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West Coast of Australia: Perth to Darwin road trip itinerary

West Coast of Australia: Perth to Darwin road trip itinerary

Quieter and wilder than the East Coast, the West Coast of Australia is a paradise for nature lovers. Here you will discover gorgeous landscapes, sprawling desert plains and heavenly beaches! The West Coast of Australia is one of the most popular routes on the continent for a road trip, with more than 4000 kilometres of landscapes as wild as they are varied. From Margaret River in the South to Broome in the North, discover all the best stops and spots not to be missed for an unforgettable trip.

How much time do you need for your road trip? 

Duration

To travel the West Coast by campervan, 4WD or motorhome, give yourself at least 3 weeks (we recommend 4 weeks – to be adjusted according to your itinerary and your driving speed). If you want to make the most of it and take your time, allow at least 6 weeks.

Distances

You will cover nearly 4500km in total. The West Coast is less densely populated than the rest of Australia and cities can be separated by long distances. Make sure you always enough food, water and fuel.

Best time to travel the West Coast

The West Coast of Australia is huge – it stretches for thousands of kilometres. The climate can therefore vary a lot between the North and the South. Perth enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with average temperatures of 29°C in summer but this can rise to a scorching 40°C/45°C in February. Between June and August, during the winter season, temperatures hover around 12°C. The Coral Coast (between Broome and Perth) enjoys a warm climate all year round. Finally, from Broome to the North-West, you will enjoy beautiful sunny days during the “dry season” (from April to September) with temperatures around 29°C. On the other hand, from October to March, expect tropical rainstorms and high humidity. Temperatures hover around 30°C.

THE BEST TIMES TO VISIT THE WEST COAST ARE MID-SEASON, BETWEEN MARCH AND MAY, OR BETWEEN SEPTEMBER AND NOVEMBER.

Climate in Darwin

Jan.Feb.Mar.Apr.MayJune
🌡️ Min (°C)252525242220
🌡️ Max (°C)323132333230
🌧️ Days of rain212020921
JulyAug.Sept.Oct.Nov.Dec.
🌡️ Min (°C)192020232525
🌡️ Max (°C)303131333333
🌧️ Days of rain11271217

Climate in Perth

Jan.Feb.Mar.Apr.MayJune
🌡️ Min (°C)17172013109
🌡️ Max (°C)323228262219
🌧️ Days of rain2124912
JulyAug.Sept.Oct.Nov.Dec.
🌡️ Min (°C)889101315
🌡️ Max (°C)181820232629
🌧️ Days of rain14138542

West Coast road trip budget

To have a successful trip, you’ll need to budget carefully. Make sure you have enough money (both in your bank account and in cash) to avoid awkward situations. For your information, here is our estimated budget for a 1-month van road trip (rental) for 2 people:

  • 2-seater van rental, including insurance: $3,000
  • Fuel: $950 (for an average of 200km traveled per day at an average rate of $1.66/L and a consumption of 10L/100km)
  • Food: $500 (for no-frills food)
  • Campsite fees: $300 (1 night/5 or 6 nights at the rate of $50/night)
  • Excursions and activities: $950
  • Restaurants and outings: $470

Total: $6170 for two people or $3085 per person.

Road Trip Budget Calculator

Calculate your road trip budget according to your needs. Free and easy!

Where to stay on the West Coast?

Unlike the famous (and touristy) East Coast, the West Coast is very wild, which means camping most of the time. You will find motels or roadhouses offering accommodation along the coast. However, the distances between these accommodations can be long, so plan where you will be sleeping in advance if you don’t want to find yourself having to camp in the middle of nowhere!

For those who plan to camp, you will easily find places to sleep on the coast. Some of them charge fees (caravan parks and rest areas) and others are free (camping spots or free camps). Wild camping, i.e. camping outside of designated areas, is generally not permitted and if you’re caught you could be landed with a big fine. However, you will see once you’re on the coast that there is no shortage of space and ranger checks are rare. Avoid wild camping in popular tourist areas. 

We advise you to buy a book called Camp Australia Wide, which details more than 1000 free and paid camping areas where you can sleep in Australia. It is currently available for $83 on the official website. You can also download the WikiCamps mobile app, which lists places where you can sleep according to your criteria (whether there are toilets/showers, whether you have to pay, whether you can make a fire, whether there are bins, points of interest etc). The app is $7.99 – a bargain for the wealth of information it offers! We can assure you that it will come in handy during your road trip! There is also a free version of the app, Campermate, but it is unfortunately much less thorough than WikiCamps. 

How to travel along the West Coast?

Pick your vehicle

First, choose your type of vehicle according to your needs: 

  • a motorhome with all the comforts and amenities
  • a smaller but more economical campervan
  • a 4WD: you can sleep in the vehicle, in a tent or in a rooftop tent
  • a station wagon: you can save on travel this way. 

For a road trip on the west coast of Australia, a 4WD will allow you to visit all the national parks and remote locations not accessible by other types of vehicles. You will have the opportunity to drive across beaches and rivers and drive in the bush or on gravel roads. We strongly advise you to opt for a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Note that some sites are only accessible by 4WD, such as some campsites for example, or the famous Gibb River Road in the Kimberleys. However, if you want to stay on the marked paths and only explore the main tourist sites, a two-wheel drive vehicle will be fine.

Campervan rental

You have the option of renting a campervan or motorhome in Perth or Darwin (NT). Note that it is also possible to pick up or drop off a vehicle in Broome, although you will have fewer options to choose from.

Main rental companies

If you prefer to compare campervan and motorhome rental prices, visit the price comparison website Motorhome Republic

Car rental

Another very popular option is car rental. You will find many different agencies across Australia, including Britz and Travelers Autobarn. Remember to plan ahead to nab your ideal vehicle because rentals go quickly, especially in high season. You will find many car rental agencies around Perth airport or in Darwin.

To compare car rentals in Australia: CLICK HERE

Public transport

There are no trains or buses that run along the entire west coast. However, you can join a group of travellers by bus. This is an option if you don’t have your driving licence or don’t want to travel alone. You will have less freedom in your route, but that also means less things to worry about, like driving, refuellng, changing wheels in the event of a puncture, etc.

Bus companies:

  • Integrity Coach Lines: “hop on/ hop off” system between Perth and Broome.
  • Greyhound: only between Broome and Darwin.
  • Why Not Bus: group trip with tours to the emblematic places between Perth and Broome (Pinnacles, Karijini National Park, Exmouth, etc.).
  • The Magic bus: a group of 25 backpackers (from Perth to Broome, from March to November only).

Carpool or lift

You can find fellow travellers looking for people to join them on the road to split travel costs. This can be a good option if you want to meet new friends and save money. There are many ads on Facebook and Gumtree. Make sure you meet your road trip buddies before you leave, to make sure you get along and are on the same page.

Perth to Darwin Road trip Itinerary

Perth and its Surroundings (5 to 6 days)

The capital of WA, Perth

Located on the banks of the Swan River, Perth is the capital of Western Australia. Cosmopolitan and modern, Perth is the most isolated city on the planet and continues to grow and develop. Don’t miss Kings Park and its botanical garden. Sprawling over more than 400 hectares, you can enjoy the green space, the BBQ areas and the beautiful plants and wild flowers in the park. The more adventurous can climb the 101 steps leading to the highest point of the park for an exceptional view of the city and the river. Elizabeth Quay is also very pleasant for strolls on the seafront.

The Perth Cultural Center, in Northbridge, houses the Art Gallery of WA (free – open from 10am to 5pm) and the WA Museum (free – open from 9.30am to 5.00pm) where you can discover Aboriginal art, a 25m long whale skeleton and meteorites, as well as the “old jail” built in 1856 and which is now part of the museum.
Open daily, the Perth Zoo is dedicated to wildlife conservation and is home to no less than 160 different species.

Perth to Darwin

Fremantle

Fremantle is a small town of 25,000 people located 19 kilometres southwest of Perth. “Freo” stands out for its history, closely linked to that of 18th-century convicts. Today, Fremantle’s main tourist attraction is its numerous street markets. Taste its many dishes across more than 150 stands: fruits, vegetables, confectionery, international food, crafts, etc …

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island sits 19km offshore from the city of Perth and is a must do! This little island paradise and protected nature reserve can be explored on foot or by bike. It’s home to the quokka, arguably the cutest marsupial in Australia! They aren’t scared to approach humans, so if you’re lucky you can get a selfie with one!

You can take many different day trips here (an adventure boat, for example) or guided tours that last just a few hours, like a Segway tour. There are also activities like parachute jumping, whale watching, etc.

To get to Rottnest Island, you will have to take a ferry from Fremantle or Perth. We advise you to book the ferry and bike rental package, to make the most of your trip.

rottnest island

Margaret River

Three hours South of Perth, you’ll find the Margaret River region. The landscapes here are very rich: white sand beaches, hills dotted with vineyards, wild pine forests, interesting rock formations…The South-West region, which has more than a hundred vineyards, will delight lovers of good wine. Surfing enthusiasts will also be able to indulge their passion on one of the best spots in the world to catch a wave.

Between Perth and Margaret River, stop at Eagle Bay and enjoy the scenery. If you have some time to spare, visit some of the small towns that border the ocean. With any luck, you’ll have the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins at the Dolphin Discovery Center in Bunbury.

Perth to Geraldton (2 days)

Three hours from Perth, head north on Indian Ocean Drive to reach Nambung National Park. This park is famous for its rock formations (the Pinnacles) that look like stalactites. It is possible to get there on foot or (when weather conditions allow) to follow a track with your own vehicle right in the middle of these strange totems. At the exit of the Pinnacles, you can visit the village of Cervantes, renowned for its fishing and its white sand beaches. On your way to Geraldton, stop at the famous and popular beaches of Jurien Bay. Surfers and windsurfers will also want to take the opportunity to stop in Geraldton for a dip.

pinnacles

Geraldton to Carnarvon (4 days)

A hundred kilometers away you can check out a rare phenomenon in the world, a pink lake called Hutt Lagoon. The colour of the water is due to the large presence of the carotenoid-producing algae, Dunaliella Salina, in the lake. There are 2 pink lakes in Australia – the other one is located in the south of the country (Lake Hillier). Access to the Hutt Lagoon is via the small town of Port Gregory.

Continue your drive to Kalbarri National Park. Along the Indian Ocean, take advantage of the many viewpoints to take in the spectacular red cliffs (Red Bluff, Mushroom Rock Walk Trail, etc.). Once at the national park, you’ll find fascinating local flora and fauna. Different options are available to you: hiking, climbing, kayaking, cruises, 4WD rides…Whatever you choose, don’t miss the “nature’s window” spot. The rock, sculpted by time, has turned into a natural window offering breathtaking views of the Kalbarri Gorge.

Kalbarri

Further north, Shark Bay National Park on the West Coast is one of the biggest marine sanctuaries in the world. Famous for the town of Monkey Mia, you can approach the dolphins playing in the water and maybe even feed them some fish! Shark Bay is also home to a variety of marine wildlife: whales, manta rays, sea turtles, sharks and dugongs. Known for its extraordinary ecosystem, you will be fascinated by the François Perron National Park, where you will find one of the only sites in the world where you can observe marine stromatolites. These exceptional geological formations, resembling small domes, were built by microbes more than 350,000 years ago. A little further, Shell Bech beach is one of the few beaches made up entirely of shells!

Perth to Darwin

Carnarvon to Exmouth (3 to 4 days)

Carnarvon is a coastal town and the last major town before you get to Karratha. Blessed with a subtropical climate, the temperature is pleasant all year round. The city is popular with backpackers looking for odd jobs on the farms. Many fruits and vegetables grow there throughout the year (but there is also a lot of competition for work).

On your way north, stop at Lake Macleod, a partially dry lake that allows you to observe the birds of the region. Going up towards the North West point via the Minilya-Exmouth Road, you will arrive at the Ningaloo Marine Park. Coral Bay will be your starting point – a small coastal town very popular with Australian tourists and backpackers. The main attractions are the exploration of the coral reef and the marine wildlife (turtles, humpback whales, whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, dugongs, etc.).

Continue on to the town of Exmouth to set off on an excursion to the famous Cape Range National Park. There are many different walks and gorges to discover in the park. Give yourself at least one day if you want to fully enjoy the park. You can also visit Oyster Stack and Turquoise Bay to continue exploring the Ningaloo Reef.

Coral bay

Exmouth to Karratha (1 to 2 days)

Cross the desert for 550 kilometres between Exmouth and Karratha. We advise you to stop at each roadhouse to refuel and enjoy a short break. There is not really much to see in this part of the coast.

Karratha to Broome (2 to 3 days)

Karratha is a small coastal town in northwest Australia. It is the largest town in the area ahead of Port Hedland. The city is essentially industrial.

A few kilometers after Karratha, more inland, you’ll find the jewel of the Pilbara: Karijini National Park. Covering 6274 km², it’s the second biggest park in Australia. Located 1000 kilometres north of Perth, it is renowned for its gorges and waterfalls. It is also home to lots of wildlife: kangaroos, echidnas, geckos, goannas, snakes and more. There are also many bushwalks on offer – definitely check out Fortescue falls or Fern Pool.

Karijini National Park

Tom Price, the nearest town, is 80 kilometres from the park, in the heart of the huge Marandoo iron mine. The road between Karratha and Broome is mostly desert. Port Hedland is a port city on the Australian North Coast. Its deep water makes it the main port in the region for receiving oil and containers. Its climate is harsh, with very high temperatures throughout the year and little rainfall. Port Hedland is not really a tourist town. There is only one beach, but be very careful of the crocodiles!

Broome (1 to 2 days)

Broome is considered the gateway to the Kimberley area and deserves a few days stopover. It is where the red dirt desert meets the turquoise water of the Indian Ocean. Enjoy the sunset while riding a camel on Cable Beach. Discover the history of the pearl industry and admire the most beautiful pearls in the world in the city centre shops. You can also discover dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point.

Each year from March to October, Staircase to the Moon takes place. It is a natural phenomenon which occurs when a full moon rises over the exposed tidal flats of Roebuck Bay. An excellent opportunity to share a beer on the beach and take a few snaps for your Instagram account! Broome also has some great local markets; you can visit the Broome Courthouse Market on Saturday and Sunday mornings or during full moon nights (April to October). 

Broome
© Tourism Australia

From Broome to Darwin (5 to 15 days)

From Broome, the road then continues to Darwin, located in the Northern Territory (NT). Along the way, you’ll find a few points of interest. For example, plan a short stop in Derby to see the giant baobab trees, some of which were once used as prisons for Aboriginal people.

For those with a 4WD, you will have many more places to discover, especially the Gibb River Road, a 659km track. You will cross rivers and desert landscapes to reach beautiful gorges. Among them Windjana Gorge & Tunnel Creek or Bell Gorge.

You can also discover El Questro, a cattle station with famous waterfalls (accessible with a standard vehicle).
Next up is Kununurra, a small town in the heart of the Kimberleys, perfect for excursions to explore the region.

You then cross the border to enter the Northern Territory and reach Katherine for a short cruise among the crocodiles. Then it’s time to head to the capital of the Northern Territory, Darwin. On the way, you can stop for a few days at Litchfield National Park, a must in the Northern Territory.

West Coast tours and activities

West Coast Tours and Excursions

With its wild and varied landscapes, its magnificent beaches and its huge national parks, the West Coast is full of activities that you can indulge in during your road trip. Parachute jumping, snorkeling, scuba diving, scenic flights, 4WD tour, etc. There is something for everyone!

Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle)

The Bungle Bungle Range is a fantastic natural formation made of beehive-shaped sandstone domes. It is one of Australia’s few World Heritage Sites. There are many ways to discover this unusual place, by hiking or from the air. There are plenty of beautiful walks (Cathedral Gorge, Doms Walk, Mini Palms Gorge, Echnida Chasm) as well as charming local art sites and abundant fauna and flora.

Apart from Purnululu National Park, here are the main fee-paying spots travellers visit:

Margaret River

The Margaret River region developed over 60,000 years ago. It is an important place in Aboriginal culture, since it is the traditional land of the Wadandi people (salt water). Take the time to visit the city and its surroundings to fully immerse yourself in the climate that reigns here. The best excursion you can take to Margaret River is a day trip from Perth. During this trip, you will visit Busselton Jetty and the lighthouse of Cape Leeuwin, as well as Mammoth Cave.

Ningaloo Reef, the little Barrier Reef

This incredible reef, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is absolutely worth a detour during your West Coast road trip! Its multicoloured corals, crystal clear waters and exceptional marine life combine to create an underwater paradise. Here you’ll discover colourful tropical fish, dugongs, reef sharks, humpback whales, whale sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, and more. You will be amazed by the much richness and beauty around you! We recommend the following activities:

The above are really must-sees in the region and definitely worth the money! You’ll come home with memories to last a lifetime.

The Kimberleys

Extending over an area of ​​more than 423,000 km2, the Kimberleys offer some of the most beautiful landscapes in Western Australia. Here you will discover spectacular gorges and cliffs as well as majestic waterfalls and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with their coral reefs and tropical islands. Explore the many hidden caves and Aboriginal rock art. The main bucket list activity here is a scenic cruise over the reefs of Swans Bay Waterfall, a 2-hour sea safari during which you can observe the natural phenomenon of the tides.

Tips & Tricks

Protect your skin as much as possible during this road trip. The sun is very strong in Australia, it is not for nothing that it is the country with the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.

Bug spray will also be very useful during this trip, especially after dark.

Get up early – it’s the key to a successful road trip. In Australia, it can get unbearably hot in the afternoon.

Never drive at night. The darkness makes the roads much more dangerous. Wild animals can come out of nowhere at any time. Vehicle rental companies also prohibit driving at night for this reason.

On the road, remember to refuel regularly or to have reserves of gas because the distances are long. Also fill up with water as often as possible!

Download the complete West Coast Guide

Our FREE 40-page guide brings together all the info you need for your West Coast Road Trip in Australia:

  • Prepare your trip (seasons, budget)
  • All the best spots to do on the Coast
  • Tours & activities recommendations
  • Spots to park and sleep in a campervan

Updated on 15/06/2023

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1 COMMENT

  1. Last year I visited Western Australia and love it. Definitely, recommend everyone to visit Peth and Margaret River region – with all those gorgeous beaches, ahh. For everyone searching for a campsite, I would recommend CamperMate app as its free, plus you can even download a database of camps to your phone to not use internet on the go. For more camping tips in Western Australia check our blog. 😉

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