The road trip from Perth to Exmouth is nothing short of amazing. From the vast contrast between remote desert scenery and aqua ocean hues, to swimming with the world’s largest fish, this is one hell of a bucket list adventure.
We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for this land for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Some of the most unique landscapes in Australia
- Snorkelling with fish, turtles, stingrays, and whale sharks!
- A pink salt lake
- Incredible hiking trails
- Swimming in a freshwater gorge
Day 1 – Perth to Jurien Bay
Time driving: 2 hours 40 minutes
Highlights: The Pinnacles Desert
After arriving in Perth and throwing our luggage in our 4WD hire car, we were ready to hit the road, northbound.
Our first stop, about two hours north of Perth, was the Pinnacles Desert.
No, it’s not Mars. The Pinnacles are nestled in Nambung National Park, the dry country scattered with natural limestone structures and surrounded by sweeping sand dunes — all while being so close to the ocean.
As with all the national parks on this road trip, the entry fee per vehicle is $15.
Day 2 – Jurien Bay to Kalbarri
Time driving: 4 hours
Highlights: Z Bend, Nature’s Window
After rising before the sun, we hit the road – we wanted to get to Kalbarri as early as possible so we could spend the day on the trails!
Arriving in Kalbarri National Park, our first stop was Z Bend, which is brimming with jaw-dropping sandstone views. It’s only a short 600m walk to Z Bend Lookout, which overhangs a sharp bend in the Murchison River below.
If you continue onto the Z Bend River Trail, it’ll take you on a moderately steep climb down into the gorge, providing access to the river’s edge. You’ll be climbing down rocks and ladders on your descent, so don’t forget to bring sturdy shoes with a good grip!
Be sure to look up while you take a dip in the lush river – you can spy the lookout from here.
Read more: Staying Safe Around Swimming Holes
We then stopped off at the famous Nature’s Window, which boasts even more epic gorge vistas from its short and flat 1km return trail.
After leaving Kalbarri, we rested our heads for the night at the gorgeous hidden beachside town of Horrocks, in possibly one of the best Airbnbs I’ve ever stayed in. Beach views from the kitchen. Outdoor bath. You can’t go wrong. Treat yourself.
Day 3 – Horrocks to Exmouth
Time driving: 8 hours 40 minutes
Highlights: Hutt Lagoon
Preparing ourselves for a full day on the road, we stopped by a stunning pink salt lake called Hutt Lagoon, about 40km north of Horrock. Although the colours of this huge 70km-squared lake change throughout the day and time of year, we managed to find a nice pink spot near Port Gregory to get some photos.
The further we drove towards Exmouth, we realised the distance between towns grew further and further, and the landscape more barren. Sometimes there wouldn’t be a town or roadhouse for an hour or two, so we recommend making sure you’re organised with fuel as sometimes there’s quite a lot of mileage between petrol stations.
In Exmouth, we stayed at Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort which is right on the beachfront and has comfortable rooms to get a good rest after a day out exploring.
We recommend booking accommodation well in advance for a trip to Ningaloo Reef as options in busy Exmouth and Coral Bay get filled up quickly. However, If you’re self-sufficient in a campervan, you won’t have an issue with this.
Day 4 – Exmouth to Cape Range National Park
Driving distance: 47 minutes
After filling up on breakfast and coffee, we hired snorkel gear in Exmouth and jumped into the car, en route to Ningaloo Reef!
Okay so, picture this: you’re driving along the coastline. To your left, you have these towering maroon canyons. And to your right sits this stunning turquoise coral reef. The contrast is breathtaking, and trust us when we say that it really is paradise here.
Recommended as superb for snorkelling by some locals we met in town, we decided to hit Turquoise Bay first. The name definitely fits the bill for this beach: turquoise waters and white sand.
Ningaloo Reef sits just a few metres from the shore and can be accessed from the beach. As soon as we jumped in, we saw a turtle, stingray, and countless fish of all colours and sizes within minutes.
After lazing on the beach for a while, we ate lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon hiking in the national park.
Mandu Mandu Gorge can be found a short drive down a dirt road. The 3km return trail leads along the gorge rim and then descends into the gorge.
Keep your eyes peeled for rare black-footed rock-wallabies which inhabit this area. The species are endangered, so we were stoked to spot one hopping around some rock caves.
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
Day 5 – Exmouth to Coral Bay
Time driving: 1 hour 50 mins
At last, the day we’d been waiting for– swimming with the gentle giants of the sea, A.K.A, the whale sharks!
We booked our Whale Shark Safari through Coral Bay Eco Tours, which involved a full day out on the boat. To swim so close to these majestic creatures really is an unforgettable experience.
We were lucky enough to snorkel with the whale sharks four times over the course of the day, and even spotted manta rays, turtles, and stunning fish species too!
Accommodation was all booked up in Coral Bay so we spent a night in Carnarvon, 2.5 hours south of Coral Bay, before driving the 9.5 hours back down to Perth.
This road trip was one of the best we’ve ever embarked on. And honestly, we’re already planning our next — to somewhere else incredible we haven’t discovered in Australia.
- Hire car or campervan
- Sturdy hiking shoes
- Plenty of water
- Snorkel gear (unless you want to hire it like we did)
Most roads are sealed and well-marked and a GPS will get you safely to all locations.
Distance / Time Spent Driving / Days
2712km / 31 hours / 6 days