Prepare to encounter mind-blowing scenery on the Western Wonderland touring route. From a seemingly endless stretch of astounding coastline to fascinating natural creations, this is a path that requires a long-life camera battery. The drive begins in Perth and heads as far north as Exmouth before returning to the Western Australian capital.
- Be dazzled by wildflowers throughout the journey
- Marvel at The Pinnacles formation near Cervantes
- Wow at the Carnarvon Blowholes
- Take a flight from Geraldton over the Abrolhos Islands
- Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef while at Exmouth
Perth (including Rottnest Island)
Australia’s fourth-largest city, Perth exudes endless charm and serves up a feast of first-rate experiences.
Its positioning on the Swan River doesn’t harm its aesthetic qualities and there are a couple of prime viewing spots that highlight Perth at its resplendent best. Head to Kings Park and Botanic Garden for sweeping vistas or reach the top of the iconic Bell Tower.
A liking for the coast is necessary for this touring route and Perth provides a wonderful introduction: choose from a wealth of beautiful white-sand beaches that are easily accessible. Crowd pullers include Cottesloe, Scarborough, Sorrento, and City Beach.
It helps that these beaches are backed by an enviable climate – Perth boasts that it attracts more sunshine than any other Australian city.
Indulge in more sand and surf with a visit to Rottnest Island. Easily reached by ferry from Perth or Fremantle, Rottnest Island has a whopping 60-plus beaches and packs a vast assortment of goodies into its small frame.
Join one of the free walking tours to get up to speed on all things Rottnest. Try to spot a quokka or absorb the fascinating history of the island.
Perth to Ledge Point
120km (1hr 20min)
Start your adventure, cutting through Perth’s northern suburbs and remaining within close range of the coast.
Less than hour into the journey you’ll come across Yanchep National Park, which is crammed with treasure. Limestone cave tours and a boardwalk stroll to view koalas are among the highlights.
Yanchep is likely to be the first reliable point north of Perth where you will encounter a carpet of Western Australia’s famous wildflowers. While wildflowers blanket parts of the state year round, premium viewing times are between July and October.
Continue north, following relatively new Indian Ocean Drive and consider a slight detour if travelling after sundown: Gingin Observatory allows for jaw-dropping viewing of the night sky. The observatory is less than an hour from the first base along the touring route – the cray-fishing village of Ledge Point.
This seaside spot is a superb place to chill out and soak up the beauty of Western Australia’s ample coastline. The beach is an enticing strip and suits swimming, snorkelling, and fishing.
Several shipwrecks are located offshore from Ledge Point and a series of plaques at Key Biscayne Park detail their stories.
BIG4 Holiday Parks in Ledge Point
Street : 742 Ledge Point Road, City : Ledge Point, PostCode : 6043
Ledge Point to Dongara
240km (2hr 45min)
Only a short drive north of Ledge Point is another relaxing coastal spot – Lancelin. Water leisure abounds at this town, too: favourable windsurfing conditions earn international attention.
But it’s the sand dunes that are the biggest hit. Sandboarding down these massive dunes is a thrilling experience, while the views from the top are certainly worth soaking up.
Back on the road, prepare for a sight that will have you feeling as if you’ve landed on another planet. The Pinnacles is a collection of limestone pillars that protrude from the desert sands of Nambung National Park and have to be seen to be believed. That aside, Nambung has other gems such as glittering beaches and Lake Thetis. The lake, at the northern end of Nambung near the town of Cervantes, contains rare, rock-like thrombolites.
It’s best to keep the camera handy at Cervantes: the town has several lookouts where you can take in sublime coastal views and witness wonderful wildflowers.
Press ahead to Jurien Bay, another popular coastal retreat that shows off more sparkling coastline.
Be sure to dive or snorkel within Jurien Bay Marine Park or take a tour to be mesmerised by the sight of sea lions.
Just north of Jurien Bay is Lesueur National Park where those famous wildflowers are at their best.
Continue to hug the coast and stop by Green Head, another enticing seaside town. A visit to the Blue Ocean Gallery showcases the works of talented locals.
Further along, Leeman is home to a huge colony of sea lions; take a tour in season for easy viewing.
Soon, Indian Ocean Drive merges with the Brand Highway and leads to Dongara. This is an instantly captivating town, spotted where the Irwin River and the Indian Ocean meet and with Moreton Bay fig trees dominating its main street.
If you like rock lobster, you’ve come to the right place. The Dongara rock lobster industry is massive and there’s plenty of opportunity to sample this delicacy.
For a glimpse of the past, call in to the Irwin District Museum. Port Denison is the twin township of Dongara and grabbing a Dongara-Port Denison Heritage Trail booklet allows for easy exploration of the towns’ striking historical structures. Or stroll along the Irwin River Nature Trail.
BIG4 Holiday Parks in Dongara
Street : 250 Ocean Drive, City : Port Denison, PostCode : 6525
Dongara to Geraldton
65km (0hr 50min)
It’s only a relatively short drive to another superb base along the Western Wonderland touring route.
Along the way, stop at Greenough and picnic at Ellendale Pool, a picturesque watering hole.
The lively coastal city of Geraldton is brimming with appeal and delivers myriad leading attractions – much of it focussed on water.
Soak up Geraldton’s relaxing vibe with a wander around the Batavia Coast Marina. While here, call in to the Western Australian Museum – Geraldton. Geraldton’s extensive maritime past is one of many themes it explores and intriguing stories about local shipwrecks will fascinate.
The HMAS Sydney II Memorial on Mount Scott also makes for essential viewing, and continue the coastal theme by photographing Point Moore Lighthouse. Keep the camera handy to point towards magnificent St Francis Xavier Cathedral.
Geraldton beaches are first-rate and hold much appeal with windsurfers. Or splash out with a charter cruise or scenic flight to witness the Abrolhos Islands. Located 60km offshore from Geraldton, the Abrolhos Islands are home to extensive marine life and shipwrecks and make for an incredible sight.
BIG4 Holiday Parks in Geraldton
Street : 4 Bosley Street, City : Geraldton, PostCode : 6530
Geraldton to Carnarvon
480km (5hr 5min)
Prepare for a section of the touring route with immense visual appeal, despite its diversion from the coast. Start at Northampton: grab a copy of the Hampton Road Heritage Walk and uncover a cluster of striking old buildings within this charming village.
A detour to Kalbarri National Park unveils immense treasure. The elements have carved plenty of jaw-dropping, colourful formations over time; of the more intriguing creations is the natural arch known as Nature’s Window. Ample wildflowers can be spotted within Kalbarri as well.
Further north there is another tempting diversion: Shark Bay is a World Heritage site of gobsmacking beauty. The massive area includes premier destinations such as Francois Peron National Park, complete with captivating red dunes; and Monkey Mia, which attracts friendly dolphins for regular feeding sessions.
Or rejoin the coast at Carnarvon, an alluring town that enjoys a superb setting at the mouth of the Gascoyne River. It is jam-packed with top-class visitor experiences.
Take a glimpse at the past with a visit to the Carnarvon Heritage Precinct. It is home to a plethora of historical attractions, including the Railway Station Museum, the Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage, and the Shearing Hall of Fame. Wander along the Carnarvon One Mile Jetty; or for an easier journey hitch a ride with the Coffee Pot train.
Gwoonwardu Mia – the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre is another great find and includes a modern museum that comprehensively details local indigenous history.
The Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum allows an insight into the town’s unheralded roles in the space industry and was only opened in 2012.
Spotted 75km north of town is the Carnarvon Blowholes, an engrossing natural attraction where water spouts high into the air. Please note: caution is required at the site and access to it is not along the main road of this touring route. Also, nearby is a lagoon that makes a wonderful picnic spot.
BIG4 Holiday Parks in Carnarvon
Street : 589 Robinson Street, City : Carnarvon, PostCode : 6701
Carnarvon to Exmouth
365km (5hr 20min)
Veer inland and skirt around mammoth Lake Macleod before again greeting the coast – this time at Coral Bay.
A tiny settlement, Coral Bay is made famous by Ningaloo Reef. The reef is part of the wider World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Marine Park and provides ridiculously easy snorkelling and diving opportunities.
Reach Exmouth and take advantage of more easy access to 260km-long Ningaloo Reef – various tour operators depart from here.
Enjoy the rare chance to swim with whale sharks or manta rays – both are phenomenal experiences. Or stay dry on a glass-bottom boat or whale watching tour around Ningaloo Marine Park.
Learn all about another captivating creature at the Jurabi Turtle Centre. It not only provides plenty of information about turtles but also offers guidance about viewing them in a responsible manner. For magical vistas of the surrounds, head to Vlaming Head Lighthouse.
Exmouth is the best base for accessing Cape Range National Park, which overflows with spectacular scenery. A boat tour along Yardie Creek Gorge is a phenomenal experience and stunning Turquoise Bay is one of Western Australia’s premier beaches.
BIG4 Holiday Parks in Exmouth
Street : 3 Truscott Cresent, City : Exmouth, PostCode : 6707
Exmouth to Perth
1270km (14hr 45min)
Take the return trip to Perth and consider following inland roads.
Between Dongara and Ledge Point, the inland route passes Badgingarra National Park. Here you can take the Badgingarra Nature Trail, which highlights a vast array of wildflowers.
Nearing Perth, perhaps take the route that passes through the Swan Valley. This acclaimed food and wine region is loaded with cellar doors and its local produce can be sampled at abundant restaurants, cafés, roadside stalls, and various outlets.