Travel & Touring | WA Road Trips

By: Chris Morton

Western Australia’s vast distances can be both daunting and exhilarating, allowing you to find places that no one may have visited for decades. West Aussies prepared and equipped to push a little further will find a truly unique adventure in their own backyard.

To really get away from the state’s more well-trodden paths and experience some of our most incredible natural wonders, a reliable four-wheel drive is a must.

Once you’ve gained some solid four-wheel driving experience in a range of conditions and terrain, the adventures on offer across the state can be truly breathtaking.

To get you started, we’ve highlighted five epic WA road trips. Some will suit a novice four-wheel driver, others are only recommended for those who are highly experienced but each one will take you through stunning landscapes that you simply wouldn’t be able to reach without your trusty four-wheel drive.

As with any off-road adventure, thorough preparation and planning is essential. No matter what your level of experience, gather as much information as you can about the route you’re taking. Have all the gear on board that you might need in case things don’t go to plan, and don’t be tempted to tackle any trickier drives until you have a good amount of experience.

RELATED: A beginner's guide to taking your four-wheel drive off road in WA »

1. The Holland Track

The Holland Track was first established in 1892 by experienced bushman John Holland as a means of providing an alternative route from the south to the booming goldfields around Coolgardie. Establishing a track capable of allowing the passage of horse-drawn carts over 500km through seemingly impenetrable bush in just over two months was heralded as a remarkable achievement for the time. For three years, the two-week journey was a major thoroughfare for miners travelling from the south, only becoming superseded with the extension of the railway from Northam to Coolgardie.

Although the original track started at Broomehill, most trips along the track commence from Hyden. Starting from Wave Rock, you will travel through sand plains and heath, interspersed with eucalypt woodlands, with the occasional gimlet thickets. The route is dotted with granite outcrops of varying sizes and complexity as well as historic sites. A section of the No. 1 Rabbit Proof Fence is also crossed. As this section is still maintained, a permit is required to travel along the fence maintenance track.

Even though you may hear other travellers tell you that they have driven the entire track in a two-wheel drive, we ask that you don’t. Only travel this one in a four-wheel drive, stay out of the mud holes when you can and avoid creating new tracks. Minimise your impact so that future generations can also enjoy our heritage.

Spring is the best time to travel when the wildflowers are blooming and before the summer heat. Winter should be avoided due to sections of the track becoming impassable.

Vehicles travel along the track in both directions. Keep a look out for oncoming vehicles and be prepared to pull over for larger groups. The towing of caravans along it is not advised.

There are no supplies, fuel, or water available along the track so ensure that you carry enough to last. A minimum fuel range of 450km is recommended with enough water for each person in your party for a minimum of three days.

Given the remoteness of the area, ensure that you have adequate medical supplies, a first aid kit, tools and spares, including a tyre repair kit and compressor. The safest way to travel is in convoy with a group.

Both Hyden and Coolgardie offer some great local history and significant landmarks that are well worth a look. Take advantage of the lack of light pollution and get some star gazing in while you’re there or catch the sunrise and sunset from Wave Rock. Book a local tour or even dip your toes in the water at Lake Magic.

  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Time: Allow three days (two on the track and one day to get home).
  • For further information, contact: Wave Rock Visitor Centre (9880 5182) or Coolgardie Visitor Centre (9026 6090). 

RELATED: Holland Track road trip »

2. Middle Lagoon (Dampier Peninsula)

Picture pindan red cliffs along secluded turquoise beaches and you’ll find yourself somewhere along the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome. The notorious Cape Leveque road had long been known as a destroyer of cars and trailers for those who either fail to deflate their tyres or reduce speed, with the corrugations providing a suspension-damaging ride for the unwary. However, the recent sealing of the road will not only provide all-weather access to the communities, pastoral leases and commercial operations along the peninsula, it will also allow for greater access for visitors into the area.

Accessing Middle Lagoon still requires a capable four-wheel drive due to heavy corrugations and sand in places. To reduce wear and tear it’s best to deflate your tyres (including on whatever you’re towing).

The majority of the campgrounds in the area are privately owned and bookings are essential. Pender Bay itself is a National Heritage-listed coastal wilderness where you can stay at Whalesong Campgrounds. This secluded paradise is perfect to enjoy the stunning ocean views for a few days. The area has some great fishing however due to the possible presence of saltwater crocodiles, swimming is not recommended.

Pender Bay is located off the Middle Lagoon Road via the Cape Leveque Road and is approximately 4.5 hours from Broome. Ensure that you have everything you need with you. The closest store is Beagle Bay.

  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Time: Allow at least half a day to travel from Broome, or longer if you plan on stopping off at Beagle Bay.
  • For further information, contact: Visit Broome.

3. Francois Peron National Park

Once a pastoral lease, Francois Peron National Park along the Coral Coast occupies the area to the north of both Denham and Monkey Mia. Although the Peron Heritage Precinct, which is comprised of the original station homestead, is accessible by two-wheel drive, a high clearance four-wheel drive is the only option for venturing further north.

The park is well known as being where the ocean meets the desert, featuring magnificent red cliffs, sandy white beaches and the turquoise blue waters of Shark Bay and is the perfect location for anyone wanting to wet a line or just soak in the remote beauty.

There are five campgrounds and camping fees apply.

Big Lagoon on the western side offers a great location to launch boats or to explore the area by canoe or sea kayak and offers basic BBQ and toilet facilities.

Once the site of a pearling camp in the late 1880s, Herald Bight provides some protection from prevailing south-westerly winds. There is a toilet here but no drinking water. Boats can be launched from the beach however the sand is extremely soft.

South Gregories, Gregories and Bottle Bay are all located on the northern end of the park and offer great locations for fishing, swimming, and snorkelling. There are basic toilets and gas BBQ facilities.

Caravans and large trailers are not recommended due to the extremely soft sand and deeply rutted tracks. Off road camper trailers and smaller boats are okay to tow. All vehicles entering are asked to drop their tyre pressure before venturing in (including what you're towing). There are no facilities for fuel, food or water so you must ensure that you're fully prepared for the duration of your stay. With the town of Denham being so close it’s quite easy to get supplies if you start to run low on essentials.

  • Difficulty: Moderate - some experience with sand driving and knowing how to adjust tyre pressures is critical.
  • Time: If you're heading in for a day trip from either Denham or Monkey Mia then allow a full day to explore. Due to the soft sand it can take several hours to reach Cape Peron. Take your time and explore everything the park has to offer.
  • For further information, visit: Shark Bay District Office.

RELATED: 15 of WA's best national parks for camping »

4. Nuytsland Nature Reserve

Located 450km east of Esperance is the extremely remote Nuytsland Nature Reserve. Home to iconic destinations such as Cape Arid, Point Culver, Israelite Bay and the stunning Baxter Cliffs.

Entering the reserve from the western end will bring you through Cape Arid National Park before passing Point Malcom and Israelite Bay. Stretching from Israelite Bay to Wylie Scarp, the heath-covered coastal plain is broken up with salt lakes and clay pans with eucalypt woodlands making way for bluebush which is typical of the Nullarbor. Spectacular granite outcrops dot the landscape, bursting through the surrounding vegetation.

Aside from the spectacular coastal scenery and the countless opportunities to discover your own private beach, the area boasts the Eyre Bird Observatory and the longest underwater cave in the Nullarbor, Cocklebiddy Cave. The area is also steeped in history from Western Australia’s pioneering past as well as once being a significant hunting ground for the local Aboriginal people.

Given the extreme remoteness of this location, travellers need to ensure that they’re well prepared and have adequate experience. There are no services available so you must be fully self-sufficient and carry adequate supplies of fuel, food and water and the appropriate communications equipment, first aid and recovery gear. Track conditions vary greatly depending on the time of year and previous weather events, making some sections impassable. Beach driving in this area can be notoriously difficult and care must be taken.

  • Difficulty: Extremely difficult.
  • Time: Travelling from Esperance, the main section of the reserve is a six-hour drive. Cape Arid and Israelite Bay are only about two hours east from the town. At a minimum this is an overnight trip, however given the distances involved we recommend staying longer.
  • For further information, check Visit Esperance.

5. The Canning Stock Route

Described by many as one of the most challenging four-wheel drive adventures in Australia, the Canning Stock Route is not for the inexperienced or ill-prepared. This 1800km desert track claims four-wheel drive every season with the cost of recovery for broken vehicles measured in the thousands. Solo travel is not recommended, and the towing of trailers, campers and caravans is actively discouraged.

Completed in 1910, the CSR was once the longest and toughest stock route in the world and thanks to its length and extreme isolation, attracted travellers from not only around Australia but the world.

The CSR follows a series of water holes and man-made wells that were used to supply water to cattle being driven along it and crosses three deserts: Gibson, Little Sandy and the Great Sandy Desert. The entire trip is filled with vistas rarely seen that are both spectacular and terrifying in their remoteness. Sites of great cultural significance to local Aboriginal people exist along its path and are not to be interfered with. Given the sensitivity of the terrain, ensure that you do everything you can to minimise your impact on the landscape.

Only well-prepared and well-planned travellers should attempt the CSR. High clearance four-wheel drives that have been thoroughly prepared prior should be used. There are no services available along the CSR and all provisions need to be carried. There are opportunities to have fuel left along the CSR but this must be arranged prior to departure.

  • Difficulty: Extremely difficult.
  • Time: Travel is recommended north to south starting at Halls Creek. It is approximately 30 hours travel from Perth and then you should allow a minimum of 14 days to travel the length of the CSR. Travel from Wiluna back to Perth is approximately 11 hours.
  • For further information or to arrange permits, check Canning Stock Route Visitor Permit System.

RELATED: Canning Stock Route road trip »

Image credit: Alan McCall, Ian Elliot
Last updated February 2021