• Day 1: Perth to Geraldton
• Day 2: Geraldton to Monkey Mia
• Day 3: Monkey Mia to Carnavon
• Day 4: Canarvon to Coral Bay
• Day 5: Coral Bay to Karratha
• Day 6: Karratha to Eighty Mile Beach
• Day 7: Eighty Mile Beach to Broome
Day 1: Perth to Geraldton
Explore Route 60 along the Coral Coast to the Pinnacles.
Detour… Nambung National Park
Drive a couple of hours north from Perth on Route 60 and you’ll be in the ancient land of the Yued people in Nambung National Park by the sea. After paying your entry fee, check out the visitor centre to learn about The Pinnacles: a surreal and spectacular collection of marine fossils formed in columns and knobs up to 3.5 metres tall. A short walk from the centre will get you to the Pinnacles Desert Lookout or you can drive in one direction if you prefer. If you can get to Nambung National Park between August and October the desert wildflowers will be blooming beautiful.
A quick (15-minute) drive from Nambung National Park gets you to Cervantes for lunch (or a snack). Cervantes is a tiny and relatively new town established in 1963 mainly for tourism and lobster fishing. It got its name from the Cervantes Islands off Thirsty Point Lookout, which were themselves named after an American whaling ship wrecked near the islands in 1844, although some believe the name came earlier from Baudin expedition party of the early 1800s, possibly in honour of the author of Don Quixote. Which story do you like better? Stroll along the jetties to inspect the boats before taking a table at one of the local seafood cafés, such as Seabreeze
Hug the coast for a couple of hours to the city of Geraldton, once a tiny outpost, now a busy port and gateway to ocean adventures including sailing, surfing, fishing and scuba diving – the latter can be enjoyed at the young wreck of the South Tomi, or 60km out to sea where the Batavia was wrecked near the gorgeous Houtman Abrolhos Islands
. In daylight hours visit the HMAS Sydney memorial, including its eerie yet beautiful Dome Of Souls, Point Moore Lighthouse, Museum of Geraldton
(which closes at 3pm), Monsignor Hawes Heritage Centre
and the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery
. At night, book ahead to catch a show, concert or film festival at the Queens Park Theatre
after dinner at a local favourite like Salt Dish
for casual modern (dinner Friday and Saturday only), kid-friendly pub food including pizzas at The Provincial
, or modern and traditional Indian at Origin India
. Sleep at Mantra
, Ibis Styles
, Best Western Hospitality Inn Geraldton
, Broadwater Mariner Resort
or Belair Gardens Caravan Park
Alternative night… Cervantes
The Cervantes Pinnacles Motel
offers family-and-budget-friendly accommodation in the centre of town, including suites and two-bedroom units. The same team also manages the nearby luxury Pinnacles Edge Resort
, which offers two-bedroom apartments, spa suites and studio hotel rooms. Both venues share the Europa Anchor Restaurant, which serves fresh local seafood and Asian-Italian fusion dishes using locally sourced produce.
Day 2: Geraldton to Monkey Mia
National Route 1 and Shark Bay take you north to meet the dolphins at Monkey Mia.
Before you head north… Yamaji Drive Trail
Get breakfast and picnic items in Geraldton from Flowvitality
, Salt Dish
or Café Fleur
then collect a map from the Library, Visitor Centre or Museum for the beautiful story-trails to 14 Indigenous sites. Most of them are around town, although you can also head east an hour or so to Mullewa Mass Rock, bushland walk and lookout.
Detour… Port Gregory and Kalbarri
A popular resort town for ocean adventurers and hikers, Kalbarri is a straight 1.75-hour drive from Geraldton along National Route 1 and George Grey Drive. Stop for a breather to admire the pink lake (Hutt Lagoon) near Port Gregory then continue up the stunning coastline to Kalbarri. If you’re visiting between June and November, you might see humpback whales. Afterwards, take Ajana-Kalbarri Road east to rejoin the highway north.
Stay… Monkey Mia
People have been coming to see bottlenose dolphins in Monkey Mia since the 1960s. The dolphins are now carefully watched over by rangers from the Department of Parks and Wildlife. If you want to see the dolphins set an alarm to be ready to meet the rangers on the boardwalk at 7:45am. Visitors must follow the rangers’ instructions, including not touching any dolphins, even if you’re lucky to be chosen to feed them. Dugongs and turtles often visit too, and it’s worth taking a tour with a Malanga Aboriginal guide to learn about the Indigenous peoples’ connection to this country. The Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort is at the eastern tip of the reserve and caters to all travellers with a range of hotel rooms, family studios, backpacker dorms and a caravan and camping ground. Have dinner within the resort at The Boughshed Restaurant or one of the BBQ areas.
Day 3: Monkey Mia to Carnarvon
Mostly highway driving north for a few hours, via the Ocean Park Aquarium at Shark Bay.
Before you head north… Shark Bay
You need the better part of a day at least to enjoy Shark Bay’s Ocean Park half an hour south of Monkey Mia. The aquarium tour takes you along secure walkways into the marine park where you’ll see sharks feeding, rescued sea turtles enjoying life again and loads of other marine life. You can also book dive adventures and marine safaris out to Steep Point and Dirk Hartog Island – especially popular when whales migrate through the area between August and October. The complex also has a restaurant by the beach, which is open for breakfast and lunch.
Day 4: Carnarvon to Coral Bay
Another short drive to make the most of the reef at Coral Bay.
Stay… Coral Bay
The Ningaloo Reef runs from the water’s edge out to sea at the small town of Coral Bay, 2.5 hours north of Carnavon and 1.5 hours south of Exmouth, so even the smallest ocean explorer can get close to the coral if they wish. Ocean tour operators (glass-bottom boats or dive boats) will take you out to see whatever sea creatures are in season, including whale sharks between March and June, humpback whales between June and October, turtles gathering to breed on the beaches between November and February, and manta rays all year round. Sleep at the Ningaloo Reef Resort, which has a comprehensive range of accommodation from budget units to ocean view apartments and penthouses, plus a pool, BBQs and café. Eat at the resort or dine al fresco at Bills or Fins Café Coral Bay.
Alternative night… Exmouth
Exmouth Cape Holiday Park
is another 1.5 hours up the highway towards Broome at the northern end of Ningaloo Reef. A popular destination for families and couples alike, it offers a wide choice of campsites, cabins, studios and holiday units. It also has a swimming pool, playground, BBQs and bike rental.
Day 5: Coral Bay to Karratha
Inland through Cane River Conservation Park on Route 1 to the Pilbara.
Refuel… Nanutarra Roadhouse
If you didn’t fill up at Coral Bay (two hours 40 minutes) or Exmouth (three hours), stop at Nanutarra
Roadhouse on Route 1 for fuel and food because there really aren’t many other places on the road to Karratha. When you pull back onto the highway, keep a keen eye out for wildlife on the road. It’s another two hours 42 minutes to Karratha if the road is clear.
Karratha is at the west end of the ruddy Pilbara region on the Burrup Peninsula, and contains the highest concentration of Aboriginal rock art in the world, some of it more than 20,000 years old. One of the easiest sites to get to is Deep Gorge
along Burrup Road between Dampier and Burrup. Nearby is the serene Hearsons Cove shell beach, a popular place to swim during the day, and at night to see the Staircase to the Moon reflection on the mudflats at very low tides during a full moon between May and October. The Yaburara Heritage Trail connects the visitor centre to several significant Aboriginal cultural and geologically interesting sites in the area, while the Cossack Heritage Trail takes you through a ghost town. Eat at Vita
for fine dining, Tambrey Tavern
for family-friendly pub food or Soul
for casual dining in arty surrounds. Sleep at The Ranges
, Best Western
, Karratha International
or Ibis Styles
Day 6: Karratha to Eighty Mile Beach
A fairly long day’s drive via the large mining town of Port Hedland.
Lunch… Port Hedland
Port Hedland was named in the 1860s by Captain Peter Hedland, who had aspirations for it to become a major export port – although he chose the wrong entrance to the harbour, he was mostly right. These days the port processes more cargo tonnage than any other Australian port, most of it iron ore brought in from the mines by massively long trains. Before lunch, view Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art at Spinifex Hills Studio
and Port Hedland Courthouse Gallery
. Eat at Hedland Harbour Café
or the Esplanade Hotel
. Before you leave town, buy food supplies for the night and day ahead as there isn’t much at Eighty Mile Beach.
Alternative refuel and rest… Pardoo
If you don’t plan on stopping at Eighty Mile Beach, Pardoo Roadhouse
has a general store, caravan park and tavern, and the petrol station is open 24/7. From here it’s almost five hours’ drive to Broome.
Stay…Eighty Mile Beach
The Karajarri and Nyangumarta people are custodians of the northern part of Eighty Mile Beach, which is an important wetland for migratory birds from around the world. Some of the bird species that rest here will then head north to the Mekong Delta (3,714km) or south to the Antarctic (7,200km). Sleep at Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park
, which has a handful of self-contained cabins and 150 powered caravan sites.
Day 7: Eighty Mile Beach to Broome
An easy three hours 46 minutes from the beach to Broome.
Head off after breakfast and you’ll easily make it to Broome for lunch. Eat at the Shady Lane Cafe
for vegetarian and gluten-free options, The Zookeeper's Store
and Green Mango Cafe
for fresh modern dishes and Town Beach Café
for beachside café favourites. If you stop a few days in Broome you can take some mini-safaris, such as a camel ride along the 22km of white sand at Cable Beach
, a trip just out of town to Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park and Animal Refuge
, a pearl farm tour by boat or the water park at Broome Town Beach. Broome Museum
tells the history of the town, including 140 years of pearling. There are numerous highly regarded jewellers working with the pearls that have made this town internationally famous – check their websites for opening hours or ask at your hotel. Sleep at Bali Hai Resort
, Blue Seas Resort
, Broome Caravan Park
, Broome-Time Accommodation and Art Gallery
, Broome Vacation Village
, Cable Beach Club
, or Cocos Beach Bungalows