I found Perth to be a quaint town and a mix between a less touristy Fisherman’s Warf mixed with adorable historical buildings turned chic boutique shopping and Height Ashbury style pubs and restaurants. I found the locals to be relaxed and easy going and ALMOST everyone we met in Australia was super friendly. Our 11 day itinerary included driving over 2700 km round trip but surprising at no point did we feel rushed or pressed for time to see everything. The long drives were as much of the experience as the actual destinations themselves. Read below for the full schedule:
Driving Time: 40 minutes
Exploring Perth – Freemantle. Our flight landed late so we headed straight for Freemantle for some burgers and beers.
Driving time: 6.5 hours
South Perth – Rockingham. A quick stop by the cable park and grocery store to stock up on supplies before heading to our first stop – Kalbarri. Drive is roughly 6.5 hours and we arrived at Kalbarri late evening.
Driving time: 4.5 hours
Kalbarri National Park – Has some beautiful coastal drives with many turnoffs to unique photo opportunities. Among my favorite were the Natural Bridge and Nature’s Window overlooking a horseshoe bend on Murchison River. In the afternoon we headed towards Shark Bay.
Driving time: 1.2 hours
Shark Bay and Monkey Mia – Monkey Mia is a resort where wild dolphins visit the shore year round for feeding. I really appreciated how the resort feeds them only 3 times a day and the volunteers wait 10 minutes between feedings to ensure that the dolphins return back to the open ocean in case they need to feed their young. You’ll want to arrive early since the feedings are in the morning and there is not set time as it’s all dependent on when the dolphins come to shore. The dolphins are named after the shape of their fins and there are several dolphin families which regularly make appearances at Monkey Mia. Among my favorite is a dolphin named Surprise who literally stared curiously at me for about a good minute through one eye. Interesting fact!* Dolphins actively need to breath meaning when they sleep they actually turn off half their brain so that the other half can concentrate on breathing.
Another quick stopover at Hamelin Pool – one of the few places in the world where you can see living stromatolites. The crystal clear waters and jetty offered a perfect view of these formations.
Driving time: 7.5 hours
Most of this day was spent driving and we reached Coral Bay in the evening for dinner and stargazing.
Coral Bay – Coral Bay is known for their excellent snorkeling and driving. A protected reef means the coral is thriving and teaming with marine activity. Hire a Kayak or free snorkel along the beach to see the many fish varieties and thriving coral. In addition, both Coral Bay and Exmouth displayed some of the brightest display of stars I’ve ever seen. We were blessed with cloudless nights for an amazing view of the Milky Way.
Driving time: 6.5 hours (w/ return back to Coral Bay)
Exmouth & Cape Range National Park – The farthest we explored north is Exmouth. We explored Turquoise Bay and drift snorkeling adjacent to the Bay. The currents this day were particularly strong so best is to walk up along the beach and let the current carry you along. The fish were definitely bigger here however the coral is not as dense as Coral Bay.
Our 2nd stop was hiking through Mandu Mandu – one of many gorges in the park. The first 20 minutes was walking through the gorge canyons over many loose pebbles then up the gorge through a steep incline which offered stunning panoramic views of the bay.
Driving time: 8 hours
Geraldton – Most of this day was spent driving however we did see plenty of turnouts just before the city where you could free camp next to the ocean.
Driving time: 3.5 hours
Cervantes – Pinnacles at Namburg National Park and Lancelin Sand Dunes
The Pinnacles we actually went after sundown to take pictures of the pinnacles framing the milky way. It was COLD but our pictures were well worth the effort.
The Sand Dunes of Lancelin was an experience in itself. Let’s just say our lesson learned is to not drive a 2 wheel drive into loose sand. This set us back 3 hours and eventually we needed to ask a local to help pull us out. Our ego a little sore at least we warned other tourists from receiving the same faith. Interesting Fact!* There is no tow company in Lancelin and apparently the tow truck can decide when it’s time to call it quits and attend a family BBQ. Cheers to Australia work ethic.
Driving time: 1.5 hours
Cherokee Village Holiday Park
A little set back by our unexpected sand dune experience, we decided to stay closer to Perth and the airport on our last night. The following morning we took a leisurely stroll through a nearby lake and admired everyone’s doggies. 🙂
Driving time: 1 hour
Perth – Freemantle
Our last day in Perth and we decided to make another stop to explore Freemantle during the day time. I fell in love with the stone and brick facades and small/old town feel of this area. The spot is teeming with boutique stalls, tucked away coffee shops, and many many places to explore if you’re a foodie. We ended our trip with a stop at Little Creatures – a microbrewery offering free tours and tastings of their wide selection of beers. I never thought I would be a fan of Stout beer but it tastes like chocolate 🙂