Perth to Exmouth (return)
The Ultimate Road Trip winds its way from Perth to Exmouth in Western Australia (WA), offering you every opportunity to immerse yourself in all that Australia’s Coral Coast has to offer. From trekking through the rugged gorges at Kalbarri, to drifting weightlessly over coral reefs at Ningaloo, this itinerary has it all!
Want to do this trip as a fly & drive instead of a return drive?
Try our Coral Coast Highway itineraries. Drive one way with Avis hire car, fly the other with Qantas.
Day 1: Perth to Geraldton
Approx 420 kilometres
Travelling north along the Indian Ocean Drive (continues north from Wanneroo Road), the first leg of the Ultimate Road Trip, from Perth to Exmouth takes you through the coastal towns of Cervantes, Jurien Bay, Dongara, Port Denison and Greenough.
First stop is Cervantes and the splendour of the Pinnacles Desert. The road into the Pinnacles is sealed, and there is a car park within walking distance of the limestone structures. After exploring the Pinnacles, head to the Desert Discovery Centre to learn more about these mystical formations. Enjoy a swim at Hangover Bay or Thirsty Point in Cervantes before continuing north.
On arriving in Geraldton, treat yourself to some of the freshest seafood in WA, particularly the region’s famous western rock lobster. Enjoy Geraldton’s cafe culture by eating out at one of the numerous spots such as Piper Lane, Skeetas or the Jaffle Shack. Need more adventure? What about a scenic flight or joy ride over the Pink Lake or jetski on Geraldton's city beach?
Check out the Street Art around Marine Terrace and visit local jewellery shops to see the colourful pieces made from Abrolhos Island pearls. Between July - September, the greater Geraldton region is home to expansive displays of wildflower carpets and individual species, many of which are endemic only to WA. Be sure to head up to the impressive HMAS Sydney II Memorial at sunset for sweeping views across Geraldton and the Indian Ocean.
Overnight: Geraldton - see Geraldton accommodation
Day 2: Geraldton to Carnarvon
Approx 480 kilometres
Continue north to the tropical fruit town of Carnarvon – a popular holiday spot for those chasing the winter sun. Sample the abundance of fresh flavours at the local mango and banana plantations, or take a detour and follow the Gascoyne Food Trail along the affectionately named Fruit Loops. Get up in the air and see the town from above on a scenic Helicopter flight or visit the Space and Technology Museum to learn about the fascinating connection between Western Australia and the NASA Space program. Take an evening stroll along the Fascine, enjoying the magnificent sunset views before heading out to dine on fresh local produce.
Overnight: Carnarvon - see Carnarvon accommodation
Day 3: Carnarvon to Exmouth
Approx 370 kilometres
As you head north out of Carnarvon be sure to stop at the blowholes, watching the water spray meters into the air as it surges through the rocks. Heading north along the North West Coastal Highway, today you complete your outward journey from Perth to Exmouth. Stop into Bullara Station for coffee and scones before arriving at the pristine Ningaloo Reef and its unspoiled beaches. This fringing reef is teeming with unique marine life - should you visit between March and July, you’ll also have the opportunity to experience a swim the whale sharks – the world’s largest fish. From August to October, we swim with humpback whales and from September to December some Exmouth operators offer sea turtle snorkel tours.
Overnight: Exmouth - see Exmouth accommodation
Day 4: Exmouth
Take a glass bottom boat cruise to view the reef’s diverse marine life, or spend your day snorkelling the vibrant coral gardens of the Ningaloo Marine Park with it's amazing snorkel spots. Nearby, Cape Range National Park offers rugged scenery of deep canyons, limestone ranges and spectacular gorges such as Yardie Creek. Explore the park in your own four-wheel drive, or take a tour from Exmouth.
Day 5: Exmouth to Coral Bay
Approx 150 kilometres
The shortest leg of the Ultimate Road Trip brings you to Coral Bay – a snorkeller’s paradise with calm, protected waters and hundreds of fish and coral species. Here, the reef literally touches the shore, creating an endless underwater garden of marine life. To explore further out, take a glass-bottom boat trip or join a snorkelling tour. Spend the evening watching the sunset and dining at one of Coral Bay’s restaurants.
Overnight: Coral Bay - see Coral Bay accommodation
Day 6: Coral Bay and surrounds
Stay another day in Coral Bay for more swimming and snorkelling, or throw in a line and try your luck at beach fishing. Fishing charters head out to sea regularly and adventurous types can join a scuba diving trip, a manta ray tour (year-round), swim with the whale sharks (mid-March to mid-June) and swim with humpback whales (July to September). When it's time to dry off, take a 4WD along the coast or hire a quad bike for some rugged adventure.
Overnight: Coral Bay
Day 7: Coral Bay to Shark Bay
Approx 590 kilometres
Head south on the Northwest Coastal Highway to the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Follow the interpretive signage along the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive. Sites along the drive include the remarkable Hamelin Pool Stromatolites – the oldest living fossils in the world – and the calm, crystal waters of Shell Beach – a 60km stretch of beach made entirely of millions of tiny shells.
Stop at Eagle Bluff for spectacular ocean views along a 100m walkway, where reef sharks, dugongs and rays are regularly spotted. Nearby to Eagle Bluff is the Ocean Park Aquarium, a rehabilitation centre for injured or sick marine life. If you’ve made good time on this leg of the Ultimate Road Trip, head to Peron Homestead, with its remarkable history of a late-era around Shark Bay. Enjoy a drink on the foreshore at Denham or Monkey Mia and watch a magical sunset.
Overnight: Denham or Monkey Mia – see Shark Bay accommodation
Day 8: Shark Bay
Spend some time at the water’s edge, meeting the friendly bottlenose dolphins of Monkey Mia. The dolphins are fed up to three times each day, which accounts for just one-third of their daily diet. The first feeding is at around 7.30am.
Take one of the many tours on offer, our picks are Francois Peron National Park, Steep Point from above on a scenic flight or visiting Dirk Hartog Island. Unwind on a sunset cruise aboard a magnificent catamaran before ending your day wining and dining by the beach. After dinner, join an Indigenous cultural tour.
Overnight: Denham or Monkey Mia
Day 9: Shark Bay to Kalbarri
Approx 390 kilometres
The popular coastal holiday town of Kalbarri is located at the mouth of the Murchison River and is the last destination on your return journey along the Ultimate Road Trip from Perth to Exmouth. Enjoy the rugged coastal scenery as you approach the Kalbarri township.
Take in Kalbarri’s famous sunset views from one of the many coastal walk trails or swimming spots such as Blue Holes. Grab a surfboard and head for the renowned surf break Jacques Point before tucking into a fresh seafood feast for dinner at one of the many local restaurants such as Finlay's. After dinner, sit back and relax under the stars at the outdoor cinema at Rainbow Jungle.
Overnight Kalbarri – see Kalbarri accommodation
Day 10: Kalbarri
Wake up early and watch the daily pelican feeding on the foreshore at around 8.45am. Spend the day exploring the magnificent Murchison River gorges in Kalbarri National Park and don't forget to visit Nature's Window and Z-Bend. Enjoy a fishing tour, river cruise or spend your day relaxing and taking in the sights of this unique coastline. Adventure lovers can join a range of extreme tours that take you abseiling, canoeing, sand boarding or touring the region on quad bikes.
Day 11: Kalbarri to Perth
Approx 590 kilometres
Pack up the car this morning and head south for the final leg of your Ultimate Road Trip. Stop in at the Kalbarri coastal gorges on your way south, and be sure to stop in for a picture at Hutt Lagoon (also known as the Pink Lake), which is incredibly pink in colour.
Stop in at the charming town of Northampton, declared a historic town by the national trust in 1993. Explore the sites around town before continuing your journey south to Perth.