The West Coast of Australia was our FAVOURITE part of our 2 years in Oz, especially this road trip. I made a budget friendly guide before we left, researching campsites and activities ahead of time to make sure we always had the cheapest deals possible. Hopefully this guide helps some of you out! Here is my Perth to Exmouth 2 week road trip itinerary in Western Australia.
Perth → The Pinnacles Desert (Driving time: 2hrs 20min)
$12 per vehicle / Or buy a Holiday Park Pass to access the Parks for free for the next 4 weeks!
Check out these strange limestone formations in the desert within Nambung National Park. You can either drive along the loop (4km) through all the formations, with plenty of spots to pull over and park to take pictures, or you can take the trail and walk through the park (about 1 hr). We did both! We’d really recommend the trail, it didn’t take too long, AND NO ONE DOES IT. We were almost the only ones out there, and it takes you away from the road.
The Pinnacles → Galena Bridge Camp (Driving time: 4hrs)
Other stops you may want to consider (and possibly extend into a second day to cut the driving):
- Lake Thetis – Check out some stromatolites (living fossils)! You’ll see much more in Shark Bay later on in this trip at the famous Hamelin Pool.
- Jurien Bay
- Green Head
- Hutt Lagoon – A PINK Lake! It’s pretty wild, definitely do the mini detour for this.
- Principality of Hutt River – Get your passport stamped in this very odd country within a country!
Camping: Galena Bridge Camp (FREE)
Review: It’s a huge rest area, plenty of room. Toilets were fine, and the road wasn’t too noisy at night, just the occasional road train. If you’re lucky you can get a beautiful spot by the river with a bit of privacy. We stayed here twice, the first time was very quiet, but the second there were a lot of drunk people yelling and constantly driving in and out of the campground.
Galena Bridge Camp → Kalbarri National Park (Driving time: 1hr)
Kalbarri National Park
$12 per vehicle / Free with Holiday Park Pass
Wake up early and drive over to Nature’s Window! (Don’t lie, that Instagram pic is the only reason you’re here). If you are into hiking and have the time, do the whole 8km loop trail! We really enjoyed it and hardly anyone does it so it’s pretty peaceful (minus all the flies).
TIP: Bring a fly net for your face! Someone offered us $100 for ours on this hike. I AM NOT JOKING, they are UNBEARABLE and will crawl all over your eyes and mouth. Don’t believe me? Here’s a pic of me in Western Australia on a hike I forgot my fly net on, (ON A GOOD DAY with only a few flies around).
After this head over to the next most popular stop, Z Bend and take in the views of the meandering canyon. There are a couple other stops and trails to check out in Kalbarri as well.
Camping: Murchison House Station ($12.50 pp – Open April to October)
Review: Best campsite around Kalbarri if you’re on a budget! It was a really nice and quiet location right by the river. The kitchen was clean and fully equipped with everything you need including a fridge. Bathrooms were also clean with hot showers! We had no problem finding a site or getting there along the unsealed road in our 2WD. NOTE: WRONG DIRECTIONS ON GOOGLE MAPS/THEIR WEBSITE. Google maps will actually take you to Kalbarri Quadbike Safaris. Keep driving straight past this until you see a large Murchison House Station sign on the side of the road, turn left and drive along the unsealed road until you reach the station.
Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs
Head through town and hit up all the Coastal Cliffs walks. The red landscape around here is straight out of Mars, it’s pretty unique.
There’s also a pelican feeding every morning at 8:45am. You better believe we hit that shit up. The volunteers were actually super informative and I learned a lot of interesting facts about pelicans #biologynerds. Kalbarri also has a surf break at Jakes Point for experienced surfers. If you’re more interested in below the surface, then check out the Blue Holes for a great snorkel within a limestone reef system.
Looking for more detailed information on Kalbarri? Check out my Adventure Guide to Kalbarri National Park!
Camping: Galena Bridge Camp (FREE)
Kalbarri → Shark Bay (Driving time: 4 hrs)
Shark Bay – Francois Peron National Park
On your way into Shark Bay, stop at Hamelin Pool and check out the stromatolites! These living fossils are built by cyanobacteria, which are the earliest record of life on earth at 3,500 million years old.
Next stop: Shell Beach. It’s a beach…COMPLETELY MADE OF SHELLS. The beach stretches for 70km and the shells are packed up to 10m deep! In the early 1900s the cockle shells were collected, hard packed, and cut into blocks to be used to construct buildings in the nearby town of Denham.
The town of Denham didn’t seem to have much going on in it, and it’s pretty tiny. There are lots of other activities to do in Shark Bay like 4WD on beaches, kayaking, and wildlife boat tours, but it’s all fairly expensive. If you’re on a budget, stick to the free stuff like Little Lagoon, Nanga Bay, or spot some sharks and turtles from Eagle Bluff!
Keep your eyes peeled on the road for a Spiny Thorny Devil! Sadly we didn’t see one but they’re pretty common for tourists to see on the drive towards Shark Bay. Instead, we did see emus hanging around town.
Camping: Eagle Bluff, Fowlers Camp, Whale Bone Bay, or Goulet Bluff ($15 per site)
These are the CHEAPEST campsites around Shark Bay. You HAVE to call or visit the Shark Bay Visitor Centre THE DAY OF to reserve a permit for yourself. You can’t book a spot ahead of time, it has to be the day of, and each site only has about 4 permits so make sure you do it first thing in the morning. A ranger came to check very early in the morning that we had permits.
Review: We stayed at the Eagle Bluff campsite after checking out Eagle Bluff itself and spotting sharks and turtles from up above! None of these sites have toilets, but Eagle Bluff does have quite a bit of privacy among the dunes. It’s a beautiful location right down on the beach and very quiet. (Eagle Bluff is the closest of the 4 campsites to Denham/Monkey Mia).
Eagle Bluff → Monkey Mia (Driving time: 40min)
$15 per person (Holiday Pass is not accepted here).
Some people told us to stay away from this tourist trap, but truthfully we both enjoyed it. Getting to see multiple dolphins (NOT in captivity) a metre or less away from you was pretty cool. Plus the staff were super knowledgeable, sharing information about specific dolphins in front of you, the impact the feeding has had on the dolphins over the years and an insight into the research they perform there. We hit up the first feeding at 7:45am as we heard the most dolphins show up for the first feeding of the day – we weren’t disappointed!
Monkey Mia → Carnarvon (Driving time: 4 hrs)
Buy groceries and fill up on petrol in Carnarvon because it’s the last town that has any resources before you get to the isolated Quobba.
Quobba is a little out of the way, but we loved it! I’d recommend it for people looking to get off the beaten path, especially if you love to snorkel! As you enter Point Quobba, take a picture in front of the famous King Waves Kill sign.
Then turn left and head towards the Blowholes. The wave action and blowholes here were pretty cool to watch for a while.
If you drive past the Blowholes and park at the campground (Sorry, it’s a self contained site only, and it’s kind of crowded) there is a great beach and THE AQUARIUM – an awesome snorkel destination!
Camping: Quobba Station ($13 per person)
Review: We loved this campsite! It’s spread out, giving you some privacy and was very quiet at night. Camped right behind the dunes, it’s a very short walk straight onto the beach where we enjoyed great sunsets. The bathroom was new and kept very clean with hot showers, and the small kitchen was equipped with everything we needed. Our 2WD made it there no problem, just had to drive slowly (turn right at the King Waves Kill sign).
We headed to The Aquarium for one more snorkel!
Quobba → Coral Bay (Driving time: 3 hrs)
Coral Bay – Ningaloo Reef
AS SOON AS YOU GET TO CORAL BAY, JUST GET INTO THE WATER. A coral paradise is waiting for you just off the beach, it was totally mesmerizing.
Coral Bay is a tiny town that consists of one short road. On the left side as you drive in, are campgrounds and accommodation with the occasional whale shark/manta ray tour company, and on the right IS ONE AMAZING BEACH. The best part was it wasn’t crowded at all. This place is a huge treasure, and no huge developments are allowed to be built here. It seems a lot of people don’t realize how amazing it is just under the surface.
Camping: Bayview Campsite ($42 per unpowered site – price changes depending on time of year)
Unfortunately you’re going to have to bite the bullet here and pay extra for camping tonight. Your choices are between Bayview or People’s Caravan Park (Bayview was only slightly cheaper when we went). There is literally no where in Coral Bay you can camp for free or for cheap. You’d have to camp pretty far outside of town but then what’s the point of spending gas and driving in and out everyday? Plus that price is per site so if there are 2 or 3 of you you can split it.
Review: It’s a typical crowded caravan park with no privacy, however we were pleased with how quiet it was at night. Showers and kitchens are kept decently clean and drinking water is available. Kitchen does get VERY crowded in the evening so we would cook at around 5pm to avoid the later rush. The location makes up for it though, you’re RIGHT across the street from the beach and various tour companies.
Manta Rays hang around Coral Bay YEAR ROUND. Take advantage and book a manta ray tour! We booked it last minute the day before, we had already spent a lot of money booking our whale shark tour in Exmouth so we were on the fence about doing the manta ray tour as well. DO IT. It’s incredible. Watching these creatures glide and barrel roll under you is an awe inspiring experience.
We did our tour with Ningaloo Marine Interactions which was $160 for a 5-6 hour tour. The crew on board were great, the burgers for lunch were delicious, and all your gear (wetsuits, etc) are included. Along with snorkeling with manta rays, the tour includes snorkeling at two different sites. They took us to a huge boulder coral which is a cleaning station FOR REEF SHARKS. We swam with a ton of grey reef sharks (totally harmless) which was pretty cool. We swam with a few turtles as well; this tour gives you the most bang for your buck! If you don’t want to spend $400 on whale sharks, at least do this one!
Coral Bay → Exmouth (Driving time: 2 hrs)
Exmouth – Ningaloo Reef
- Whale shark season: March-August
- Manta ray season: May-November (year round in Coral Bay)
- Turtle nesting season: November-March
- Turtle hatching season: January-March
Although Coral Bay is great, I would suggest spending more time in Exmouth. The town is bigger with more resources, there’s cheaper camping options, and there are a TON of snorkeling beaches, hikes and surf beaches to choose from.
On your way into Exmouth do the Charles Knife Canyon Drive (21km south of Exmouth) for some great views. The drive takes you up onto the top of the ranges, you can get pretty far in a 2WD vehicle to take in the views until the road gets too rough. There is also a hike up here from Thomas Carter Lookout called the Badjirrajirra Loop Trail (8km).
Camping: Cape Range National Park – North Mandu ($10 per site)
Review: We loved this site and stayed for a week. It’s right beside a pebble beach and we woke up every morning in our tent surrounded by kangaroos. North Mandu is a very small campsite (only 5 sites) and was nice and quiet in the evenings. There is a toilet here and picnic table but no water is available in the National Park.
NOTE: MAKE SURE TO BOOK IN ADVANCE ONLINE. There you can choose from the many campsites within the National Park, including your site number/location within the campground. Don’t even try to book when you get there, there won’t be any vacancy left. You no longer have to wait there in the morning to book a spot, it’s all easy and online! We chose Mandu for it’s small size and proximity to our favourite snorkel spots.
Whale Sharks. OMG. WHALE SHARKS. WHAAAALE SHAAARKS. When people ask me what was my favourite thing I did while I was in Australia for a year and a half I immediately stare at them and yell WHALE SHAAARKS. Ya it’s $400, but it was the best $400 I’ve ever spent in my life. I cannot even describe the feeling of how amazing it is swimming next to one of these gentle giants.
I recommend booking a tour date right at the beginning of your stay in Exmouth. If your tour is cancelled due to weather or you have no whale shark sightings on your day, most companies will allow you to book another tour for free!
There are a TON of companies to choose from in Exmouth (and they’re all around the same price, and most have amazing reviews) but we decided on 3 Islands Whale Shark Dive – mainly because of their great reviews, but also because they give you a FREE CD of your photos of the day at the end! Other companies charge $50-60 for a USB stick of your photos! We stopped by the Exmouth Library to convert all our photos from the CD onto our laptop. (But you could try stopping by 3 Islands’ shop as well!)
The crew on board was AMAZING, incredibly helpful and upbeat, our day couldn’t have been better. We also spotted Humpback whales, a dugong and her calf, and a huge Tiger shark from the boat. They really take the time to make sure everyone is in a few photos, above and below the water. The $400 includes awesome food throughout the whole day, and use of wetsuits and snorkel gear.
Camping: Cape Range National Park ($10)
DAY 9 – 12
There are a ton activities to do while staying in the National Park in Exmouth. We snorkeled every single day. It was amazing.
Rent a surfboard and hit up a surf beach! Wobiri Access Beach or Hunters Beach is a great one for beginners, or consider Surfers/Dunes Beach if you’re more experienced. You’ll ride the waves alongside turtles!
Some walks and sights to see within the National Park:
- Mangrove Bay Bird Hide
- Yardie Creek
- Yardie Creek Gorge (2km return trail)
- Shothole Canyon (4WD only)
- SS Mildura Wreck
- Vlamingh Head Lighthouse
- Mandu Mandu Gorge (3km return trail)
- Badjirrajirra Loop Trail (8km)
- Jurabi Turtle Centre
Best snorkeling beaches:
- Torquoise Bay – one of the most popular snorkel beaches, and has a great drift snorkel to the left.
- Bundegi Beach
- Lakeside – reef sharks are commonly sighted here (walk 500m south and drift)
- Oyster Stacks – go at high tide only! There are sharp rocks near shore where you enter/exit the water.
If you’re a diver, consider going for a dive at the Exmouth Navy Pier, one of the top ten land-based dive sites around the world!
Within the National Park we woke up surrounded by kangaroos everyday. We also spotted emus (you’ll see those wandering around the middle of town in a parking lot lol), and an echidna on the side of the road! At sunrise on the morning we left we came across three dingos in the middle of the road howling, they wandered around our car for a bit, a sight we’ll never forget.
Camping: Cape Range National Park ($10)
Sorry folks, the last two days are just driving back down to Perth. Make sure to switch drivers and NEVER drive tired. It’s a real issue in Western Australia of people falling asleep behind the wheel, there are PLENTY of rest stops to pull over into and take a rest.
Exmouth → Galena Bridge Rest Area (FREE) (Driving time: 7hrs 30min)
Galena Bridge Rest Area → Perth (Driving time: 6 hours)
Congrats! After a long couple of day, you made it back to Perth.
If you’re looking to extend your trip further south, read my Adventure Guide to South West Australia!