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. You will need at least 3 weeks to go up to the West Coast (depending on your travelling speed and your itinerary). From Perth to Darwin here are all the spots you shouldn’t miss. 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
Road Trip Budget Calculator
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Where to sleep on the West Coast?
Unlike the touristy and famous East Coast, the West Coast is very wild, which means camping most of the time. Of course, there will be plenty of choice in Perth or Darwin. However, outside those cities, you will find motels or roadhouses offering accommodation along the coast. However, the distances between these accommodations 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). Wilderness camping, that is, outside of these areas, is generally not allowed and you may be fined. However, you will see once there that there is no shortage of space and that ranger checks are rare. However, avoid camping anywhere, especially in tourist areas.
We advise you to buy Camp Australia Wide, a book gathering the areas, campsites, free and paid to sleep throughout the Australian territory. You can also download the WikiCamps application which will tell you where you can sleep, according to your criteria (presence of toilets/showers, free, possibility of making a fire, presence of a river, emptying stations, d ‘information, points of interest etc.). It costs €5.49 but there is also a free version of this application which is Campermate but much less complete.
Means of transport
Types of vehicles
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 4 × 4 while sleeping in the vehicle, in a tent or with 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 4 × 4 will allow you to reach all the national parks and remote places. You will have the opportunity to ride on the beaches, cross rivers and drive in the bush or on gravel roads. We, therefore, recommend that you opt for a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Note that some sites are only accessible by 4 × 4, such as certain campsites for example, or the “Gibb River Road” in the Kimberleys. However, if you want to stay on the marked paths and discover the main tourist places, a two-wheel-drive vehicle will be quite sufficient.
You have the option of renting a campervan, motorhome in Perth or Darwin (NT). Note that it is possible to collect 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 in Australia, visit this price comparison website: www.motorhomerepublic.com.
A very popular option is car rental. Many agencies are present in Australia like Britz or Travellers Autobarn. Book it in advance to choose and find your ideal vehicle because rentals are booked out quickly, especially in high season. There are many car rental agencies around Perth Airport or Darwin.
Compare car rentals in Australia: CLICK HERE
There are no trains or buses running along the west coast. However, you can join a group of travellers by bus. This alternative can be considered if you do not have a permit, or if you do not wish to travel alone. You will have less freedom on your route, but it also means less things to manage: driving, refuelling, changing the wheels in the event of a puncture, 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. An interesting solution if you want to travel at a lower cost. There are many posts on Facebook or on Gumtree. Remember to meet your travel mates before departure to make sure you have the same expectations.
Perth to Darwin Road trip Itinerary
Perth and its Surroundings (5 to 6 days)
Perth, capital of WA
Bordered by the Indian Ocean and located on the banks of the Swan River, Perth is the capital of Western Australia. The first destination on your road trip from Perth to Darwin. A cosmopolitan and modern city, the most isolated on the planet, Perth never stops growing. Visit Kings Park and its botanical garden in particular. On more than 400 hectares take advantage of its vast expanses, barbecue areas and wild flowers in the park. The most daring will 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 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
WA Museum (free – open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm) where you can discover a superb collection of 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, nicknamed Freo, is a small town of 25,000 people located 19 kilometres southwest of Perth. “Freo” stands out for its history-laden character, closely linked to that of 18th-century convicts. Today, Fremantle’s main tourist activity is its various street markets. Taste its many dishes present on more than 150 stands, fruits, vegetables, confectionery, international food, crafts, etc …
Rottnest Island, 19 km from Perth, is also a must. This little paradise island can be discovered on foot or by bike. It is home to the adorable Quokkas, arguably the cutest marsupial in Australia! You can take your famous selfie with it.
Located only 3 hours South of Perth, discover the region of Margaret River. Landscapes are really rich, beaches, hills full of wineries, pine tree forests, etc. There are hundreds of wineries for the pleasure of wine lovers. 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.). After having treated yourself with some delicious food, enjoy the white sand beach, the majestic forests and the caves in the rocks.
People who like surfing will definitely find their happiness there and will be able to surf on one of the best spots in the world.
Going north, stop at Eagle Bay and have a look at the landscape. If you have a bit of time, check out the small towns on the ocean side. You might get lucky and have the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins at Dolphins Discovery Centre in Bunbury.
Perth to Geraldton (2 days)
3 hours north of Perth, take Indian Ocean Drive to go to Nambung National Park. The Park is renowned for its Pinnacles looking like dirt stalagmites. It is possible to walk to them or (when climate conditions are optimal) you can get to them by car following a dirt track. After the Pinnacles you can have a look at the town of Cervantes, famous for fishing and its white sand beaches. On your way to Geraldton, stop at the popular beaches of Jurien Bay. Surfers and kite-surfers will then stop at Geraldton for a dip.
Geraldton to Carnarvon (4 days)
A hundred kilometers away you can check out a rare phenomenon in the world, a pink lake. This pretty abnormal color is due to special bacterium. There are 2 in the country, 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 points of view where you can observe the red cliffs (Red Bluff, Mushroom Rock Walk Trail, etc.). Once at the National Park observe the fauna and flora. You have the choice between various activities, bushwalking, kayak, cruise, 4WD. Also, the Nature’s Window spot is unmissable. 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, real touristic attraction, you will be able to get close to dolphins and maybe even feed them some fish. Shark bay is also home of a diversified marine fauna, whales, manta rays, dolphins, sharks, dugongs, etc. Renowned for its incredible ecosystem, you will be fascinated by François Perron National Park where you will find one of the only sites in the world where you can see marine stromatolites. These exceptional geological formations alike domes would have been built by germs 350 000 years ago. A bit further Shell Beach lives up to it’s name being made out of shells.
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 but competition is strong.
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, a coastal town loved by Australian tourists and backpackers. The principal activity is the exploration 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 kilometers desert from Exmouth to Karratha. Stop at each roadhouse to fill up your car and have a break. As you can see, 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 situated North West of Australia. It is the biggest town in the area before Port Hedland. It is essentially industrial.
A few kilometres away, further in the bush, discover the jewel of the Pilbara, Karijini National Park. With its 6274 km², it is the second biggest park of Australia. Situated 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, we really advise you to 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. In deep sea water, the harbour is the mostly use for mineral and salt transportation. Climate is extreme, with extremely high temperature and low precipitation. There is only one beach (Pretty Pool) be aware of the crocodiles.
Broome (1 to 2 days)
This place on the West Coast is considered as the entry door of the Kimberley area, the charismatic town of Broome deserves a few days stopover. This little touristic town 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 will even discover dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point.
Each year from March to October, the phenomenon Staircase to the moon takes place. The moon reflects on the ocean creating a kind of staircase. A perfect opportunity to share a beer on the beach while taking some pictures for your Instagram account. Broome is also offering great markets; you can, for example, 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 chapter on 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 shortstop in Derby to observe the giant baobabs, some of which were once used as a prison for the Aborigines.
For people with a 4 × 4, you will have many more places to discover! Especially the Gibb River Road! A long loan track of 659 km only passable by 4 wheel drive. 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 by conventional vehicle).
Next comes Kununurra, a small town in the heart of the Kimberleys, ideal for excursions to explore the region.
You then cross the border to enter the Northern Territory and join 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. Parachute jump, snorkelling, diving, panoramic flight, 4 × 4, etc. There is something for every taste!
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 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
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 are present and can come out of nowhere at any time. Car rental companies even ban night driving for these reasons.
On the road, remember to buy fuel regularly or have reserves because the 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 02/07/2020. First published on 24/02/2017