The best stops from Perth to Darwin
Western Australia is the more remote side of Australia, it has a population of just 2.5 million stretching across land equivalent to the size of Western Europe. Similarly to how much the land changes in Western Europe, Western Australia has some amazing natural wonders to look at too. Follow our best stops from Perth to Darwin to visit incredible beaches, easily accessible red rock gorges and some fun little towns and camp stays along the way!
This is one of the more unique best stop from Perth to Darwin, as it is the only place in the whole of Western Australia that you can see Koalas! There has been a small colony of koalas here since the 1930’s and the rangers at Yanchep National Park have helped to reserve their land and provide us tourists with a great way of playing spot the koala!
New Norcia is essentially the closest thing you’ll see to a post-apocalyptic town. It was originally created as a mission camp to convert local aboriginals to monastic living. Today, it is home to around 10 monks and a team who service the grounds and assist with agriculture work in the area.
This was definitely a more peculiar one in our best stops from Perth to Darwin, however.. The main attraction at New Norcia is the bakery! The bread and cakes are made in the original 150 year old fire oven and even the Queen knows about the nut cake made here, which she is very glad a local shop near the palace sells! We chose to get the Boston bun and was not disappointed! Join the many chefs that have visited and get yourself some New Norcia baked goods!
This area of Western Australia has heaps of sand dunes and you can hire a sand board to race down the side of them for just $10 each! Check out some of the best spots we found on our trip to Darwin below.
We opted to sandboard in Lancelin going from our research and had a great time! We arrived quite late so if you do the same, we’d recommend hiring your boards from have a chat general store. They close at 5 but they’re happy to hire the boards out for 2 hours and you simply leave them in a little cove to the left of the shop when you’re done.
We actually came to Sandy cape to do some snorkelling and enjoy the beach, we found they also did sand boarding with a little store to hire boards here too. Had we known we would have saved our boarding fun for Sandy Cape as it definitely looked a lot less trodden than Lancelin and the dunes looked bigger too! The beach and snorkelling opportunities also make it s great day out too!
Where to stay
Sandy Cape Recreational Camp is situated in between the Sandy Cape beach and the sand dunes, so a perfect place to base yourself for a night of fun on the dunes and snorkelling!
A sight so beautiful, it could cure a hangover! This is a stunning white sand beach with perfectly turquoise waters. Worth the stop just for its unique name!
The pinnacles are a set of thousands of limestone towers sticking out of the desert. There’s many theories for how they formed in this way but no definitive answer. A driving path has been made so you are able to wind around the Pinnacles in your car, with little bays along the way to park up, hop out, get closer and make up your own theories for how they ended up like this! This is certainly one the highlights in our best stops from Perth to Darwin, its a unique experience and as it was slightly off road on dirt tracks so we still felt immersed in the 4WD life in our campervan!
Thestia Lake is a pretty lake, which takes around 30 mins to walk around fully. The main attraction here though, and only a very short walk in are the Stromatolites. These are fossils that show the earliest life on Earth so this makes for a pretty cool pit stop on our best stops from Perth to Darwin.
Jurien Bay is stunning. Full of beautiful beaches, towering sand dunes and unforgettable experiences.
Sandy Cape is the best spot in the area for snorkelling with lots of fish and colourful coral. Try to get here early for the best viewings. It is also possible to hire sand boards from the Sandy Cape Recreational Camp, right by the beach.
One of the main highlights in Jurien Bay is the opportunity to swim with Sea lions! We had an absolutely unforgettable time sharing moments with these playful creatures. We went out in a boat to the sea lions island, where we just waited in the waters for them to interact with us and living up to their nickname of sea puppies, they came out to play!
Sarah shared a beautiful moment, imitating the movements of one of the pups, who rolled around with her!
We were even treated to dolphins riding the wave of our boat on the way back!
Definitely one the highlights of this journey so we would highly recommend not missing out on this! We went with the lovely family run Jurien Bay Oceanic, who were really informative and accommodating.
Geraldton is one of the larger towns along the route, so it makes for a good place to top up on anything you’re running low on. There’s not loads to do here but Geraldton is quite a funky place so it is worth checking out the cool street art here and maybe refuelling in one of the trendy cafes.
Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park is huge! There are two parts to the park, the coastal and the inland. The coast is beautiful but it is the inland part that will really give you the shock factor of Kalbarri.
There are enough attractions in the park to spend a week visiting them all. If you’re short on time, the top attractions split between inland and cost are as follows:
The Coastal Hotspots:
This is a beautiful beach with a boardwalk stretching along the cliffs edge, this is a great spot for whale watching and as the water is so clear it is easy to spot manta ray and turtle shadows in the water below too. If you have time meander down to the beautiful secluded beach.
If you’ve read our blog on the South West Australia, it is clear that WA have a lot of rock formations that look like things. Mushroom rock is no exception, in the distance from the walkway is a bed of mushroom stools resembling flat portobello mushrooms. Do you agree?
Chinaman's bay is the perfect sunset spot to finish off your coastal tour of the park. The waves on this rocky bay can be huge and the sunset like all WA sunsets are epic. Take some time to enjoy this bay with a few snacks or a glass of wine to while the sun goes down.
The Inland Hotspots:
Natures window is nature’s way of enhancing its already priceless views! A short walk over incredible red rock leads you to this beautiful natural rock window looking out over a stunning gorge with a river meandering around the bottom. It is truly stunning and also a great spot to watch the sunrise or set too.
The loop is for the hiker lovers reading this blog. It is recommended only for experienced hikers as it leads down into the bottom of the gorge and back up again. The views are stunning and definitely worth doing if you’re skilled enough!
One thing we would definitely recommend for a visit to Kalbarri National Park is a fly net. The park is beautiful but it is full of flies! Trust us, you won’t regret this purchase and will be the envy of anyone who doesn’t have one. They are available in the IGA in town or ... for just $10.
Remember the Stromatolites from Thestia Lake? Well, if you missed out or they weren’t enough for you, here you can find a boardwalk that takes you along more!
Monkey Mia - buy a pass in the afternoon
Monkey Mia is a beach area that has a dolphin experience every morning. Each morning, a pod of dolphins appear by the beach ready to be fed by the rangers and you’re able to stand by and watch and sometimes feed them too.
Monkey Mia isn’t included in the WA park pass so a $15pp entry fee will need to be paid.
Personally, we found that the dolphin experience was way too commercial for us, with there sometimes being over 100 people in attendance! We would recommend a more natural experience like the one we had in Jurien Bay or the less crowded experience in Bunbury at the Dolphin Discover Centre if you’re heading south of Perth.
If you don’t mind the crowds or set up, then we would recommend spending the afternoon at Monkey Mia and then, as the pass is valid for 24 hours, head back in the morning for the dolphins. Otherwise you’ll have to stay there for the whole day to get your full money’s worth.
Francois Peron National Park
Francois Peron National Park is a beautiful National Park full of orange hues coming together with the beautiful blues of all the fab snorkelling spots. The vast majority of the park can only be accessed with a 4WD. If you don’t have one, there are tours available or you can hire one from Denham.
There is a small section that is accessible with a 2WD. Just before the main entrance to the national park, you will find Little Lagoon.
Little Lagoon is a beautiful little retreat with white sands and very blue waters. There’s also a BBQ and picnic area here if you want to make more of your time here.
Artisanal Hot tub
The initial road into the park is suitable for 2WD but try to find it during times heavy rainfall as it is quite sandy. Head to ... and you will find the 4WD entrance with a sign to deflate the tyres or a car park. Head to the carpark and there is a small centre, explaining the history of the park and showcasing the animals that can be found.
We managed to spot a Bobtail Skink !
Slightly further along, you will find the artisanal hot tub, surrounded by a huge grass area and picnic tables. There is also a little walking trail, heading around the shearing shed.
The hot tub stays at a temperature of 40 degrees. It is lovely during the cooler evening periods but if you can only make it in the day, although you won’t be able to stay in for too long at a time, you’ll still feel rejuvenated after.
In Denham itself, there are two buildings made entirely out of bricks made from shells. Head to the ... restaurant and the church to check them out!
The discovery centre is also worth a visit to see a short 3D movie, explaining the story of the clash between Sydney II and HSK Kormoran, resulting in 645 Australian’s losing their lives.
Eagles Bluff is a quick stop but a beautiful one. Here you can look out over the clear waters below and if you’re lucky, you might see a whale strutting its stuff!
Shell beach is a beach where instead of sand or even pebbles, it is made up entirely of little white shells. It makes for a very unique beach experience. A barrier has been formed, which has resulted in the waters here actually being a lake so there is a serene stillness in the atmosphere too.
If you’re not able to make it all the way to Carnarvon, there is a camp called Wooramel Riverside Retreat that we have heard is an excellent stop off. The main attraction being that there are a few hot tubs to enjoy.
We ended up spending a lot more time in Carnarvon than we had originally anticipated! Firstly, it’s a great place to stock up as it has a Woolworths supermarket but aside from that it has a few hotspots too!
The Space centre
Turns out that Carnarvon actually played quite a role in the Apollo 11 mission of sending Neil Armstrong to the moon! If you’re a space buff, you can pay a small fee to go around the museum but it’s worth just heading there to see the space satellite for free. This satellite is responsible for the first ever live TV broadcasting in Western Australia, which showed Armstrong’s first steps on the moon.
A ridiculous amount of fruit and veg is grown in Carnarvon and a trip here isn’t complete without trying a chocolate covered frozen banana!
Stay tuned for some fun facts about Canarvons' fruit and veg (or check out WA instagram highlights!
You are able to drive around what is called the ‘fruit loop’. This route takes you past various different farms, which have shops up front selling their produce. This is the freshest veg you’re gonna get along Western Australia so it’s worth buying bulk!
Our favourites along the way were The Cactus Garden, Morel's Orchard, Bumbak's, Gasgoyne organic farm and the Gasgoyne Biodynamic Plantation.
1 mile jetty
This is a quick stop as sadly the Jetty is no longer functioning, however it is fun to see as it is a seriously long jetty! Check it out whilst you're passing and see the old train lines too.
Just slightly outside of Carnarvon is the Quobba blowholes. Head here to see an amazing display of the waves crashing against the cliff side, drawing your eyes upwards to the sky high blasts of water! There is also a cool sign warning visitors that 'King Waves Kill!'.
Tropic of Capricorn
The Tropic or Capricorn runs through this part of Australia and to mark the occasion, a little sign can be found, saying just that. Great for a quick snap to show you’ve been to this part of the Earth.
Welcome to paradise and the start of your Ningaloo reef journey! Coral Bay is a beautiful little town with white sand beaches and fab snorkelling.
We particularly loved Bill’s Bay for its picturesque views and this is also where you can find the underwater Ayer’s Rock.
Skeleton Beach is a hotspot for baby shark spotting and Paradise Beach is beautiful too.
A few places, such as Oyster Bay aren’t accessible by 2WD or cars at all so there are a few ATV tours in town that are worth doing.
If you’re missing any gear, such as a snorkel or fins or even a floatie for your GoPro, there are plenty of places to buy/hire them here. We would recommend Ningaloo Kayak Adventures who had fins for hire for just $5/day! (August 2019).
This idyllic overnight stay is a camp between Coral Bay and Exmouth and easily one of our favourites, which we would highly recommend staying at!
Bullara Station is the definition of quirky outback. The bathrooms are equipped with horseshoe hooks and homemade trinkets.
Head to the fire pit for stories and poems by the lovely Bullara staff, with complimentary damper (Australian soda bread) and treat yourself to delicious homemade Devonshire scones and great coffee in the morning.
The highlight for us though, are the rustic feel hot showers. Stand under the metal bucket and look up at the stars above as you wash.
Firstly, if you want to stay in Cape Range National Park, make sure that you book well in advance (at least 2 weeks)! There are plenty of camps but they all get fully booked fast. If you miss out of the National Park, Yardie homestead is your next cheapest option and one that we would definitely recommend.
Take a drive along the coast and you will find Mildura Wreck, which is a shipwreck that is very visible right from the shore. Further along is the lighthouse for amazing views over Exmouth and a great place for whale spotting. The North West Cape is also a great beach spot, which is worth heading to just for the eatery. This beach shack makes you feel like you’re relaxing in the Caribbean and has a mouthwatering menu.
Cape Range has a few hotspots but we would definitely suggest visiting the beautiful Yardie Creek for a chance to see some cute rock wallabies. There is the option of taking a boat tour along the creek with Yardie Creek Boat Tours, which is a great way to learn more about the area with a lot of humour thrown in too. Also a guaranteed way to see the rock wallabies!
For snorkelling, we would suggest visiting Oyster Stacks and Turquoise Bay. Here you can see a wide variety of colourful fish of all different sizes, starfish and blue spotted rays! Make sure you look around the crevices of the rocks at Oyster Stacks to see the big fish hiding in the shadows!
One of the highlights of the Ningaloo Reef is the opportunity to swim with Whale Sharks and Humpback Whales. The seasons are March to August for Whale Sharks and August to November for Humpback Whales, head here around the end of August to try and catch both!
Whale Sharks are the biggest fish in the sea and we were lucky enough to swim with one with Ningaloo Discovery. We can’t recommend them enough. The crew are lovely, they provide you with all the equipment you need, you’re made to feel comfortable and receive all the help you need and there’s even lunch and a glass of bubbly included! This is honestly an unforgettable experience and definitely a highlight of our entire Western Australia trip so don’t miss out on this!
Karijni National Park vía Tom Price
Head to Karijini National Park with a stop in Tom Price for any shopping needs and cheaper fuel. There is no signal at all in the National Park so we suggest doing any Netflix/Spotify etc downloading in Tom Price first.
There is a dirt road shortcut to Tom Price from Exmouth but unless you have a 4WD we would highly suggest that you don’t take this route, as tempting as it may be, unless you want your tyre to look like this...
Karijini is BEAUTIFUL and an absolute must-do on your WA trip! It is the ultimate best stop for us from Perth to Darwin and arguably through the Red Centre too! There’s two main sides to the National Park so to make life easier we would suggest staying in Tom Price or at the Eco Camp first and seeing the following;
At least two days will be needed for all of the above but our absolute highlights that can be done in one day are Handrail Pool, Hancock and the Oxer Lookout, overlooking Weano Gorge.
For the other side of the park, we would suggest staying at Dales campground. Booking online is essential. Ignore any old information that says otherwise. Dales Campground is walking distance to all of the following, which can be done in one day:
Fortescue Falls is just a 15 minute walk from the campground, with Fern Pool only 5 minutes further. Both of these are definite highlights and are great places to just chill and have a swim.
You can either walk inside Dales Gorge to Circular Pool on a 3 hour return hike or take a short drive to the Circular Pool lookout and decide if you want to head down from there.
There isn’t much in Port Headland so we wouldn’t recommend staying here for long but it does have a Coles and a K-Mart for any supply needs.
If you do find yourself here with more time, Cemetery Beach is a nice beach with lots of BBQ’s to use and the salt mine is quite a sight to see! There’s a photo op here so you can pull over and look at the biggest pile of salt you’ve probably ever seen.
To make some ground closer to the next destination, there is a free camp with toilets an hour outside of Port Headland, called De Grey River.
Eighty Mile Beach
The lightness of the blue waters at Eighty Mile Beach is stunning! If you have a 4WD, you’re able to drive straight onto the beach but if not, you can still park right by it and sink your toes into the white sands. This is where the epic sea blue really starts on this guide of our best stops from Perth to Darwin.
A fantastic place to rejuvenate before the drive to Broome. There’s even a shower, drinking water and a hose to clear some that orange dust that’ll be taking over your vehicle!
Broome is a remote little town which was originally a large pearl diving town, which still prevails today in particular farms nearby. The streets are filled with boutique shops selling artisanal souvenirs and plenty of pearls to admire.
It is also home to one of the best sunsets in the world at Cable beach. The tide in Broome is particularly unique as low tide takes the water out by 10 metres leaving large mud flats and even dinosaur footprints to check out.
Aside from the epic sunsets and pearls, Broome has the oldest outdoor cinema in the world which regularly plays up to date and some old favourite movies and a special event each month, where the full moon creates a natural illusion that looks like a staircase to the moon.
The Non Gibb River Rd Option
(The 2WD Route)
Boab Prison Tree
Before Derby was established in 1883, Aboriginal people were kidnapped from the West Kimberley to become divers and workers on the pearling boats. They were chained up and made to walk for miles each day. Some of these aboriginals were chained to and held prisoner inside this Boab Tree.
You can come here to read more about the history and take a look at the tree, paying respects to the mistreated aboriginals.
Just a short distance from Fitzroy Crossing, which is the next town after Derby is the Geikie Gorge. There are a few walking trails available to see the gorge and the sandbank, where the Margaret River and Fitzroy River meet. The walks range from just 30 minutes to 2 hours. We would recommend The Reef Walk, which took us around half an hour during the dry season but there’s more info about them in the visitor centre to help you decide.
There’s also an option to cruise along the gorge in the boat.
These caves can only be done with a tour.
A cool quick stop to check out a white tipped limestone wall, which resembled a mini Great Wall of China.
Pununurra NP (The Bungle Bungles)
We unfortunately didn’t get to see the bungle bungles, due to not having a 4WD and the tours being expensive. For those who do have a 4x4 or more dollars, the bungle bungles can be experienced by walking around them or even better, take to the sky in a helicopter.
The bungle bungles are beehive shaped rocks with a distinct tiger striped print which is derived from individual sedimentary layers of sand and gravel which are more than 360 million years old!
Kununurra is a great hub for tours on Pununurra National Park and Lake Argyle but it has a few hotspots of its own.
The Hoochery Distillery is a local rum distillery. You can enjoy a tour at 11am or just pop in for some taster paddles or their yummy rum infused cakes.
Marvel at the striped Zebra Rock. Even geologists can’t work out why they’re striped!
At the weekend, you can catch a local market at whitegum park.
Celebrity Tree Park is a local park, which is the best place for a view of the Sleeping Buddha rock. This rock is also known as elephant rock, as although it looks like a Sleeping Buddha from this side, it looks like an elephants head from the view on Parksaddle Road.
Also a lovely spot for a picnic next to the boab tree or the lake or for those who feel like you’ve been stuck to your car seat for too long, there’s a great free park gym!
Kangaroo Haven Wildlife Rescue. For only $10, the lovely Mandy will give you a tour and the opportunity to feed joeys and kangaroos!
Lake Argyle is beautiful and definitely worth visiting. We did all our Lake Argyle activities through Lake Argyle Cruises and had an amazing time!
For a small fee, it is possible to hire kayaks, canoes and BBQ pontoons to take around the lake on your own. We took the canoe out and spotted crocs and rock wallabies!
The sunset cruise was really amazing, not just for the absolutely stunning sunset itself but there’s more! We spotted loads of crocs, rock wallabies and Wallaroos. The tour continued to check out some fish that squirt water up at you and went for a lovely swim in the lake as the sun was setting. This was all with snacks/tea/coffee/water and a beer/bubbly/soft drink included! The sunset has to be seen to be believed!
Use CLOUD5 for a special discount code to give you 5% off your booking!
Lake Argyle Caravan Park
We would suggest spending at least one night at this campground to experience the lake, rather than from Kununurra. This is a lovely campsite but the main attraction is the infinity pool, overlooking Lake Argyle. Amazing!
Please note that the caravan park offers the same tours but Lake Argyle Cruises (just 200m further than the camp) are the original company, with 20 years experience and that’s who our discount code works with.
Northern Territory sign!
THAT’S A WRAP! Officially leaving western Oz behind and discovering new grounds in the North Territory. Take a quick pic before you head over the border.
Note: NT is an hour and a half ahead of WA and if travelling from NT to WA, you will have to go through quarantine to ensure you’re not bringing in any fruits or honey. This is not the case if travelling from WA to NT.
Port Gregory National Park
The first part of the drive towards Katherine will be through Port Gregory National Park. There’s not much to see but the lookout for the enscarpment is a cool spot. The views just driving along are fab too though.
Katherine is a built up town for WA, by built up we mean it has a McDonalds and a target, two brands rarely seen on this west coast adventure. It’s a great stop if you need any supplies for the night and is located close to the entrance to Nitmiluk National Parker.
The Katherine ‘not-so-hot’ hot springs are a needed respite after the long drive from Lake Argyle. Thankfully given the temperatures in the Northern Territory these springs feel more like a heated swimming pool than a sweaty hot bath like those we experienced in Machu Picchu.
In addition to a great cool down, you can swim from the bottom of the pools to the top or vice versa. The larger top pool shows where the springs come from in the ground and the meander to the bottom is great fun! Obviously watch out for the spiders on the edges!!
Nitmiluk national park
Nitmiluk national park is home to a huge 5 day hike enabling anyone brave enough to scale it with some really insane waterfalls - apparently. Subsequently, we opted out of scaling such a big trek and chose to visit Edith falls via the paved road instead. Nevertheless, if you have time, It is possible to kayak through the National park or enjoy a scenic flight to cheat your way into seeing those awesome falls!
Edith Falls is a huge lake with a beautiful cascading waterfall on the far side, although not for the faint hearted (or those without a noodle) this swim is relatively challenging. We enjoyed our swim over and whilst we didn’t see much due to the visibility in the water, we were encouraged to take our snorkels out with us. Especially as there is known to be turtles, freshwater crocs and an abundance of fish in the lake to see!
Litchfield national park
Litchfield was undoubtedly a highlight of our Northern Territory adventure, the park is full of various water holes and falls to enjoy both from a viewing point and whilst jumping right in! This is also another needed way to cool down in the NT heat! There are some areas only accessible by 4WD including Australia's very own Lost City! Nevertheless, in our little Nelson Vandela we enjoyed the following stop offs.
This is the final stop on the Western Australia adventure. We hope you've loved all of the best stops we found on the route towards Darwin. Nevertheless, it's not all bad once you arrive in Darwin, as we spent three weeks here and fell in love with this little Territory City. There always seems to be something going on to suit everyone and their budget, Which is something we regard highly whenever we find it. There are copious markets to visit, sunset music sessions, free waterparks and so much more. You can find out more about Darwin in our blog coming soon!