Perth to Exmouth Road Trip – here’s all you need to know for an awesome drive (Updated April 2024)

Perth to Exmouth Road Trip – here’s all you need to know for an awesome drive (Updated April 2024)

FinPerth to Exmouth road trip

West Australia is the self-declared road trip state and one of the best road trips in Western Australia is this drive along the gorgeous Coral Coast from Perth to Exmouth.

From the lunar-like Pinnacles to the wide spaces of WA’s outback and the glistening turquoise waters of the Ningaloo Reef,  the Perth to Exmouth road trip packs a punch. See all the highlights here to get the most out of your travels along Australia’s west coast.

Tips before you go

How much time do you need?

The Perth to Exmouth drive is 1270 km. That’s without any side trips to other attractions like the Pinnacles, Kalbarri, Monkey Mia or Coral Bay. For a road trip that includes stops at the major attractions, the recommendation is a minimum of 6-7 days one way but you can make this trip last as long as you want.

Driving distances are long and you really don’t want to spend all your time doing nothing but driving.

I’ve written as much detail as possible to help you see what all the options are and decide on what you want to see and what you want to leave out. I hope it helps.

When is the best time?

If I could pick at a time to do the Perth to Exmouth road trip, I would choose April to June. This is when the strong southerly winds ease up, the Indian Ocean becomes one huge lake and the sweltering heat turns to temperate sunny days.

If you come for windy days, choose October to January. It’s a windy coastline and I’ve even heard people from ‘windy Wellington’ in New Zealand complain about the strong seabreeze.

Perth to Geraldton (414 km – 4.5 hours)

Pinnacles Perth

The Pinnacles are one of the highlight of any road trip to Exmouth.

The strip from Perth to Geraldton along the Indian Ocean Drive offers lots of sightseeing opportunities. The highlights include Yanchep National Park where you can see Koalas, the Pinnacles, the sand dunes around Lancelin, beaches along the turquoise coast and the oldest living organisms at Lake Thetis.

For 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 here.

This road can get busy with sightseers on their way to the Pinnacles and beyond.  On weekends and holidays, there are many caravans on the road and preciously few overtaking options.

Take care on this strip of road and stick to the speed limit which has now been lowered to 100 km. See my article for more Driving tips for Western Australia.

NOTE: Since April 2024 there are road closures in place around Leeman along the Indian Ocean Road. Check Main Roads for updates.

Geraldton to Kalbarri (154 km – 1.45 hours)

Geraldton

The leaning trees of Geraldton

You know you’re getting close to Geraldton when the trees start leaning like this.

Geraldton is a small town that has come a long way in the past few years and is a worthwhile stop on any Exmouth road trip. It’s home to some fab beaches, cute cafes, weekend markets, an excellent museum and the Yamaji Aboriginal Art Centre.

Click this article for ideas on other things to do in Geraldton.

Northampton

Most people drive straight past this quaint historic town, however, that’s a mistake and Northampton is well worth a stop on your Perth to Exmouth road trip. The town will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The main street is lined by old colonial buildings, quaint little shops and a few good old fashioned pubs.

Off the main road is the impressive St Marys Church built by renowned priest and architect Monsignor Hawes whose churches throughout the midwest are one of WA’s architectural masterpieces.

The bakery, located on the main highway is also a worthy quick stop.

Horrocks Beach

Horrocks Beach

Not everyone will agree that this is the best beach in Australia but if you get a day like this, a swim in the sheltered lagoon is a pretty magical experience.

To most people’s surprise, Horrocks Beach won the accolade as the best mainland beach in Australia in 2017. Take a trip to this little coastal community and decide yourself if this is the prettiest beach in WA.

It’s an 18km drive from the Kalbarri Road to get to Horrocks but if you can spare the extra mileage take the scenic road to Port Gregory .

Principality of Hutt River

Located before Port Gregory, Hutt River Province is one of WA’s oddities. This micronation succeeded from Australia in 1970 to become its own independent nation. If you have a spare time on your drive to Exmouth, then a visit to Hut River is a unique experience.

You can take a visit to the principality, meet the king and get your passport stamped. For more on this micronation including history and full details on how to get there, see Visiting the Principality of Hutt River.

Pink Lake

Pink Lake Western Australia

For Instagram worthy pictures, make a beeline for the Pink Lake on the Hutt Lagoon near Port Gregory. The lake constantly changes colour and the intensity will depend on the time of day and cloud coverage.

See some tips on the best time to visit the Pink Lake here.

Kalbarri

Kalbarri Cliffs

The scenery changes drastically the closer you get to Kalbarri and the red plunging coastal cliffs are truly breathtaking. Take a stop before you get to the town for some spectacular coastal scenery. Keep an eye out for the migrating humpback whales in Autumn and Spring.

Kalbarri is a thriving coastal town and has lots of land and water-based activities. The star attraction is the National Park and the gorges. My favourite things to do are watching the surfers at Jakes Point and a casual seafood dinner at Finlays.

Kalbarri to Monkey Mia (400 km – 4.5 hours)

I’ve heard lots of different opinions about making the trip to Denham / Monkey Mia on a Perth to Exmouth road trip. The main consideration is that from the North West Coastal Highway, it’s a 129 km drive to get to Denham and the road seems to stretch on forever. If you continue on north afterwards, you’ll have to take the same 129 km road back to the Northwest Highway.

In short, it’s not a quick detour. Depending on how much time you have on your Exmouth road trip, you may or may not choose to take this option and drive on to Carnarvon instead from the highway turn off.

My advice is, if you’re planning to go to Monkey Mia for one night only my recommendation is not to go because it’s a long way in and you have to take that exact way back again the next day.

On the other hand, if you’ve got a few extra days the Shark Bay Heritage area is a nature’s paradise that’s worthy of exploring. The highlights are below.

Billabong Roadhouse

Petrol stations begin to get sparse from here onwards and it’s well worth stopping for fuel when you have the chance. I always stop at the Billabong, it usually has the cheapest fuel and the inside of the roadhouse is worth a look for all the photos and memorability. The Billabong roadhouse also offers free camping if you need a place to rest.

Shell Beach

Nothing but shells on shell beach

Shell Beach is made up of exactly that – millions and millions of tiny, white shells stretching along the beach for an incredible 70 km. This unique beach is located on the Denham Hamelin Road 45 km before Denham.

Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool

Imagine seeing the first life on earth? Sounds incredible but that’s what the thrombolites and stromatolites are. They’re the earliest organisms on earth that are responsible for the oxygen we have on earth.

Hamelin Pool is one of the only sites in the world where these incredible organisms still exist. See more about the stromatolites here.

Denham

Denham is a little coastal community located on the bay of the Shark Bay World Heritage area. It’s a good base for exploring the rest of the area and only a short drive from Monkey Mia. The main advantage of staying in Denham is that it has all amenities including supermarkets and a good selection of caravan parks.

Monkey Mia

Monkey Mia

Feeding time at Monkey Mia

Monkey Mia is synonymous with dolphins who regularly come to feed in the sheltered waters here. Some people come away disappointed with their dolphin experience. It has become a tourist hub and feeding sessions are strictly regulated. At best you can expect to feed the dolphin a fish along with many other people. It is a nice way though to come close to dolphins and see them up close in the clear waters but if you’re looking for a David Attenborough experience, this is not it.

While most people only come for the dolphins, Monkey Mia has plenty of other things going for it. This area is WA’s first World Heritage Listing due to its incredible wilderness and the diversity of marine life. The area has one of the world’s largest populations of dugongs and turtles.

Shark Bay to Carnarvon (325 km – 3.15hrs)

Shark Bay Heritage Site

Where the desert starts to meet the sea. Shark Bay World Heritage Area from above – and yes that straight line is the road.

From Shark Bay to Carnarvon it’s back along the same road to North West Coastal Highway and on to Carnarvon.

Wooramel River Retreat

Driving along the highway, the idea of a Riverfront Retreat seems unlikely, but that’s exactly what Wooramel is. This is an awesome working station that offers a real outback experience.

Wooramel offers true outback hospitality and is one of the best overnight spots on road trip to Exmouth. There are camping sites along the river banks (depending on rainfall this might be dry or flowing), camp oven dinners and amazing natural hot bore baths. See what I mean here.

Carnarvon

Carnarvon is known as West Australia’s food bowl and produces the majority of fresh fruit and vegetables for the state. This means that it’s a pretty good place to stock up on fruit and veg. The best way to do this is along the Gascoyne Food Trail. The trail takes you past all the best plantations where you can buy direct from the growers.

I always make a mandatory stop at Bumbaks for the delicious mango ice cream and selection of condiments. Further along, you’ll find the instagram worthy cactus garden.

Other good reasons to stop in Carnarvon is for a visit to the Space Museum where you can dress up as an astronaut. It’s also the best place to hit the supermarket and stock up on supplies before you get further north.

Carnarvon to Exmouth (363 km – 3.40hrs)

Blowholes and the road to the Red Bluff and Gnaraloo

King Waves Kill

Once past Carnarvon the road continues north. There is however, an option to take a trip to the Blowholes and the strip of coastline from Quobba Station to the Red Bluff and Gnarloo Station.

The Carnarvon Blowholes are a natural phenomenon and shoot water through cracks in the granite rocks making a massive roar in the process. They are particularly impressive on days with big swell.

The blowholes are located 75 km from Carnarvon and again this is not a quick detour. It’s another dead straight road that seems to go on forever. But if you have time there are some excellent camping options at the Blohooles (free) and Quobba Station for a real outback station experience. Alternatively, venture further along the track to the Red Bluff and Gnaraloo.

Coral Bay

Peoples Park Coral Bay

Crystal clear waters of Coral Bay

Located 237 km from Carnarvon, Coral Bay is a small seaside town located along the Ningaloo Reef. Snorkelling and diving are amazing here.  You can literally access the reef from the beach in no time – no boat required. It’s also a fantastic place to chill and relax for a few days.

There are two caravan parks in Coral Bay, both get very busy during holiday times so plan ahead if you’re going during the busy seasons. For more information about camping at Coral Bay see Our stay at Coral Bay here. 

Coral Bay is located about 25 km from the Northwest Highway turn off.

Bullara Station

Bullara station is located between Coral Bay and Exmouth. It’s a working outback station and an awesome spot to experience true outback hospitality. Bullara is open between April and October and has affordable bush-style camping sites with communal campfires, bbqs and seasonal activities. See their website here.

Termite Mounds

Termite Mounds Exmouth

Once on the road from Coral Bay to Exmouth, these incredible structures pop up all across the landscape. Created by tiny termites these fortresses structures are like medieval fortresses with kings and queens and soldier termites doing all the hard slogging.

Take a stop on the road to Exmouth where you can take a closer look and read more about the creatures behind these mounds. See this excellent article to understand more on termite mounds.

Before you start climbing over them, beware that some of these structures are still inhabited by a plethora of tiny creatures.

Exmouth

Exmouth is the gateway to Cape Range National Park and much of the sensational Ningaloo Reef. It’s a top town to use as a base to explore the surrounding area and offers plenty of conveniences. My favourite thing is the emus who are frequently seen leisurely strolling up and down the main road.

Again, it’s a decent drive to get to the national park and it’s many attractions from the town. Hence, allow a few days to explore.

The highlight of course of any Perth to Exmouth road trip is swimming with whale sharks. Whale shark tours operate from Exmouth from April to October. See some options of tours here.

Closing Words

  • The Perth to Exmouth drive offers plenty of attractions and sights along the way but involves a lot of driving. Plan sufficient otime to avoid driving non-stop.
  • Like most of Western Australia, the main star of the show is the natural attractions and not the towns. While you’ll find modern conveniences like motels, supermarkets and restaurants in Geraldton, Carnarvon and Exmouth, it’s the outdoor experiences that are the highlight. Think national parks, hiking, snorkelling, stargazing, beach walks and outdoor BBQs and picnics.
  • Most importantly, make use of the petrol stations along the way and fill up when you have the chance. If you have a diesel vehicle some petrol stations require pre-pay. Carry some cash with you to pay for fuel in case the internet connections fails at the roadhouses (I’m speaking from experience and trust me you don’t want to be stuck at a roadhouse because you can’t pay with a card).

There you have it, all the details for a fantastic drive from Perth to Exmouth. Would love to hear your questions or comments below.

 

 

 

 

19 Comments

  1. […] PDF combines the Dog’s Guide to Margaret River, Dog’s Guide from Perth to Exmouth, Dog-friendly camping in Albany and surrounding areas and Dog-friendly camping sites near […]

  2. Perth Is Ok says:

    This is very helpful blog for Aussies and peoples from outside Australia. If someone want or planning road trip of Perth to Exmouth, they can get lot of information from this blog.

  3. Amanda says:

    Hey! Am currently living in Melbourne and thinking of doing a road trip from Perth to Exmouth next year. Found this guide super helpful and informative. Thank you!! 🙂

    • WA Explorer says:

      So glad you found the guide helpful. Have an awesome trip up the west coast.

      • Jayde Clarke says:

        Hi, I would firstly like to say thank you for your time to put this together. My partner and I are planning on going from Exmouth to Perth in June this year I was wondering if you hired a 4×4 or a campervan for your trip. If so would you recommend the same company and roughly how much was it?

        • WA Explorer says:

          Thanks for the lovely feedback. I’ve done the trip in different types of vehicles and even the bus. The pictures in the post cae from a trip I did with a troopcarrier rental from WAExperts. Yes, totally recommend them but I’d only go the 4WD option if you’re planning on going off-road. The car comes fully equipped with recovery gear, emergency beacon and everything you need for going to remote locations. The rental cost for 4WD is generally higher and you’ll also pay more in fuel. Most of the trip described in the article is completely manageable with a 2WD campervan. It really depends where you want to go and if you want to go to remote off-road locations. Another consideration as you’re going in June, is that this is often the wettest month, so you’ll probably want a car where you can get shelter if it rains. Feel free to message me if you have any more questions. Happy planning. It really is an awesome road trip.

  4. […] Perth to Exmouth road trip is one of West Australia’s most iconic routes, stretching from the west Australian […]

  5. Spencer says:

    I really want to do this drive one day. I especially want to see the pink lake and also take photos of some of the beaches over there. Hopefully when lockdown finishes!

  6. Paul Smith says:

    Great blog and very informative. Myself and my wife are planning to do this drive in the near future covid willing. I was wondering if there are plenty of places to stay I.e. hotels,boarding houses or air bins,along the way. Not really into camping or caravanning so would just be hiring a car. Thanks in advance.

    • WA Explorer says:

      Yes, there are places to stay along the way. The larger towns such as Geraldton, Denham, Carnarvon and Exmouth in particular will have motels and some AirBnBs. The larger caravan parks also offer some fairly good self-contained cabins. With the current situation, I would advise you to book well in advance. Unfortunately, the prices for reasonable accommodation can be quite high and it’s not always great value for money.

  7. […] voyages en voiture ne deviennent pas plus épiques que ça Aventure de 1 200 km de Perth à Exmouth. Arrêtez-vous d’abord aux Pinnacles, où une armée d’empilements de roches calcaires […]

  8. Emma says:

    Hi, thank you for taking the time to write this. We are planning on hiring a campervan next April/May and driving from Perth to Exmouth and I have found your blog to be invaluable.
    I do have a question though….. is it possible to hire a van one way, leave it at Exmouth and fly back to Perth? Or do people just settle in for a long drive back with minimum stops? We will have about 7-10 days max.
    Thank you

    • WA Explorer says:

      Most campervan hire places allow you to go one-way but the cost is a lot higher than that way, however, if you’re short on time this might be the best option for you. Also make sure you rent a campervan well in advance to get the best price and they often book out early, especially for the holiday seasons. As an alternative option, you could also rent a car and stay in motels/hotels along the way. Most of the larger caravan parks also have reasonably priced cabins on site.
      Hope you have a great trip and thanks for reading the blog.

  9. Annette says:

    Some great tips in this post, thank you!
    We’ve not long hit the road full-time and can’t wait to visit WA. I’ve saved your post for when we visit.

  10. David Hill says:

    Hi, Thank you so much for creating this super informative blog! My family and I will be making the drive from Perth to Exmouth and back this coming June. I had booked a car but just read in the fine print that we are not allowed to go more than 500 km from Perth, so I will have to cancel. Do you know where we can rent an inexpensive hybrid car without those restrictions? We have 8 days to do the whole trip and our main focus is the whale shark swim in Ningaloo. Given our short time what stops would you recommend for 3 adventurous nature lovers?

    • WA Explorer says:

      Check out Avis or Herz for car rental. They both provide more than 500km. They also offer one way options at reduced relocation costs in case you want to explore the option of flying back to give you more time. The main danger with a trip like this is that you end up driving most of your holiday and you want at least 3 days in Exmouth for the Whale Shark tour and a day at Cape Range National Park. The most convenient overnight stops for families along the way are Cervantes, Jurien Bay, Kalbarri, Geraldton and Carnarvon. They’re not hugely interesting as towns but they provide the best accommodation options for families with a decent range of motels. Definitely stop at the Pinnacles and Coral Bay is very pretty and not too far off the highway. I hope this helps in your planning.

  11. Charlotte Rutherford says:

    Thanks so much for this post! We are going to Exmouth in a couple of weeks and this is the BEST content I’ve been able to find in my planning – thanks again and again as it’s saved me a LOT of work!!!

    • WA Explorer says:

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I just did the trip again last month and my two tips are to bring a fly net (it will make or break your trip – Exmouth was ok but inland areas were awful). Secondly, have some cash on you. Some of the road houses had internet issues and didn’t accept fuel payments with bank cards. Have a great trip and happy to help if you have any questions.

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.