover Bay – just enough time to snap a photo with the sign! (and laze on the beach if you desire)
Australia loves its weird names, and Hangover Bay is no exception. It’s a novel place to get a photo with, just for the laughs – but the beach is beautiful too and worth driving down to see. If you have a 4WD car there’s a nice 4WD track and beach access there.
Juerin Bay – half a day +
The first whiff of civilisation on your West Coast Australia road trip since leaving Perth, some 222 kilometers to the south – Jurien Bay is a reasonable-sized settlement (but don’t get too excited, there’s still not a real supermarket here) in the Coral Coast. There’s a lovely waterfront in the town, and if you’re sticking around there’s 4WD tracks to explore, beautiful beaches to enjoy and tours to see sea lions and various other wildlife!
Mount Leuseur National Park – half a day
Mount Leuseur National Park is a quiet park about half an hour inland. It’s a great place to visit if you’re road tripping Western Australia in the winter; travellers at this time will see beautiful colourful wildflowers all over the park. To be honest, the park is a bit bland out of season, but I’ve heard that the views from the summit of Mount Lesuer make the climb worth it – we didn’t climb the mountain due to it being late in the day by the time we were there.
Geraldton – 1 day
Geraldton is the largest town between Perth and Darwin. Remember that as you drive into this very average-ly sized settlement! Geraldton is a great place to get some supplies for the next leg of your road trip and enjoy some civilization before the likes of Shark Bay and the Pilbara region. Within the town are the Museum of Geraldton, Geraldton Regional Art Gallery and the Old Gaol; all which tell the tale of this town that sprung up in the middle of nowhere.
Hutt Lagoon Pink Lake and Port Gregory – Half a day
Image via Flickr by Samuel Orchard
Situated between Geraldton and Kalbarri National Park, this pink lake is so tucked away that it’s easy to miss. It’s by Port Gregory, and can chance in colour from bubblegum pink to lilac. The best time to see the lake is supposed to be the middle of the morning or sunset. The lake looks like the stuff of fairytales, but it’s actually caused by a bacteria; dunaliella salina, which trapps in the saltwater lake’s granules. Nice!
Also in nearby Port Gregory is a natural harbour with swimming and windsurfing opportunities and the Lynton Hiring Station, which, like many places in Australia, housed ex-convicts.
Kalbarri National Park – 1-3 days
Kalbarri’s where the Perth to Broome drive itinerary starts to get good. Not that it wasn’t great before, but Kalbarri’s where you start to experience the West Coast Australia road trip magic that everybody talks about. Kalbarri itself is a modest coastal town with a great supply of free drinking water (heard it here first). But Kalbarri National Park is located slightly inland… and it’s absolutely epic.
We only have one day in Kalbarri, but we could have easily spent longer. If you’re roadtripping the west coast of Australia in two weeks or less, you’ll probably only have one day here too – I’d recommend doing The Loop Trail. This 9 kilometer circuit passes Nature’s Window, travels along the top of the gorges looking down into some surreal views, then descends into the gorge itself. It’s a barren, untouched landscape where you really expect the entire cast of Jurrasic Park to come round the corner. This is Western Australia kids.
There’s also some great lookouts in Kalbarri National Park, including the Murchinson River Gorges which encompass the trail I just mentioned and Z-Bend.
Other popular spots within Kalbarri National Park – perfect if you’re spending more than one day – are
- Ross Graham Lookout
- The Kalbarri Cliffs
- Bigurda Boardwalk –a 1.2 kilometre raised walkway
- Natural Bridge
- Island Rock – which reminisces the Great Ocean Road’s Twelve Apostles!
- Bigurda Trail – an 8km walk along the clifftop path
- Red Bluff – the northern end of Kalbarri National Park and its highest point
These can all be intertwined in a gorgeous Kalbarri Ocean Drive.
Shark Bay – 2 days
A UNESCO world heritage centre, Shark Bay sits at the westernmost point of Australia. It’s the marine life that makes Shark Bay so interesting; it’s sea-grass beds are the world’s largest and richest, there is a huge sea cow population under the sea and it is home to stromatolites, some of the oldest life on the planet.
Shark Bay is also home to a variety of mammals, including the Shark Bay mouse, the Western barred bandicoot, the Shark Bay boodie and the Banded hare-wallaby! And you thought there were just sharks here!
Most of Shark Bay is on a peninsula, which is pretty long to get onto. I’d therefore recommend two days in the Shark Bay area. Because there aren’t any free wikicamps in Shark Bay, I’d recommend to use the chance to have a night off from camping and book into one of Denham’s hotels or guesthouses. Don’t worry, it still won’t cost you the earth, use this link to book with booking.com and be reimbursed $25 after you stay!
The first place you’ll visit on the Shark Bay peninsula is Nanga Bay. It’s a nice beach that is primarily taken up by a campsite – you can drive a 4WD right onto the beach and admire the blue waters from there!
Next is Shell Beach, a beach full of millions of tiny shells. It’s a little bit prickly to sit on, but really beautiful!
Denham is a cute seaside town with really clear waters and a relaxing atmosphere. It’s a great place to fuel up and pit stop before exploring more of Shark Bay.
A very resorty place, Monkey Mia is famous for feeding dolphins that come into the shore. They say that this is done ethically, but I wasn’t completely convinced… I didn’t actually witness this as it’s done in the morning. Other than the dolphins, Monkey Mia is a great place for beaches and chilling out; there’s a bar and restaurant if you fancy treating yourself to a nice meal or cocktail!
There’s also a great 4WD track in the Francois Peron National Park, which leads up to a fantastic viewpoint. However, this track is not recommended for low-clearance vehicles (like Nulla… waaa)
Another town! Canarvon is home to a woolworths and a really beautiful beachfront. Canarvon is also known a ‘the fresh produce hotspot of Western Australia’; so as well as your normal woolies essentials, you could supplement your grocery shop with some delicious local foods.
Other worthwhile attractions in the town are the One Mile Jetty – the longest jetty in the north of the state, the Heritage Precinct Museum which describes Canarvons significance throughout the 1900s and the Fascine, which is the shoreline of the town.
Just out of Canarvon, at Quobba Point are some impressive blowholes. Just don’t stand too close!
Kennedy Range National Park 1 – 2 days
Image via Flickr by Stephan Ridgeway
150 kilometers eastwards is the compelling Kennedy Range National Park, with slabs of rock (that look a bit like mini Ulurus) plastered along the horizon. It’s a great spot for stargazing and camping.
Coral Bay – 1-2 days
And up to the tropics! Coral Bay is just over the Tropic of Capricorn (obligatory: take a picture with the sign). It’s a tiny tourist town that’s focused on the Ningaloo Reef; there’s snorkelling and glass bottom boat tours, a couple of campsites, a lovely beach, a tiny shopping precinct (containing just tour shops and a bakery – it’s a fantastic bakery though) and not much else.
If you’re in need of a bit of R&R, Coral Bay’s the place to kick back and forget about the outside world for a couple of days. Chill on the beach, snorkel straight out from the shore, have a delicious dinner in the pizzeria and stay in one of the campsites. You deserve it!
There’s also the option to do a whale shark tour or a general reef trip in Coral Bay – but from what I heard, it’s cheaper to do it in Exmouth, which is a bit bigger and there’s more competition.
Exmouth – 2-4 days
Photo credit Sacha Guggenheimer @sunflowerfishh
Exmouth is your top location for when you visit the Ningaloo Reef, and a highlight of your West Coast Australia road trip. There’s quite a lot to do within the town, including:
- WHALE SHARK TOURS. They’re expensive but SO WORTH IT, if you’re in the season it’s a Western Australia must do and a massive check on your Australian bucket list. I recommend Kings (no affiliation, just a really great company).
- Cape Range National Park – there’s a few different walks, nice viewpoints, 4WD tracks (do you see a theme here…?) and beaches with amazing snorkelling. Two days is the perfect amount of time to explore the park!
- The Navy Pier Diving – it’s meant to be one of the top ten dive sites in the world. I was so sad that the weather wasn’t good enough for me to do it – my dive was actually cancelled three times before I realised with a heavy heart that at some point of my life, I did have to leave Exmouth.
- Vlamingh Head Lighthouse – a very underwhelming lighthouse with an insane view
- SS Mildura Wreck – the shipwreck of a cattle steamer 80 meters from the shore
Check out my visit Ningaloo guide for more information about Exmouth and Coral Bay.
Drive to Karijini (it will take you all day!)
The drive to Karijini is at least 7 hours, not including stops. The eastwards road contains basically no cars – I think we passed about 4 during the whole time. There’s also one of the best roadhouses I’ve ever visited – that played constant UK top 40 (or Triple J is the Aussie alternative) at a should-be illegal volume.
Karijini National Park – 3-5 days
- Walking along Dales Gorge and admiring Fortescue Falls and the stunning pools at either end
- Fearing imminent death as you descend down a handrail into the glorious (but FREEZING) Handrail Pool
- Doing a spider walk before plummeting into Kermit’s Pool
- A day’s abseiling down the gorges (!!) – I sadly did not have the funds for this but will return to do it some day!
- Ambling along the various lookouts and peering into the gorges deep below
Check out my guide to Karijini for some very through information about this national park.
Port Hedland – half a day
Five hours from Karijini, Port Hedland isn’t much but a pit stop on your West Coast Australia road trip – although, stop off in South Hedland on the way and you’ll finally get the chance to shop at a K Mart again – because that’s what you’ve been thinking about ever since you left Perth, isn’t it? 😉
It does have a DOME café (where they make decent soy cappuccinos and have good wifi), so we spent an hour refuelling and preparing for the last leg of the journey. There’s also a huge statue of a crocodile, just to warn you that you are now officially in croc county – be very afraid.
80 mile beach – half a day
There’s a great free campsite just by the 80 mile beach turn off, and the beach itself is beautiful. If you’ve got a 4WD, you can drive along the whole beach (well, I’m not sure about the whole 80 miles, at 15kmph it would take a while to figure that out) which is great fun. Per Western Australia standards, the water is blue and the sands golden!
Broome 2+ days… or a whole month
After another three hours on the North West Coastal Highway, (stopping off at one of the funkiest gas stations ever) you’ve finally made it to Broome!
There’s no doubt that you’ll be wanting a shower after all this time; I’d recommend checking into Cable Beach Backpackers for this purpose. It’s a fun, social hostel with great staff and an on-site bar. For rates and to book, use this link.
Broome’s a really unique place, with an intriguing past that covers Aboriginal history and Japanese influences from the pearling boat workers. Plus it’s set in the outback and has one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The best things to do in Broome include:
- Watch the sunset at Cable Beach
- Drink a flavoured beer at Matso’s brewery
- Explore the world’s first open air cinema
- Stroll around the Japanese cemetery
- Admire the Aboriginal art galleries
- Get really excited everytime you see a boab tree
West Coast Australia road trip Tips
Your Perth to Broome drive itinerary mostly includes the amazing things to see on the way, but there’s a few things to remember when driving around 2400 kilometers in the Australian outback. Here’s some dos and don’ts for your Perth to Broome road trip…
- DO drink A LOT of water – Western Australia has a very dry, unforgiving heat that can cause severe heat exhaustion. Aim for at least 3 litres a day and refill your tank every time you get to a clean water source.It might even be an idea to take two tanks, so if you reach a source of water that isn’t for drinking you can fill up and use it for washing up, boiling etc. and save drinking water for drinking (make sense?)
- DON’T drive at night. There’s so many animals on these roads – I was cautious when I was driving across the Nullarbor, but I saw way more in Western Australia. We actually drove past a mangled, huge body of an animal on the way out of Canarvon that we later deemed to be a feral pig. It was the size of a small elephant and I would NOT want to be in a car that hit it. Driving at night is when they’re often out and (for obvious reasons) you have more of a chance of hitting said animal.
- DO use wikicamps to find free campsites! It’s only $5 to download the app, and it’ll save you money after one use. You can also use it to find paid for campsites, drinking water, toilets, and hotels!
- DON’T shop in IGAs – unless you want to re-mortgage your house (if you have one). Stock up in groceries in Perth, Geraldton, Canarvon and Tom Price.
- DO get your car serviced before leaving Perth. I can recommend an honest mechanic if you need any tips – he’s a family friend. Just send me an email and I’ll give you all the details!
- DON’T underestimate the distances. Like all of Australia, it’s a LOT of driving. But that’s part of the fun, isn’t it!
- DO have a good playlist. By day #3, we were going a bit insane with my 300 songs on repeat…
- DON’T leave the jumpers behind. WA is hot in the day and cold at night – on our road trip in June (the start of winter), it got to 8 degrees some nights. That’s chilly when you’re just in a tent!
- DO take as many photos as possible. There’s nowhere in the world quite like Western Australia
- DON’T take your GoPro on your whale shark tour without a hand strap or a floating device. I’m sure not many people would do that but some of our GoPros are now lying remorsefully at the bottom of the Indian Ocean… (I’m talking about me, if you couldn’t guess).
How much does it cost to road trip Perth to Broome
I’m going to be honest – I’m awful at this. I know that costs are normally the number 1 question that people ask about this kind of trip, and yet I still seem to fail to make a note… I think its because keeping an eye on my expenditure forces me to see the real amount of money I spend on soy cappuccinos and then I will have to admit that I have a problem.
But I can give you a great ballpark. So here we go!
Fuel is expensive in Western Australia, and while Nulla (my Subaru) is good for a lot of things, she ain’t the most fuel efficient. I think the whole Perth to Broome drive, including detours, ended up costing us about $1000 in fuel. As I was travelling with my good friend Leanne, this was split in half so cost $500 each.
Food is subjective and can be done very cheaply or very expensive. It’s probably best to consider how much you normally spend on food each week; unless you’re eating out every night on your Perth to Broome road trip, it’ll probably be about the same. Tinned lentils and vegetables and pasta and pesto were our friends, and we spent about $50 a week on (vegetarian) food each. Multiply this by three and you have $150 on food.
I normally solely use wikicamps free campsites on road trips, but there were a few instances where we had to pay. We drove in the dark one night after Shark Bay and ended up getting freaked out because of the animals on the road so taking a quick left when we saw a sign for a campsite, which cost us $12 each. This made me realise I should never drive on these roads at night, and why I recommended you stay in Shark Bay overnight!
We also got a bit held up in Coral Bay/ Exmouth and ended up paying for a campsite for a whole week there, which cost us $140 each. If you’re a bit savvier and luckier than us (we were waiting for the whale shark tour to go ahead as the weather was insanely windy when we were in Exmouth!), you could camp at the only free campsite between Coral Bay and Exmouth after doing Coral Bay and then pay for camping in Exmouth for 2-3 nights, in order to do the whale shark tour and see Cape Range. This would cost you $40 per night for a pitch, so $120 for 3 days, and $60 each if there’s two of you.
That brings you to $1060 for three weeks’ road tripping. I’ve discounted my soy cappuccinos and the odd meal out and emu export we had here, but as far as ballparks go, I think that’s a pretty good one! Obviously, if there’s more of you, you can split petrol and food more, etc.
Western Australia isn’t the cheapest road trip destination – I did a Tasmania road trip for a month on $400! – but it’s probably the most amazing. I’m literally already planning my return to the west coast, and embark on this Perth to Broome drive itinerary once again, to do all the bits I missed out – and I’m sure once you’ll get a taste of WA’s magic, you’ll be just as hooked.
What’s the best road trip you’ve ever been on? Let me know, I want to do them ALL!
Disclosure: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase a product through these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you – in fact, the Denham booking link will end up saving you money. This is just one of the ways I keep my site running and produce all of this content for FREE! I will only ever support companies and products I fully believe in. So if you’re planning on following any of the recommendations above, please book through my links! 🙂
If you enjoyed this article, please share it or follow me on Facebook!