You can’t visit Australia and not visit the coast. Ever since we drove a part of the Great Ocean Road we’re a fan of Australian coastal views. If you’re looking for a great road trip that follows the coast you’re in for a treat!
This road trip from Perth to Esperance could be done in a week, but we’ve stretched it and made a 2-week itinerary. This gives you a chance to experience all that Western Australia has to offer. From beautiful beaches to huge mining grounds to deserted roads and enormous trees.
Because it’s a loop you could drive it both ways. We chose to drive it counter-clockwise because we wanted to spend more time along the coast. But the choice is yours. It might also depend on the availability of camping spots or accommodation. Either way, you won’t be disappointed with this road trip from Perth to Esperance!
Practical information about your road trip
One of the things we recommend for this road trip from Perth to Esperance is to plan ahead. Whether you want to rent a campervan or car, the earlier you book, the cheaper it will be. And the more options you will have. We looked for a car at Rentalcars and chose a location a bit out of the city which made it a lot cheaper.
The same goes for accommodation. Even though it wasn’t high season yet, we struggled to find affordable accommodation. Just driving to the next town and hoping you’ll find something might mean you end up sleeping in your car. We used Airbnb a lot and Booking.com in places we couldn’t find an Airbnb.
Best time to go:
The best season to do this road trip from Perth to Esperance is from October to April. We recommend skipping December/January because it’s the high season and prices will go up. If you want to go swimming you’re better of going in February-April because the water will have warmed up. But October-November gives you a chance to enjoy a lot of the sights by yourself.
Although we are budget travelers this is not a low-budget road trip. We made it work as best as we could. This means booking ahead of time, looking for cheap accommodations, and buying groceries to make lunch & dinner. We skipped all the national parks with entry fees but if you do want to go make sure to buy the WA Park Pass.
Don’t drive at night:
This is a general rule in Australia, don’t drive at night if you don’t have to. Kangaroos are known to jump in front of headlights and you don’t want to experience something like that. We were late one day and it does get pitch black at night so it was hard to see the road as well.
Day 1: Perth – Bunbury
From Perth to Bunbury is only a 2-hour drive which is perfect if you’re picking up your rental car today. Make sure to follow Highway 1 as much as possible, because it’s a more scenic road. Along the way, you’ll see signs labeled Scenic Drive which is always worth checking out.
In Bunbury, you’ll find the Dolphin Discovery Centre. During summer the dolphins swim really close to the beach and you could watch them early in the morning. Drive to the Dolphin Centre today and check their bulletin board outside for times the dolphins showed up the previous days.
They also organize boat tours and you’re able to swim with the dolphins as well. The center itself has an exhibit with all things related to ocean life. Bunbury has a lot of restaurants for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Day 2: Bunbury – Dunsborough
Start the day with a visit to the Dolphin Discovery Centre to watch the dolphins. If you lucked out or you want to see them again drive onwards to Turkey Point. We didn’t see the dolphins but it was still a nice spot to visit.
We picked Dunsborough as our home base for the next couple of days, but feel free to stay elsewhere. But do stop at Busselton to visit the Busselton Jetty. This is the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere with an astounding 1,8 kilometers. At the end of the jetty, you’ll find an Underwater Observatory ($ 37).
If you buy the Jetty Day Pass ($ 4) you get access to dive, fish, swim, or walk the Jetty. There is an electric train as well that will take you to the end ($ 16). If you don’t want to pay anything, just stay on the beach and enjoy the jetty from there. The visitor center has some information about the history of Busselton.
Day 3: Cape Naturaliste
There is a lot to see and do in the area around Dunsborough. Start your day with a visit to Cape Naturaliste but skip the entry fee for the lighthouse. Instead head towards the trails and follow the sign for Whale Lookout Trail.
If you’re a vivid hiker you could walk the Cape-to-Cape Trail which will take you from Cape Naturaliste all the way down to Cape Leeuwin. It’s 123 kilometers if you walk the whole trail, but you could also hike part of it.
Sugarloaf Rock is a popular return point if you only want to hike for a day (3,5 km one-way). You could drive to Sugarloaf Rock as well if you just want to enjoy the view. Unfortunately, the road was closed for construction when we visited.
If you’re done at Cape Naturaliste drive to Eagle Bay Beach and continue on the Eagle Bay-Meelup Road until you get to Meelup Beach. Both beaches are stunning and worth a visit. Stay as long as you like. To make this day even better make a final stop at Simmo’s for some awesome ice cream!
Day 4: Cape Leeuwin
The drive from Dunsborough to Cape Leeuwin is about an hour. We did a loop since we’re staying in Dunsborough but if you’re driving down visit Margaret River and Hamelin Bay before heading to Cape Leeuwin.
Cape Leeuwin has a lighthouse you could visit. It was under construction when we were there, but you should be able to climb it and see the Pacific and Indian ocean meet. There is a small entry fee and you could join a tour as well.
We spend most of our time near the Waterwheel that’s close to the lighthouse. The waterwheel itself doesn’t take up a lot of time, but you could follow the hiking trails and explore the area.
Hamelin Bay is famous for its string rays that come close to the beach. If you’re lucky you could actually swim with them. They like to be close to boats, so if you see one coming or going, pay attention. The beach itself is beautiful as well and there is a limestone formation all the way to the left that’s pretty impressive.
Margaret River is famous for its farmer’s markets but unfortunately, they only take place on the weekend. But the town itself is quite cozy and has a lot of fun stores, cafes, and restaurants. There is a Fudge Factory, but don’t expect anything like the Chocolate Factory on Phillip Island.
Day 5: Dunsborough – Nannup
Time for a change of scenery! We leave the coast and head land inwards a bit. Nannup is a small town that’s mainly active in summer. It’s one of those sleepy towns you thought no longer existed. Do your groceries before 5 pm and get gas as well. At night everything closes down.
On your way to Nannup stop at Workmans’ Pool and Barrabup Pool. In summer you can swim here and there are camping spots available as well. There are a couple of hiking trails that you could follow if you have time to kill.
Along the way, you might spot a lagoon or two. You might have to take a u-turn because there are no signs for them.
Day 6: Greenbushes
We found a map in our AirBnB for the Golden Triangle, a scenic drive around Nannup. It takes you to Balingup & Bridgetown before heading back to Nannup. We decided to add a stop in Greenbushes as well.
The drive itself is indeed quite scenic. The landscape is very different from what we’ve seen so far. Now we’re in rolling hills with big meadows and all of a sudden you’re back in the woods. Balingup is a great town for a cup of coffee.
We found an old mining trail in Greenbushes that starts at the visitor center. The visitor center itself is only open during the weekends. The old mining trail was partly closed and we didn’t see this until 15 minutes in. But the lookout point is worth a visit and you can get there by car.
On your way back when following the Golden Triangle, you could stop at Karri Gully. There is a 20-minute circuit walk. We didn’t get a chance to finish this due to the rainy weather.
Day 7: Nannup – Albany
Today is the first day that has a long(er) stretch of driving. It takes about 4 hours to get from Nannup to Albany. Make sure your car or campervan is filled up before leaving Pemberton because there won’t be a petrol station for another 100 km.
Take a little detour to Fernhook Falls. A gravel road will take you to the waterfalls and there is a swimming lake as well. The waterfalls are seasonal because this part of Australia doesn’t get any rain from November to April. But this is the time to stop for a dip in the water.
Go back to the main road and enter the Giant Tingle Tree as your next destination. Make sure to take the scenic drive just after you pass Walpole since it’s a one-way street. On your way to the tree, you’ll find a lookout with amazing views.
You could stop at Valley of the Giant Tree Top Walk. The entry fee is $ 21,- per person. We opted against it because we did a tree top walk in Mulu National Park and we thought it was too expensive.
Day 8: Greens Pool & Elephant Rocks
Because we spend too much time at the waterfalls and the tree we didn’t get a chance to visit Greens Pool & Elephant Rock in Denmark. So that’s where we’re going today. If you don’t have a lot of time see if you can combine days 7 & 8.
Greens Pool is just one of Australia’s awesome beaches. What makes this stand out is the rocks that are scattered throughout the water. Even though there were quite a lot of people because of the weekend it didn’t feel busy because of the size of the beach.
Walk/hike/climb towards Elephant Rocks. There are stairs and a hiking trail, but most people find their way over the rocks. If you’re on top of the trail it looks like there are elephants in the water. Depending on the tide you could walk to the next beach.
Get back in the car and follow this road. There are a couple of other beaches that are worth a visit. Spend as much time as you would like.
If you’re looking for something else, visit the Good Food Factory just outside of Denmark. You get to taste all the yummy food and condiments they make themselves.
Day 9: Albany – Esperance
This is the longest stretch of this road trip. The drive from Albany to Esperance is 480 km and will take about 5 hours. Make sure to stop for gas before heading to Esperance because there aren’t a lot of petrol stations on this road. Really, there isn’t a lot of anything on this road.
If you leave on time you could stop at Bremer Bay but it’s a little bit of a detour. We decided against it and only stopped at a couple of parking stops to stretch our legs.
Day 10: Great Ocean Drive
The Great Ocean Drive is a loop of about 40 km that starts in Esperance. There are 23 stops, ranging from lookout points to beaches that are worth a visit. It’s one of the more popular things to do in Esperance so you meet the same people sometimes at the next stop.
Don’t make the same mistake that we did and assume that pink lake will be pink if you’re lucky. This lake used to be pink, but because of alterations in the water due to construction, it will never be pink again. That is unless they undo everything and get the right balance of algae back in this lake.
Some beaches have coast guards and warning systems against sharks. Pay attention to the signs and don’t start swimming somewhere you’re not supposed to.
Day 11: Esperance – Norseman
There isn’t a whole lot to do between Esperance and Norseman but we enjoyed this day by taking some detours and getting off the highway. If you’re near Norseman look for signs of the Dundas Coach Road Heritage Trail.
This road has 10 stops with a lot of information about the mining history of this area. If you start at the end (number 10) it will take you to Norseman. Every site is well labeled from both directions and there is a plaque with information as to what there is to see.
Day 12: Norseman – Moorine Rock
The drive from Norseman to Moorine Rock is about 4 hours. On your way, you want to stop at Kalgoorlie, Boulder & Coolgardie. You have to watch the time a bit so you won’t have to drive in the dark. First head to Boulder & Kalgoorlie, these two towns have merged together.
Today is all about mining and it shows in these towns. The glory of the high days of mining still shows in all the buildings that have been kept in their original style. Make sure to stop at the Super Pit. The lookout is free to visit and has a ton of information. They have blasting times as well so if you’re lucky you could watch those. Or take a tour and go into the mines if you have the time (and $).
Next head to Mount Charlotte Reservoir and Lookout. This is where the water supply for this area comes into town and you have a nice lookout over the city. We read there is a ghost town named Kanowna but all we found were empty fields with street signs. Not much of a ghost town. Although someone asked us for directions to the cemetery which should be worth a visit. We didn’t bother because of the time.
Drive onwards to Coolgardie which has the label ghost town as well. We drove through it and it looks like a small mining town.
Day 13: Moorine Rock – Hovea
There is no better way to start your day than by visiting the Parnana Pikurtu Wildlife Sanctuary. Stay at Nulla Nulla Farm for the night and ask for a tour in the morning. If you’re lucky you get a lot of information about wildlife rescue from both Ron & Laura. This was one of the highlights of this road trip for us.
Grab a cup of coffee at the General Store in Moorine Rock if you’re into Christmas decorations. There is an entire Christmas village on display. Drive to Merredin where you could grab lunch in one of the many restaurants/cafes.
If you’ve had enough of the highway take the scenic route from here on. It’s a beautiful deserted route and much more fun than what you’ve seen so far. Stop at Eaglestone Rock for a quick detour and enjoy the scenery.
We picked an Airbnb on the outskirts of Perth, near John Forrest National Park, which is worth a visit by itself.
Day 14: Back to Perth
The final stretch, all there is left to do is return your car or campervan and enjoy the last hours of this road trip from Perth to Esperance and back to Perth.
We hope you have enjoyed all that Western Australia has to offer. During this road trip from Perth to Esperance, you see how versatile this region is. We loved the fact that one day you’re on a beach and the next you’re in a forest looking at enormous trees.
If you don’t want to end your road trip you could drive up to Exmouth or Broome. Just make sure it’s the right season because the northern part of Western Australia has a different climate. The best time to travel to this region would be June-September.
Time to plan your road trip from Perth to Esperance!
Now it’s up to you to plan your own road trip from Perth to Esperance! Take what we’ve shown you and create your own perfect little loop. We haven’t covered everything you could do and with a little research, you could add a lot of stops that we missed.
Have you been to Perth or Western Australia? What was your favorite spot? Let us know in the comments because we would love to do another road trip.
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