From the incredible inland gorges and waterfalls of Karijini National Park to whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, take an epic journey to see some of the State's most unique attractions.

A road trip map of the Mid West
Distance Approx. 3800km
When to visit April - July (whale sharks) or March - November (milder temperatures, dry season) 
Itinerary Perth - Dalwallinu - Meekatharra - Karijini National Park - Exmouth - Coral Bay - Carnarvon - Shark Bay - Kalbarri - Geraldton - Cervantes - Perth
Tips for travel
Don't forget to pack a snorkel for your time on the coast. There are long drives on this road trip, and some of them are in remote areas. Pack extra water and provisions - there aren't many supermarkets or roadhouses along the way. Stay safe on your road trip.
Highlights  New Norcia - Paynes Find - Walga Rock - Karijini Eco Valley Retreat - Dales Gorge - Ningaloo Reef - whale sharks - Quobba - Monkey Mia dolphins - Kalbarri National Park - leaning trees of Greenough - Pinnacles

Perth to Dalwallinu (263km)

Start your journey with a drive along Great Northern Highway through the Swan Valley before stopping in quaint New Norcia, Australia’s only monastic town. Don’t forget to pick up a baked treat at the renowned Bindoon Bakery on your way there.

When you arrive at Dallwallinu, visit the Discovery Centre where you can pick up visitors brochures and find out more about local highlights. Stay the night – you’ve got a big day tomorrow.

Watching the sun set over wheat crops in Dalwallinu
Watch the sun set over the wheat crops for a peaceful end to the day

Dalwallinu to Meekatharra (513km)

Once you leave Dalwallinu and drive north on Great Northern Highway, you’re leaving the Wheatbelt and entering the red dirt outback. Make your first stop at Paynes Find near Yalgoo, an early gold rush settlement named after the first person to discover gold in the area. Visit the Paynes Find Gold Battery and Museum, which houses the only working gold battery in WA.

Stop at Mount Magnet to stretch your legs and take the Heritage Walk to learn about the history of the town, or if you’re keen on driving, the 37km tourist trail will take you through rock formations and wildflowers. Hop back in the car and drive through Cue for a detour to see Aboriginal art site Walga Rock before staying overnight at Meekatharra. 

Aboriginal rock art at Walga Rock
See Aboriginal rock art at Walga Rock (Photo: Tourism WA)

Meekatharra to Karijini National Park (701km)

Today’s scenic drive north on Great Northern Highway through the outback is long but the rewards at the end make it worthwhile. Stop in at mining town Newman for a stroll and a bite to eat before finishing the last leg to Karijini. Stay at the iconic Karijini Eco Retreat and recharge your batteries before your start exploring the park’s spectacular scenery.

In the morning, visit the Karijini Visitor Centre to start your journey. The park’s narrow gorges, pools, waterfalls, and rocky backdrop are an unforgettable experience.

Make sure you visit Dales Gorge, Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Hamersley Gorge – just some of many stunning sights in the area. Stay for a few days to drive through the park and take it all in.

Hamersley Gorge in Karijini National Park
Hamersley Gorge is one of many incredible sights at Karijini National Park

Karijini National Park to Exmouth (612km)

Get up early and head west on Nanutarra Road. After another mammoth day of driving, you'll find yourself at the Coral Coast. There aren’t many places to stop, so it’s advisable to pack your own lunch and supplies for the journey.

In Exmouth you’ll see Ningaloo Reef, Australia’s largest fringing coral reef, with its colourful coral.

If you visit between April and July, book an unforgettable swim with the whale sharks. Otherwise take a glass-bottom boat cruise to see the marine life below, or snorkel the coral reef. Stay in Exmouth - the RAC Exmouth Cape Holiday Park is great for a couple of days to relax, rejuvenate, and explore the nearby Cape Range National Park just 40 minutes away.

Whale shark at Ningaloo Reef
These gentle giants are the biggest fish in the ocean (Photo: Alexandra Ziade)

Exmouth to Coral Bay (150km)

This short drive south on Minilya-Exmouth Road brings you to another WA snorkelling hotspot. Coral Bay’s protected, calm waters are ideal for swimming, snorkelling, and kayaking above abundant marine life and coral.

There are many tours you can take to explore the area, like a fishing charter or scuba diving to see what’s below the surface. If you want to stay for a few days, a stay at the Ningaloo Reef Resort will have you leaving your room and walking to the waters edge.

Coral Bay to Carnarvon (238km)

Take North West Coastal Highway to Carnarvon and go snorkelling at Quobba station, see the blowholes spray seawater up to 20m in the air, or enjoy the surf and scenery at Gnaraloo. Carnarvon is known for its fresh tropical fruit and seafood, so stop in and stock up on delicious fresh produce.

Spend a night to make the most of it and to break up the drive to Quobba and Gnaraloo.

Carnarvon Blowholes on a sunny day
Visit the blowholes near Carnarvon to see this force of nature (Photo: Tourism WA)

Carnarvon to Shark Bay (Monkey Mia) (349km)

On your way to Shark Bay, follow the signage along the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive for sites to visit. Stop and see the ancient stromatolites at Hamelin Pool before continuing on to Shell Beach, a 70km-long beach made entirely of millions of tiny shells, which are up to 10m deep at some points.

Refuel at Denham and continue to the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort. The resort is famous for its friendly dolphins, which are fed every morning from 7.30am. After the dolphin feeding you can relax on the beach or hop on a cruise, then enjoy dinner overlooking the water.

Otherwise, take a local indigenous cultural tour where you can relax around the campfire, learn to play the didgeridoo, and cook bush tucker. 

Tourists feeding the dolphins at Monkey Mia
Feeding the dolphins at Monkey Mia should be on your WA bucket list (Photo: Tourism WA)

Shark Bay to Kalbarri (401km)

From Shark Bay, you can see some of WA’s rugged coastal scenery along the North West Coastal Highway to Kalbarri.

Take the kids to the Kalbarri Family Entertainment Centre for activities like mini putt putt, trampolines, and an amusement arcade. Check out the parrot habitat Rainbow Jungle, which also houses Cinema Parrotiso - an outdoor cinema.

Marvel at the cliffs on one of the walk trails along the coast before heading out to Kalbarri National Park, where you can see stunning inland gorges and the famous Nature's Window. Finish the day with a meal of fresh seafood at one of the restaurants in the township. 

Kalbarri to Geraldton (154km)

Before you leave, wake up early and head to the foreshore to see the daily pelican feeding at 8.45am. Then, on your way out, take a photo at the unmissable Pink Lake en route to the coastal hub of Geraldton.

When you reach the city, for sweeping views of the town and the ocean, head up to the impressive HMAS Sydney II Memorial, which commemorates the lives of 645 sailors who lost their lives on the ship during the Second World War, then take a walk down the main strip for a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants and pubs.

The HMAS Sydney memorial in Geraldton
The sunsets at the HMAS Sydney II Memorial are special (Photo: Tourism WA)

Geraldton to Cervantes (223km)

See the photo-worthy leaning trees of Greenough on Brand Highway on your way to the twin towns of Port Denison and Dongara, where you can feast on some local fish and chips for lunch. Keep driving south and check out Lesueur National Park, a half-hour drive from Jurien Bay. All year round, its a beautiful place, but from later winter to springtime, its one of the peak spots in WA for wildflowers.  

Once you’ve wandered through the park, keep heading south to Cervantes where you can stay at the RAC Cervantes Holiday Park for one last hurrah on the Coral Coast. A kilometre from town you’ll also find Lake Thetis and its stromatolites – living fossils that are more than 3300 years old.

Lake Thetis at Cervantes
The stromatolites at Lake Thetis are thousands of years old (Photo: Tourism WA)

Cervantes to Perth (197km)

Before you leave, stop for a final fresh seafood feast at the Lobster Shack before piling in the car to make the heading homewards. Visit Nambung National Park to see the Pinnacles which rise out of the earth up to 3.5m – it’s a great spot for photos.

Take it easy on the way home along the Indian Ocean Drive - its been marked as one of RAC's Riskiest Roads. It's only a couple of hours drive along the coast until you are back in Perth.

Share your favourite road trip photos with us on Instagram using @racwa. And if you need music for your travels, download our For the Drive playlist from Spotify so you can just hit play and focus on the drive.

Last updated September 2018

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