Quieter and wilder than the East, the West Coast is the paradise for nature lovers. You will find amazing landscapes, infinite deserts and stunning beaches. The Australian West Coast is one of the most popular road trip routes, with more than 4000 kilometres of landscapes as wild as different. You will need at least 3 weeks to go up to the West Coast (depending on your travelling speed and your itinerary). From Margaret River in the south to Darwin in the north, discover all the stages and spots not to be missed for an unforgettable trip. Here is your West Coast road trip itinerary.
Prepare your road trip
To travel the West Coast in a campervan or motorhome, allow at least 4 weeks (to be adjusted according to your itinerary and your cruising speed). If you want to make the most of it and take your time, you can easily add two weeks.
You will cover a total of around 4500 km. The West Coast is less populated and cities can be separated by great distances. So always plan for water, fuel and food.
The West Coast of Australia is huge, stretching for thousands of kilometers. The climate can, therefore, vary between the North and the South of the coast. Perth has a Mediterranean climate with average summer temperatures of 29°C but it can rise to 40 or 45 °C in February. Between June and August, temperatures hover around 12 ° C. The Coral Coast (between Broome and Perth) enjoys a warm climate all year round. Finally, Broome and the North-West benefit from sunny days during the “dry season” (April to September), with temperatures around 29 ° C. However, from October to March, there are tropical rainstorms, high humidity and temperatures around 30°C.
The best times to visit the West coast is the mid-season, between April and June, or between September and November.
Budget for a road trip on the West Coast
To take full advantage, plan a number of expenses. Make sure you have the necessary budget and take enough money with you to avoid awkward situations. Here is our estimate for a road trip from Perth to Darwin by campervan (rental) for 4 weeks and 2 people already in Australia:
- Rental of a 2-seater campervan with insurance: $2,100
- Fuel: $600
- Food: $400
- Camping nights: $150
- Tours and activities: $1,000
- Restaurants and going out: $300
Total: around $4,550 for two people or $2,275 per person
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Where to sleep on the West Coast?
Unlike the famous and crowed East Coast, the West Coast is very wild, which means you will able to camp most of the time. Of course, there will be plenty of choice in Perth or Darwin for accomodation. Outside those cities, you will find motels or roadhouses offering accommodation along the coast. The distances between point of interests, cities, can be long, so plan in advance where you will sleep if you do not want to camp.
For those who wish to camp, you will easily find places to sleep on the coast. Some of them are not for free (caravan parks and rest areas) and others are free (camp spots). Wild camping is not allowed and you may be fined. However, you will see once there that there is plenty of space and that ranger checks are quite rare in some areas. However, avoid camping anywhere, especially in tourist areas.
We advise you to buy Camp Australia Wide, a book gathering the rest areas, campsites, free or not to sleep all around Australia. You can also download the WikiCamps application ($7.99) which will tell you where you can sleep, according to your criteria (toilets/showers, free, campfire available, river close by, points of interest etc.). There is also a free version of this application, Campermate but much less complete.
How to travel along the West Coast?
Pick your vehicle
First, define the type of vehicle according to your expectations:
- a motorhome with all the comforts and amenities
- a smaller but more economical campervan
- a 4WD, you will be sleeping in the vehicle, in a tent or in a rooftop tent
- a station wagon, allowing to travel at a lower cost.
To take a road trip on the West Coast of Australia, a 4WD will allow you to reach all the national parks and remote places. You will have the opportunity to drive on the beaches, cross rivers and drive in the bush or on gravel roads. We recommend that you opt for a 4WD vehicle if you can.
Note: Some sites are only accessible by 4WD, such as the “Gibb River Road” in the Kimberleys or some parts of National Parks. However, if you want to stay on the sealed roads and discover the main tourist places, a conventional vehicle is sufficient.
You have the option of renting a campervan or motorhome in Perth or Darwin (NT). It is possible to pick up or drop off a vehicle in Broome, although there are fewer possibilities in that city.
Major rental companies
- Apollo Campervans
- Travellers Autobarn (5% discount available here: Travellers Autobarn Promo Code)
If you prefer to compare campervan and motorhome rental prices, visit this price comparison website Motorhome Republic
Another very popular option is car rental. Many agencies are present in Australia like Travellers Autobarn (station wagon), Apex, Britz, Budget, Jucy etc. Book in advance to pick and find your ideal vehicle. Rentals are booked out quickly, especially during the high season. There are many car rental agencies around Perth Airport or Darwin.
To compare car rentals in Australia: CLICK HERE
There are no trains or buses running along the entire west coast. However, you can join a group of travellers by bus. This alternative can be considered if you do not have a license, or if you do not wish to travel alone. You will have less freedom, but it also means less things to worry about: driving, refuelling, mechanical issues, etc.
- 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 also find other travellers that are looking for people to join them to share the costs. A good option if you want to travel at a lower cost. There are many posts on Facebook pages or on Gumtree. Make sure to meet your travel mates before leaving to confirm you have the same expectations.
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. Don’t miss Kings Park and its botanical garden with views on the city. Spreading on more than 400 hectares enjoy the space, the bbq areas and beautiful plants and wild flowers in the park. 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 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and the WA Museum (free – open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm) where you can discover Aboriginal art, a 25 m long whale skeleton, 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.
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 activity is its numerous street markets. Taste its many dishes on more than 150 stands, fruits, vegetables, confectionery, international food, crafts, etc …
Rottnest Island sits just offshore from the city of Perth and is a must do! This protected nature reserve, can be explored on foot or by bike. It’s home to the quokka, arguably the cutest marsupial in Australia! With white-sand beaches and secluded coves you will definitely enjoy this little paradise!
Located 3 hours South of Perth, spreads the region of Margaret River. There is a variety of landscapes with beautiful beaches, wineries, pine tree forests, caves… This area of the West Coast is renowned to produce the best Cabernet Sauvignon of the country. A tour in a winery will give you the opportunity to discover Australian wines that you can enjoy with fresh local products (seafood, cheese, jam, etc.).
Surfers will definitely find their happiness there and will be able to surf on one of the best spots in the world.
Perth to Geraldton (2 days)
Located roughly 200km, or 2 hours’ drive north of Perth, discover Nambung National Park ($15 entry fee). This Park covers an area of 17,487 hectares and is renowned for its Pinnacles. The Pinnacles are amazing natural limestone structures, formed approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago. After the Pinnacles, check out the town of Cervantes, famous for fishing and its beaches. On your way to Geraldton, stop at the popular beaches of Jurien Bay.
Geraldton to Carnarvon (4 days)
A hundred kilometers away you can check out a rare phenomenon in the world, a pink lake, 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 south (Lake Hillier). The access to the Hutt Lagoon is through the small town of Port Gregory.
Keep driving towards Kalbarri National Park. Driving along the Indian Ocean, enjoy the numerous lookouts where you can observe the red cliffs (Red Bluff, Mushroom Rock Walk Trail, etc.). Once at the National Park, the Nature’s Window is a must do. The rocks, sculpted by years have become a natural window, giving a stunning view on Kalbarri’s gorges.
Further north, Shark Bay National Park on the West Coast is one of the biggest marine sanctuaries in the world. Famous for Monkey Mia, you will be able to get close to dolphins. Shark bay is also home of a diversified marine fauna such as whales, manta rays, dolphins, sharks, dugongs, etc.
Renowned for its incredible ecosystem, you will be fascinated by Francois Peron National Park. A high-clearance, 4WD is essential to travel beyond the Peron Heritage Precinct.
Carnarvon to Exmouth (3 to 4 days)
Carnarvon is a coastal town. With a subtropical climate, temperatures are nice all year long. The city is famous among backpackers looking for a farm job. There are many fruits and veggies farms in this area.
On your way up north, stop at Lake Macleod. A lake totally dried out where you can look at local birds. Going North West via the Minilya-Exmouth road you will get to the Ningaloo National Park. Coral bay will be your starting point. The main activity is the discovery of the reef and its fauna (whales, sharks, dolphins, turtles, etc.)
Keep driving to Exmouth, until you reach the famous Cape Range National Park. There are numerous tracks to go bushwalking in the National Park. You will need at least a day to enjoy the park. You can go to Oyster Stack and Turquoise Bay to keep exploring Ningaloo Reef.
Exmouth to Karratha (1 to 2 days)
Cross the 550 kilometres desert from Exmouth to Karratha. Stop at each roadhouse to fill up your car and have a break. There is not really any interest in this part of the coast.
Karratha to Broome (2 to 3 days)
Karratha is a small coastal town located North West of Australia. It is the biggest town in the area before Port Hedland.
A few kilometres away, further inland, discover the jewel of the Pilbara, Karijini National Park. With its 6274 km², it is the second biggest park of Australia. Located a thousand kilometres north from Perth on the Hamersley Mountains, it is renowned for its stunning gorges and waterfalls. There is a large fauna, kangaroos, echidnas, geckos, goannas, snakes … There are many bushwalks, definitely check out Fortescue falls or Fern Pool.
Tom Price, the closest town, is situated 80 kilometres away from the park, in the heart of the huge Marandoo mine. The road between Karratha and Broome is mostly deserted.
Port Hedland is a harbor town on the Northern Australian coast. It is the second largest town in the Pilbara region. It is also the world’s largest bulk export port, with exports including iron ore, lithium and salt. Climate is extreme, with high temperature and low rainfall. There is only one beach (Pretty Pool)… be aware of the crocodiles.
Broome (1 to 2 days)
Broome is considered as the entry door of the Kimberley area. The charismatic town of Broome deserves a few days stopover. It is the meeting point of the red dirt desert and the turquoise water of the Indian Ocean. Enjoy the sunset 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. Broome is also offering great markets; you can go to the Broome Courthouse Market on Saturday and Sunday mornings or during full moon nights (April to October).
From Broome to Darwin (5 to 15 days)
You reached the last part of your Perth to Darwin road trip. From Broome, the road then continues to Darwin in the Northern Territory. On the way, some points of interest are worth seeing. Plan, for example, a short stop in Derby to see the giant baobabs, some of which were once used as a prison for Aboriginal people.
For those with a 4WD, you will have many more places to discover! Especially the Gibb River Road, a long track of 659 km. You will cross rivers, desert landscapes to reach beautiful gorges. Among them Windjana Gorge & Tunnel Creek or Bell Gorge.
You can also discover El Questro, cattle station with its famous falls (accessible with a conventional vehicle).
Next comes 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
With its wild and varied landscapes, its magnificent beaches, its immense national parks, the West Coast is full of activities for your road trip from Perth to Darwin. Skydive, snorkelling, diving, panoramic flight, 4WD tours, etc. There is something for everyone!
Generally, the main spots where travellers book a paid activity are:
- Margaret River: vineyard discovery, hot air ballooning or swimming with wild dolphins in Bunbury
- Ningaloo Reef, the Little Barrier Reef: diving with whale sharks, manta rays, humpback whales…
- Discover the Kimberleys, an area as arid as it is splendid!
- Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungle) with its impressive domes.
Tips & Tricks
Protect your skin as much as possible. The sun is very strong in Australia, which is the country with the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.
The mosquito repellent will also be very useful during this trip, especially after dark.
Get up early is the key to a successful road trip. In Australia, it gets very hot in the afternoon and it quickly becomes unbearable.
Never drive at night. The lack of light makes roads dangerous and wild animals can come out of nowhere at any time. Car rental companies even ban night driving for these reasons.
On the road, remember to refuel regularly or have tanks because distances are long. Also fill up with water regularly.
Download the complete West Coast Guide
Download the Complete Guide for a West Coast Road Trip
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 07/06/2022