This post was first published in 2018 but has been updated in 2019 with the most recent information Western Australia road trip
They call it Australia’s last frontier, a land of photogenic landscapes, endless desolate roads, remote outback areas, unforgettable sunsets, incredible natural wonders, and beautiful beaches.
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If you’re interested in getting off the beaten track and exploring in a way you would never be able to in a bustling big city, then Western Australia will present lots of opportunities.
Infatuated by the romantic image of traversing the lesser-explored state of Western Australia, we set off on a 10-day Western Australia road trip.
We researched the routes and attractions, calculated driving times and planned stopovers. We knew going into it that we were in for a road trip; Western Australia has no other means of transport. Like sponges, we soaked up every bit of information we could. We listened to locals’ advice and made sure to visit their favourite spots. We felt ready and in theory, we were.
But in reality, no trip no matter how well planned out and researched is ever a smooth sail. So just like many others, we made a plethora of little mistakes along the way.
So consider us your knight in shining armour, here to save you from making the same silly mistakes! Here are a few things we wish we had known before embarking on our adventure in Western Australia- our top 9 Western Australia travel tips.
Plan Your Western Australia Road Trip for the Best Time of the Year
During our Western Australia itinerary research, we learned that May-June was the best time to visit Western Australia. The summer heat, which can sometimes get up to 35-40 degrees had just subsided bringing the daily averages down to very manageable 25-30 degrees.
The water was still warm, 25-27 degrees and despite the fact that May and June are known to be the rainiest months of the year, we lucked out with clear blue skies for the entire duration of our trip. We packed for hot summer climate, prepared to spend 10 days bumming around in bathing suits, shorts, and singlets.
Pack Warm Clothes
Like most people, the weather in Western Australia caught us by surprise. At night, the temperatures in Perth and along the coast drop down to 10-18 degrees.
So, if you are travelling to Western Australia between the months of May-November pack at least a few warmer pieces of clothing to keep you cozy at night and warm after a swim in the ocean.
Make More Time for Daylight Activities
Driving at night in WA is a terrible idea. “The wildlife roams freely in the outback,” they said, “it is best if you don’t drive between dusk and dawn.” Some campervan and car rental companies even forbid driving at night altogether. (Ours didn’t, although they too recommended that we don’t do it).
We didn’t initially didn’t plan to drive at night at first but ended up pushing the boundaries and driving after dusk a few times. We found that by driving in the evening we could split up our long 7-10 hour drives into more manageable 3-5 hour drives and avoid losing too much precious daylight on the road.
Use Common Sense Driving After Dark
But, we weren’t careless by driving after dusk. We drove well below the speed limit and only for a few hours after sunset. We kept our high beams on at all times, keeping our eyes peeled on the road and the wildlife that did sometimes pop out from the bushes.
In some places, like the Cape Range National Park near Exmouth, we had to slow down to 40km/hr to avoid running into 40 kangaroos that we counted chilling on the side of the road. It pays for one to know what is slow travel. Be extremely careful if you are considering driving at night. Know your own limits and never drive while tired!
Research Your Route
When it comes to trips that are self-drive, Western Australia certainly makes it a unique experience.
Those that frequently explore new countries by car will attest that Google maps and Google navigation is the best thing invented since sliced bread. For those planning to explore Western Australia by car, it’s an invaluable resource.
Even if you don’t have mobile reception or WIFI connection on the road, you can hook up to wifi at your hotel and pre-load the maps/route and use GPS to get from point A to point B with great ease. However, don’t trust Google in Western Australia.
Speed Limits in Western Australia
It seems that Google navigation hasn’t quite figured out the speed limits on some roads in W.A., labelling many 110km/hr roads as 60km/hr or even less.
The good news is that it’s always a mistake that will benefit you. What may look like a 10-hour drive on Google Maps (Exmouth to Karijini National Park, for example) is actually only 550kms and with a speed limit of 110kms/hr, it really is only a 6-hour drive.
That’s 4 extra hours you can now spend exploring the park, or chilling out on the beach in Exmouth. Thanks for an unexpected surprise, Google!
Gas Stations Can Be Few and Far Between
Gas stations (or roadhouses, as they call them here) in remote areas of W.A. can be very spread out, with some being 200-300 km apart, so err on the side of caution and fill up when you can. We learned this the hard way, pushing our luck a bit too far when making our way from Kalbarri National Park to Coral Bay.
We bypassed the gas station in Kalbarri, thinking that with over half a tank of fuel we’ll be fine and ended up barely making it to the next roadhouse. The last thing you want is to run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere, so play it safe and fill up whenever you can.
When the road looks this deserted for hours on end, the idea of being stuck on the side of the road sounds rather unpleasant
Rent a 4WD Vehicle
Embarking on a Western Australia road trip is one of the best ways to explore this remote region of Australia. You aren’t going to find many other alternatives in Western Australia. Whether you plan on traveling in a car or a campervan, make sure you are comfortable driving on the left side of the road and be sure to invest in a 4WD vehicle.
Car rentals in Western Australia aren’t cheap. Even for a non-4WD car without any of the bells and whistles, you could still be looking at a minimum of AUD 70 per day.
Check car rates and car availability with our recommended provider:
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Pick a Car that’s Fuel Efficient
If you are navigating around W.A. by car you’ll know that fuel usage can have a huge impact on the total cost of your trip. If a campervan is your choice of transportation you may be surprised to learn (we were) that driving at 80-90kms/hr is more efficient than going at the 110km/hr speed limit.
Based on our experience, driving at slower speeds can give you 50-100kms extra per tank which is better for the environment too since you will be filling up less. So if you are trying to conserve slow down! You’ll not only save on gas, and achieve a greener road trip but will also be more likely to avoid an accident with wildlife on the roads.
Tips for a More Eco-Friendly Western Australia Road Trip
Choose eco-friendly hotels, and restaurants while your own on the road. Or even better try camping, and supporting local farmers markets.
Of course, where you decide to stay isn’t the only thing to take into account when it comes to making sure your road trip is as eco-friendly as you can make it.
- Choose a hybrid model or energy efficient vehicle whenever possible.
- Get your car serviced prior to your Australian road trip, and check your oil and tire pressure regularly for better fuel efficiency.
- When it’s hot out roll down the windows instead of using A/C.
- Avoid single-use plastics, and minimize packaging by using reusable grocery bags or water bottles when you need to restock food and refreshments.
- Bring your friends! It’s always better (and more fun!) to travel with a full car of people. A five-person vehicle is more eco-friendly then travelling with a couple of two-seaters.
That’s enough about cars…here are a few other tips!
Don’t Forget to Enjoy Nature
If you haven’t felt too inspired to try camping before, just remember that it’s the best way to experience some of Western Australia’s natural events.
If you’re in the northwestern portion in March through October, you could see the Staircase to the Moon. Look up at the sky when the full moon rises, and see the optical illusion that turns the mudflats into a staircase towards the sky.
If you’re aiming more for a spring road trip, then you’ll be there at the perfect time to watch the native birds migrate home from their winter ranges. From ducks to parrots to the well-known kookaburra, there won’t be a shortage.
Black Flies are a Real Pest
We knew that pesky black flies were common in Northern Territories, in places like Alice Springs and Uluru, but we were not prepared to encounter them in Western Australia. We were swarmed by hundreds of flies (literally!) as soon as we entered Kalbarri National Park, located just 600kms north of Perth.
Invest in a Fly Net
The flies were so annoying that we had to use our clothing to create makeshift head covers to get us through the first few hours in the park. We soon discovered that fly nets can be purchased in any local grocery/convenience shops and at most gas stations in the area.
The nets are stupid expensive at $7, but it’s a small fee to pay for being able to enjoy the parks without 100 flies on your face. The money is well worth it, so don’t hesitate to spend it upfront.
You can Sandboard at the Lancelin Sand Dunes Without a Tour
The small fishing town of Lancelin is surrounded by sand hills, sprawling and enormous; they’re the biggest dunes of their kind in Western Australia. Soft, nearly pure white, and free of any vegetation, the dunes are a sight to see on their own, and that isn’t even getting into the sand dune surfing opportunities. If you find yourself stuck and wondering what to do in Western Australia, hire a board in town, and you’ll realize why Lancelin is one of our must-see places to visit in Western Australia.
We found out that sandboards can be hired from the gas station and a few other shops in town. Excited that our research didn’t lie, we grabbed 2 boards from the first place we came across, the Lancelin gas station.
We paid $20 AUD/board for 2 hours only to later discover that the 7 Lucky shop down the street offered the boards for half the price and has a variety of sitting and standing boards available. We kicked ourselves for not shopping around and getting ripped off, silly tourist style.
So if sandboarding in Lancelin is on your to-do list for WA, forego booking an expensive tour and head straight to the 7 Lucky store on Cunliffe St for the best selection of boards at cheap prices.
Then head straight to the dunes (the guys inside 7 Lucky can point them out for you) and give yourself at least 3-4 hours at the dunes. Time flies when you are having fun!
For Western Australia travel tips for experiencing Lancelin Sand Dunes, including directions to the site and where to park, check out the comprehensive guide on the Lancelin Tourism Website.
Don’t Miss the Pinnacles in Cervantes
Cervantes itself is mostly a sleepy fishing town along the Coral Coast, but it’s also where you’ll find Nambung National Park, home to the beautiful Pinnacles. The Pinnacles are limestone formations, up to 5 metres (16 feet) high and up to 30,000 years old.
The Pinnacles in Cervantes is one of Western Australia’s best-kept secrets. Knowing that the Pinnacles are best enjoyed at sunset, from other Western Australia travel tips we got from friends and locals, we arrived in Nambung National Park, home of the Pinnacles Desert just as the sun was dipping below the horizon.
We imagined the Pinnacles to be a small patch of desert in the middle of the park, a place that you can check out in 15 minutes or less and were surprised to find out that the Pinnacles Desert is actually a 1.5km trail.
Walking the trail should take approximately 45 mins-1 hour, but if you add the time for photos and exploration and you are looking at at least a 2hrs adventure. It’s a beautiful way to fill an evening while you decide what to do in Western Australia.
And turned out, the Pinnacles were worth every minute! We wish we had arrived at the park earlier, giving ourselves ample time to explore the pinnacles before sunset without feeling rushed.
Take Your Time
If there is one piece of advice we could give to anyone traveling to Western Australia, it would be to give yourself lots of time to explore this side of the country. There are too many things to do in Western Australia to list them all here. We knew that a 10-day trip was ambitious, but we didn’t realize how rushed it would be. Sure, we got to see everything on our itinerary, but it was exhausting!
There are simply too many amazing places to see in Western Australia, and with an added travel time you really do need at least 2-3 weeks in your Western Australia itinerary to properly explore the region.
There are a few destinations on your Western Australia road trip that you absolutely should not miss. If you’ve found yourself at a loss trying to plan for things to do in Western Australia, then this isn’t exactly a road map of Western Australia, but this list can make for a good starting point.
As one of the most remote cities on earth, Perth is a bit quirky compared to most cities. It’s cosmopolitan, but still laid back, and the people in Perth are some of the nicest you’ll ever meet. Like any other city of its size, you’ll find plenty of Western Australia attractions and you’ll have to pick and choose what you want to do, but whether you’re taking in the scenery at Kings Park or taking selfies with the quokkas on Rottnest Island, you’re almost guaranteed to have a good time.
Hutt Lagoon is one of the most incredible sights you’ll ever see, looking more like something out of a fairy tale, even if it doesn’t necessarily smell like a fairy tale, cementing it as one of our must-see places to visit in Western Australia. The water is bright pink, and it’s surrounded by a powerful chemical smell. Despite everything your eyes and nose try to tell you, though, Hutt Lagoon is perfectly natural, thanks to the algae that live there.
Kalbarri National Park
Considering Kalbarri National Park largely consists of the coast, coastal cliffs, and a massive river gorge, it’s no surprise that it’s a sight to behold. Most well-known of Kalbarri National Park’s scenery is Nature’s Window, a natural rock arch that frames the Murchison River Gorge like an enormous window.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to go snorkeling or diving, then you’re definitely going to want to make a stop of Ningaloo Reef at Cape Range National Park. It’s Australia’s largest fringing coral reef, and you can walk right from the beach onto the reef. Making it one of the most unique Western Australia attractions, it’s also one of the limited places in the world where you can swim with whale sharks, which are gentle and mostly harmless, but also the largest fish on the planet.
Karijini National Park
Australia isn’t exactly lacking when it comes to national parks, but Karijini National Park still manages to be one of the best. It can be a bit of a pain to get to, as the roads are bumpy enough you’ll find yourself wishing for an off-roading harness, but the scenery and the stunning gorges make it one of the most amazing places to visit in Western Australia and more than make up for a few bumps in the road.
Located at the end of your Perth-to-Broome drive, Broome is a must-see stop on your road trip largely because of Cable Beach. It’s one of the most spectacular beaches in Australia and one of the most gorgeous Western Australia attractions, and we fell in love with it even after just 2 days. It’s perfect for paddleboarding and surfing, and if you’re on the beach at low tide then you can explore all sorts of rock formations and tide pools. If you linger until the evening, then you’ll be in for one of the most amazing sunsets you’ve ever seen.
BEFORE YOU GO: DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE
We can’t stress enough the importance of travel insurance, especially in a country like Australia. Whether you just plan to explore the cities, do a little bit of hiking, or go extreme (think surfing, scuba diving, or ever skydiving), being protected on your travels is an irreplaceable peace of mind. We learned about the importance of travel insurance the hard way and now we never travel without coverage.