Drive empty roads while discovering breath-taking natural wonders on this epic coastal fly-drive
Welcome to the West
With its glittering skyline reflected in the Swan River, the sun-kissed city of Perth basks in glorious isolation from the rest of Australia. Spend the first few days of your trip exploring the city and beyond. To the south, the vibrant port of Fremantle seamlessly combines its maritime and convict heritage with bustling street markets, trendy restaurants and microbreweries – it’s a must-visit. You could also take a day-trip to explore the beaches and bays of car-free Rottnest Island, sip chardonnay in the vineyards of the Swan Valley or swim the clear waters of Cottesloe Beach
Pinnacles & Pathways
Hit the road north on the Indian Ocean Drive, where a two-hour drive brings you to Cervantes. Here, within Nambung National Park, you’ll find The Pinnacles – a series of otherworldly limestone pillars rising from the desert. Afterwards, pay a visit to Lancelin’s nearby sand dunes, where you can try sandboarding or head out on an exhilarating dune buggy ride.
Then continue north until you reach the coastal cliffs and river gorges of Kalbarri National Park. This expanse of wild bushland is home to excellent walking trails, which you’re likely to have all to yourself. Hike to Nature’s Window for stunning views over the gorge, walk the coastal paths to Indian Ocean lookouts and spot abundant birdlife. The wildflowers here are spectacular between July and November.
Rejoin the North West Coastal Highway for another scenic drive, heading north to Monkey Mia. Feed the famous bottle-nosed dolphins, go swimming and kayaking in the bay and pay a visit to the nearby UNESCO heritage site of Shark Bay, home to stunningly diverse marine life and superb coastal walking. You could also explore the acacia-cloaked sand dunes and arid shrublands of Francois Peron National Park by 4×4, where stark red earth meets impossibly blue lagoons.
A six-hour journey takes you next to Coral Bay, although we recommend breaking the journey in Carnarvon to visit the nearby Hamelin Pool stromatolites – the oldest and largest living fossils on earth. Tiny Coral Bay marks the starting point of the famous Ningaloo Reef, and is a good place to base yourself for a night after the long drive.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
Spend the next few days exploring the Ningaloo Reef, either based at Exmouth or staying in a safari camp within the dunes of neighbouring Cape Range National Park. Australia’s largest fringing coral reef, Ningaloo is one of the country’s best kept secrets and plays host to migrating whale sharks each year between April and July. Glide beside a gang of these gentle, mottle-skinned giants on a whale shark swim, and be sure to keep an eye out too for manta rays, turtles and humpback whales while in the teeming waters. Kayaking and fishing excursions can also be arranged.
From here, drop your car at nearby Learmonth airport and fly back to Perth for a final night back where you started.