Take a colour-filled road trip along Indian Ocean Drive, starting in one of Australia’s most unique landscapes, the Pinnacles Desert, to the ultimate adventure playground in the ancient gorges of Kalbarri National Park.
What to expect
- See otherworldy rock formations in the Pinnacles Desert
- Say hello to rare Australian sea lions on a boat charter
- Fish, snorkel or dive near the 122 coral-fringed Abrolhos Islands
- Time: 4 days
- Distance: 897 kilometres (557 miles)
- Transport: car
- Nearest major city: Perth
- Price: $$
This journey can be taken all year round but is recommended to experience between June and October to coincide with the wildflower season.
Day 1: Perth to Nambung National Park and Cervantes
Heading north from Perth on Wanneroo Road, the Indian Ocean Drive begins in the all-action windsurfing and sandboarding town of Lancelin and leads you directly to the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park. The road into the Pinnacles Desert is sealed. Follow the drive trail or walking track, weaving through thousands of golden limestone spires formed over millions of years, then head to the Pinnacles Discovery Centre to learn more about this lunar-like landscape.
For more other-worldly experiences, continue to Lake Thetis (located off Hansen Bay Road) to marvel at the stromatolites and strombalites – some of the oldest living fossils on Earth.
On reaching the crayfishing town of Cervantes, take a relaxing dip at Hangover Bay or Thirsty Point, and an informative tour of the town’s rock lobster factory. Feast on the catch of the day at local restaurants and cafes, and select your accommodation, from hostels and motels to holiday cottages, camping and caravan parks.
Day 2: Cervantes to Jurien Bay and Dongara
For panoramic views of native bushland set against Indian Ocean backdrops, make Molah Hill and Grigson’s Lookouts your first stops on the road north. The panoramas are especially striking in spring, when the blooms of more than 900 wildflower species colour the landscape of Lesueur National Park.
On reaching Jurien Bay (just 25 minutes north of Cervantes), you can choose to spend the rest of your morning snorkelling the biodiverse Jurien Bay Marine Park. Or, you can get a completely different perspective of the coral coast by skydiving out of a plane and onto the beach. At Jurien Bay, jump aboard a sea lion charter with Turquoise Safaris to meet some of Australia’s rarest and most playful marine life.
Head north towards Dongara-Denison, where a 4WD detour leads you to Stockyard Gully National Park. Caving enthusiasts and curious beginners will find wonder, challenge and wildlife encounters.
If you're travelling by 2WD, enjoy an afternoon exploring Dongara. Grab a coffee under the fig trees of Moreton Terrace, discover the town’s charming heritage-listed buildings along the 1.6-kilometre (one-mile) walking trail and enjoy another fresh seafood feast for dinner.
Stay overnight in Dongara in your choice of hostel, motel, hotel or camping and caravan parks.
Day 3: Dongara to Geraldton and Abrolhos Islands
On your way to the colonial port city of Geraldton, more of the region's past is revealed with a visit to the beautifully preserved Greenough Central Historic Settlement. You can continue immersing yourself in the history and culture of the Batavia Shipwreck coast at the Geraldton Museum and its Aboriginal art gallery, before having lunch on Geraldton's buzzing foreshore.
Perfect wind and swell conditions make Geraldton Australia’s windsurfing capital, and the 122 coral-fringed Abrolhos Islands offer the ideal playground for indulging in water sports.
Extend your stay by an extra day to join a fishing, diving or snorkelling charter, or book a short scenic flight to take in the islands and Batavia Coast. Choose from Geraldton’s hotels, motels, self-contained houses and apartments, caravan parks and bed and breakfast accommodation for your overnight stay.
Day 4: Geraldton to Kalbarri
The Indian Ocean Drive ends in Geraldton, but your coastal adventure continues.
Head north on the North West Coastal Highway, turning onto Port Gregory Road/George Grey Drive to explore dramatic coastal rock formations, 400-million-year-old river gorges, the spectacular Hutt Lagoon (aka Pink Lake) and dazzling spring wildflower displays in Kalbarri National Park. If you’re visiting between June and November, watch for migrating humpback whales and their young calves making the journey to their feeding grounds in the Southern and Antarctic oceans.
From Kalbarri town, you can go river cruising, beach fishing, deep sea fishing, bushwalking, kayaking, abseiling, rock climbing, horse riding, quad bike riding or just take in the view from the park’s lookouts, including the iconic Nature’s Window. Take your pick from a good selection of local tours, dining options and accommodation styles.
Day 5: Kalbarri to Perth
Enjoy your morning exploring Kalbarri town centre and surrounds.
The Brand Highway (Route 1) will get you back to Perth in six and a half hours. But if you’re visiting between the months of July and October, consider making a detour inland from Geraldton through the wildflower hotspots of Mullewa, Three Springs and Carnamah.
Make your trip happen