Perth to Kalbarri road trip: 5 day itinerary for 2023
Driving up the Coral Coast? Excellent. You’re going to love it. Here’s everything you need to know for a road trip from Perth to Kalbarri, especially if you have limited time.
Western Australia is big.
I feel like I’m rather stating the obvious here – look at any map and you’ll see that WA takes up a third of Australia.
However, you don’t quite get the scope for just how big it is, until you take a Perth to Kalbarri road trip. It’s a tiny section on a map of Australia, but a six hour drive with some phenomenal sights along the way.
This particular itinerary will take you along what’s known as the ‘Indian Ocean Drive’. It’s named such, as you spend most of the trip driving adjacent to the ocean, along Australia’s coral coast.
Although there are plenty of things to do in Perth alone, you won’t regret getting out and exploring some of this stunning state.
Perth to Kalbarri road trip itinerary for 5 days
No wheels? No problem. Book onto a guided tour from Perth to experience the highlights of this article.
See Hutt Lagoon, Natures Window in Kalbarri and the Pinnacles.
This tour will take you to Hutt Lagoon, the Pinnacles, Kalbarri and Rottnest Island.
See all the sights from above, along with the fantastic wave rock.
How do you get from Perth to Kalbarri?
The best way to get from Perth to Kalbarri is by car. You can then self-design your own trip and stop at whatever takes your fancy, whenever you want to.
You can also catch buses to each destination, but it’s a bit of a time-suck/faff.
We recommend driving.
Distance of Perth to Kalbarri
The distance from Perth to Kalbarri by car is 571 kilometres or 354 miles.
Perth to Kalbarri drive time
The drive time from Perth to Kalbarri is just over six hours.
That’s if you drive door to door and don’t get out to see the amazing sights along the way.
This is why we recommend stretching it out over a few days. Gives you time to properly experience the area and a break from being in the car.
This Perth to Kalbarri road trip itinerary can be taken over a weekend, a three, four or five day period – or stretched out to even longer, if you wish!
Of course, you don’t have to turn around and head back after hitting Kalbarri. The drive from Perth to Monkey Mia is also glorious.
If you want to take it even further, road trip from Perth to Exmouth! What an epic drive that would be, and there’s plenty to do in Exmouth once you get there.
I however, am getting ahead of myself. Read on to find out more about travelling from Perth to Kalbarri.
Some quick tips:
- as when driving anywhere in Australia, fill up when you see a petrol station
- mobile/cell reception may be limited in some places. Download Google maps to access offline, or kick it old school with a road map
- water resources may be limited. Take plenty of water and snacks with you
- driving an electric car? There are charging ports at Kalbarri (Allen Centre car park) and the town of Northampton (Northampton RSL Hall car park).
Plan your drive using this Perth to Kalbarri road trip map:
When is the best time to drive from Perth to Kalbarri?
The best time to do this trip is from June to October, as this is wildflower season in Western Australia. The weather will be nice and the state at its most prettiest.
Autumn from March to May is also a glorious time to visit, with decent weather.
However, the Perth to Kalbarri route is drive-able anytime of the year. Keep in mind summer will be scorching hot, but there’s plenty of beaches to cool off in along the way.
Discover the best time to visit Australia, which may help with your trip planning.
National Parks in Western Australia
This road trip itinerary will take you to several national parks, many of which cost to enter.
Consider purchasing a 5 Day Holiday Park Pass, which gives you unlimited entry to national parks for just $25.
Order it online, print a copy and leave it on your dashboard, as you explore WA’s phenomenal natural beauty.
Day 1: Perth to Cervantes
Distance of 224 kilometres/139 miles & driving time of 2 hours and 35 minutes.
Let’s get this road trip started. Day one will see you drive from Perth to the town of Cervantes.
What to see along the way
The two stops on this part of your Perth to Kalbarri road trips are Lancelin (primarily for its sand dunes) and the Pinnacle Desert Discovery Centre, to see some wickedly cool rock formations (not shortage of these on this road trip).
Love sand boarding? Then you’ll love Lancelin. The town is known for its crisp white dunes and lovely beaches.
Rent a sandboard ahead of time, to pick up from a location in town. It’s $12.50 for up to 2.5 hours. If you plan on making a return trip for boarding, you can purchase your own.
Along with sand boarding, you can jump on quad bike tours of the dunes, hang ten on some awesome waves or stand up paddleboard to your heart’s content.
This is a must-see stop on your Perth to Kalbarri road trip.
The Pinnacles Desert, located within Nambung National Park, is a top Western Australia attraction and for good reason.
These limestone structures were formed between 25000-30000 years ago, due to receding sea levels. Coastal winds blew away the surrounding sand, leaving these giant pillars – some of which tower at 3.5 metres.
While they’re worth seeing anytime of day, they’re pretty amazing at night, against the backdrop of a starry sky.
If you’re not driving, you can jump on a tour from Perth to take in the Pinnacles and go sand boarding at Lancelin.
While you’re in the area, head to Lake Thetis to check out its ancient stromatolites or ‘living fossils’. These rock-like structures have been built by micro-organisms, which resemble the earliest forms of life on earth. How’s that for history.
Stretch your legs around a 1.5 kilometre loop trail, and learn about the geology and Indigenous culture of the area.
Other things to do in Cervantes
Cervantes is located at the start of the Coral Coast, a route that travels up the shoreline of Western Australia. If you’re looking to spend more time in this seaside town, here are some other points of interest:
- drop into Hangover Bay for a swim, surf or snorkel
- or head to the eponymous Cervantes Beach
- feast on lobster among other delicious seafood at Lobster Shack
- tour the Lobster Shack factory or in the warmer months, go say hey to the local Seal Lion population
- head to Cervantes from August to October to see wildflowers. The best displays are at Nambung National Park, Lesueur National Park, Badgingarra National Park, Tathra National Park and Stockyard Gully Reserve, which is also known for its unique limestone caves.
Where to stay in Cervantes
Cervantes is not a big place and accommodation options are somewhat limited. If you plan on staying in the area, make sure you book in advance.
Book into an apartment at Cervantes Holiday Homes. You can also grab a room or use the campsite at RAC Cervantes Holiday Park. The RAC Holiday Park in particular is great for all kinds of travellers, offering villas, caravan sites and campsites.
Day 2: Cervantes to Dongara/Port Denison
Distance of 159 kilometres/98 miles & driving time of 1 hour and 43 minutes.
With day one of your Perth to Kalbarri road trip done and dusted, day two will bring some equally gorgeous sights.
What to see along the way
Top spots along this leg of the trip include Lesueur National Park and the small town of Jurien Bay.
Lesueur National Park
Make a stop at this national park if its wildflower season and well, you want to see an array of colourful flora.
There’s a cool 900 plant species here, some of which are endemic to Western Australia.
Although it’s at its most vibrant in spring, the park is great place to visit year round. There’s walking trails to explore – take the 4 kilometre trail to the top of Mount Lesueur and wave hi to the ocean. Keep an eye out for the birds and reptiles who call this area home.
Lesueur can also be explored by car, via the Lesueur Scenic Drive, making it accessible for people with a disability.
Note there is an entry fee of $15 for your average sized car. However, there’s certainly enough to do within the park to make this a highlight of your Perth to Kalbarri road trip.
This laid back seaside town is a popular day trip from Perth. It’s home to the second largest jetty in Western Australia (stretching out at 162 metres) and plenty of outdoor adventures.
The area is popular for snorkelling, diving, windsurfing and fishing (although this is restricted in some parts).
I reckon the main boon is the chance to spot Australian Sea Lions. They’re super cute, seem as fun as dolphins and live only around the waters of Western Australia and South Australia.
Increase your chances of seeing sea lions by booking on a tour. Try Turquoise Safaris, Sea Lion Charters or Jurien Bay Oceanic Experience.
Things to do in Dongara
Dongara is the perfect stopover after an action-packed day.
You can stretch your legs along the Heritage Walk, a 4 kilometre track which highlights the town’s historic buildings.
Other things to do in Dongara and Port Denison include:
- watch the sunset from Granny’s Beach
- see the Big Western Rock Lobster, which is located on the Brand Highway
- visit Russ Cottage, built in the late 1860s
- pop into Illegal Tender Rum Distillery. If you time it right, you can take a distillery tour.
Where to stay in Dongara & Port Denison
Stay beachfront at Dongara Tourist Park or Port Denison Beach Resort.
Day 3: Dongara to Geraldton
Distance: of 64.2 kilometres /40 miles & driving time of 42 minutes.
We’re halfway through your drive from Perth to Kalbarri! There’s more epic nature to see on this part of the trip and unique marine activities on offer.
What to see along the way
It’s a short drive today. Stop in a historic settlement to stretch your legs, then spend the remainder of your time exploring Geraldton. If you have time, take a tour to the magnificent Abrolhos Islands or a scenic flight over Hutt Lagoon, to take in its pink hues.
Central Greenough Historic Settlement
This is a village that has been preserved as it was in the 1800s.
Eleven buildings are open to the public, including the town’s first school and a beautiful church.
If you love your trains, be sure to check out the Walkaway Station Museum while you’re there.
There are tearooms in the town where you can stop for a cuppa. Or drop into the The Hampton Arms Inn for a meal.
An entry fee is required to explore the town, which is $10 for an adult at the time of writing.
Things to do in Geraldton
Did you know Geraldton is the windsurfing capital of Australia? This is a very cool title to have.
Other things to do in Geraldton include:
Viewing the HMAS Sydney II Memorial
The HMAS Sydney II Memorial honours 645 Australians wrecked off the Western Australian coast during World War II, along with the HSK Kormoran. Both wrecks remained hidden until they were located in March 2008.
There’s daily free tours of the memorial, starting at 10.30am.
Visit the Abrolhos Islands
This archipelago is located 60 kilometres west of Geraldton and consists of 122 islands, known as the Wallabi Group, Easter Group and Pelsaert Group.
It’s said to have biodiversity that rivals the Galapagos Islands. They’re a marine haven and there’s plenty of things to do while visiting.
You can go swimming, snorkelling, diving and bird watching. You’ll quite possible sea sea lions, dolphins and Tammar Wallabies.
The islands can be accessed via a day trip on the Abrolhos Adventures Fast Ferry.
Or you can jump on a tour that takes you to the island via an organised charter flight.
Alternatively, take an aerial sightseeing tour of the islands from Geraldton. You will have the option to land on one of the islands for morning or afternoon tea.
Take a scenic flight over Hutt Lagoon
Likewise, you can take an aerial tours of the pink Hutt Lagoon from Geraldton.
I’ve seen it from the ground, which is a fantastic experience in itself. However, gazing at those vibrant colours from the sky would be something else. Check out tour prices and departure times.
Tick both off the bucket list with a flight that takes you over Hutt Lagoon and to the Abrolhos Islands. What a day. Book onto this spectacular sightseeing tour.
Check out the Museum of Geraldton
Sat next to the Indian Ocean, the Museum of Geraldton has as lot to offer.
The Shipwrecks Gallery has archaeological treasures from four Dutch shipwrecks. You can also watch a 3D film which features the wrecks of HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran, still lying on the floor of the ocean.
You can also learn more about local Yamaji culture and history and about the surrounding natural landscapes and marine life.
Entry is free, with donations accepted.
Tour the Yamaji Drive Trail
If you’re keen to extend your trip and see more of what Geraldton’s surrounds have to offer, jump on the Yamaji Drive Trail.
195 kilometres long, the trail travels through 14 sites of significance to local Aboriginal people (the Wilunyu People and the Yamaji People).
There’s historic sites, the towns of Greenough and Mullewa and as you can image, some gorgeous natural landscapes to see along the way.
Where to stay in Geraldton
Stay beachfront at the Ocean Centre Hotel, keep within your budget at Geraldton Backpackers or enjoy a kooky night within the eclectic Zebra Guesthouse.
Day 4: Geraldton to Kalbarri
Distance of 156 kilometres /96 miles & driving time of 1 hour & 46 minutes.
This the last leg of your Perth to Kalbarri trip, before heading back to the city (or continuing on north to Monkey Mia and beyond).
What to see along the way
Explore the fibreglass sheep of Northampton, snap photos from the ground of Hutt Lagoon and take in excellent views of Murchison River Gorge at Kalbarri National Park.
The sheep of Northampton
Northampton is a small town you drive through, on the way to Kalbarri from Geraldton.
It’s notable for the painted fibreglass sheep arranged around town, a product of the local Ewe-Turn Festival.
There’s a walking trail you can follow through the town, which will lead you to the various sheep. Drop into the Visitor Centre to find out more.
This is considered to be one of the top mainland beaches in Australia, and so is definitely worth a stop off on your Perth to Kalbarri road trip.
The beach stretches seven kilometres along the Coral Coast. There’s off-the-grid beachside camping sites at Little Bay.
You’ll also find rock art in Willigully Caves, describing the traditions and culture of the local Nhanda people.
This is the main draw card of any Perth to Kalbarri trip.
Australia’s biggest pink lake is located at Port Gregory.
It’s around 70 square kilometres in size and is separated from the ocean by dunes.
The pink hue is the result of carotenoid-producing algae. The colour changes depending on the time of the day, season and the amount of cloud cover present when you visit.
It transitions from red, to bubblegum pink, to purple. The best time to visit is the middle of the day, when it’s at its most vibrant.
If you’re after aerial views and photos of the lake, you can take a sightseeing flight from Kalbarri.
On this particular route, you used to be able to dip inland to visit the Principality of Hutt River, which was Australia’s first micronation. Unfortunately, the Principality closed its borders in 2020.
I dropped in during 2019 and wrote an account of what it was like to visit. The fact that this Principality even existed is one of the weirdest facts about Perth and Western Australia.
Things to do in Kalbarri
Kalbarri’s main attraction is the eponymous national park.
There’s plenty to see and do here, with some experiences unlike any others in Australia.
Kalbarri National Park
There’s a lot to see in Kalbarri National Park. It’s a true hidden gem of Australia.
If you’re heading to the national park, be sure to:
- check out Kalbarri Skywalk, which offers incredible views of Murchison River Gorge. Jump on a tour with an expert guide to learn more
- head to ‘Z Bend’ lookout, over a section of the Murchison River. It’s named such, due to the Z bend created by the river flowing through the gorges. There’s a few trails you can hike in the area, too
- Nature’s Window is a natural rock arch, formed from layers of sandstone
- Island Rock and Natural Bridge are solitary sea stacks, similar to the Twelve Apostles in Victoria. Between July and October, you may see whales from the lookouts
- The Loop Walk is an 8 kilometre hike which takes you along the edge of cliffs, the down to the river bank. It’s recommended you avoid doing this walk in hot weather and it’s closed from November to March, for this reason.
And as you may have guessed, the park is spectacular during wildflower season.
You can self-explore the park, or see its highlights on a tour with a knowledgeable guide.
Take a day tour to Monkey Mia
If you’re keen to go a little further north but don’t want to do the drive, you can take a half day tour from Kalbarri to Monkey Mia and Shark Bay.
As is standard in this part of the world, astounding natural beauty awaits and you may see the wild Monkey Mia dolphins from the beach. Bonza.
Where to stay
On a budget? Spend the night at Kalbarri Palm Resort. For something a little more up-market, sleep at Kalbarri Edge Resort.
Day 5: return to Perth
Distance of 576 kilometres /358 miles & driving time of 6 hours and 17 minutes.
Your trip from Perth to Kalbarri is complete. Now you can either turn around and head back to Perth (stopping at any other places of interest along the way), or continue up the Coral Coast.
Depending on how you wish to approach Perth, you can travel down the coast then turn onto the Brand Highway just south of Dongara and Port Denison.
Short on time?
If time is of essence, we recommend prioritising the following on your Perth to Kalbarri road trip:
- Lancelin Sand Dunes
- the Pinnacles Desert
- Jurien Bay
- Hutt Lagoon
- Kalbarri National Park.
Keen to experience the pink lake Hutt Lagoon from above? Here are some of your options.
➳ Sightseeing tour from Geraldton
Jump in a plane and fly over the lagoon from Geraldton.
➳ Hutt Lagoon & Abrolhos Islands
Combine Hutt Lagoon with a trip to this biodiverse collection of islands.
Check out the lake on foot from Kalbarri, then just in a plane for spectacular aerial views.
The road trip from Perth to Kalbarri is gorgeous and well worth putting on your Western Australian itinerary for the nature and views alone. Throw in a bit of history and extremely quirky things to see and do… and you’re onto a winner!
Have you done the Perth to Kalbarri drive? Would you like to? What’s been your favourite road trip route in WA, or in Australia as a whole? Let me know in the comments! For more WA adventures, consider taking a day trip to Rottnest Island. For more on Australia, see my Australia Travel Guide.
Please keep WA beautiful. Remember to take all rubbish/litter with you. Here are some more sustainable travel tips, which you can read ahead of your journey. We also recommend packing some of these eco-friendly travel products.