The Perth to Exmouth road trip is one of the best holidays in Western Australia. The 1200km drive takes you along the Coral Coast to Ningaloo Reef. Along the way you’ll see moonscape-like sand dunes and deserts. Explore river gorges and wildflower-dotted national parks. Stand on a beach made entirely of shells and swim with everything from sea lions and manta rays to whale sharks.
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- Day 1 Perth to Jurien Bay
- Day 2 Explore Jurien Bay
- Day 3 Jurien Bay to Geraldton
- Day 4 Geraldton to Kalbarri
- Day 5 Explore Kalbarri
- Day 6 Kalbarri to Denham
- Day 7 Explore Francios Peron
- Day 8 Explore Shark Bay
- Day 9 Denham to Quobba
- Day 10 Quobba to Coral Bay
- Day 11 Explore Ningaloo Reef
- Day 12 Coral Bay to Exmouth
- Day 13 Swim with Whale Sharks
- Day 14 Explore Cape Range
|Day 1||Perth to Jurien Bay|
|Day 2||Jurien Bay|
|Day 3||Jurien Bay to Geraldton|
|Day 4||Geraldton to Kalbarri|
|Day 6||Kalbarri to Denham|
|Day 9||Denham to Quobba|
|Day 10||Quobba to Coral Bay|
|Day 11||Coral Bay|
|Day 12||Coral Bay to Exmouth|
To get the most from your Perth to Exmouth road trip stick to the coast. Indian Ocean Drive gets you to Lancelin, the Pinnacles, Jurien Bay and Geraldton. Beyond Geraldton, follow the North West Coastal Highway to Exmouth via Kalbarri & Shark Bay.
Coral Coast Road Trip FAQs
Perth to Jurien Bay
Drive: Indian Ocean Drive – Perth to Jurien Bay – 217km – 2 hours 20 minutes
Things to do along the way to Jurien Bay
Lake Thesis Thrombolites
198km from Perth – Allow 30 min
Step back in time when you visit the Lake Thetis Thrombolites. These prehistoric lumps of ancient bacteria are an amazing and thought provoking sight. The lake is also a haven for bird life.
The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park are a magic place, it is such an unusual landscape. This is definitely a spot to avoid on hot days, the flies here can be insane! Dusk and dawn are a great time to visit. Not only do you avoid the heat and flies, the colours and shadows of the desert change before your eyes.
Explore Jurien Bay
Swim with Sea Lions at Jurien Bay
Jurien Bay Boat Harbour 7am – 10am
You can ‘swim with’ lots of things, but few are as engaging as sea lions. They are like puppies; playful and inquisitive. The sea lion swim from Jurien Bay is a truly interactive wildlife encounter. Expect to have a close encounter with a whiskered sea lion nose and the cuteness factor is off the chart!
Things to do in Jurien Bay
Jurien Bay Foreshore
Jurien Bay – Allow 2 hours
Walk along the beach, relax at a café or go for a stroll along the curved jetty and look out for sea lions and dolphins. There isn’t a more relaxing place to start or finish your day.
3 Bays Walk Green Head
32km from Jurien Bay – Allow 1.5 hrs
Mark this down if you’re a fan of spectacular coastal walks. Viewing platforms and boardwalks link three beautiful bays around Green Head. Dynamite Bay is the stunning centrepiece of the walk.
Lesurer National Park
27km from Jurien Bay – Allow 2-3 hrs
Attention wildflowers lovers – from late winter, Lesurer National Park is carpeted with hundreds of flowers. Birders will love this place too. The 2WD friendly loop drive gives you a great taste of the park.
Breakfast – Have a light breakfast before your swim with the Sea Lions & morning tea onboard.
Lunch – Pop into the Bay Bakery after your swim with the seals for a good coffee & pie.
Dinner – If it’s a nice night grab fish and chips from Jurien Seafoods and head to the foreshore.
Jurien Bay Information
Jurien Bay is at the southern end of the Coral Coast. It is a popular holiday spot for locals and it’s easy to see why. The area is fringed by turquoise blue bays and white sandy beaches. Fishing, swimming, snorkelling and surfing are all popular here.
Jurien Bay Tourist Park is right by the beach and is a great spot to base yourself for a few days. Not far from town, Sandy Cape offers campsites right behind the beach and has unpowered camping for 2WD and 4WDs.
What’s the difference between sea lions and seals? Sea Lions can ‘walk’ more effectively on their back fins than seals. If you get up close to a sea lion on the Jurien Bay sea lion swim, you might also see that they have little ears which you won’t find on seals. Australian sea Lions are a threatened species, you’ll only spot them in the southern half of Australia.
Jurien Bay to Geraldton
Drive: Indian Ocean Drive – Jurien Bay to Geraldton – 196km – 2 hours
Things to do along the way to Geraldton
Stop at Greenough
177 km from Jurien Bay – Allow 2 hrs
Greenough is 15 minutes south of Geraldton. Check out the famous leaning trees flattened by the prevailing wind. The Greenough River Nature Trail has nice views and lots of wildlife.
HMAS Sydney Memorial
Geraldton – Allow 1 hour
Paying tribute to the ship and 645 crew lost off the coast, the multifaceted memorial is as moving as it is striking. If you get the chance, the tour of the memorial is fascinating.
Geraldton – Allow 1 hour at sunset
Insta Alert! This water filled sphere on the Geraldton foreshore is a must see at dusk. The giant transparent sphere inverts light adding an amazing twist to an already stunning sunset.
Geraldton to Kalbarri
Drive: Coral Coast Highway – Geralton to Kalbarri Bay – 154km – 1 hours 45 minutes
Things to do along the way to Kalbarri
Hutt Lagoon – Pink Lake
100km from Geraldton – Allow 1 hour
Water is not supposed to be this colour! Whether it is bright pink or musk, Hutt Lagoon is still an amazing sight. The higher the sun is and the sunnier the day, the more pink the lake gets. A scenic flight is a great way to see the lake.
Lynton Convict Settlement
90km from Geraldton – Allow 30 min
This collection of buildings and ruins date back to the mid-1800s. The Lynton Convict Hiring Depot has been partially restored and signs describe its fateful history. It’s an interesting stop on your way to the Pink Lake.
Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs
154km from Geraldton – Allow 2 hrs
Part of the Kalbarri National Park, the Coastal Cliffs section has some spectacular coastline and good walking tracks. There are several sights to stop and look at. Between July and September lookout for humpback whales.
Breakfast – Stop in at the Shearing Shed Cafe in Northampton for a quick bite or takeaway.
Lunch – When you arrive in Kalbarri make your first stop the Red Bluff Bakery Cafe for sushi, turkish roll or an apple pie!
Dinner – Dirt Dust N Diesels Outback steakhouse for a great scotch fillet & Aussie bush damper.
Why is Hutt Lagoon Pink?
A caroteinoid-producing algae is responsible for the colour of the Hutt Lagoon. The water is also very salty, and the bottom of the lake is lined in salt crystals which can be sharp. So no, this isn’t the best spot for a swim. Peak pinkness is between 10-2 on a sunny day when there is plenty of water in the lake.
Things to do in Kalbarri
Kalbarri – Allow 1 hour
This is one of the best views you’ll get on the Perth to Exmouth road trip. The 2 viewing platforms take you over the edge of Murchison Gorge, it’s an amazing sensation and some incredible engineering.
Kalbarri 8.45am – Allow 1 hour
If you like your birds a bit bigger, head to the Kalbarri foreshore at 8.45am and see volunteers feed some of the local pelicans. When you see them up close, you won’t believe how big these birds are..
Kalbarri is one of the detours you will take from the main road to Exmouth. It is a detour worth taking. The coastal and river gorge landscapes are spectacular.
Kalbarri National Park is only 15 minutes from the township. Roads to all the main attractions are now sealed so are easy to access. You will have to unhitch at the entrance to get to some spots if you’re towing. From spectacular lookouts to hikes, it is a great place to explore.
Blue Holes is a couple of minutes south of Kalbarri. The protected water is a good for snorkelling and swimming. Red Bluff Beach, is also a nice swimming spot. The view when the setting sun hits the orange rocks is amazing.
Kalbarri to Denham
Drive: Coral Coast Highway – Kalbarri to Denham – 375km – 3 hours 45 minutes
Things to do along the way to Denham
Hamelin Pool Stromatolites
280km from Kalbarri – Allow 1 hour
Part of the Shark Bay Heritage Area, the boardwalk around the Hamelin Pool Stromatolites is a fascinating experience. The nearby shell brick quarry is worth a look too. This is the first stop on Shark Bay Heritage Drive.
330km from Kalbarri – Allow 1 hour
Another inhabitant of the salty Shark Bay water is the little Fragum cockle. There are so many, they make an entire beach. It’s a peaceful place, listen for the quiet hiss as the water laps onto the shelly shore.
Eagle Bluff Lookout
359km from Kalbarri – Allow 1 hour
Spot some of the area’s abundant marine life. While binoculars will help, even without you’ll see sharks, rays and dugongs swimming along the coast. There are great coastal views even if the wildlife is being a bit shy!
Breakfast – Grab a quick coffee & snack at Bean Drifting before leaving Kalbarri.
Lunch – If you stop to explore the Stromatolites pop into the Tea Room at the Hamelin Pool Caravan Park for a bite of lunch.
Dinner – Start with a cocktail as you enjoy the views over Shark Bay from the Denham Waterfront Hotel.
Stay in Denham or Monkey Mia?
Denham and Monkey Mia are 20 minutes apart. If you plan on spending more than a day in Money Mia it might be worth staying there. The dawn drive from Denham to see the dolphins can be hazardous, there is lots of wildlife on the road. If you have more activities planned around Denham and Francois Peron National Park, Denham is the better base.
Explore Francios Peron
Things to do in Shark Bay
Francios Peron Peninsula 4wd Day Trip
37km from Kalbarri – Allow 1.5 hrs
This is one place where a 4WD and some soft sand driving experience is essential. There was no way our little camper van was going into Francois Peron, so we went on a 4WD tour of the park. Whether you have 2WD or just want a break from driving, the tour is a great option. See all the highlights – Skipjack Point, Peron Peninsula, Bottle Bay – and learn about the area from a local guide. This was a highlight of our trip to Denham.
Denham is your second detour from the North West Coastal Highway. It takes you to the Shark Bay World Heritage area. Follow the Shark Bay Heritage Drive to locations like the Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, Shell Beach and Monkey Mia.
You can also either 4WD yourself or go on a tour of the Francois Peron National Park or the historic and beautiful Dirk Hartog Island. Closer to Denham, make sure you stop in at the Ocean Park Aquarium for a guided tour of the exhibits and views across the bay.
Alternative Day Tour – Steep Point
If you like landmarks, this is your chance to cross off the most westerly point of mainland Australia from your list. You can only get to the spot – Steep Point – by 4WD, tours are also available. The sea cliffs and turquoise water are a fitting spectacle. You can camp nearby at Shelter Bay Campground. Shelter Bay is also the spot where you can take your car across to Dirk Hartog Island.
Explore Shark Bay
Monkey Mia Dolphins
26km from Denham – 7.45am-11am
This is one of the best known experiences in Shark Bay. The Monkey Mia dolphins have been visiting here for years and the encounters are carefully managed. It is a great chance to see dolphins up close. If you’re lucky, you might get chosen to feed them.
Things to do in Denham
Ocean Park Aquarium
10km from Denham – Allow 2 hours
Marine biologists escort you around the exhibits where you’ll see everything from stonefish to sharks. The views from the café are fantastic and the food is pretty good too.
Denham – Allow 1 hour
A mix of art, playgrounds and history, the Denham foreshore has a little something for everyone. Fish from the jetties, go for a stroll or take in a sunset, the foreshore is a relaxing and interesting area.
Denham Discovery Trail
Denham – Allow 1-2 hrs
Beginning at the excellent Shark Bay Discovery Centre, this 60 minute walk takes you on a loop past some of the town’s historic buildings. See the Anglican church and old gaol and finish along the waterfront.
Breakfast – After feeding the dolphins head to the Boughshed Restaurant for breakfast or brunch.
Lunch – Ocean Park Aquarium has a fabulous restaurant overlooking the ocean. See sharks, rays & dolphins from the balcony as you dine.
Dinner – For an amazing seafood platter head to the Old Pearler Restaurant – but make sure you book.
Famous for its dolphins, Monkey Mia is another accommodation option for your stay in Shark Bay. It’s 20 minutes from Denham.
Staying here gives you easy access to the dolphins, and the dugong and sunset cruises that operate in the area. Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort is the where you will find your accommodation.
Prices are a little more here than Denham but it is a convenient location for some of Shark Bay’s most popular attractions.
Additional Days? Dirt Hartog Island
This island has it all. There are beautiful beaches, great snorkelling and some of the best fishing in Australia. It is also steeped in history, with European explorers visiting the island in the 1600s. Day trips to the island are available from Denham. There are campsites and a small eco lodge on the island. A barge can ferry one car and camper trailer across at a time. Passenger fares on the barge are around $35 return. See the fare schedule here.
Denham to Quobba
Drive: Coral Coast Highway – Denham to Quobba – 400km – 4 hours
Things to do along the way to Quobba
Carnarvon Space Centre
325km from Denham – Allow 1 hour
The museum has a fantastic range of exhibits, short films and interactive displays. Do everything from sit in an Apollo capsule to land a simulated space shuttle. Allow a couple of hours to see everything.
401km from Denham – Allow 1 hour
It is rare the Quobba blowholes aren’t putting on a show. Even on calmer days, multiple jets of water explode into the air as the ocean crashes into the rugged coastline. Flights over the blowholes are also available.
Snorkel the Aquarium
401km from Denham – Allow 1.5 hr
This sheltered lagoon near Point Quobba is a great snorkelling spot. It’s shallow so come at high tide to see corals and an enormous range of colourful fish. This is a great place for kids to get used to their snorkelling gear.
Breakfast – Grab a quick coffee & snack at Shark Bay Bakery before leaving Denham.
Lunch – If you are doing your shopping in Carnarvon pop in to Sunsets Cafe at One Mile Jetty for a nice lunch.
Dinner – Make sure you grab some supplies from Carnarvon for dinner & breakfast tomorrow. Enjoy dinner on the beach while watching the sunset.
How about a Station Stay?
If you want to stay somewhere that isn’t a caravan park, spend a few days at Gnaraloo or Quobba Station. Both have a range of basic accommodation from cottages to unpowered campsites. Best of all, they front right onto the Indian Ocean so have great beaches, surfing and fishing. The Aquarium at Quobba and Gnaraloo Bay are both fantastic snorkelling spots. Also get front row seats for whale watching and finish everyday with spectacular sunsets.
Quobba to Coral Bay
Drive: Coral Coast Highway – Quobba to Coral Bay – 271km – 2 hours, 51 minutes
Things to do along the way to Coral Bay
67km from Quobba – Allow 2 hour
Day visitors are welcome to come and enjoy the great snorkelling at Gnaraloo Bay at Gnaraloo Station. This is part of Ningaloo Reef and is home to a huge range of colourful fish, turtles, rays and eels.
Coral Bay Snorkel
Coral Bay – Allow 2 hours
One of our favourite snorkelling spots. You can snorkel around the bay or swim further out to see the massive Ayres Rock bommie. We love the drift snorkel here. Walk down Paradise Beach and drift along Ningaloo back to the bay.
Quad Bike Tour + Snorkel
Coral Bay – Allow 2.5 hr
A Quad Bike Tour is a great way to see some more of Coral Bay. You can get to Five Finger Reef or Oyster Bridge for a snorkel. Explore the sand hills and visit Turtle Cliffs and to see turtles and a range of other marine life swim by.
Breakfast – Enjoy your self-catered breakfast with lovely views of the beach.
Lunch – Drop into Fin’s Cafe for a great meal from burgers, wedges, seafood or grab a fabulous share plate.
Dinner – Make sure you eat at Bill’s Bar for at least one meal. The Sports Bar & Restaurant serves great tapas, burgers, seafood & steaks.
Which Coral Bay Caravan Park is best for me?
One of the lovely things about Coral Bay is how undeveloped it is; there are no high-rise apartment blocks or Airbnb’s here. A bulk of the accommodation in Coral Bay is in the town’s two caravan parks – Ningaloo Coral Bay Bayview and the Peoples Park Coral Bay. We have stayed in both but they have their differences. Read on and see which park might be best for you. >> Coral Bay Caravan Parks
Read More: Top Free Camping Options in WA
Explore Ningaloo Reef
Things to do in Coral Bay
Manta Ray Adventure Tour
Coral Bay – 8am -3.30pm
Seeing these enormous, graceful creatures up close is a must do. You don’t appreciate how big they are until you float above them as they feed. The Manta Ray tour also includes a snorkel over a shark cleaning station, it’s completely safe and a great sight. You’ll also see turtles as you cruise back through a turtle sanctuary.
Coral Viewing Cruise
Coral Bay – 4pm – 6pm
Snorkelling is fun, but it is even better when you know what you are looking at. Here, you can view the reef from a glass bottom boat as you listen to a guide. Then later, snorkel on two hand-picked snorkelling sites with the guides by your side.
Coral Bay Information
Coral Bay is all about the beach and water activities. If you don’t like sand, snorkelling, manta ray and whale shark tours, kayaking, fishing or beach walks, drive on. There is accommodation, a small supermarket and a handful of other shops in Coral Bay but that’s it. You come here to enjoy the turquoise water, easy access to Ningaloo Reef and the relaxed holiday vibe.
Alternative Day Tour – Swim with Turtles
Sea turtles are one of Ningaloo Reefs most loved creatures. It is one thing seeing them when you snorkel. It is another when you spend 3 hours with a turtle expert cruising around a turtle sanctuary. This glass bottom boat eco-tour is great fun. Not only will you see lots of turtles and learn all about them, but you will also get to have a couple of snorkels and end the tour with drinks and snacks. This a perfect tour for wildlife lovers.
Coral Bay to Exmouth
Drive: Coral Coast Highway – Coral Bay to Exmouth – 152km – 1 hour, 45 minutes
Things to do along the way to Exmouth
Thomas Carter Lookout
7km from Exmouth- Allow 1 hour
Get spectacular views over Cape Range from one of the highest points in the park. A 2WD will get most of the way to the lookout, you might have to walk the last few hundred metres. This is also the trailhead for the tough 8km Badjirrajirra Loop Trail.
Krait & Potshot Memorials
6km from Exmouth – Allow 45 minutes
Exmouth has a rich naval history and you can get a great sense of it at this informative memorial a few minutes out of town. There are artefacts and story boards that detail WW2 missions launched from Exmouth.
Ningaloo Visitor Centre
Exmouth – Allow 1.5 hr
Part visitor centre, part museum, part aquarium; the Ningaloo Visitor Centre is a must see in Exmouth. Book tours, learn about Exmouth’s social, military and natural history and see a beautiful aquarium. It’s full of fascinating displays and great information.
Breakfast – Look out for the Green & Yellow Coffee Van Short Order at the Town Beach for an Egg & Bacon Roll or freshly baked muffin and great coffee.
Lunch – Drop into Froth Craft Brewery for a Buddha Bowl, Chicken Korma or Slow Cooked Lamb and wash it down with a cold one.
Dinner – Exmouth Exhale is the perfect spot to enjoy a ‘Hello Sunshine’ cocktail and dinner.
Indulge in a Luxury Glamping Experience at Sal Salis
It might not suit every budget, but if you like a bit of luxury, this is your place. Sal Salis have luxury Eco tents right on the beach. The Ningaloo Reef is metres from your door so you can get a swim in with tropical fish and turtles before breakfast. All meals, drinks and hire of kayaks, snorkelling gear etc. are included in the price.
Swim with Whale Sharks
Things to do in Exmouth
Swim with Whale Sharks – The Gentle Giants
Exmouth – 8am -4.00pm
These gentle giants are the biggest fish in the world and swimming alongside them is something we’ll never forget. The Whale Shark tour also includes a couple of snorkels on the outer Ningaloo Reef, lunch, all your snorkelling gear, wetsuit and photos. We spotted all of Ningaloo’s ‘Big 5’. As well as whale sharks we saw humpback whales, sea turtles, dugongs and manta rays. It is an action packed day, follow the link to read about how a whale shark tour works..
Breakfast – Before heading out on your whale shark swim grab a takeaway breakfast from the Ningaloo Bakehouse know for great coffee and freshly baked goods.
Lunch – Morning Tea, Lunch and Afternoon Tea are all provided on the Full Day Whale Shark Tour.
Dinner – For a super relaxed vibe have dinner at Yardie Creek Homestead. We enjoyed a burger, nachos while watching a visiting muso perform..
Where to Stay in Exmouth?
Exmouth is a fantastic spot to access Ningaloo Reef but be aware that the township is at least 45 minutes from the best snorkelling spots. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the water, we recommend staying on the reef side of Exmouth Peninsula. It will save you a lot of driving.
There are half a dozen campsites in Cape Range National Park. Another option, and our favourite spot, is Yardie Homestead Caravan Park. It has accommodation from campsites to cabins. Best of all, it is closer to the best snorkelling spots and the Tantabiddi boat ramp where many tours leave from.
Alternative Day Tour – Humpback Whale Swim
During June to October the Humpback Whales cruise along Ningaloo Reef. Spend the day whale watching and enjoy a swim with a humpback. You might also come across a Manta Ray, Dugong or Whale Shark.
Explore Cape Range
Things to do in Cape Range National Park
Yardie Creek Boat Tour
52km from Exmouth – 11am or 12.30pm
This is a unique chance to explore Cape Range National Park from the water. Join local guides as you cruise along Yardie Creek between the towering orange rock walls of the gorge. Keep an eye out for osprey eagles and rock wallabies that call the gorge home. This is a fun cruise for the whole family.
Snorkel Ningaloo Reef
62km from Exmouth – Allow 2 hours
From Turquoise Bay to the Oyster Stacks, Cape Range National Park has some of Ningaloo’s best snorkelling. They are all accessible from shore and you can see everything from colourful fish to sea turtles, rays and dugongs. You won’t want to leave the water!
Kayaking Bundegi Beach
14km from Exmouth – Allow 1 hour
Paddle out to the Bundegi Sanctuary Zone and snorkel on Bundegi Reef. There are two different mooring points where you can get in the water and explore the reef. If you don’t have a kayak, Bundegi Beach is close to Exmouth and is a nice swimming and fishing spot.
Wreck & Lighthouse
18km from Exmouth – Allow 1-2 hrs
At low tide go to Lighthouse Bay to see the SS Mildura wreck. It ran aground in a cyclone in 1907 and was later used for target practise in World War 2. For more military history, and the best sunset views in Exmouth, spend dusk at nearby Vlamingh Head Lighthouse.
Breakfast – Head back into Exmouth Exhale for a breakfast cocktail and homemade organic museli.
Lunch – Pack a lunch before heading out to Cape Range National Park for the day. Stop in at the Milyering Discovery Centre for an icecream.
Dinner – The Exmouth Game Fishing Club is open for dinner Thursday – Sunday. We watched the competition weigh in’s while eating our Chicken Parmi & chips.
Cape Range National Park
Cape Range National Park has everything from amazing snorkelling to spectacular gorges. The best place to start your visit is the Milyering Visitor Centre. Get information on campsites, the best times to snorkel, hire snorkelling gear and book tours there.
Mandu Mandu Gorge has great views and lots of wildflowers in late winter and spring. Mangrove bay is a great spot to see baby sharks and rays and lots of birds. Checkout beachside campgrounds like Osprey Bay, Tulki Beach and Ned’s camp. If you have a 4WD, see wildlife and wildflowers along Shot Hole Canyon Road.
Additional Days? Karijini National Park
If you finish your Perth to Exmouth road trip and still want more, head to Karijini National Park. 600km inland from Exmouth, the park features a series of stunning gorges. Swim in fern-lined pools, walk over layers of colourful rock and wade through rocky passes. Knox, Weano, Dales and Hancock Gorge are some of the highlights. If you want a stunning end to your road trip, find three or four days and your hiking boots and experience the magic of Karijini National Park. >> Camping at Karijini National Park
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