As the Western Australia border was closed for most of 2020, our travel options were limited to within the state. One of the trips we ended up doing this year was a road trip north of Perth along the Coral Coast to Exmouth, inspired by our day trip up to Jurien Bay earlier in the year. Neither of us had driven past Kalbarri before, so we weren’t really sure what it would be like.
Below is our itinerary, which I would say generally split up the drive well and gave us some time to look around each place and see all the big ticket items. The drive times below don’t include any rest stops on the way.
For this trip we were just in a regular 2 wheel drive and so we weren’t able to access any of the 4 wheel drive roads. If you are wanting to go 4 wheel driving then you could definitely add more time especially in Exmouth where there are plenty of trails to explore.
We also had to make overnight stops in towns where we were able to get accommodation as we didn’t have a camper van or camping equipment. If you had the equipment there are plenty of other roadside stops you could pick for the night.
Day 1 – Perth to Geraldton (4-5 hours drive)
Day 2 – Geraldton to Denham (Shark Bay) (4.5 hours drive)
Day 3 – Denham (morning in Monkey Mia, 30 mins away)
Day 4 – Denham to Coral Bay (5.5 hours drive)
Day 5 – Coral Bay
Day 6 – Coral Bay to Exmouth (1.5 hours drive)
Day 7 – Exmouth
Day 8 – Exmouth
Day 9 – Exmouth to Canarvon (4 hours drive)
Day 10 – Canarvon to Kalbarri (4.5 hours drive)
Day 11 – Kalbarri
Day 12 – Kalbarri
Day 13 – Kalbarri to Perth (6-7 hours drive)
Tips for the drive
For those not used to the Australian landscape the drives in between places can be fairly dull, and there can be hours between the next roadhouse or drop toilet. If you are not accustomed to driving in Australia then I would take extra care and make more overnight stops as needed. Remember that wildlife are most active at dusk and dawn so avoid driving at these times where possible to avoid hitting a kangaroo.
There are a few really good roadhouses to get a hot meal (such as the Overlander!) but otherwise there are pretty limited food options. We took an esky (cooler) with us so that we had plenty of water and snacks in the car, and on a number of occasions lunch was just a salad roll while parked under a tree on the side of the road.
It is also important to note that most of the roadhouses use untreated water so don’t fill up your water bottle from the bathroom sinks or use any taps you see for drinking water. Drop toilets have no running water so bring some hand sanitiser along.
All of the accommodation we stayed in had treated water in the kitchens/bathrooms so that was fine to drink, although it does taste different from Perth drinking water. Make sure to check with your accommodation about the drinking water situation, especially in caravan parks.
Who is this trip suited to?
A drive up the Coral Coast is best suited for someone who loves the outdoors, enjoys spending all day on the beach snorkeling and swimming, and mostly likes to use their holiday time to relax and chill out. It would also be great for a family with children old enough to handle the long drives who like family oriented accommodation and entertainment options in fairly safe and friendly towns.
If you are more like me, and prefer to spend your holidays exploring big cosmopolitan cities, going to concerts and shows and trying funky new cafes, then you might end up a little bored with the lack of options and hours and hours of empty roads. While there are some very beautiful landscapes and of course the world class snorkeling, the travel in between and a few too many lazy afternoons can take the shine off a little.
If you are a bit unsure about whether you would enjoy it then I’d suggest a shorter trip just to Shark Bay and Kalbarri, or instead a trip to the South West, where there is a little less travel involved and usually more dining and entertainment options. Otherwise if miles of crystal clear beaches is right up your alley then the spectacular coastline awaits!