How has it taken us this long to visit the west coast of Australia?
We have been constantly blown away with the beauty of this state and at times we felt like we could be miles away on another continent, but in fact, we were only 4 hours from our home city of Sydney!
So, what is WA all about? What’s the hype? If your idea of a vacation involves any of the following then you’re in for a treat. There’s a reason they say “west is best” (although we’re still Sydney siders at heart). WA offers a little bit of everything, without the crowds of the east coast of Australia.
Picturesque beaches with 1000’s of km’s of pristine coastline, world-class food, cute-as wildlife, award-winning wines, huge national parks, a relaxed lifestyle and dozens of hidden gems to uncover. We could carry on but that’s enough to get you interested… surely?
North or South of Western Australia?
This is the question a lot of people wonder as they plan their trip to the largest state in Australia. Where you visit all depends on how much time you have and what type of transport you’re using.
To give you an idea just how large WA is, it would take you roughly 35+ hours and over 3000km to drive from the south of WA to the north of WA. Getting to the north has longer drive times, and the flights are way overpriced ($400 + for a 2-hour flight). It is cheaper to fly Perth to Sydney than to fly from Perth to Exmouth / Broome in the north. For this reason, we chose South Western Australia (this time around).
The south of WA (Margaret River, Albany, Esperance) offers a variety of activities, is far more developed & has many more interesting drives/stops as well as a larger selection of towns to visit.
The north of WA (Exmouth, Broome, Ningaloo, Coral Bay), although insanely beautiful is noticeably more sparse, with considerably longer drives between hot spots. If you have a campervan or a reliable vehicle, Exmouth/Coral Bay can be reached in 12 hours from Perth. If time isn’t an issue for your holiday to WA, then this is definitely doable.
Transport in Western Australia
To allow the most flexibility, we strongly recommend renting your own vehicle, whether it be a regular rental car, a 4WD, campervan or you’re own personal home on wheels. Perth will be the starting point for your road trip and where you can hire any vehicle you need. Travellers Autobarn and Wicked Campers both have vehicles in Perth and are widely used by backpackers. Make sure to know exactly where you are planning to go to and whether you need a 4WD as some places and National Parks are only accessible with a 4WD.
Integrity Coachlines do offer hop-on-hop-off bus services along the coast of WA but this means you’re far more restricted, not to mention, it’s not cheap ($240 AUD Perth – Exmouth). Just go ahead and rent that car. It’ll be worth it!
South Western Australia Road Trip Itinerary + Map
We spent just over 2 weeks travelling the south-west coast of Western Australia and below we’ve listed the top highlights of our trip, along with an interactive map to help you better understand their locations. We travelled anti-clockwise.
Perth is WA’s capital city and will be the starting point for your road trip to the South West Coast. Similar to that of Sydney (but on a far smaller scale), Perth has a large financial district, a beautiful city park (Kings Park), an enormous variety of restaurants & bars, coffee shops galore and many events happening throughout the year. Northbridge & Leederville both offer nightlife opportunities, with Northbridge having a younger rowdy crowd after midnight. The public transportation system is efficient, reliable and easy to navigate.
The best thing about Perth City, there are so many beaches within a 20-minute drive from the CBD. Our kind of city! A few worth mentioning are Cottesloe, Trigg, City Beach & Scarborough. To be honest, we didn’t spend too much of our time in Perth City but if you wish to spend more discovering the city, then see here for a full list of activities, restaurants and events throughout the year.
Fremantle, or “Freo” if you want to sound like a local, is a small buzzing port town 35 minutes from the city of Perth and is a must visit on any one’s itinerary to Perth! You can find an abundance of restaurants, bars, theatres, old historic homes, markets, a harbour, art galleries & museums, the Fremantle prison (the largest convict built prison in Australia) and many beaches. The four closest beaches to the city of Freo are Bathers Beach, South Beach, Port Beach and Leighton Beach, all suitable for swimming, sunbaking and occasionally kite & windsurfing which is very popular in WA.
Make sure you come hungry when you arrive in Freo, this was another case of “why don’t we have more room in our bellies”?
Our top picks for places to grab a bite to eat were Little Creatures Brewery (on the water, great food!), Bread in Common (unlimited fresh bread, omg, take us back), Bathers Beach House (great sunset drinks), Duck Duck Bruce (Australian with an Indian twist), Kazoomies (Middle Eastern), Nunzio’s (Italian) and for that quick refreshing pick me up, Ohana Acai Bar. In our opinion, 2 days is enough in Freo (unless you have unlimited time, then stay and eat all the foods).
Tip: Fremantle has markets on Friday/Saturday and Sundays combining art, photography, fresh produce, clothing and of course, food. The most important of them all.
Busselton was our first stop en route to Margaret River. “Busso” is home to the Busselton Jetty, the longest wooden pier jetty in the world, stretching an impressive 2km out to sea!
Aside from walking, you can also reach the end of the jetty via the jetty train which leaves on the hour every hour. It’s also a popular spot for diving or underwater helmet walking but if that’s not your thing, you can still see the underwater marine life by climbing down 10 flights of stairs, 8m below sea level through the underwater observatory. The underwater observatory is 1 of 5 in the world. Tickets are required and can be purchased from the interpretive centre at the beginning of the jetty.
4. Margaret River
The Margaret River region is one of the most visited regions in WA and we totally see why! Just 3 hours south of Perth, you’re honestly spoiled for choice with places to visit and things to do. Wine tasting? Check. Pristine beaches? Check. Outstanding food? Check. Cute towns? Check. Surfing? Check. Sunsets? Check.
I feel as though we may sound like a broken record but it honestly never gets old…
The beaches are absolutely amazing.
There, we said it again. The colour and clarity of the water is simply off the charts. Meelup Beach, Eagle Bay & Bunker Bay were standouts for us around this region. Living on the east coast of Australia, we aren’t able to see the sunset directly over the ocean so we sussed out the best place to do so in this region and we’re here to tell you, make your way to Sugar Loaf but not before grabbing a bottle of wine and a cheese plate from Dunsborough (the nearest town) to enjoy as the sun sets.
If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to splurge, we highly recommend booking a night or two into Pullman Bunker Bay located at the beautiful Bunker Bay or even better, if you’re on your honeymoon, look no further than Injidup Spa Retreat in Yallingup. This place will blow you away with their rooms and private plunge pools. Heaven!
5. Wine Tasting in Margaret River? You Betcha.
If you’re planning to go wine tasting in Margaret River (it’s a must) check out our Margaret River Wine Tasting Guide for all you need to know!
Albany is the largest town on the South West Coast. There are a lot of places to eat, hotels, shopping centres, hikes, beaches and tourist attractions to explore. At the Historic Whaling Station (shown below) you can discover the intact processing factory and whale chasing ship as well as take a tour of the whaling factory ($32 AUD).
Carry on towards Frenchman Bay for a refreshing swim, admire The Gap and Bridge inside Torndirrup National Park. Curve the hunger with a delicious meal at The Three Anchors located right on Middletown Beach, go for a 5km coastal walk around the headland (starting from Middletown Beach), brush up on history at the National Anzac Centre or take a drive up to the Albany Wind Farm for a great view of the surrounding coast. There’s plenty to see and do in Albany!
Esperance felt like a world away from it all. An untouched paradise. We’ve been to our fair share of beaches around this world but the peace and quiet combined with the stunning natural beauty of the beaches in Esperance were second to none. There’s no wonder they are voted as some of the best beaches in the world!
The town is one of the larger towns of the south coast and has everything you need for the perfect getaway. It was here we really felt like we were on “holiday”. Shops, restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, ice cream (Aurelia’s Ice Creamery, mmm you must go!) and of course the epic, quiet beaches within a 10-minute drive. Start your day with a walk along the Esperance Foreshore and grab a coffee from The Coffee Cat, a popular cart brewing some of the best coffee. This can be found opposite the Tanker Jetty, have a tasty lunch at Ollie’s Café and a fresh seafood dinner from Fish Face Takeaway & Restaurant.
Our favourite beaches around Esperance were all located along the Great Ocean Drive, a 38km circular route along Twilight Beach Road. Every one of the beaches offers clear, turquoise waters met with blinding white sand, sculpted rock formations and breathtaking sunsets over the ocean. Our top picks? West Beach, Blue Haven & Twilight Beach. On the loop, you’ll also drive by the “Pink Lake” which for years has not been pink, so don’t get disappointed.
Tip: The best beach in Esperance when there’s windy weather is Blue Haven as it’s the most protected. The best beach for sunset is Twilight Beach.
8. Cape Le Grand National Park
If you have the time (if you don’t, you should find the time) to drive a further 45 minutes to Cape Le Grand National Park. Entry to the park is $12 AUD & you pay at the gate. Climb to the top of Frenchman’s Peak for 360-degree stellar views, say g’day to the local kangaroos at the world famous Lucky Bay or relax on Hellfire Bay – by far one of the most gorgeous beaches in the park. Where the heck is everyone?
Tip: There are no restaurants or cafes inside the National Park so if you plan to come for the whole day we recommend you bring yourself enough food and water. There is one small food truck run by locals on Lucky Bay selling basic toasted sandwiches, coffee ($6) and tea.
9. Lucky Bay
Located inside of Cape Le Grand National Park is the world famous Lucky Bay. Not only is this bay famous for its incredible white sandy beach but also for its local kangaroo residents! Gosh, we love Australia! Kangaroos on the beach? How cool. They have no problem hopping about the sand or coming to say g’day. Jacob managed to snap one hell of a selfie until the roo became camera shy ;). Although tempting, please don’t feed them human food.
10. Hyden (Wave Rock)
Ever wondered what it’s like to surf in the middle of the outback? Well on this road trip, it’s your lucky day. Wave Rock is a 2.7 billion-year-old granite rock formation standing 15m high and 110m long in the shape of a wave. Wave Rock can be found in the small town of Hyden which is located halfway between Perth and Esperance.
It was 45 degrees so we didn’t spend longer than necessary in this remote town, but it was just enough to cool off with a quick surf and a couple of happy snaps. Would we recommend the 4 hour trip here just for this? No, but it was the perfect midway stop for our long drive back to Perth. It’s a good idea to fill up your petrol here! One of the only few things in this tiny town.
Tip: It costs $12 per vehicle if you park directly at the entrance to Wave Rock but if you park in front of the café and walk 150m across the road, you can sheepishly avoid this fee. It didn’t come from us…
11. Rottnest Island (Bonus!)
Last, but definitely not least, Rottnest Island. This little slice of paradise was our absolute favourite and can be reached in only 30 minutes by ferry from Fremantle. Once you arrive on the island you’re surrounded by over 63 gorgeous beaches and 20 bays all within a bike ride or shuttle bus away from each other.
Upon getting off the ferry, make your way to the settlement to grab some treats and lunch from the bakery (there is only one area that sells food) and rent yourself a bike for the day ($30) from Pedal & Flipper. It’s definitely the best and most efficient way to see the island.
We spent 8 hours on Rottnest Island hopping our way around the beaches and were constantly amazed at the clarity of the water along with the incredible snorkelling opportunities. Once you’ve returned the bikes, watch the sunset over the ocean from Rottnest Hotel. Oh, and guys, don’t forget to keep an eye out for their main residents…the quokkas! These guys are too cute and love a good selfie!
Tip: Rottnest Express offers cheap Tuesday ferry tickets and you can purchase them from their website. As well as Sealink who also has end of summer 2 x 1 deals in Feb. Both ferries take the same amount of time (30 minutes) and depart from Fremantle Shed B.
The roads between all of these destinations are long and generally extremely straight. It’s really easy to go well above the speed limit but if you do, remember wildlife lives here too. Kangaroos can jump out at any time and it’s never fun to see the main residents down 🙁 Keep an eye out for wildlife, especially around dawn and dusk.
We are fortunate to have met so many people on our prior travels that live in Perth. They kindly hosted us at their homes & showed us around to the local hotspots. Thank you, friends, your knowledge has now been passed on!
Let us know if you have any questions. We could speak about WA forever!