Driving Australia’s west coast – Indian Ocean Drive

Driving Australia’s west coast – Indian Ocean Drive

Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive

This article contains affiliate links, you can read my disclaimer here. 

If you’re travelling the west coast of Australia, then chances are that the Indian Ocean Drive is the starting point of your road trip in Western Australia. For me, turning into the Indian Ocean Drive always marks the point where I’ve left the city behind and the holiday or weekend begins.

The Indian Ocean Drive is a scenic coastal drive alongside the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean and one of the highlights of travel in West Australia. Constructed in 2010, the Indian Ocean Drive connects Perth’s northern suburbs and Geraldton with plenty of attractions along the way, including the lunar-like Pinnacle Desert.

For a memorable West Australia road trip, I’ve listed the main attractions of the Indian Ocean Drive here, along with the best places to stop. If you’d rather go on a one-day tour to see the best that this strip of coastline offers, click here for more.

Things to see on the Indian Ocean Drive

Lancelin Sand Dunes

Lancelin sand dunes

It may be a 9km detour from the Indian Ocean Drive to get to Lancelin township but if you want to experience the biggest network of sand dunes in WA, then it’s well worth the extra mileage.

These mountains of sand form an otherworldly landscape that you can walk, drive (4WD only) or sandboard across.

Lancelin Dunes

Access to the dunes is on the northeastern periphery of the town, opposite the North End Caravan Park. Follow the signs for the Lancelin offroad area.

For more great things to do in Lancelin, click here.

Nilgen Lookout

Indian Ocean Drive

If you missed the Lancelin Dunes,  take the short detour to the Nilgen Lookout. Here you’ll get panoramic views of the gigantic dunes as well as the first glimpses of the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.

This is a particularly nice spot during springtime when the wildflowers are in full bloom and there’s a short walk trail that gives you the best views.

Wedge Island Beach

Wedge Island and Grey Shack Settlement

Wedge Island Shacks

For a scene that could be out of Mad Max, take the trip to the shack settlements at Wedge Island or Grey. 

Before the construction of the Indian Ocean Drive, these semi-legal fishing communities were accessible only via a lengthy and adventurous 4WD trip across the beach and sand dunes. These days though, both settlements can be reached on paved road and are an integral part of the local heritage of this coastline.

Wedge is one of the largest remaining shack settlements in Australia. Made up of corrugated iron shacks with generators and windmills, walking through the town creates an almost post-apocalyptic feeling.

Shopping Wedge Style

Shopping Wedge Style

The Wedge Island turnoff is located 35km north of the Nilgen Lookout turnoff. Grey is a further 27km north.

Nambung National Park and the Pinnacles


If you just stop off at one place along the way, then make sure it’s the Pinnacles. Rising out of the yellow sand, these limestone formations form a truly lunar landscape.  For the best experience view see the Pinnacles at sunrise or sunset. The light truly transforms the landscape into something remarkable during this time and you really don’t get the same experience during the middle of the day.

Admission to the National Park is $12 per vehicle and can be accessed any time of the day. Once there, follow the signs for the Pinnacle Discovery Drive, a 2km drive through the most scenic part of the Pinnacle Desert.

For more information on the formation and geology of the Pinnacles as well as their cultural significance visit the Pinnacle Discovery Centre. See more on the Pinnacles here.

Picnic Spots

For a great picnic spot and a dip in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean stop off at Hangover Bay, Thirsty Point or Kangaroo Point. These are all found on the road to Cervantes as you head north from the Pinnacles.

Cervantes Lobster Shack

The strip of coastline from Lancelin to Geraldton is renowned for the Western Rock Lobster – West Australia’s most valuable fishery and the mainstay of many of these coastal communities.

For a gourmet lunch, albeit a casual one, head to the Lobster Shack in Cervantes. Here you can also take a tour of the processing facility or jump aboard the Shack Attack, the flagship crayfish vessel to experience the day in the life of crayfishermen.

Alternatively, buy a lobster or two and stop along the coastline for a gourmet picnic lunch. You’ll also find this delicacy in many of the eateries along the coastline.

The Stromatolites at Lake Thetis

Stromatolites Lake Thetris

They may not look like much but these rock-like structures found at Lake Thetis near Cervantes are in fact some of the oldest living organisms found on the planet. Not only are these old micro-organisms classed as the earliest form of life on earth, they have also been crucial in unravelling the long history of life on earth.

There are only a few places in the world where you get to see stromatolites and Lake Thetis provides a fascinating and impressive insight into the origins of life.

Entrance to Lake Thetis is free. The boardwalk provides easy access to the best viewing sights and there’s also a 2.5 km walk around the lake. See my blog post here about Lake Thetis.

Lesueur National Park 

In springtime, Lesueur National Park is one of the best places in the state to view West Australia’s world-famous array of wildflowers. Located  20 km northeast of Jurien Bay, Lesueur is home to over 900 types of wildflower species with many of these not found anywhere else in the world. See a more detailed list of wildflower hotspots here.

Lesueur National Park has a scenic drive that guides you through the most picturesque parts of the park. There are also several bushwalking trails throughout the national park with the best time to visit is from August to October.

Jurien Bay Diving and Snorkelling Discovery Trail

Image: Tourism Western Australia

The Jurien Bay Diving and Snorkelling Discovery Trail provides an amazing underwater experience. The trail follows a reef system that is home to a plethora of fish and other marine life. There are also caves, grottos and overhangs to explore for more experienced divers and snorkellers.

The Diving and Snorkelling trail is located 25 metres from Jurien Bay Beach at the end of the old jetty piles. Swim Cards with descriptions of the varieties of fish and coral found along the trail are available from local shops in Jurien Bay.

Skydiving Jurien Bay

If you have the urge to jump out of a plane, you can do this in Jurien Bay with Skydive Jurien Bay. Skydivers are rewarded with the most spectacular aerial views of the turquoise coastline before landing directly on the beach.

Jurien Bay Skydive is located on Bashford Street, Jurien Bay and operates year round. See more here.

Indian Ocean Drive

Sandy Cape

For the ultimate beach camping experience, stay the night at Sandy Cape campground. Located  13 km north of Jurien Bay, Sandy Cape is a near perfect camping experience with a picturesque white sandy beach and crystal clear water that’s ideal for swimming, snorkelling and fishing.

The campsite is accessible by 2WD vehicle.  Sites are not available for pre-booking and the campground can get pretty busy during weekends and school holidays.



Image: Tourism Western Australian

For a step into a bygone era, take a look at Greenough. Settled in the 1860s, Greenough provides a glimpse into the early agricultural history of West Australia and tells the tales of the settlement of the midwest region.

The Central Greenough Historical Settlement contains 11 original buildings in what some claim to be Australia’s best preserved 19th-century town.  The buildings are now administered by the National Trust and are open daily between 10 am and 4 pm.

Also, look out for the sharp leaning trees in this area. A testament to the strong seabreeze that comes howling through here in the summer months.

Leaning tree Greenough

Places to stay on the Indian Ocean Drive

Hotels and Resorts

Pinnacles Edge Resort – 4.5-star resort in Cervantes. The resort has modern and new studios, and 1 and 2-bedroom apartments, many with spa suites. There’s also a great pool, as well as restaurant and bar.

For the latest prices and availability click here.

RAC Holiday Park – newly upgraded, the holiday park is located in Cervantes with direct access to the beach. The holiday park has self-contained cabins, including some that are dog-friendly and a new pool.

For the latest prices and availability click here.

Jurien Bay Motel Apartments – brand new and modern apartment style accommodation located near the jetty. Excellent facilities and nicely furnished.

For the latest prices and availability click here.

Jurien Bay Tourist Park – affordable self-contained cabin style accommodation. There are 1 and 2 bedroom cabins and well suited to families.

For the latest prices and availability click here.

Caravan Parks

All towns along the Indian Ocean Drive have caravan parks with good facilities and powered sites. You’ll find these in Lancelin, Cervantes, Greenhead, Jurien Bay, Leeman and Dongara.

Camping Sites

There are some excellent camping sites along the Indian Ocean Drive. These are non-powered and offer basic facilities, including eco-toilets. You’ll need to be self-contained and bring your own water but you get an excellent beachfront place to camp for a budget price. These sites can’t be booked in advance and operate on a first come, first served basis.

Sandy Cape – located 10 km north of Jurien Bay, this is one of the prettiest beaches along the coastline with fantastic camping sites on the beach. See more here.

Milligan Island Camping Node – located between Greenhead and Leeman. The site is $15 per night and has nice camping sites near the beach. See more here.

Cliff Head – free campsites north of Leeman with direct beachfront access. See my blog post here for more details.

West Australia Road Trip - Indian Ocean Drive








You may also like:

Things to do in Geraldton 

Emergency numbers you may need when travelling in Western Australia 

The ultimate 4WD campervan hire in Perth 

West Australian Explorer is the outdoor guide to WA. For travel inspiration straight to your inbox subscribe to the newsletter. 


  1. Anne says:

    I want to go to Ellendale Pool, it looks like a great place. As for those leaning trees my dad always says it is the only place you can climb a free from the top down!

  2. Reni says:

    Hi Nina

    We loved the Indian Ocean Drive. There are so many cool spots to stop along the way. Unfortunately we missed the Lancelin sand dune. It looks pretty cool though.


    • Nina B says:

      It’s hard to imagine that the Indian Ocean Drive has only been there for the past five years. It makes the drive north much more interesting. You get great views of the dunes all the way to Cervantes, but the dunes around Lancelin and Wedge are especially good with a 4WD.

  3. Andy says:

    Hey Nina, interesting stuff. It’s been years since I’ve been this way and I have fond memories of nights spent at the Pinnacles and Lancelin.

    Wedge Island, Grey and particularly Greenough sound fascinating! Places I hope to get to now next time I’m over.

    • Nina B says:

      I’m not usually for development but have to concede that the Indian Ocean Drive has made the trip north a lot more interesting and diverse than the inland route on Brand Highway. Wedge and Grey are worth a look next time you’re in the area. It really is a scene from Mad Max!

  4. Jo says:

    We haven’t had the chance to do the Indian Ocean Drive, and I’d love to visit Wedge (what a brilliant name) with it’s ‘post apocalyptic feel’. How amazing to live basically off the grid in a place like that, and not get caught up in the vagaries of the 21st Century. There’s certainly much more to see than you might give the area credit for from the map, and as ever it’s looking for the small, pivotal scenes and oddities which make road trips so much fun.

    • Nina B says:

      You’re absolutely right. I find looking at maps of WA pretty misleading. Usually the attractions aren’t the towns on the maps but the little things in between.
      If you do head north, be sure to stop at post-apocalyptic Wedge 🙂

  5. Meg says:

    I love all of these tips! I’m currently working in Jurien Bay and this has given me lots of inspiration for day trips to take, thanks! I am especially keen to try the Lobster Shack in Cervantes and check out the off-the grid living in Wedge.

    • Nina B says:

      Hi Meg, how are you enjoying Jurien? I bet you’ll have a lot more to add to the list. I’ve also heard that Stockyard Gully near Jurien is supposed to be worth checking out, but it’s 4WD only.

  6. Great post. I thought I’d easily tick all of these off, but alas, there’s quite a few I haven’t done!

    Despite living only a few hundred kays away, and having been through the area many, many times there’s still more to do!


    • Nina B says:

      Usually I drive non-stop until I get to Geraldton. It’s taken me a few years to realise that there’s more on offer than I thought along this strip of coastline. I’m yet to go, but probably a worthwhile mention is Stockyard Gully National Park near Cervantes. Only accessible by 4WD, there are several limestone caves in the park and an underwater river system.

  7. […] Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive […]

  8. […] Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive […]

  9. […] Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive […]

  10. […] Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive […]

  11. […] Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive […]

  12. […] Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive […]

  13. […] Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive […]

  14. […] Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive […]

  15. […] Things to see and do on the Indian Ocean Drive […]

  16. […] Driving Australia’s west coast – Indian Ocean Drive […]

  17. […] a comprehensive post that details all the attractions along this road see my article on things to do on the Indian Ocean Drive and see my favourite free camping site […]

  18. […] 2-hours from the city centre. From Perth, the most scenic way to get to the Pinnacles is along the Indian Ocean Drive on the beautiful coral […]

  19. […] 2-hours from the city centre. From Perth, the most scenic way to get to the Pinnacles is along the Indian Ocean Drive on the beautiful coral […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.