Updated: Jan 6, 2022
From Perth to Exmouth a road trip we will never forget, the Coral Coast stretching across 1,200 Kilometres, it is one of Australia’s most scenic drives. It is teeming with natural beauty, wildlife and adventure, not to mention the WA sunsets every afternoon.
I have compiled an Itinerary of all the stops we visited and the free camps spots for the self-contained campers. This road trip has been on our bucket list for four years and was well worth the wait.
Perth, Lancelin and Cervantes
To start the trip, you will need to stock up on fuel, food, water and other things you might need for the journey. If you haven’t been to Perth before, you can check out my Locals guide to Perth. There are so many things to do, and WA beaches are the best beaches, so have a dip while your here.
We drove from Perth to Lancelin, which is 121.9km. Dunes surround the town, and there are places to hire sand boards or quad bikes if you are into a bit of an adventure. We stopped off for a quick sandwich, and a peek at the crystal clear beach before jumping back in the van to head up to the Pinnacles at Cervantes
From Lancelin to Cervantes is only 81.9km. We decided we would stay around this area for the night. We visited the Pinnacles of Numbung National Park. Impressive limestone structures formed around 30,000 years ago. It is $15 per person, and no pets allowed in the park. As you drive into the park, you can get out and walk around. It’s like your on another planet.
After the Pinnacles, we decided to visit the town of Cervantes and cook up some dinner and watch the sunset before heading to our camp. We stayed at the Tuart Reserve Rest Area; it was a free camp found on wiki camps with no toilets or water, so best for those self-contained. There are caravan parks in every town so dont fret if you are a camper without a toilet or shower handy.
Jurien Bay to Geraldton
We visited the beautiful Jurien Bay beach, only 20 minutes from Cervantes. We parked in the beach car park, made our morning coffee and took a walk down the jetty. It’s the perfect little spot to refresh before getting on the road. There is a cafe on the beach that seemed very popular. The water is crystal blue which is very standard for the coral coast a very popular swimming spot. The drive to Geraldton from Julian bay is 196.2km which is 2hour drive so after breakfast we heading up.
Geraldton is a larger town which means it’s time to stock up on food and water. There are two free camps in town we found on Wiki camps one right in town that is for self contained vans, it has a dump point and portable water tap to fill up your water. The second is for non self contained campers vans, it has toilets and cold showers available 24hours and its found at the Point Moore lighthouse. While your in Geraldton have a coffee on the foreshore we grabbed a blanket and sat outside to Jaffle Shack, their coffee is really good. If you are looking for a good fish and chips the locals love Barnacles on the fisheries wharf and you will get your money’s worth.
Hutt Lagoon and Kalbarri
The Hutt Lagoon is located just before Port Gregory and on your way to Kalbarri. It has become highly popular instagram spot. Best times to visit is mid morning or sunset to see its beautiful hues of bubblegum pink and lilac. We visited in the middle of the day, and smack me dead it was hot, so we didn’t stay long. If you have a drone send it up for a birds eye view of this magical wonder.
As you drive into the surfy town of Kalbarri you will see the amazing Red Bluff this huge mound overlooking the ocean and is a great spot for a sunset. We stayed at the Red Bluff Caravan Park, its probably my favourite so far, $50 a night and each campsite has its own ensuite, fluffy Buffalo grass and if you love kangaroos you are in for a treat they love munching on the grass in the afternoons and in to the night.
If you are looking for a dog sitter ask the caravan parks and information centres as their are a few in town
We ventured out to the Kalbarri National Park, there is plenty to do including swimming, canoeing and fishing in the gorge. The gorge spans out 80km and there are so many spots to see, The skywalk is newly opened and such a spectacular view. Sit in Natures Window and take it all in if you love an adventures walk take the 7km trail called the Loop or have a swim at the Z-Bend. If you travel though spring and early summer you will see the wild flowers.
Shark Bay & Monkey Mia
Shark Bay is a world heritage spot and is the shire to the town of Denham, from Kalbarri to Denham and Monkey Mia is 375km drive. It is a long stretch of road and their is only one road in. We decided to head straight in and then see all the sites driving out. We stayed in Denham instead of Monkey Mia due to the price difference.
Denham is a tiny little town and a great spot for dogs with no restrictions. There is plenty of accommodation from caravans to hotels and you can enjoy the foreshore from the pub.
We drove up to Monkey Mia for the dolphin feeding experience. From 7am you get to be up close and personal with wild dolphins. In my personal experience its worth the $15. You can view from the pier for free. The feeding experience runs 3 times in the morning and the females get one fish each time, this helps them not reply on humans. Although when Aaron was a kid it was slightly different. Given that they only get one fish each you have to be pretty lucky to be chosen, they picked me and I was freaking excited but was super quick and didn’t get the photo I wanted but it was so worth it. If you don’t get chosen stick around for the other feedings because most of the people only stay for the first feeing. Less people equals better chance. They have strict rules about not touching the dolphins and if you find yourself swimming with them you need to slowly back away and just enjoy their company.
As you are heading out of Monkey Mia you can head into Francois Peron National Park, their are both 4wd track and normal so don’t fret if you don’t have a 4wd. You will also see the beautiful not so ‘little lagoon’ which is on the way back to Denham.
On our way out we stopped off at Shell beach which is 45km south-east of Denham. It was pretty amazing to see tiny little shells instead of sand. I haven’t seen anything like it. Sand is actually broken shells and silica but this beach what just tiny little shells. The water is so salty that it limits life in the water is is twice as salty as the sea. There are dog limitations and the are only aloud in the car park. Thankfully we a cool van for ted to chill while we had a look.
Carnarvon & Quobba Station
As we drove late up to Carnarvon we found a 24hr rest stop with toilets and left early in the morning up to Carnarvon. It is a small town with all the necessities, since there wasn’t going to be a huge supermarket the further we went up so we stocked up on groceries, water and fuel. Most of the caravan parks are pet friendly. Carnarvon can be a great home base if you want to do day trips. Visit the Fruit loop trail, its located on the way out of Carnarvon on South River Road. They are working plantations that during May to October they have stalls selling the seasonal tropic fruit and vegetables as well as sweet treats like ice cream and chocolate covered fruit. As you drive along you will come across the Cactus garden in front of one of the farms. It’s become a popular Instagram spot for travellers.
10km out of Carnarvon is the Blowholes you can either visit for a day trip or if you want to visit Point Quobba and Red Bluff it’s on the way. As you drive in you will see the ever popular King Waves Kill Sign on the left are the Blowholes and on your right is the road to Point Quobba and Red Bluff.
You can stay at both Point Quobba and Red Bluff there are homestead’s camp spots for $22pp a night. It’s pretty expensive for what you get but the views are epic. We stayed at the Quobba Station. Be aware before you go these homesteads are run on bore water, so be ready for a salty shower. We decided the corrugated roads were too much for our big girl Sunni and gave Red Bluff a miss. Aaron and I were talking about next time we would hire a 4wd for this trip and head to the places we missed as near red bluff is Gnarlu surf break and one of Aarons top bucket list spots.
Coral Bay & Exmouth
From Carnarvon to Coral Bay is 238km be wary of the time you come we visited in March which is the end of the wet season and many of the roads were just getting fixed. Best time to visit is late March to October. Please check the main roads website for road closures if you come outside of these months. Wet season most of these roads are closed due to flooding.
We decided to stay in Coral Bay. Personally I would come for a day trip next time as the town is uber expensive and another place that is run on bore water. Expect your cold showers to be hot and salty, and bring plenty of fresh water as you have to pay to fill up. Luckily we came with full fresh water tank when we came from Carnarvon. I left feeling really deflated, but this is just in my experience.
We stayed in one of the caravan parks which was very expensive for what it is. Coral Bay its self is beautiful and as soon as you step into the water you are greeted by coral and tropical fish. There is only one dog beach away from main beaches called paradise beach, its adjacent from the windmills.
Exmouth is 152km from Coral Bay, so it’s definitely a good spot for a home base if you don’t want to stay in Coral Bay. Exmouth is a tiny coastal tourist town with loads of history. If you stop in to the information centre they have a history museum and aquarium for $20 per person. Here you will learn about little slice of America right here in WA during the Cold War, where you even had to use U.S dollars.
If you are looking for somewhere to eat for breakfast try The Social Society, it’s a cute little sustainable cafe and clothing store, with delicious vegan and vegetarian food. If your looking for lunch or dinner head to Froth Brewery, its a total vibe, the food is exceptional too.
Coral Bay and Exmouth are the perfect place for ocean tours and seeing marine life from above and below. From scenic flights to manta rays and whale shark tours. This place is known for epic adventures.
Aaron booked a tour with Ningaloo Discovery for a whale tour, and it was phenomenal and loved every minute of it. He saw four whale sharks, turtles, reef sharks. I opted out of the tour because we hadn’t got a sitter for Ted yet and boats make me sick. So if you are like me take sea sick tablets, Aaron said it was alright when you were swimming within the reef but once you got out to where the whale sharks were if got quite choppy. Bring plenty of sunscreen and if you are doing the tour alone ask someone to do your back. The is no shade to hide from the sun on the catamarans and you are spending all day in the water.
Overall he said it was 10/10 experience and would do it again (even work on the boat if he could).
We got a sitter for Ted the next day to go and visit the National Park, we got a list of sitters from the information centre. We got so lucky with our sitter she absolutely loved Ted and we got to enjoy the day without having to worry about her or any time restrictions coming home.
The Ningaloo reef is the largest fringing near-shore reef in the world. Stretching 300km and cape range national park in exmouth is the best place to enjoy it. We visited a few spots after hearing advice from locals. Turquoise Bay is the most popular and is well know to tourists. Let the current drift you along the coral reef and see the life living below. I’m not the best at snorkelling so I just bobbed along. It was amazing to see so many beautiful and big fish. If crowds aren’t your thing another great spot to visit is lakeside which you can also drift and view the coral. Looking for somewhere shady to eat your lunch Sandy Bay is a great spot to have lunch under the shady picnic area, and enjoy to picturesque scenery.
Our other faves to just get out of the car and look at was Oyster stacks, which had time restrictions on snorkelling but so beautiful to look at and Pilgonoman Gorge which is a historic sheep holding area.
There are so many great spots to visit, if you have time stay in the NP and immerse yourself in what it has to offer.
Overall, the Coral Coast is such an epic drive, so many places to see from Perth to Exmouth on this road trip even many towns and places to visit that weren’t listed. It is such a unique part of Australia. If you love outback trails, stunning beaches and majestic marine life this road trip should be put on your bucket list. We definitely will be back.
See you on the road,
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You can also follow our adventures on Instagram @sunni_daze_ or on my account @cocokay.nutrition