Great Australian road trips: WA
Making memories ...
Planning a trip on the road? Here are a few reasons why you should discover the sights and wonders of Western Australia with your family.
The Coral Coast
White sandy beaches, unspoilt coral reefs, fascinating land formations and large blooms of wildflowers are just some of the things on offer as you drive through Australia’s Coral Coast.
The golden limestone structures at Pinnacles Desert. Photo: australiascoralcoast.com
Heading north from Perth towards the coastal town of Cervantes, you can marvel at ancient formations like the golden limestone structures at Pinnacles Desert and learn about some of earth’s oldest fossils as you take a beach or bush walk trail in picturesque Lake Thetis. Find out about the history of crayfish at the Indian Ocean Lobster Factory before retiring for the night or continue on towards Dongara.
The scenery then changes to ocean views and bushland as you approach Jurien Bay. Here, there is something for all members of the family to enjoy: walking trails, lookouts and wildflower displays (during spring) at Leseuer National Park or diving, swimming and snorkelling at Jurien Bay Marine Park.
Driving further north of Jurien Bay, you will encounter Stockyard Gully National Park – an option for the adventurous types to explore the mostly 4WD territory consisting of limestone caves before arriving at the twin towns of Dongara and Port Denison. Head to Fisherman’s Lookout for spectacular ocean views or go fishing at the marina. Take a historical tour of the area by walking along Shipwreck Walk or following the Dongara-Port Denison Heritage Trail.
Swimming with a whale shark at Ningaloo Reef. Photo: australiascoralcoast.com
Geraldton is the next major centre and here, at the windsurfing capital of Australia, the whole family can learn how to kite surf. Or if history interests your family, the HMAS Sydney II Memorial and the WA Museum are great attractions.
You can continue exploring the region north of Geraldton towards Carnarvon and Exmouth through Monkey Mia - where you can hand feed dolphins or try camping at the 4WD only area of Shark Point – the westernmost point of mainland Australia.
Coral Bay could be your next stop before reaching Exmouth, where marine lovers can enjoy snorkelling, swimming and kayaking at the incredibly beautiful Ningaloo Reef. Head up to Exmouth for a flight back to Perth or drive back via inland towns of Mullewa, Mingenew, Three Springs and Carnamah to see colourful wildflowers between July and October.
Perth and its surrounds
Short drives around Perth will take you to worlds that offer something for families of all different interests.
Just an hour and a half drive north from Perth is the coastal town of Lancelin, where water based sports like swimming, snorkelling, fishing, boating and surfing lure people of all ages and abilities into the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean. Further inland, huge snow-white sand dunes offer excellent entertainment in the form of sand boarding and monster 4WD dune climbing.
Almost the same distance south of Perth, is the tranquil town of Dwellingup where nature loving families can hike the world-renowned Bibbulmun Track all the way to the town of Albany in South Western Australia or choose shorter day and overnight tracks. Another option to explore the area surrounded by Blackbutt and Marri forests is by hopping on the Munda Biddi Cycling Trail – a world-class long distance off-road cycling experience. There are also viewing towers to take in the majestic, tall forest canopies.
A favourite of Perth locals is Swan Valley – a short 40 minute drive east of Perth, where adults can sample wines from Western Australia’s oldest wine region while the kids can enjoy local produce such as strawberries, olives, cheeses and chocolate at one of the many picnic spots. Nearby Caversham Wildlife Park will thrill animal lovers where you can have close encounters with koalas, wombats, kangaroos and other farm animals.
Margaret river and South West Australia
Voted as one of the World’s Top 10 Regions in 2010 by Lonely Planet, Margaret River and the area surrounding it offers whale watching, winery tours, surfing, forests and natural wonders – making it a region with an array of options for families looking for memorable experiences.
Head south from Perth along the Kwinana Freeway, to see and swim with bottlenose dolphins at Bunbury or talk a walk through the Jarrah and Marri forests in Collie’s Wellington National Park before hitting the wineries at Ferguson Valley, Dardanup.
Water sports enthusiasts can kayak and snorkel at Geographe Bay while marine life lovers can visit the Underwater Observatory at Busselton, which will also serve as a perfect rest stop overnight.
Before heading to Margaret River, Dunsborough offers an interesting side-trip where you can explore magnificent, ancient limestone caves or try to find your way out of one of Western Australia’s biggest timber mazes at the Yallingup maze. The beach at Yallingup is also known as a great surfing location.
However, the undisputed surf capital of Western Australia is Margaret River, which offers more than 40 places to catch great waves. If surfing does not interest your family, treat the kids with the great produce of the region including cheeses and chocolates while the adults taste the internationally renowned wines of the area and perhaps embark on a guided wine tour. Watching the sun set at Prevelly beach over a picnic will be a perfect end to your day.
As you head further south, visit Augusta, the “first port of call” for many whales that migrate north during the months of June to September. You could hop on a whale watching cruise and then head to Cape Leeuwin, the tallest lighthouse on the Australian Mainland, where the Indian and Southern oceans meet.
A drive through the lush green forests and quaint, historic towns of the Southern Forests and the Great Southern region might provide nature lovers and history enthusiasts with an attractive alternative route as you head back to Perth.