Western Australia has it all from a visitor perspective. The bustling energy of its capital Perth, the charm and elegance of the Margaret River region to the remote and pristine beauty of the Coral Coast and the Kimberleys.
Here are our top 5 places. The vast majority of visitors will travel by vehicle and continue onto Darwin. If you do, then these are the ‘must see places’ on a Perth to Darwin road trip. Alternatively, a Darwin to Perth road trip.
A Perth road trip can be as long, or as short as you desire. It’s a big state! We have included air travel options, just to give you some choices. Fly-drive is an option to cover the longer legs of the trip if time is an issue for you.
How Did We Pick The Top 5 Places to Visit in Western Australia
To provide a basis for our selection, and to give you some ideas to start with; the criteria we’ve applied as part of a Perth north road trip.
What’s Special: What makes it different.
Getting There: Western Australia is a big state. How easy, and quick, is it to get there.
Places to Stay: Are there different levels of accommodation to suit a range of budgets and needs.
Things to See and Do: What’s to choose from.
1. Perth – Capital of Western Australia
Perth is Australia’s most remote capital city; and a good starting point for any tour around Western Australia.
It is worth spending a few days here to experience life in a modern city with a moderate climate and kilometres of beautiful beaches on its doorstep. Cottesloe Beach, City Beach and Scarborough Beach are perfect for a swim or sundowners to watch the sun sink over the ocean.
One of the must-see locations is Kings Park. From here a visitor can enjoy the sights towards the city centre and out along the Swan River. Take the Federation Walkway, part of which is a 220-metre long bridge/walkway through tree canopy.
It’s also the home to the Art Gallery of Western Australia; which has local art and a major indigenous collection.
Airlines travel from all capital cities to Perth on daily basis and takes about 5 hours from Sydney or 4 hours from Darwin.
Access by road from the eastern states is via the Eyre Highway across the Nullabor Plain. A road trip that can take about 4 days to travel the 1,256 kilometres (781 miles) from Adelaide. The distance from Sydney to Perth is about 4,000 kilometres (2,490 miles).
For something completely different and a truly luxurious experience, take the Indian-Pacific Train from Sydney to Perth. It takes 4 days and 3 nights, and should be on everybody’s bucket list.
Places to Stay:
Because of the size of its population, there is a wide range of accommodation to choose from. From the Ocean Beach Backpackers (from $29/night) up to Como The Treasury (from $491/night), which was judged one of the world’s best hotels by Condé Naste Traveler Magazine after its opening in 2016.
Things to See and Do:
- Go Bicycling – Perth has a bikeway network around the inner city; and there’s no better way to see it from two wheels. Keep going down to Freemantle, and have a coffee break on the waterfront. Bicycles can be taken on ferries and non-peak hour trains, so if you don’t feel like riding back, take a ferry or a train. There are several bicycle hire places who will kit you out for a days ride.
- Visit Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts – PICA actively promotes a wide range of modern art forms and holds regular exhibitions. Once you’re done, then have a cocktail at the PICA Bar.
- Have A Swim at Cottesloe Beach – One of Perth’s iconic swimming beaches; with cafés, restaurants and the chance to watch the sun sink below the Indian Ocean. If you’re into celebrity spotting, this is a good place to hang out. If you are a celebrity, this is a good place to hang out.
- Eat at Long Chim – Renowned chef David Thompson has a passion for Thai street food, and his menu reflects all the subtlety and rich flavours of this wonderful cuisine.
- Get a Laugh at Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den – Which boasts live comedy every week from stand up, magic through to cabaret. Reckon you’ve got a killer joke? Then try it out on a live audience on one of their open mic nights.
2. Margaret River – Celebrated Wine Region of Western Australia
No trip to Western Australia would be complete without a visit to the South West Region. Apart from a beautiful coastline, it’s a haven for wine connoisseurs.
The wineries around Margaret River are part of the who’s who of Australian winemakers. Here a visitor will find Vasse Felix, Cape Mentelle and Leuwin Estate.
(Our Pick) However, there are smaller winemakers turning out vintages that are world class. Our pick would be Stella Bella Wines. Their labels have intriguing names like Suckfizzle, Skuttlebutt and Luminosa. If you’re looking for a top shelf red, try their 2016 Suckfizzle Cabernet Sauvignon.
(Our Pick) If craft beers are more your thing, then call into the Margaret River Brewhouse on the northern end of town. Order a taster selection of their beers, and sit out on the deck and enjoy the whole experience.
If you’re around late April/early May, be sure to take time to watch some of the surfing greats at the annual Margaret River Pro. This is a World Surfing League Championship event where the top ranked male and female surfers compete over a two-week period, and is free for all spectators. Just roll up with your chair and binoculars and take it in.
Perth to Margaret River Road Trip
Margaret River is an easy 3.5-hour drive south from Perth. There’s a lot to see and do around Margaret River, so the best way to enjoy this whole area is to hire a car in Perth.
There is a daily bus service running from Perth to Margaret River and is operated by South West Coach Lines; with the trip taking 5 hours one way.
Places to Stay:
The majority of the wineries have accommodation. However, our recommendation is to have a look at AirBnB, with some delightful, unique places to stay from $99 per night. The place we stayed at was ‘The Sandcastle’, an upmarket cottage with a loft bedroom, wood fire and loads of charm close to the centre of town.
Things to See and Do:
There are a number of tour operators in the region who take visitors to local wineries, craft breweries, chocolate factories and local cheese makers. Prices range from $75 per person up to $105.
If you’re looking for something a bit out of the ordinary, we’d suggest the following –
- Take the Train Along the Busselton Jetty – on the drive down from Perth, a good stopover is the Busselton Jetty. This a long jetty at 1.84kms (1.1 miles), but there’s a train that takes visitors out to the end to an underwater observatory.
- (Our Pick) Join an Easy Ride Tours e-Moutain Bike Tour – hop on a modern e-MTB where Dave and Jodie will lead you on a tour of some local wineries, ending back in town at the brewery. You will get to ride along some well-defined bush trails. It’s safe as you cycle through some beautiful native bushland, without having to peddle too hard to get from Point A to Point B. Takes about three hours to complete the ride at a leisurely pace.
- Drive down to Cape Leeuwin – Take a drive down Caves Road, and experience the majesty of the tall Karri and Jarrah Forests on the way to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Explore the limestone caves that dot the area. Detour into Hamelin Bay, where there’s a good chance you’ll see the stingrays close to shore.
- Visit a Fully Certified Organic Winery – The Stormflower Winery achieved full accreditation in 2016, and produce excellent wines made from organically grown grapes. They produce a full range of red and white wines.
- Browse through Providore – Providore was voted one of Australia’s Top 100 Gourmet Experiences by Australian Traveller magazine, and is a food and wine lovers paradise. They have a tasting centre where you can sample a wide selection of wines, liqueurs, homemade jams, preserves, dressings, sauces, spices and desserts.
3. Exmouth – And the Magnificence of Ningaloo Reef
The contrast between the south-west Western Australia and the mighty north-west is accentuated on arrival at Exmouth. It is hard to believe it’s the same state. Up here it’s ‘Big Sky Country’; where it’s sometimes hard to tell where the horizon is. Turquoise ocean merging into the shimmering blue of a distant sky.
The big attraction is access to Ningaloo Reef; Australia’s largest fringing reef. This makes it easy to access, as in places the reef is little more than 100 metres off shore. The Ningaloo Marine Park is home to sharks, manta rays, whales, turtles, dugong and dolphins.
However, the big one on the must-see list are the whale sharks, the largest fish on the planet. These aquatic giants are here from April through to July. To be able to see them in their natural environments is one of life’s great privileges.
The reef is over 300 kilometres (180 miles) long; with Exmouth being one of the coastal townships with the facilities to help visitors enjoy the sheer beauty of this magnificent natural wonder.
Perth to Exmouth Road Trip
- Self-drive road trip: The distance from Perth to Exmouth is around 1,250 kilometres (770 miles). If you’re driving, it’s better to have this as part of a wider Perth to Darwin road trip.
- By bus: Integrity Coachlines operate a bus service three times per week from Perth to Exmouth, the trip taking around 18 hours arriving in Exmouth around midday the following day. One-way fare is $243. Why would you go by bus when you can fly for about the same cost?
Alternative Travel by Air
- By air: QANTAS flies directly from Perth to Learmonth Airport daily. Flight time is a comfortable 2 hours and typically costs $500 return at the time of writing. You can be there in less than half a day.
The airport is 36 kilometres (22 miles) south of Exmouth, with a bus service operating between Exmouth and Learmonth. There are a number of car rental companies with booths at the airport. With everything here, booking ahead is essential.
Places to Stay:
(Budget Conscious) RAC Exmouth Cape Holiday Park – Range of camping sites (powered, unpowered, ensuite) from $43/night to 2-bedroom self-contained cabins from $156/night up to $307/night.
(Upmarket) Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort – Casual rooms, apartments & bungalows in a beachfront hotel with a pool & a seafood restaurant from $370/night. Luxury end of the scale.
(Our Pick) Ningaloo Lodge – an older lodge, but has excellent shared facilities and is a great place to relax and take it all in. From $150/night.
Things to See and Do:
Around here it’s all about adventure and experiencing the natural beauty on offer.
- Swim with the Whale Sharks – These giants of the ocean are on the reef between March and August. Best way to see them is to take an organised tour, as they provide all the gear to get the most out of the experience.
(Our Pick) Some of the operators use ultra-light aircraft to spot the Whale Sharks and guide the tour boats to maximise the opportunities to see them in their natural environment. We went with Ocean Eco-Adventures, who have a purpose-fitted boat with an experienced crew. They are not the cheapest out there, but they sure offer a great experience. Well worth considering.
- Get a Bird’s Eye View of the Reef – Take an ultralight trial introductory flight from Exmouth Aerodrome and get a unique view of the reef and nearby Cape Range National Park with Birds Eye View. Flight times are 30 minutes/60 minutes/90 minutes and start at $199. If this really gets you going, then continue training with these guys and become a pilot!
- Experience Yardie Creek – Take a walk or paddle a kayak up the creek to see Yardie Creek Gorge in the Cape Range National Park.
- (Our Pick) Relax at Froth Craft Brewery – This is got to be one of the best craft breweries we’ve ever experienced. It has a great menu; excellent surroundings and their ales aren’t too bad either.
Ningaloo Reef marine life is seasonal. Here is a short guide on when to see what.
- Whale Sharks – April to July; peak season
- Turtles – December to March; hatching season
- Coral Spawning – March and April; seven days after a full moon
- Manta Rays – May to November; when their numbers increase dramatically
- Humpback Whales – June to November; they come north to breed in warmer waters
- Reef Sharks – September to February; don’t worry, they’re harmless sharks
4. Broome – Jewel of the North
After experiencing Exmouth and Ningaloo Marine Park, Broome has as completely different feel about it. Much more ‘touristy’. Perhaps not surprising; as Broome International Airport is one of the tourist gateways to Asia. International tourists arrive via Singapore and Tokyo.
Broome is an interesting mix of tourist glitz and pristine natural beauty. Honestly, you either love it; or you can’t wait to move on.
Perth to Broome Road Trip
Self-drive road trip: the further north you travel; the longer the distance between stops. The distance between Exmouth and Broome is about 1,400 kilometres (870 miles). It will take 2 to 3 days to drive to Broome. The distance between Perth and Broome is 2,350 kilometres (1,460 miles).
Alternative Travel by Air
By air: Both QANTAS and Virgin Australia operate flights on a regular basis between Perth and Broome. Expect to pay around $650 return and be in the air for 2 hours 35 minutes. Alternatively, QANTAS operates direct flights from Darwin to Broome for about the same money; flight time around 1 hour 50 minutes.
Places to Stay:
Broome is a major tourist destination, and there is a wide range of accommodation available.
(Budget Conscious) Broome Vacation Village – Large powered campsites for $55/night peak season; less for low season. Self-contained 1- or 2-bedroom chalets from $155/night. Self-contained studio cabins from $150/night peak season.
(Upmarket) Cable Beach Club Resort & Spa – Prices range from $343/night for a basic studio unit up to $1,000+ for a top end unit.
(Our Pick) RAC Cable Beach Holiday Park – a good location close to Cable Beach, with a range of cabins and campsites available. Prices range from $180/night for roomy cabins.
Things to See and Do:
- Go for A Swim at Cable Beach. Western Australian beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world, and Cable Beach is no exception. Turquoise water lapping white sand.
- Ride a Camel at Sunset Along Cable Beach. There are three tour companies who operate camel rides, Broome Camel Safaris, Red Sun Camels, Sundowner Camel Tours. They will all look after you.
- Take a Day Trip to Horizontal Falls. Up here, there are huge tidal variations. The peak tidal surges between two narrow gorges create the effect of a horizontal waterfall.
(Our Pick) Horizontal Falls Adventures provide a number of trips to experience this natural wonder, and leave from both Broome and Derby and head out to the Buccaneer Archipelago.
- See the Staircase to the Moon. Reflections from the full moon rising over exposed mudflats creates the optical illusion of a golden staircase. It’s something not to miss.
- Watch the Sun Set Over the Pacific Ocean. There’s no better place to do this than Zanders on Cable Beach. Kick back with your favourite beverage or cocktail, and watch the sun sink below the ocean.
5. Kununurra – Gateway to the Kimberleys
Kununurra is the last frontier in North- West Western Australia. It has good accommodation, garages, shops and service stations. It is the departure point for the vast majority of the tours into the East Kimberley.
Surrounding the town is a vast farming operation, with everything from sandalwood to vegetables; all supported by the Ord River Irrigation Scheme.
Gateway to some of the iconic destinations in the East Kimberley. El Questro, Bungle Bungles, Emma Gorge, access to the Gibb River Road, Lake Argyle.
Perth to Kununurra Road Trip
Self-drive road trip: It’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s possible to drive from Darwin to Kununurra in a single day. The distance is around 850 kilometres (530 miles). If that is too long, then make a stopover at the holiday park in Timber Creek.
The drive from Broome to Kununurra is 1,065 kilometres (662 miles). It’s a long haul, with a recommended stopover at Halls Creek. Towns like Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek have strong restrictions on the serving of alcohol at the behest of the local indigenous communities.
The pick of accommodation in Halls Creek is the Halls Creek Motel. Rooms are well appointed and the licenced restaurant called Russian Jack’s attached to the motel is very good.
Alternative Travel by Air
By Air: It’s about a 3-hour flight from Perth on QANTAS or Virgin Australia. Expect to pay around $550 for a one-way ticket. The better way to go is to fly from Darwin to Kununurra, with a one-way airfare around $290 and a flight time of an hour.
Places to Stay:
The main style of accommodation in Kununurra are caravan and holiday parks. The town is a major stopover for travellers in RVs. The further north you go, the more expensive basic accommodation becomes. The laws of supply and demand.
- (Budget Conscious) Hotel Kununurra – A range of rooms are on offer, with prices ranging from $95/night (King Single) to $146/night (Premium Queen). All rooms are airconditioned and have basic tea/coffee making, bar fridge, TV, shower/toilet.
- (Our Pick) Kununurra Town Caravan Park & Villas – We stayed here during our stopover in one of the cabins. They are basic, but roomy and clean. A one-bedroom villa will set you back around $160/night in peak season. It is not the most modern place in Kununurra, but it’s centrally located in town.
- (Upmarket) Freshwater East Kimberley Apartments – Studio rooms to three-bedroom apartments are on offer. Prices range from $200/night to $470/night.
Things to See and Do:
- Drive out to El Questro Station – The main station is 83 kilometres (51 miles) from Kununurra. It’s sealed roads, except for the last 16 kilometres (10 miles). The road is normally well graded, but caution is required at a couple of the creek crossings. There’s a range of camping/accommodation on the property. The main homestead has a licenced, verandah style restaurant and mandatory gift shop. There are a number of guided tours and walks to cater for all levels of fitness and interest.
- Take a Flight Over Purnululu (Bungle Bungles) – You get to see Purnululu (Bungle Bungles), Carr-Boyd Range, Argyle Diamond Mine and the enormous Lake Argyle from the air.
- (Our Pick) Go on A Sunset Cruise on Lake Argyle -Whatever statistic is applied to Lake Argyle it’s huge. The surface area is around 1,000 square kilometres (390 square miles). There are a wide range of fish, birds and freshwater crocodiles to be seen on the lake.
- Have Breakfast at Kelly’s Knob – An early morning drive out to Kelly’s Knob rewards the visitor with views over the town and out towards the Carr-Boyd Ranges. Take some Bircher Muesli and sit on the rocky outcrop to enjoy the soft morning light.
- Walk up the Beautiful Emma Gorge -There are many gorges around the Kimberley. Some are easily accessible, others less so. On the way back from El Questro (or El Q as the locals call it), call into Emma Gorge Lodge. The walk is about 3.5 kilometres (2 miles) return along a well-marked trail. The trail is rocky in parts, and a walking pole is a handy accessory. Be rewarded at the end of the walk up the gorge by a beautiful waterfall and waterhole. Allow 3 – 4 hours to fully experience the walk and the beauty at the top of the walk.
This would be our pick of the Top 5 Places to Visit in Western Australia as part of a Perth to Darwin road trip.
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Indian-Pacific Train – https://journeybeyondrail.com.au/indian-pacific/
Long Chim Restaurant – https://longchimperth.com/
Lazy Susan’s Comedy Club – http://www.lazysusans.com.au/
Stella Bella Wines – https://www.stellabella.com.au/
Margaret River Brewhouse – https://www.margaretriverbrewhouse.com.au/
Margaret River Accommodation – www.tripadvisor.com.au/Margaret_River
Easy Ride e-Bike Tours – https://www.easyridetours.com.au/
Exmouth Accommodation – www.tripadvisor.com.au/Exmouth
Ocean Eco-Adventures – https://www.oceanecoadventures.com.au/
Broome Accommodation – www.tripadvisor.com.au/Broome
Horizontal Falls Trip – horizontalfallsadventures.com.au/brome-horizontal-falls
Hall’s Creek Motel – https://www.hallscreekmotel.com.au/
Kununurra Accommodation – www.tripadvisor.com.au/Kununurra