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Self Driving Western Australia
As you take your time to wind your way up the coast, this unforgettable journey will take you from Perth to Shark Bay, where you can explore the World Heritage Area and world-famous Monkey Mia. Offering a perfectly flexible itinerary perfect for motorhome hire, it allows you to take time out to spend an extra day or two at stops that appeal to you, as you pass through Cervantes and the Pinnacles Desert, Kalbarri National Park and the Pink Lake, and the trendy coastal city of Geraldton.
Perth to Shark Bay
Any time of year
With so much on offer, it’s well worth taking an extra day to uncover Perth’s many hidden gems before you set off on your campervan trip north to Geraldton. This sunny city really does have something for everyone. Whether your idea of heaven is taking in the cool tranquillity within world-class museums and art galleries, or getting in amongst the vibrant colour a city like this can offer, Perth has just the thing to keep you occupied for a day, if not more. To get you started, see our top 10 things to do in Perth.
Perth’s extraordinary network of walking trails provides an excellent place to start, letting first-timers get a feel for the city, while allowing return visitors to discover something new. Within Kings Park, consider taking the 1.7km Memorials Walk to enjoy stunning views over the Swan River and city centre. The Botanic Garden Discovery Walk is another favourite, taking in the best of the Botanic Gardens, including the Water Garden and the Lotterywest Federation Walkway. Further out, the Mosman Park Heritage Trail provides a three to four hour walk, visiting 16 sites that reveal both Mosman Park’s fascinating history and its beautiful scenery.
No matter when you visit Perth, there is sure to be something to interest you within its enticing nature calendar. Wildflowers blaze with colour from September to November, which also happens to be the time to spot migrating humpback whales. Blue whales may be spotted between March and April, while dolphins, fairy penguins and seals frequent Perth’s warm waters between September and April. Tulip season is another favourite, running from August to September, while birdwatchers will have plenty to look at between August and March, when migratory birds take to the Swan Estuary Marine Park to roost and feed.
Once you’ve had your fill of Perth’s entrancing laneways, delightful flavours and enticingly laidback way of life, it’s time to pack up your motorhome and take to the open road. Today, your overnight stop will be Cervantes, a charming coastal town perhaps best known for its proximity to Nambung National Park and the Pinnacles Desert. Within the Pinnacles Desert, you can walk among thousands of towering limestone structures, formed more than 25,000 years ago. Then, taking a trip to nearby Lake Thetis, you can walk a loop of the lake to uncover thrombolite fossils believed to be more than 3,000 years old.
Sprawling over 170 square kilometres of coastal heathland, Nambung National Park offers the opportunity to see more than just the Pinnacles. Home to a variety of native plants and animals, the park comes alive during wildflower season, home to wattles and quandong, white clematis, parrot bush and banksia species. The park also offers the perfect place to take a dip, with a range of white sandy beaches to choose from. Hangover Bay is often a favourite, as it also offers picnic tables, barbeques and a boat launch.
DISTANCE 387KM - DRIVING TIME 4 HOURS 15 MINS
The drive to Kalbarri today is rather a long one, but it’s easily broken up with interesting stops along the way. With so much to see and do on these stops, you may choose to take some time to stay an extra day or two when you find somewhere that appeals to you.
Travelling during wildflower season, taking a detour through Lesueur National Park is an absolute must. As one of the most significant reserves for flora conservation in Western Australia, Lesueur National Park becomes a riot of colour as more than 900 species burst into bloom. With more than 100 species of bird that depend on the wildflowers for survival, the park is also an excellent spot for keen birdwatchers.
Not far from Lesueur is Jurien Bay. As one of the main breeding grounds for the rare Australian sea lion, Jurien Bay offers a number of boat tours that will get you up close to these gorgeously cheeky creatures as they laze around on the rocks.
The picturesque town of Greenough offers another place to stretch your legs. Here, you can wander along streets lined with restored heritage buildings, taking in views of the Greenough River as you learn more about the town’s fascinating pioneering history. At Greenough Museum and Gardens, you can explore the carefully restored homestead set in picture-perfect gardens, or alternatively, stop for a picnic and a dip at Devlin Pool.
On to Kalbarri, where you will park up the campervan for the night. With its magnificent sandstone gorges, Kalbarri National Park is truly breathtaking. Take time to tour the park on foot or by canoe, taking in unforgettable vistas such as those on offer at Nature’s Window. Within Kalbarri’s surrounds, you can find the incredible Pink Lake at Port Gregory’s Hutt Lagoon, while a trip inland will take you to Northampton, one of the oldest settlements in Western Australia.
DISTANCE 377KM - DRIVING TIME 4 HOURS
With a good four hours on the road today, you may want to pack up and get on the road early so you can make the most of your time in Denham. While you may not have heard much about Denham, you will more than likely have heard about the natural wonders that surround it. As the gateway to the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Denham is within easy reach of both Shark Bay Marine Park and Monkey Mia.
Again, taking an extra day or two here is highly recommended, as there really is so much to see and do. Starting with – of course – the Monkey Mia dolphins. At Monkey Mia, you can see the resident wild dolphins as they come ashore several times a day to feed. Protected by WA’s Parks and Wildlife Service, the dolphins are well looked after, and are only fed a minimal amount to ensure they remain wild. And, while you may get the opportunity to feed them, you are not allowed to swim with the dolphins or touch them.
Another favourite within the Shark Bay World Heritage Area are the Hamelin Pool stromatolites. These remarkable ‘living fossils’ are the oldest and largest in the world, and studying them can provide an indication of what the earth may have looked like about 3.7 billion years ago when stromatolites grew widespread across the water.
As Western Australia’s largest island, Dirk Hartog Island has become one of the country’s emerging nature-based tourism destinations. Featuring tranquil beaches and dramatically rugged landscapes that are steeped in rich Australian history, the island has plenty to offer. It is here you can witness firsthand the ‘Return to 1616’ ecological restoration project, which aims to return the island to the state in which Dirk Hartog discovered it 400 years ago.
DISTANCE 408KM - DRIVING TIME 4 HOURS 30 MINS
Winding your way back the way you came, there is plenty of opportunities to pull the campervan over and get a closer look at anything you may have missed on the journey north. Tonight, you will stay overnight in Geraldton, a large coastal city that you would have passed through on the journey up.
Known as a trendy seaside city, Geraldton offers everything from cold-brew coffee to street art and arts festivals, making it as much a destination for those who love city life as for those who like getting back to nature. With its warm, windy conditions and excellent swell, it’s easy to see why Geraldton is the windsurfing capital of Australia. However, with the 1429 Batavia wreck just off the coast, this is also a popular destination for divers.
In terms of history and culture, Geraldton offers plenty to keep you busy. You can visit the HMAS Sydney II Memorial and the WA Museum Geraldton to learn more about the region’s maritime history, or take a tour of the marvellous St Francis Xavier Cathedral to explore its Byzantine style architecture. Point Moore Lighthouse, Australia’s first all-steel tower built on the mainland of Australia back in 1878 offers further insight into Geraldton’s past, as does finding out more about the ancient culture of the local indigenous Yamatji people.
DISTANCE 417KM - DRIVING TIME 4 HOURS 30 MINS
From Geraldton, drive the campervan towards Perth for the final leg of this trip. If you don’t mind taking the long way round, detour through Mullewa, another wildflower hotspot. From there, you can take the inland route to Perth, taking in the impressive sights of Three Springs, Watheroo National Park, Moora and Avon Valley National Park (famous for hot air balloon trips), all from the comfort of own campervan.
Arriving back in Perth, you can return your campervan, or extend your trip to uncover the spectacular Margaret River region – and all the exceptional wine and local produce it offers.