28 October 2022
Top 10 Things to Do Along the Indian Ocean Drive
Beginning two hours north of Perth, the 160km Indian Ocean Drive is the southern gateway to Australia’s Coral Coast.
This lower section of the epic Coral Coast Highway takes you through the seaside towns of Cervantes, Jurien Bay, Green Head, Leeman, and Dongara-Port Denison. Take your time meandering your way along, stopping to check out these highlights as you go.
Shine your torch skywards and ogle at the pockmarked limestone ceiling as you wander the length of the Stockyard Gully caves. The cave is just one section of a 1.5km walk through Stockyard Gully National Park, a short drive from Jurien Bay or Green Head. You’ll need a 4WD to get to the trail head and some know-how in soft sand driving.
It’s not every day you can say you’ve seen a 3000+-year-old living organism. Stop by Lake Thetis – one of just five thrombolite sites in WA – and you’ll have that day. By the boardwalk around the southwestern edge of the lake, you can find plenty of the living fossils, and you might even spot an echidna or kangaroo too.
Flanked by scrub and sea, the Nambung National Park hides one of WA’s most visited attractions. At the heart of the 17,487-hectare park is the Pinnacles Desert, where hundreds of 30,000-year-old limestone towers protrude from the golden earth. Head in during the day to see them in all their glory, or hang around until just after dark to see them illuminated under a glittering sky.
The Irwin District Museum’s limestone home is as much of a museum piece as the artifacts it holds. Built in 1870, the former Dongara police station, courthouse, and gaol now sheds a light on the local history and convict contribution to the region's development. If you have time, visit the nearby Russ Cottage too. It’s a settler’s home filled with pieces salvaged from eras gone.
Walk, run, or cycle the 14.2km sealed Turquoise Way Trail from the Jurien Bay Marina to the Hill River Mouth. Hugging the shoreline, the view of endless aquamarine from the path is spectacular. Pack a picnic lunch and stop at a grassed area and playground along the way, or tackle the length in one go.
Ever wondered what 20 tons of lobster looks like? Take a short tour of the factory at Cervantes’ Lobster Shack, and you’ll find out. After a walkover of the thousands of lobsters in the live lobster holding lanes, fill up on the prized catch in the restaurant next door, with a view of the ocean and the sea breeze on your face.
Watch the ‘labradors of the sea’ putting on a spectacular show as they dart and dance through the water on a sea lion-watching tour in Jurien Bay. A handful of tours run from the town and out to their breeding grounds on the isolated islands just offshore.
Nature lovers need to make a stop at Lesueur National Park. It’s a biodiversity hotspot, home to more than 900 species of flora. Visit in spring to see the park alive with colourful wildflowers, best seen on the 4km trail up to the top of Mount Lesueur. The more adventurous can attempt the overnight trail, Yued Ponar Walk.
It’s first come, first served for the beachside camp spots at Sandy Cape, just outside of Jurien Bay – they fill up fast come the summer months. It’s no surprise, given the nearby bay is crystalline, perfect for swimming, snorkelling, and SUP boarding. Bring your sandboard, too, as the dunes here are begging to be slid down.
If a road trip along Indian Ocean Drive wasn’t thrilling enough, jumping out of a plane 14,000ft over Jurien Bay will surely change that. As you plummet towards the sand securely harnessed to your Skydive Jurien Bay instructor, enjoy the sight of endless shades of blue peppered with white sand islands.
Want more? Extend your road trip holiday and drive the full Coral Coast Highway.