Perth – Bunbury – Augusta –Pemberton – Albany – Esperance – Kalgoorlie – Merredin – Perth
8 days driving
Discover the diverse and theatrical landscapes of Australia’s south-west corner. Drive from Perth through the buzzing historic port of Fremantle and swim with dolphins in Mandurah and Bunbury. Explore wineries, surf beaches, ancient limestone caves and towering karri forests in the Margaret River region. Walk through a canopy of sky-scraping trees in the Valley of the Giants, near Walpole. Swim and surf from Esperance’s clean, empty white beaches and cruise to the pristine islands of the Recherche Archipelago. Soak up gold fever in Kalgoorlie-Boulder and trace the path of pioneers on historic gold trails. Watch golden sand morph to green valley as you drive back into Perth.
Head to Fremantle’s buzzing heritage-listed streets. Browse the weekend markets, soak up history on a walking trail or dine on fresh seafood at Fishing Boat Harbour. Take a boat to Rottnest Island, where you can spot quokkas and bike ride and kayak to secluded beaches. Back on the mainland, continue south to vibrant Mandurah. Swim or snorkel with dolphins and wander the bustling foreshore of Mandjar Bay. Further south at Bunbury, you can dive the wreck of a scuttled pirate boat and catch crabs and fish from the ocean. Next stop is Busselton, where you can walk along Australia’s longest timber jetty and peer at coral and fish in the observatory. Your day’s destination is Dunsborough, overlooking the sparkling waters of Geographe Bay. Dive the HMAS Swan or drive to the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse for panoramic views across the ocean. Between June and September you’ll see southern right whales gliding up the coast on their annual migration.
Drive through Yallingup, where you can swim, surf or fish from the quiet beaches or relax near the sheltered lagoon. Walk the coastline in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Head into the Margaret River region, where your pace becomes a pleasurable crawl between wineries and cellar doors. Stock up wine and gourmet delights, then explore the spectacular limestone caves. See fossils in Mammoth Caves, mirrored underwater lakes in Lake Cave and straw stalactites in Jewel Cave. Do a fairytale drive through towering karri forests to Hamelin Bay, where you can snorkel with stingrays and walk the idyllic sands of Boranup Beach. Next stop is romantic Augusta, where lighthouse-tipped Cape Leeuwin parts the Indian and Southern Oceans. Spot whales from here or Flinders Bay between June and September. Go waterskiing, fishing or boating on the Blackwood River, or cruise up it past melodic birds and historic caves.
Head inland for Nannup, fringed by the Blackwood River and a patchwork of green hills and farmland. Browse the antique stores, old buildings and public gardens. In August they’re abloom with tulips and daffodils. Then drive south to Pemberton, which sits in the middle of majestic karri forest. You can even scale one of these skyscrapers – like the 61-metre high Gloucester Tree - with metal spikes. Walk, four-wheel-drive or horse ride through the forested national parks of Warren, Brockman or Beedelup. Picnic next to Beedelup Falls. Between September and mid-November the forest put on colourful exhibits of spring wildflowers. Drive out to the stark cliffs and shifting sand dunes of D’Entrecasteaux National Park. Back in town, canoe or fish on Pemberton’s river, lake and estuary. End your day in a lakeside chalet or country retreat where your tranquillity is interrupted only by the kookaburras.
Wind 48km through the old-growth karri forest of Shannon National Park. The Great Forest Trees Drive features radio broadcasts about the forest and takes you all the way to tranquil Walpole. Here you can walk through the tree-tops in the Valley of the Giants and float around Walpole and Nornalup Inlets on a houseboat or eco cruise. Walk a section of the Bibbulmun Track, or mountain bike part of the Munda Biddi Trail. Drive along forest-fringed coast, stopping to swim at Peaceful Bay and Greens Pool in William Bay National Park. Pass through the village of Denmark and stop in West Cape Howe National Park for a swim. Your last stop is in Albany, on the edge of vast King George Sound. Learn about the town’s convict history on the Amity Trail, see the weather-carved rock formations of Torndirrup National Park and spot whales between July and October.
Cape Le Grand National Park, WA
Keep hugging the coast, stopping to wander the wildlife reserve and beach of Two Peoples Bay. Or head inland for the wineries around Mount Barker and the walking trails of Stirling Range National Park. Trek to Bluff Knoll for panoramic views and bright seasonal wildflowers. You can even camp or sleep overnight in a cabin at the foot of the jagged Stirling Range. Pass through tiny Jerramungup for Fitzgerald River National Park, a Biosphere Reserve which contains more than 1,800 species of flowering plants, around one fifth of all the plants in the state. Then continue on to Esperance, where you can swim, surf and ocean fish from the clean, empty white beaches. Visit Cape Le Grand National Park, where you can camp, bushwalk, meet friendly kangaroos and swim from Lucky Bay. Cruise to the pristine islands of the Recherche Archipelago, past sea eagles and the colonies of sea lions and fur seals.
Head north to Norseman, home to life-sized monuments of early camel trains. Take in views from Beacon Hill and fiery sunsets at salty Lake Cowan. Pass through Kambalda for the historic goldfields city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Have a pint on Hannan Street, named after Irishman Paddy Hannan who struck gold in 1893. See Aboriginal and goldfields art in the Flying Doctor's Visitor Centre and explore a prospector's campsite in the Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame. Visit the vast Super Pit Mine, which is as deep as Uluru is high and about the same circumference. See relics of the gold mine dream in the abandoned cottages, huts and shops of the dusty ghost town of nearby Gwalia. If you want to stay an extra day, take a trip north to the Inside Australia exhibition at Lake Ballard. These 51 black stick-figures on the brilliant white landscape are awesome to behold.
Cross the sand plains – cloaked with colourful wildflowers between September and November - to the former gold hub of Coolgardie. Here you can visit the Goldfields Exhibition Museum or do a camel trek through the desert. Four wheel drive the historic Holland Track or follow a gold discovery trail through Goldfields Woodlands National Park on your way to Merredin. Visit the historic Cummins Theatre and follow the Merredin Peak Heritage Trail for scenic views and an insight into 1890's gold mining. Explore the region’s World War II history in the Army Hospital and see sections of the Rabbit Proof Fence. Trace Aboriginal history at Totadgin Conservation Park and at Mulka caves, a little further away at Hyden.
From Merredin, you’ll be shadowing the 560-kilometre Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail. Built at the dawn of the 20th Century, it was the most ambitious water supply scheme ever built and remains the longest freshwater pipeline in the world. You can stand at the Golden Pipeline Lookout on top of the hill in Kellerberrin, before browsing the cutting-edge art gallery. Pass through Northam and the green hills of the Avon Valley, before arriving in Mundaring. Here you can walk over the dam waters of Mundaring Weir, where the Golden Pipeline begins. Explore the nearby National Trust-listed towns of Toodyay and York, the state’s first inland town. Go skydiving over the valley, take a sunrise balloon flight or bushwalk in John Forrest national parks.