One of the best road trips to complete in Australia is along the Western Australia coastline from Perth to Broome. There are so many awesome experience that you can’t miss out on doing along the way, that this trip is best done by road, despite the long distances between some destinations. Allow plenty of time – at least 2 weeks! The total distance is over 2000km, and ever longer depending on how many detours you make. Here are my recommendations for the top 10 must-do experiences on a Perth to Broome road trip.
1. Visit a Community of Benedictine Monks
Not far north from Perth, is one of the oddest sights on this road trip. New Norcia is a living community of Benedictine Monks. I had no idea there were any monks living in Australia. In fact, New Norcia is unique as the only monastic town in Australia. First established in 1847 by Spanish Benedictine Monks, and having been an Aboriginal mission for part of that period, the community has a fascinating history plus beautiful Spanish style buildings. It’s certainly worthwhile taking part in one of the guided tours that run daily at 11:00am and 1:30pm.
2. Take in the Pinnacles
Head back out to the coast (or directly there from Perth, it’s about 200km either route), to view the mysterious limestone formations known as the Pinnacles. Originally mistaken by Dutch sailors for a ruined city, the formations rise up to 3m high from the dessert sand just inland from the coast. They’re best visited around sunset (to avoid the heat of the day and for the best photograph opportunities). Choose from driving around the 4km loop or taking the walking paths (allow at least 1 hour).
3. Meet the Parrots of Rainbow Jungle
About 400km north of the Pinnacles is the delightful township of Kalbarri. Just before the town is the brilliant Rainbow Jungle. It lives up to its name with a entire rainbow of colourful parrots, both native to Australia and exotic (including several species of giant macaws). The complex is a world-class facility and beautifully maintained. There’s a walk-through enclosure at its centre, meaning you can get up close with the birds. (Just keep an eye out for their beaks!) It’s open daily from 9am (10am on Sunday) to 5pm, with last admission at 4pm.
4. Gaze through Nature’s Window at Kalbarri
Kalbarri is also the gateway to Kalbarri National Park and the Murchison River. The town is situated on the river, which for its first 80km runs through a beautiful gorge. There are some magnificent walking tracks to do and look-outs to take in. One of these is Nature’s Window, a natural archway to frames a beautiful view. Just be warned the access road often closes after rain, meaning I sadly missed out on experiencing this wonder.
5. Visit a True Shell Beach
Head 300km north to the southern end of Shark Bay, a marine park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the bay the water is even saltier than usual in the sea, as it is cut off by the peninsula. This has meant that a certain species of cockle shell has been able to thrive without any predators, and led to the creation of a “Shell Beach”. This 110km long stretch of beach is entirely made up of shells, up to 7m to 10m deep! It’s one of only a couple of beaches like it worldwide (most so-called “shell” beaches are mixed with sand). The shells are blindingly white and beautiful to see. Also, don’t miss out on visiting the Hamelin Pools nearby. There stromatolites are found growing in the shallow, salty water, modern examples of the earliest form of life that existed on land.
6. Feed the Dolphins at Monkey Mia
Before heading further north, it’s a must to detour out onto the peninsula that borders Shark Bay and visit Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort. You have to go here for the chance to meet the dolphins each morning, and be one of the lucky few selected to hand feed one of the dolphins a fish. I’ve loved dolphins for all of my life and it was amazing to be selected to get up close with them! For more details, click here.
7. Feast on Blue Swimmer Crabs at Carnarvon
Loop back around Shark Bay and continue north to Carnarvon, the largest town in the region. It’s about a 350km trip from Monkey Mia including the loop. The town of Carnarvon is best known as a fruit growing area, plus for its historic One Mile Jetty. Built in 1897, you can walk along or take a tram to the end of it. Near the jetty is located Pickles Point Seafood shop, at which you can buy delicious blue swimmer crabs, usually caught in Shark Bay to the south. Buy a kilo, then boil them up and eat with some white bread for one of the tastiest meals you’ll ever have! There’s also a fabulous farmers market in town on Saturday mornings.
8. Swim with Whale Sharks or Manta Rays at Ningaloo Reef
About half-way between Perth and Broome is the spectacular Ningaloo Reef, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. And each year between approximately April and late July, it’s whale shark season at Ningaloo Reef. This means that you get the chance to swim up close with these giants of the sea! It’s not the only place in the world that you can do it, but the use of spotter planes means you have fairly good odds of doing it, plus it’s done in an ecologically sound manner. Just make sure you’ve saved your dollars first for the whale shark trips. If one big creature isn’t enough, you can also snorkel and dive with manta rays. This is also an option if you visit outside of whale shark season.
The largest town in the region is Exmouth, located about 370km north of Carnarvon, and the main departure point for whale shark trips. Another jumping off point for the reef is Coral Bay, including for the year round manta ray trips, a small village about 150km south of Exmouth.
If you don’t have time for the full Perth to Broome road trip, an alternative is to just do a Perth to Exmouth road trip. (It’s about 1250km from Perth to Exmouth, travelling directly, and another 1370km from Exmouth to Broome.)
9. Drift Snorkel at Turquoise Bay
Whilst visiting Ningaloo Reef, it’s a must to drive from Exmouth to the Cape Range National Park, just past the launching boat ramp for most diving and whale shark tours. Inside Cape Range there’s a variety of walks that you can do, plus camping sites (that are highly prized). There’s also some great snorkelling spots where you can snorkel Ningaloo Reef, thanks to it coming so close to shore. The best pick is Turquoise Bay (60km from Exmouth), where if you’re game, you can do a “drift snorkel”, letting the current take you along the shore, while you view the beautiful coral gardens and colourful fishwife. Click here for more details, plus details of other snorkelling options in the area.
10. Explore the Gorges of Karijini National Park
About a day’s drive from Exmouth (650km away) and well inland is located the spectacular Karijini National Park. This ancient landscape has multiple gorges cutting through it, that you can gaze into, walk through or canyon through if you’re up to an adventure! There’s also some great swimming holes, with my pick being Fern Pool at Dales Gorge. Choose between camping old-school style or glamping it up, and spend a few days exploring the area. Just don’t forget your camera, there’s some magnificent photo opportunities. Plus make sure you have a spare tire (the rocks on the road in this iron ore country can be quite sharp).
From Karijini, head north and return to the coast at the industrial town of Port Hedland. Then continue along the coast to your final destination of Broome. It’s about a 850km drive from Karijini to Broome, but the roads are long and straight and there isn’t much to do along this section, so it’s possible to do it in a long day. And once you arrive in Broome? Spend some time chilling out in this beautiful town, including relaxing at the famous Cable Beach!
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