West is best: The perfect Perth to Broome road trip itinerary
Image: Tourism Australia
At more than 2600km, the coastal drive from Perth to Broome is ripe with road trip potential. As a state with plenty of room to roam, prepare to be amazed by the wide-open spaces, mesmerised by the ancient, rocky landscapes, and blown away by the sheer beauty of the beaches and bays.
While the sheer amount of territory you need to cover may be a little intimidating, read on to see how to make the most of an epic drive that sits at the top of many a traveller’s wish list.
Perth – City on the move
Image: Paul Smyth
The capital of Western Australia is much more than just a place to pick up your rental car or van. Beyond being the starting point of your road trip, Perth is a city on the rise, with plenty of new restaurants, bars and cafes to check out in between some very necessary beach time.
The port city of Fremantle (or ‘Freo’) has transformed from industrial hub to cultural powerhouse. Spend a few days here checking out the dynamic food scene – there’s more than enough microbreweries, cafes, bars and restaurants to keep you entertained.
If you’re interested in history, the Fremantle Prison tunnel tour is a must. If street art is more your thing, then check out the many murals by local and international graffiti artists. When the temperature heats up, cool off at Bathers Beach then wander along the timber boardwalk with an ice cream. Whether you stay for a night or a week, you’ll soon slip into the Freo way of life.
Top stay: Get the full experience and bed down inside Freo's heritage-listed prison at YHA Fremantle Prison.
Lancelin – Gem of the Turquoise Coast
Drive north along the coast and you’ll reach the town of Lancelin in under two hours – a nice, easy drive to begin your road trip. Located on the aptly named Turquoise Coast, Lancelin is a picture-perfect holiday spot ideal for adventure lovers.
Sandboarding, quad biking, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, snorkelling and diving are the name of the game in these parts, so put on a hat, slap on some sunscreen, pull on a rashie and go out to experience it all. The town’s huge white sand dunes are a real drawcard, so don’t miss the thrill of climbing to the top to take in panoramic views or hire a board and try sandboarding your way down.
By night, take it easy in the beer garden of the local tavern with a burger and a glass of lager or wine – enjoying simple pleasures is what road trips are all about.
Top stay: Make the most of the swimming pool and outdoor barbecue at YHA Lancelin.
Kalbarri – Ancient landscapes, wildflowers and more
Image: Tourism Western Australia
This stretch of coastline towards Kalbarri is jam-packed with natural beauty. Take it slow to soak up all the incredible ocean views along the way. Stop at Jurien Bay for fish and chips, take a dip in the turquoise waters of Dynamite Bay and wander along the Waterfront Heritage Trail in Geraldton to learn a little about this port city’s maritime history. If you’re travelling during wildflower season (July to October), add a slight detour east towards Lesueur National Park to see an explosion of incredible native flora in full bloom.
Exploring the rugged, austere landscapes of Kalbarri National Park is a must-do when in this part of the state. Covering 186,000 hectares of terrain, a trip to Kalbarri National Park is a ‘choose your own adventure’ experience. Step onto the incredible Kalbarri Skywalk (Kaju Yatka) to hover over the ancient gorges on a platform that juts out from the land, challenge yourself on the 8km Loop Hike trail, take in stunning views of the Murchison River Gorge at the Z Bend Lookout or board a boat to cruise around the coastal cliffs that glow red as the sun sets. However long you choose to stay in Kalbarri will never feel long enough – there’s so much to see and do in the national park alone.
One morning, be sure to stop by the Kalbarri foreshore at 8.45am to see pelicans being fed by volunteers – a local tradition that started back in 1975.
Top stay: Enjoy being within walking distance to the beach at YHA Kalbarri.
Exmouth – Aquatic adventurer’s paradise
Image: Tourism Western Australia/@jakewiltonphoto
You’ll want to get an early start to take on the 8-hour journey towards Exmouth. Break up your drive with a lunch stop at the coastal tourist town of Carnarvon, where a leisurely stroll around the bay (known as ‘The Fascine’) will put you in a good position to take on the second leg of the long drive north.
When it comes to underwater adventures, a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Marine Park could just be one of the greatest experiences of all time. Swimming with whale sharks may be at the top of your list, but apart from gliding around with gentle giants of the ocean, there are plenty of other sea creatures to marvel at in this renowned biodiversity hot spot. From going on a glass-bottom boat ride to paddling a sea kayak along the crystalline waters, you’ll be wonderstruck by the sight of green turtles, manta rays, dugongs, dolphins, reef sharks and more.
Top stay: Base yourself in the heart of town at YHA Exmouth.
Broome – Gateway to the Kimberley
Image: Tourism Western Australia
At just over 14 hours, the drive to Broome from Exmouth is a whopper. Break up your drive with an overnight in the city of Karratha to rest, recharge and refuel before beginning the last leg of your road trip.
Beautiful Broome is a place to slow down, take it easy and enjoy the simple things in life. The pace of things is cruisy here, so shift gears and embrace life in the slow lane. Go on a sunset camel ride along Cable Beach, kick back on the breezy verandah of Matso’s Brewery with a ginger beer in hand or book a spot on a tour to learn about Broome’s pearling history.
Home to more than 330 different species of birds, Broome is a magnet for birdwatchers and nature lovers keen to catch a glimpse of rare and unusual birds not easily found elsewhere. Whether you’ve got a passing interest in wildlife or are a real bird nerd at heart, the Broome Bird Observatory is well worth a visit.
On the weekend during the dry season, stroll around the long-running Broome Courthouse Markets to scout out fresh, tropical eats like mango smoothies and guava juices. There are plenty of multicultural food stalls here too, so get your fill of Indonesian, Thai, Filipino and Taiwanese cuisine while you can.
By night, catch a flick at Sun Pictures, a historic outdoor movie house located in Broome’s Chinatown area. At more than 100 years old, this unique cinema with a fascinating backstory is like no other!
Before you leave, celebrate the end of your mammoth journey with a selfie at Gantheaume Point, where the azure Indian Ocean contrasts with striking red rock cliffs. This incredible spot provides the ideal backdrop to remember a truly remarkable road trip – one you’ll no doubt rave about for years to come.
Top stay: Relax in the pool or kick back with a cool beer in the garden bar at YHA Broome.
Words: Jo Stewart
Read next: A guide to Broome and the Kimberley
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