Perth to Exmouth Road Trip Itinerary & Locals Tips

Interested in a road trip from Perth to Exmouth? How long is it? Where should you stop on the way? Want to explore Ningaloo Reef? Here’s the itinerary I used on my 14 night journey from Perth to Exmouth. I’ve included the best places to visit and things you must see during your self-drive holiday along the Coral Coast to Ningaloo Reef.

Key Takeaways

🛣️ Distance: 1,248 km (775 miles) One-Way
🚘 Driving Time: 13 hours One-Way
☀️ My Favourite Time to Visit: Autumn & Winter
⏳ Recommended length of time: 10 to 14 Nights
🛣️ Unsealed Roads: No
⭐️ My Highlights: Hiking in Kalbarri, snorkelling in Coral Bay, swimming with whale sharks in Exmouth

Perth to Exmouth Road Trip Itinerary – 14 nights

This is the 14 nights Perth to Exmouth road trip itinerary we did in July.

perth to exmouth map

Days 1, 2 & 3 Perth To Kalbarri

Leave Perth for the 6-hour drive to Kalbarri, along the scenic Indian Ocean Drive.

In just over two hours, you will arrive in Jurien Bay. Have a quick stop here for a coffee, visit the bakery and/or walk along the foreshore. There are toilets here and a childrens’ playground. You can stock up on any food you may need at the local IGA. If you want to stay longer, here’s a list of things to do in Jurien Bay.

Back in the car and you can either make a stop in Port Denison (1 hour & 20 mins) or carry on and stop in Northampton (2 hours 45 mins).

Port Denison is a laid back crayfishing town with some nice beaches and trails with lookouts.

Northampton is a registered Historic Town of Importance with a number of historic buildings, including Church of St Mary in Ara Coeli, Chiverton House, and the Convent of the Sacred Heart. There’s an IGA supermarket in town and The Shearing Shed Café is great for coffee and cake and the local pub, The Railway Tavern, serves homestyle food in generous portions. Read this guide on things to do in Northampton.

From Northampton, turn off National Route 1 onto State Route 139, which takes you to Hutt Lagoon, otherwise known as the Pink Lake. You will pass the site of Lynton Convict Hiring Depot, the first convict depot north of Fremantle. The best time to visit Pink Lake is mid-morning to midday on a clear day, but it’s worth stopping for a look even if you’re outside of this time. Pink Lake gets its colour from the presence of the algae Dunaliella Salina, which produces carotenoid. The best place to view it is on Port Gregory Road where there is also parking.

It’s only another half hour from Pink Lake to Kalbarri where you will stay for three nights.

pink lake dried up with pink crsytals
Pink Lake (Hutt Lagoon) on the way to Kalbarri

Where to stay in Kalbarri

We’ve stayed at the Kalbarri Seafront Villas and Kalbarri Tudor Holiday Park. Read what we thought of the Kalbarri Seafront Villas.

I would stay again at Kalbarri Tudor Holiday Park or book one of these:

River Retreats are for adults-only to enjoy the tranquillity with spotless rooms and an outdoor swimming pool.

Nautilus Retreat Kalbarri B&B is another adult-only accommodation that offers the choice of a continental or gluten-free breakfast.

Kalbarri Red Bluff Tourist Park is a popular choice for families with kangaroos frequent visitors to the gardens.

Murchison View Apartments are located 100m from Chinaman’s Beach on the Murchison River. The large apartments are clean, well-equipped, and in a great location.

Book early to avoid disappointment as accommodation is booked up quickly during peak season and school holidays. I use as they offer free cancellation of most rooms, have a price guarantee and a loyalty reward system.

Things to do in Kalbarri

Kalbarri has lots of natural attractions with the Murchison River, Indian Ocean, and National Park all close by.

Read this travel guide on things to do in Kalbarri for information on hikes, lookouts, coastal walks, beaches, fishing, boating and adventure tours. There are also some tips on the best places to eat in Kalbarri.

view of the river from hawks head lookout kalbarri
Kalbarri National Park

Days 4, 5 & 6 Kalbarri to Shark Bay

Depart Kalbarri for the four-hour drive to the Shark Bay region. There’s not really anywhere to stop along the way except the Billabong Roadhouse and Overlander Roadhouse, which is opposite the turnoff for Shark Bay. If time permits, stop in at the Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, 35 km along Shark Bay Road.

Where to stay in Shark Bay

We stayed at Denham Seaside Caravan Park, Australia’s most westerly caravan park and situated right in front of the Indian Ocean, providing easy beach access. 

The popular Shark Bay Seafront Apartments are located opposite Denham beach and have stunning ocean views from their patios. All accommodation has air-conditioning and includes a kitchen with a microwave, refrigerator and stove. 

On the Deck @ Shark Bay is a highly-rated B&B 1.2 km from the Denham town. Guests can relax in the hot tub or dine outside on the terrace, complete with a BBQ. All the air conditioned rooms have a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with complimentary toiletries.

The family-owned and operated Oceanside Village is just across from the beach in Denham. All the air-conditioned villas have a kitchen featuring a stove, microwave, and refrigerator. 

If you want to stay in Monkey Mia, the only option is the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, which looks amazing and is a great choice for families looking for the dolphin experience. There’s plenty to do with swimming pools, hot tub, bar, restaurant and tennis and volleyball courts. The resort has a range of accommodation options, from beach view rooms to dormitories, which all include air-conditioning and are located only steps from the beach.

Things to do in Shark Bay

The Shark Bay World Heritage Area covers 2.2 million hectares and was the first location in Western Australia to receive UNESCO status in 1991. With over 1,000 km of spectacular beaches and renowned for its marine life, you’ll be amazed at the beauty here. The extensive seagrass meadows support over 10,000 dugongs, humpback whales migrate along the coast, and dolphins frequent the waters of Monkey Mia.

There’s so much to do in Shark Bay that you’ll have a jammed-packed two days. Find out more about this incredible area in this guide on things to do in Shark Bay, Denham and Monkey Mia.

close up of a wild dolphin
One of the Monkey Mia dolphins

Days 7 & 8 Shark Bay to Coral Bay

It’s a 5 hour 40 minute drive from Denham to Coral Bay along Shark Bay Road that you came in on and then north on National Route 1. If you want to stop on the way, Carnarvon has some lovely picnic spots on the Fascine.

Where to stay in Coral Bay

Coral Bay accommodation is limited so most people book over a year in advance as the holiday homes and caravan parks fill up quickly, especially in peak season.

We stayed at the Ningaloo Coral Bay Bayview, which has a variety of accommodation options, including cabins, villas, houses, and Bay Lodge. Most can be booked for an overnight stay, although minimum nights usually apply for peak periods.

People’s Park Coral Bay is right opposite Bills Bay and offers accommodation for all budgets. Choose from cabins, hilltop villas, and the ocean view penthouse.

The Ningaloo Reef Resort features self–contained one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and studio rooms, all overlooking the tropical gardens and pool. The resort is the closest property to the Ningaloo Reef and would be my choice when we next visit Coral Bay. If you’re a RACWA member, you’ll receive a discount by booking directly.

Ningaloo Coral Bay Backpackers not only offer backpacker dorms, but rooms for couples and families. 

Things to do in Coral Bay

Coral Bay is a one-road town with a population of about 200 people, but welcomes approximately 110,000 visitors every year. This laid back coastal settlement makes you feel relaxed as soon as you arrive, but there are plenty of activities like snorkelling, diving, fishing, and kayaking to keep you entertained. The white sand beaches and the world’s largest fringing reef are the biggest draw cards for people visiting Coral Bay. Whether you choose to snorkel from the beach or dive the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef, you are in for a treat.

Read this travel guide on things to do in Coral Bay for a complete list and other tips for your stay.

people snorkeling in the ocean at coral bay wa
Snorkelling off the beach in Coral Bay

Day 9, 10 & 11 Exmouth

The drive today from Coral Bay to Exmouth is only an hour and 40 minutes. As it’s a short distance, you can stop off at Charles Knife Canyon in Cape Range National Park, 21 km south of Exmouth town. However, as part of the winding road is gravel, it is not suitable for two-wheel vehicles. If you have a 4wd, and have some off-road experience, you can try the Shothole Canyon track.

Where to stay in Exmouth

Here is my pick of the accommodation in Exmouth WA:

The Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort overlooks Exmouth’s stunning Sunrise Beach and offers an infinity pool, restaurant and bar with ocean or marina views from your private balcony. All accommodation at the resort has high ceilings as well as contemporary furnishings that will make you feel right at home and each room comes equipped with its own en suite bathroom complete with modern fixtures.

The Exmouth Escape Resort offers luxury accommodation with a choice of large, air-conditioned apartments and villas that feature fully equipped kitchens, including laundry facilities and BBQs for cooking up delicious meals at home. You can relax around the pool, where there is an outdoor swimming pool with a children’s wading area.

Ningaloo Bed and Breakfast features air-conditioned accommodation with complimentary WiFi, and private parking. Guests of the bed and breakfast can also enjoy a continental or buffet breakfast.

If you enjoy a bit of luxury, you’ll love Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, which is an exclusive safari camp hidden in the white sand dunes of Cape Range National Park. The 15 spacious wilderness tents are just metres from the water’s edge and feature an en suite natural composting bathroom with complimentary native herb soaps and ecological shampoos.

Things to do in Exmouth

Exmouth offers visitors a variety of things to do with the Ningaloo Reef being one of the closest coral reefs to land in the world. Most people try to time their trip to swim with the whale sharks, the gentle giants of the ocean, or go on a whale watching tour. Other activities include snorkelling, diving and hiking.

Read this travel guide on things to do in Exmouth for more details on what this incredible town has to offer.

whale shark close up
Swim with whale shark by Tourism Western Australia

Day 12 Exmouth to Carnarvon

Back down the coast and in under four hours you will be back in Carnarvon.

Carnarvon is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a place to experience extraordinary local history and enjoy an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood while learning about the Gascoyne region’s Indigenous and colonial pioneering heritage.

Where to stay in Carnarvon

If you’re looking for great value accommodation, the following caravan parks offer cabins for a reasonable price. We stayed at the Outback Oasis Caravan Park in a Family Double Room cabin, which was perfect for our nights stay.

Other Caravan Parks that have great reviews are the Norwesta Lifestyle Park, Wintersun Caravan and Tourist Park and the Coral Coast Tourist Park.

For a bit of luxury, try The Carnarvon Luxury Canal Home.

Things to do in Carnarvon

As you are only in Carnarvon for one night, you will have to pick and choose what to do. We missed out on the blowholes and the Point Quobba aquarium, but hope to do that another time. The Gwoonwardu Mia, the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre, was the highlight for us.

Check out this Carnarvon travel guide for more information.

a bright orange building
Gwoonwardu Mia, the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre

Day 13 Carnarvon to Geraldton

The drive from Carnarvon to Geraldton is around 5 hours, with not many places to stop along the way. Maybe have a rest break at either Outlander or Billabong Roadhouses.

Geraldton has interesting museums, galleries and historical buildings to visit as well as some beautiful beaches. The warm climate with consistent breezes during summer also make it perfect for water sport enthusiasts.

Where to stay in Geraldton

Nesuto Geraldton was our choice of family accommodation in Geraldton due to its good value. We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment, which contained a full kitchen with dishwasher, oven and large fridge as well as a dining area and balcony.

Other highly-rated places to stay in Geraldton include the Gerald Apartment Hotel, Mantra Geraldton, Ocean Centre HotelZebras Guesthouse, Geraldton Backpackers and Belair Gardens Caravan Park.

Things to do in Geraldton

Depending on the time of year, you can choose to hit the beach, try out some of the delicious seafood, walk one of the historic trails or take a detour to see wildflowers.

You can find out more about WA’s only city north of Perth in this Geraldton travel guide.

a metal dome with seagulls carved out
HMAS II Sydney Memorial Geraldton

Day 14 Geraldton to Cervantes or Perth

The final leg of your Perth to Exmouth round trip is a four and a half hour drive back to Perth. If you have time, consider an overnight stop at Cervantes and The Pinnacles.

I hope you found this 14 night Perth to Exmouth road trip itinerary useful but if you want a shorter trip, see the 10 night and 7 night itineraries below.

Perth to Exmouth Road Trip Itinerary – 10 nights

In order to condense your Perth to Exmouth road trip down to 10 nights, I suggest spending less nights in each place and missing out on Carnarvon on the way back to Perth.

Day 1 & 2: Perth To Kalbarri

Day 3 & 4: Kalbarri to Shark Bay

Day 5 & 6: Shark Bay to Coral Bay

Day 7, 8 & 9: Exmouth

Day 10: Geraldton

Day 11: arrive back in Perth

Perth to Exmouth Road Trip Itinerary – 7 nights

A week’s road trip to Exmouth from Perth would only be worthwhile if you either do the drive in one go, which I wouldn’t recommend, or split it up over two days. Alternatively, drive one way and fly the other.

Day 1 & 2 Perth to Kalbarri

Day 3, 4, 5 & 6 Exmouth (or you could split your time between Coral Bay and Exmouth)

Day 7 Geraldton

Day 8 Perth

aerial view of a white sand beach and turquoise ocean
Turquoise Bay Exmouth by Tourism Western Australia

How long is it to drive from Perth to Exmouth?

The drive time from Perth to Exmouth is approximately 12 hours of straight driving. However, driving long distances is tiring and can cause driver fatigue, so I suggest breaking it up with at least one overnight stop or consider the ultimate Perth to Exmouth road trip, stopping at amazing destinations along the route.

Allow the minimum of a week for your road trip, but this won’t allow you long in each place. You could hire a car or campervan (see above) and drive to Exmouth and fly back to save on time. However, there is usually a hefty one-way fee involved.

Do you need a 4wd for Exmouth?

No you don’t need a 4wd for Exmouth but there are some attractions that you will have to miss out on. For example, some of the tracks are unsealed dirt roads leading to snorkel spots and lookouts.

Be aware that most car rental companies don’t allow you to drive on unsealed roads even in a 4wd, so make sure to check the conditions before paying extra for that type of vehicle.

When to go on a Perth to Exmouth road trip

The best time to visit Exmouth is from autumn to late spring (March to November), which is also the most popular time and when accommodation prices are highest. Summer temperatures are extremely hot, and there’s a tropical cyclone risk at this time.

Rainfall is highest in June, followed by May, March, and February. September to November are the driest months.

The Indian Ocean is warmest in March when it reaches 29°C and then gradually decreases to 21/22 in August, before starting to rise again.

You can swim with the whale sharks in Exmouth from late March to early August and swim with humpback whales from June to October.

We visited in July (the coldest month with an average temperature of 24°C) but we were unlucky with the weather as it was around 20°C and we had rough sea conditions. I’d probably look at April next time, so we can do the whale shark swim and the ocean will be warmer.

red rocks in a canyon with views to the ocean
Charles Knife Canyon Exmouth

Car Rental in Exmouth & Campervan Hire

Several rental car companies operate booths in the Perth airport terminal, with most being staffed during scheduled flight arrival periods. To compare rental car company prices, we use Discover Cars.

If you’re looking for campervan hire from Perth to Exmouth, compare prices here.

a long road with red dirt on the side and green bush
Road from Kalbarri to Exmouth

Tips for your Perth to Exmouth Road Trip

  • Buy a Telstra SIM card as their regional coverage is the best.
  • Distances are long so stop regularly and try to share the driving.
  • The open road speed limit is 110 km per hour and 50 km per hour in built up areas. However, pay attention to the signs as they often change.
  • It is illegal to touch your mobile phone while driving and all passengers must wear a seatbelt.
  • Be prepared. Carry plenty of water and food in case of breakdown.
  • Ensure you have enough fuel as service stations are 100 – 300 km apart and some may be out of fuel. Also keep in mind that most of them do not open 24 hours.
  • If you get bogged on a 4wd track, stay with your vehicle so it will be easier to find you.
  • Sealed roads can be closed due to flooding and unsealed roads are unreliable in wet weather. Keep up to date with Main Roads or the local visitor centre.
  • Road trains (large trucks with up to four carriages) can be as long as 60m so extreme care must be taken if overtaking. Most of the Coral Coast is single lane only with a few overtaking lanes.
  • The Coral coast can be affected by cyclones, particularly between December to March. Keep up to date with emergency advice on the WA Emergency site. You can keep informed of bush fire advice there too.
  • Save money with a National Park holiday or annual pass, which can be purchased online or at various outlets like visitor centres. RAC WA offer a 50% discount for members.
  • If you plan on flying a drone, check with Parks and Wildlife as regulations are in place to protect areas of Aboriginal significance and wildlife and flora.
  • Pop into the local visitor centres as they often have free maps and up to date information on the area, including where the wildflowers are blooming.
  • Watch out for wildlife when driving, especially around dawn and dusk.

Other Ways to Get from Perth to Exmouth

Flights from Perth to Exmouth

Qantas operates flights to Exmouth’s Learmonth airport, with a flight time of two hours. The airport is approximately 36 km south of Exmouth. See up to date prices here.

Exmouth bus charters operate a shuttle service from the airport to Exmouth town. Prices as of August 2021 were:

A$40/Adult (or $75 return), A$30/Pensioner, A$25/Child

Family rate one way (2 Adults and up to 3 Children = $100) 

Bus from Perth to Exmouth

Integrity Coach Lines run a hop on/hop off service between Perth and Exmouth, which is popular with backpackers.

a beach made up entirely of cockle shells

Perth to Exmouth Adventure (return)

Looking to travel from Perth to Exmouth but don’t have transport?

Look at this adventure tour that includes:

  • Pinnacles Desert
  • Pink Lake
  • Nature’s Window & Z-bend gorge
  • Monkey Mia & Shell Beach
  • Coral Bay & Ninglaoo Reef.

The Perth to Exmouth road trip is a journey that takes you through some of the best parts of Western Australia. It’s an unforgettable experience full of natural beauty, adventure and amazing hospitality. You can book your own ultimate Perth to Exmouth Road Trip with our links.

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