Perth to Esperance in 13 days
Get set for an epic journey taking in over 100 kilometres (62 miles) of the beautiful beaches and forests in Australia’s Southwest.
What to expect
- Experience towering forests, white dunes, calm bays and pristine beaches.
- Adventure outdoors, from diving the depths of our still waters to the height of excitement with chopper views to take your breath away.
- Immerse yourself in Indigenous culture with Koomal Dreaming Twilight Didgeridoo Cave Tour in Margaret River.
- Time: 13 Days
- Transport: Car & Plane
- Price: $$
Get involved in Western Australia’s South West Region and see for yourself why the coastal attractions, native wildlife and mind-blowing scenery are world-bloody-class.
This itinerary will walk you hand-in-hand through the bubbly city of Perth to small character towns like Margaret River, Albany and Esperance. A road trip of dirty dreams, from one stunning setting to the next.
Day 1: Explore Perth
Starting in the big smoke, head to Elizabeth Quay to learn about Perth's crazy cultural heritage on a Derbal Yerrigan cruise. Get your Gatsby on and board the eco-friendly 1920s-style river ferry, while getting educated about the culture and history of the Whadjuk people of the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River). Through these goggles, you’ll experience their connection to the waterway and landscape through language and stories. No doubt it’ll yank the heartstrings like no other. Have a naughty sleepover at City Perth Backpackers Hostels, which is only a five minute walk from Perth’s buzzy bars and eats.
Day 2: Discover Fremantle
As for Fremantle - you’ll find yourself up to your googly eyeballs in culture, with all those market stalls, galleries and local breweries going on.
Then, we dare you to keep your cool during sunset at the beautiful white sand Bathers Beach. With its hippy-esque, free-spirited, ‘anything goes’ ‘tude, 'Freo' (as it's known by locals) is a never-ending orgy of art, music, performing arts, painting, Indigenous art and sculpture.
Freo is also where handcrafted beer was born and raised in Western Australia. The brew houses also offer stand-up snacks and a vibe that’ll make you want to ditch all your life plans for a long, long lunch. If that doesn’t turn you on, feast on fish and chips at Fremantle’s Fishing Boat Harbour.
Once you’re finally exploding with good food, beer and chat, put yourself to bed at Fremantle Beach Backpackers. Located in the heart of Fremantle, you’ll be surrounded by restaurants, entertainment, coffee shops and cafes - making it an easy setting for your future hangover.
Day 3: Swim with Rockingham’s friendly dolphins
It’s morning. Get your ass up, and head to Rockingham to meet hundreds of friendly bottlenose dolphins. You’ll never be short on mates again.
Rockingham Wild Encounters has been running the Swim with Wild Dolphins Cruise since 1989, so they really know their stuff. There are over 200 local bottlenose dolphins that hang out in the sheltered waters of Rockingham’s bays and islands. There are sights sure to melt even the coldest of hearts - such as mothers nursing their cute calves. And there are facts to be memorised that’ll make you a hoot at the next dinner party, such as bottlenose dolphins use stingrays to catch their dinner. You might even learn a trick or two for your next Tinder date, when the males show off for the females with all their best moves.
Day 4: Heading south to surfing mecca
On the way to Margaret River, don’t miss out on catching a glimpse of The Big Orange - a famous landmark of the town of Harvey. Chuck this bad boy up on your Insta Story, because who won’t be impressed by an enormous fruit sculpture?
Next, continue the journey to Bunbury, Western Australia’s third-largest city. If you were worried for a second there that you hadn’t reached your dolphin quota, Bunbury is also known for wild bottlenose dolphins at Koombana Bay.
Your next stop is Busselton, where the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere can be found. Take a sexy stroll along the 1.8 kilometres (1 mile) of jetty into the ocean across Geographe Bay.
It’s important to save your best moves for last, in the bedroom and on the road, which is why Margaret River is your final stop for the day. The region is known all around the world for its wine and food. So you’d better put that palate to work, because there are more than 120 wineries to suss out. As well as wines, the region is famous for its surf beaches on the Indian Ocean, mountain biking and kayaking. Yeeewww!
When that time comes to hang up your backpack for the day, book a spot at YHA Margaret River.
Day 5: Adventure in Margaret River
Get ready to go rogue. With hundreds of miles of coast lined by rugged bushland, the Margaret River region is a downright doozy for off-the-grid exploration.
Brush up the skills and take a surf lesson, because this place has some of the most consistent and gnarliest surf on the planet. It’s so good, in fact, that every April the best pro surfers in the world gather in Margaret River for the World Surf League Margaret River Pro.
Lace up those boots, son, because there are some killa hikes along the iconic Cape to Cape Track. It runs for 135 kilometres (84 miles)along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, between the lighthouses of Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin. Feast the eyeballs on some of the best coastal and forest scenery, an interesting geology of cliffs, caves, headlands and rock formations and an ever-changing spread of vegetation and wildflowers.
Day 6: Indigenous Margaret River
Shake it off and start again, because we are not even close to done here.
Join the Koomal Dreaming Twilight Didgeridoo Cave Tour for a bushwalk with local legend and Wadandi man Josh Whiteland, where you’ll learn about all the traditional medicine plants and hear Josh play the didgeridoo inside the caves.
At sunset, experience one of the South West’s best kept secrets – a guided canoe tour along the actual Margaret River. Shhh. Or, if you prefer, kick back with a coldie and watch the sunset over the Indian
Day 7: Feast in Margaret River
The pristine environment and the many micro climates mean that every wine is truly unique - just like the ladiez. Sip and swirl and spit your way through Margaret River’s premium wine region. It’s both sophisticated and relaxed, so you’ll never feel like a dumbass for confusing chardonnay with riesling. You won’t know which is better - the destination or the journey, with farmland, wine country and coastline like this.
In the late afternoon, head to the Settlers Tavern, a vibey joint with a beer garden situation, live music, pub grub, and local craft beers on tap.
Day 8: Pristine wilderness in Walpole
Get back in the car and head off to Walpole via Nannup and Pemberton. Nannup and Pemberton are cute country towns that will make you feel like you borrowed Doc Brown’s DeLorean. No joke. Nannup is known as the ‘Garden Village’ in honour of its many beautiful gardens and also holds the annual Nannup Music Festival, which runs every March long weekend where local and international acts make musical magic. Pemberton’s Karri forests are filled with outdoor activities - think mountain biking, bush walking, swimming, canoeing, 4WD tours, and world renowned Munda Biddi cycling trail.
If you’re an adrenalin junkie - or even if you just have something to prove that day - climb the 61 metres to the top lookout of the Gloucester tree through the Karri forest, in the Gloucester National Park near Pemberton.
Continue to Walpole where the town and the nature around it are famous for the Tingle and Karri trees in the old growth forest. They’re so enormously tall that the area is referred to as The Valley of the Giants. This is exactly what you need if you’re still feeling a little rough from last night - something nature-based and bigger than you. Get me?
Take the 800 metre (half mile) boardwalk loop to truly get a grasp of how grand this forest is.
Day 9: Stunning south west coastline
Some start their day with a coffee. Others, with a WOW Wilderness cruise. Get set for even more forests of giant karri and tingle trees reaching right to the edge of secluded inlets, hills and rugged coastline.
After the cruise, continue your way to Albany, past the city of Denmark - but not before you pull over for a leg-stretch. This town is a gem on the edge of the Southern Ocean, nestled tenderly among karri, eucalyptus, jarrah and tingle forests and set beside the winding Denmark River. White sandy beaches, ripping surf and tree-lined hills. You’ll wish you had a big billowy skirt on hand to throw on and frolick in the fields.
Day 10: ANZAC history in Albany
After your morning ritual, take a 40 minute drive to the Granite Skywalk, a suspended walkway that spirals around the huge granite outcrop of Castle Rock to the summit. To all the anti-walkers out there, you’ll see the light. This walk is all view of the park and undulating farmland to Albany on the south coast, with views to Mt Gardner and Mt Manypeaks to the southeast. In August to September, this is where you’ll find the orchids and wildflowers.
Return to Albany for the afternoon and, if there’s juice left in the tank, explore the city a little. Did you know that Albany marks the spot where the first European settlers set foot in Western Australia and the first convoy of ANZACs departed for the battlefields of the First World War? Yeah. Bet you didn’t. Get a little intro to the region’s rich history and heritage by taking a 30 minute walk along the Amity Trail.
Day 11: Orca spotting at Bremer Bay
It’s time to bid the history lesson farewell and leave Albany for a two hour drive to Bremer Bay.
The town is up to the brim with beaches and all the fun things you can do with them - like swimming, surfing, sandboarding, snorkelling, diving, quad biking, and four wheel driving.
From July to November, you’ll catch a glimpse or two of your old mates the whales and dolphins. In February and March, the Bremer Bay Canyon pretty much becomes a nightclub for orca whales. They love it.
If you’re having trouble spotting them yourselves, find Free Willy on a boat cruise with Naturaliste Charters. They’ll point out the orca, sperm whales, whaler sharks, giant squid and masses of sea birds.
Day 12: See the famous pink lake
The time has come, not for redemption, but for Esperance. This is where the golden outback meets the Southern Ocean and a string of white-sand beaches. You’ll see more colour than spring fashion week, with the brightest turquoise waters and rust-red granite outcrops. With all the bushlands and islands going on around it, you’ll be right in the thick of nature.
In Esperance, you’ll also find one of Australia’s most impressive natural landmarks, the ‘pink lake’ Lake Hillier. Now THIS will get you some Insta action for sure.
Lake Hillier is one of the most insane natural sights you'll ever see, whether you’re flying or cruising through the wilderness of the Recherche Archipelago. We’re talking a bright pink lake. That’s right.
Measuring just 600 metres wide and shaped like a footprint, this relatively small feature has a massive impact. You’ll be thanking Mother Nature for days after.
Day 13: Kangaroos on the beach
Looking for a good spot to snooze? How about pristine beachside camping in one of Western Australia's most idyllic national parks, only a one hour drive from Esperance? It’s called Lucky Bay, and this is your lucky day. (Sorry.)
Located with the Cape Le Grande National Park, Lucky Bay is rated one of the country's best beaches for its pure white sand, clear turquoise water and it’s reliable swimming conditions. This beach is pretty much never in a bad mood. Lucky Bay is also known for the wild kangaroos - so keep an eye out for them, because they love a beachside snooze themselves.
When you’re ready to lace up your Nikes again, there are some excellent coastal bush walks at Lucky Bay with views of the many islands. From May to December, keep an eye out for whales as they migrate from A to B like it’s another day in the office.
When you’ve had enough of this Insta-worthy destination, hit the highway for the 8.5 hour drive back to Perth.