This post was first published in 2018 but has been updated in 2019 with the most recent information Western Australia road trip

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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.

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.

western australia road trip
Karijini National Park one of Western Australia’s unforgettable sights

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.

western australia road trip
Camel train on Cable Beach in Broome. An iconic Western Australia activity.

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.

western australia road trip
Enjoying one of the beaches in Western Australia with a cup of tea

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.

western australia road trip
Pack warm clothes for boat rides like this one in Exmouth, Western Australia

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.

western australia road trip
On the road shortly after sunset. Western Australia

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!

western australia road trip
Sunsets are gorgeous in the outback and should be enjoyed! But use common sense when driving after dark

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.

western australia road trip
The unsealed red dirt road leading up to Karijini National Park

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!

western australia road trip
We got 4 extra hours to explore the stunning Karijini National Park when Google miscalculated the drive time from Exmouth.

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.

western australia road trip

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:

WANT TO EXPLORE AUSTRALIA BY CAR? 

Get the best car rental rates by booking on our favourite car rental website, DriveNow. It compares prices across all major car rental companies in Australia, so you are guaranteed to get the best deal.

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.

western australia road trip
Drive slower for better fuel economy when getting from town to town

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.

western australia road trip
Broome Courthouse Market is a great place to support local businesses

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.
western australia road trip
Wildlife alert!

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.

western australia road trip
Murchison River Gorge. Inland part of the Kalbarri National Park

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.

western australia road trip
Oksana sporting a makeshift fly net in Kalbarri National Park

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.

western australia road trip
Lancelin Sand Dunes, Lancelin, 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.

western australia road trip
Time flies when you are having fun sandboarding in Lancelin, Western Australia

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.

western australia road trip
Surfing on sand is a lot easier than in the ocean!

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.

western australia road trip
Sun peeking out from one of the pinnacles at the Pinnacles Desert in Cervantes.

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.

western australia road trip
Sunset over the Pinnacles Desert in Cervantes, 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!

western australia road trip
Taking a moment to enjoy the view on Cable Beach, Broome. Western Australia

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.

western australia road trip
Beautiful Coral Bay beach, you’ll never want to leave!

Must-See Destinations

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. 

Perth

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

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.

Ningaloo Reef

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.

Broome

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.

  • From the US? Get a quote through Allianz Travel Insurance, our recommended travel insurance provider for US citizens/residents.
  • Live elsewhere?  Check out World Nomads, a great travel insurance provider for those based outside of the US. 

Have you ever traveled to Western Australia? What tips would you share with first time visitors to the region?

11 thoughts on “What You Need to Know Before Embarking on the Great Western Australia Road Trip”

  1. Hi Oskana,

    Great you made it to the west and learn’t some invaluable tips. Some good ones too! Funnily, I’ve spent months in Western Australia, living in Broome and Perth and tripping in between and never had a problem with the flies like that. And I wouldn’t advise to drive at night but it sounds like you made good work of it!

    1. The flies were the worst in Kalbarri National Park, and Cape Range National Park. Karijini wasn’t that bad, and there were certainly no flied in Coral Bay, Broome or in the other towns. And yes, everyone said the same thing to us about driving at night, but we gave it a go and it worked great for us. Maybe we were just lucky 🙂

  2. Pleeeaaase don’t encourage people to drive on country roads at night. You may have had a good run, but this advice comes from people who have lived in WA their whole lives and know the dangers based on this lifetime of experience. The number of dead kangaroos along the road (45 counted on my last trip) shows how likely you are to hit an animal. Until you’ve hit a 90kg kangaroo travelling at high speeds please reconsider this advice.

  3. Love the post; good on you guys for having a great time here. The flies vary a lot from year to year; sometimes they are shocking and other times they are almost non existent. Kalbarri can be terrible for them though, but most of WA doesn’t have them anywhere near as bad.

    10 days is an impressive effort; I reckon you could easily spend 10 weeks!

  4. No mention of roo bars on the car! I wouldn’t drive at night without a roo bar. And dusk and dawn are when the kangaroos move around. We hit a big one coming back from Carnarvon as we drove around a bend in the road, which stranded us 120 kms north of Geraldton. We caught him mid hop and he pushed the fan belt into the radiator.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Steph. Our campervan didn’t come with a roo bar, so that was definitely not an option for us. Scary to hear about your accident. I guess we were pretty lucky, as we didn’t have any close encounters during our time in WA. Thanks for higlighting the dangers to others.

  5. You guys had a good time and I’m impressed you saw so much in such a short time. As a seasoned West Aussie allow me the privalidge of encouraging you to head inland on your next trip and explore Kalgoorlie.

    Kal as the locals call her has a facinating history centered on an Irishman named Patty Hannon who found gold in the 1870’s. Mine is a story of cultures and why the population of our state are the most assimulated and integrated community on the planet.

    You see WA’s white population prior to Patty was just 15,000 people, mostly British colonialist, freemen and convicts. When Patty found gold the population swelled to 250,000 with people coming from every corner of the globe. When the gold ran out 75,000 people remained and the amazing process of the intergration of cultures began and still influences our culture to this day.

    In Kal you can see the cultural blend it in the architecture and the people alike, Tribal Aboriginals are regulars in the town during the day and their community products are available in some shops.

    The region known as the goldfields has numerous attractions from natural wonders like Red Hill in Kambalda to Lake Ballard near Menzies. The facinating shopping precinct of Bolder. Watch them blast at the superpit gold mine and the historic Hay St brothels. You can even do a real underground gold mine tour and feel the rumblings of nearby mines as they blast.

    Stop in at Coolgardie Rock shop on the way in to Kal and buy a gold panning dish and try some prospecting of your own or brows this local prospecter’s latests gold finds. Camel rides, Broad Arrow hotal and so much more.

    Hope you visit again.

  6. Marie, East Coast, Canada

    Re Ningaloo Reef: PLEASE never ever tell anyone …..”you can walk right from the beach onto the reef.” I’ve had the opportunity to snorkel over Ningaloo and it was by far the most pristine snorkel experience I have ever had. Absolutely beautiful!. Having said that, you don’t want anyone even touching the reef with their hands or flippers, let alone stand or walk on it. Reefs are living organisms. People kill them by touching them. In the various reef systems I have snorkeled throughout the Caribbean and the Hawaiian Islands the reef has been vastly destroyed by people sitting, standing, walking or anchoring boats on them. Can’t tell you how very discouraging it is go snorkeling over nothing but dead reef. Fringing reefs are often found closer to shore than barrier reefs. All the more reason why people need to know to snorkel responsibly, i.e. go to a place where you can swim out to the reef and swim above it where you have enough water above the actual reef to allow you to swim and use your flippers/fins without ever kicking or touching any part of the reef.. This is the number one rule of snorkeling any reef.

    1. Hi Marie, I think you may be misunderstood our intention with that comment. Perhaps, the wording was unclear, but the comment “you can walk right from the beach onto the reef” was in no way meant to imply that you can literally walk on top of the reef and ruin it. The intention was to note that the reef is very close and does not require you to jump into a boat to get there. If you read a few more articles from our blog, you’ll quickly learn that we are very passionate about the environment and always encourage our readers to explore the underwater world with great care and responsibility, to never touch the reef or any wildlife for that matter, to be extremely cautious when navigating the reef and be respectful of all species that call it home. I’m sorry that our intention and our advice weren’t clear in this piece and thank you for clarifying. Yes, if you do end up snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef, please do so with great care, and ask the local operators for the best places to get to the reef offshore.

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Wallaby at Granite Gorge National Park in Atherton Tablelands, Cairns

Planning a trip to Australia?

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