Cape Le Grand National Park, WA
14-day road trip through Western Australia's South West Edge
Experience the extraordinary landscape of the South West in one great road trip.
Take the time to relax, soak up the scenery and discover the incredible food and wine on offer in Western Australia's South West region. Experience The South West Edge on this 14-day adventure that traverses 1,200 kilometres (745 miles) from Perth to Esperance, showcasing the best of the region, while ensuring ample time to indulge in life's simple pleasures.
"The South West Edge is one road trip everyone should add to their travel list."
Day 1: Explore Perth’s Rottnest Island & Fremantle
Jump on The Rottnest Express for a short ferry ride from Fremantle to the picturesque Rottnest Island; home to the world's cutest and extremely photogenic marsupial, the quokka. Arrive at the sweeping white sands of Thomson Bay, one of the 63 beautiful beaches on the island. Walk off the beach to Thomson Bay Settlement to grab a coffee, pick up maps and hire bikes to explore the rest of the car-free island. Don’t forget your snorkel mask – Rottnest has beautiful marine life, easily accessible from the islands’ beaches and bays.
Before getting the 45-minute ferry back to the mainland, hop on a Rottnest Wild Seafood Experience Tour for a sensational sundowner cruise serving freshly caught delicacies.
Day 2: Fremantle to Bunbury
Enjoy the gourmet café culture of Fremantle for breakfast and browse local boutiques for unique or vintage finds. Then jump in your car and head 167 kilometres (103.7 miles) to Bunbury via the rolling hills of the Ferguson Valley.
Discover the secret spots along the Valley on a customised tour with South West Tourist Services or Hinterland Escapes. Explore boutique wineries and breweries, or tackle the scenic hiking and mountain bike trails of Wellington Forest National Park, stopping at Black Diamond Lake near Collie for a view of vivid turquoise waters.
Day 3: Bunbury To Yallingup
When to go
Spot migrating humpbacks, southern right, and sometimes blue whales from high vantage points along the coast or on a whale watching tour with Naturaliste Charters between August and October.
Begin your morning with a Dolphin Eco Cruise or head over to the Dolphin Discovery Centre at Koombana Bay in Bunbury, where wild bottlenose dolphins come into shore every morning between September to April to interact with humans. Make sure you're here by 9am, wade into water up to your knees and the dolphins will swim around you.
Drive 57 kilometres (35.4 miles) to Busselton, which sits on a white sandy beach on the north-facing shoreline of the tranquil waters of Geographe Bay, a popular family holiday destination. Swing among the trees on a high ropes course at Forest Adventures set among the last remaining tall tuart forest in the world. Or take a stroll or ride the train for 1.8 kilometres (1.1 miles) over the Indian Ocean on the beautifully restored historic jetty, the longest timber-piled jetty in the southern hemisphere. At the end, visit the Underwater Observatory and Interpretive Centre, where you’ll descend eight metres below the surface to see one of Australia’s greatest artificial reefs alive with corals, sponges, fish and invertebrates living in the warm Leeuwin Current.
Day 4: Yallingup to Margaret River
Book a tour with Top Drop Tours and spend the day exploring the beautiful Margaret River wine region, whose 150 wineries produce more than 20 percent of Australia's premium wine (Margaret River cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays are particularly impressive).
After breakfast at the hotel, you'll be picked up by your tour guide for a day-long tour visiting some of the region's wineries. These may include Leeuwin Estate, Voyager Estate, Vasse Felix (one of the first wineries in Margaret River, with a designer lounge bar and views across the region), the biodynamic Windows Estate, run by married couple Chris and Jo Davies who manage the entire viticultural process, or Wills Domain, owned and operated by the Austrian Haunold family and offering some of the region's best food.
Day 5: Explore the Margaret River region
Go for a swim just in front of the resort at Yallingup, where the water (protected by the surrounding reef) is flat, rip free and laps against a stretch of powdery sand. Then drive five minutes north to explore Ngilgi Cave’s huge cavern of illuminated stalactites and stalagmites. You can also do an Aboriginal cultural tour here with Josh from Koomal Dreaming. Feel the powerful vibrations of the didgeridoo as it fills the natural amphitheatre of the cave, learn to create fire as generations past have done, and learn about the ways of life of the world's oldest living culture.
Next, head 43 kilometres (26.7 miles) west of the Margaret River township to watch pro surfers in action at Surfers Point and drive four kilometres (2.5 miles) south to White Elephant Café, where you can enjoy a delicious brunch overlooking calm Gnarabup Beach.
Day 6: Margaret River to Pemberton
Head 40 kilometres (25 miles) south to Augusta, where an unusual microclimate means the local weather is almost always a few degrees warmer than the rest of the region. When you arrive, jump on a two-hour whale watching tour. It’s said that humpback whales come here to flirt with each other, so you're likely to see plenty of action when they're visiting between August and October, such as tail slaps and breaches.
Have lunch in town; Blue Ocean serves up freshly caught fish in a humble fish-n-chips shop. Then drive eight kilometres (five miles) to Cape Leeuwin, where the Indian and Southern oceans meet at the south-western tip of Australia. The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is one of Australia's best land-based vantage points for spotting humpback and southern right whales on their annual migration.
Day 7: Pemberton to Denmark
Walk through giant trees
After visiting the Valley of the Giants, descend to the boardwalks below and explore the Ancient Empires Walk through a grove of veteran tingle trees, some more than 400 years old.
Take a four-wheel drive tour of the world’s largest moving sand dune system — Yeagarup Dunes — with Pemberton Discovery Tours before travelling 162 kilometres (100 miles) to the former lumber milling town of Walpole. Join an eco-cruise on the Walpole inlet with WOW Wilderness Cruises for breathtaking views of Mount Chudalup.
Have a coffee at Four Sisters Coffee Shop in Walpole before you visit the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, a 40-metre (131-foot) high walkway through the forest's canopy designed to move – which is fun or scary, depending on your perspective – with the majestic red-barked tingle eucalyptus trees that are found nowhere else in the world. They also just happen to be some of the tallest trees on earth.
Day 8: Denmark to Albany
Have breakfast at a Denmark favourite, Mrs Jones Café, before driving 54 kilometres (33 miles) to Albany. Call ahead to book a cellar door tasting at bucolic organic winery Oranje Tractor on the way. Birdwatchers should also stop at Wilson Inlet (11 kilometres, or seven miles, east of Denmark) to twitch for blue splendid wrens, ospreys, parrots, red-tailed and white-tailed black cockatoos, and purple-crowned lorikeets.
Albany is where the first European settlers set foot in Western Australia in 1826 and much of their legacy remains today, with colonial buildings housing museums, galleries and restaurants. Step back in time at Albany’s Historic Whaling Station at Discovery Bay or visit the National Anzac Centre, a state-of-the-art interpretive museum that uses multimedia, interactive technology and historical artefacts to pay tribute to the Australian and New Zealand forces who served in the First World War.
Day 9: Albany to Bremer Bay
Go for a walk or swim along Middleton Beach, and if you are here on a Saturday, browse the Albany Farmers Market, one of the best artisan markets in Australia.
Next, drive 49 kilometres (31 miles) inland to Porongurup National Park. Here you'll find the Granite Skywalk, a suspended walkway that rises 670-metres (2,200-feet) above sea level to offer panoramic views of your remarkable surrounds. Return to your car and continue along Chester Pass Road.
Day 10: Bremer Bay to Hopetoun
Bremer Bay is one of only three places in Australia where southern right whales come in large numbers to calve. Between June and October you can watch them frolicking in the water from purpose-built platforms on the shore at Point Ann, 63 kilometres (39 miles) from town, on the west side of the Fitzgerald River National Park.
From February to April you can also join Naturaliste Charters off the coast at Bremer Bay to watch the gathering of the largest pod of orcas in the southern hemisphere. This incredible sight is only a recently discovered phenomenon and little is known about why it takes place.
Day 11: Explore Esperance and Lucky Bay
The exquisite town of Esperance is a 182-kilometre (113-mile) drive from Hopetoun. Arrive to the stunning pure white sand shores of Esperance Bay, fringed by more than 100 islands that make up the Recherche Archipelago (known locally as the Bay of Isles), where whales, seals and dolphins can often be seen in the translucent waters.
Lucky Bay is arguably Esperance's biggest drawcard. It's 60 kilometres (37 miles) out of town at Cape Le Grand National Park. Hop in your car or join an Esperance Eco Discovery Tour and head to the world's only full-size replica of Stonehenge, Esperance Stonehenge (it's as quirky as it sounds). Then continue to the national park, a place of white sand beaches, freshwater pools, massive granite outcrops and, in spring, carpets of native wildflowers.
Day 12: Esperance
This morning you can leave the car keys in your room, as you'll be picked by your Aboriginal guide for a eco-cultural discovery tour of the area with Aboriginal-run company Kepa Kurl. This memorable half-day experience will give you some truly interesting insights into how the local Aboriginal Noongar people have hunted and gathered food here for thousands of years. You'll see plenty of native wildlife and some Aboriginal rock art as well as getting a great orientation to the area.
Returning to town about midday, hop in your car and head to Yirri Grove, a restaurant in an olive grove 20 minutes out of town (open Fridays to Mondays only; alternatively, grab ingredients for a picnic from one of the four supermarkets in town). After you've eaten, get a feel for the area's beauty on the Great Ocean Drive, a 38-kilometre (24-mile) loop from town that showcases the sugary beaches and translucent waters of the area. Be warned; you won't be able to stop yourself from pulling over every few minutes to take photo after photo. Along the way, look out for Twilight Bay – a firm favourite for its translucent, turquoise waters, sculpted rock formations, picnic tables and showers – and the breaks at West, Fourth and Observatory beaches, where local surfers can often be seen enjoying the water.
Day 13: Explore Lake Hillier
Today you're departing at 5.30am on a cruise to the stunningly bubblegum-pink Lake Hillier, on Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago. Departures are on demand, so book ahead. It will take about four hours to reach the island; you'll then transfer to a tender and disembark to take a guided tour of the lake and the nearby historical remains of a campsite that belonged to Australia's only recorded pirate, Black Jack Anderson. Bring your camera; the pink lake is sure to dazzle. Arrive back at about 6pm, just in time to prepare for dinner at the excellent Loose Goose restaurant.
Day 14: Esperance to Perth
Return your hire car at Esperance airport before boarding your 90-minute flight to Perth. Or if you’d prefer to soak up more of the South West, drive back to Perth via Hyden or Kalgoorlie over the next few days – the choice is yours.
If you travel through Hyden, be sure to visit the impressive Wave Rock on your way. Thought to have formed some 130 million years ago, the Wave Rock is entirely natural and measures about 15 kilometres (9.3 miles and roughly three storeys) in height. It’s the perfect end to your Instagram highlights reel.