Many call it one of the greatest road trips on Earth – and for very good reasons! The Coral Coast covers 1,250km of breath-taking landscapes, pristine beaches, amazing wildlife and tonnes of fun activities to get involved in. Road tripping is really the only way to get the most out of this epic area of the world, so I’ve sorted this ultimate itinerary to see the best bits over 7 fun-filled days! 

How Far Is It?

If you drive non-stop from Perth to Exmouth it takes around 13 hours. Add a few well-chosen stops along the way and it breaks up nicely, incorporating the right mix of adventurous activities and relaxing, scenic drives.

Best Time to Go?

Even though it’s technically the winter months, April to November provide comfortably warm temperatures and calmer winds. Whale sharks migrate through the area from April to July, and lovely wildflowers bloom around August. The July school holiday period will often be the busiest time of year, so I recommend booking in advance.

Where to Stay? 

Free camping isn’t allowed in WA except in roadside overnight stops – you’ll have to book a site at a caravan park or WA Parks bush campground. Bush campgrounds have fewer facilities but are much cheaper, offering an authentic rustic outback feel. Most stops also have a few motels, hostels, hotels or resorts to choose from if you’re after a bit more luxury.

How to Get There?

This itinerary can be enjoyed in a regular 2WD car, although a 4WD will grant you extra access to hard to reach places and give you the option of beach driving. 

A better option is to take a small group tour like WhyNotBus, so you can sit back and watch the scenery, make new friends and not worry about missing any of the good spots. They also have the option to provide camping gear so you don’t have to buy your own, plus all the cooking gear is sorted for you!

7 Day Itinerary at a Glance:
Day 1    Perth to Jurien Bay
Day 2    Jurien Bay to Kalbarri
Day 3    Kalbarri
Day 4    Kalbarri to Shark Bay
Day 5    Shark Bay
Day 6    Shark Bay to Exmouth
Day 7    Exmouth
Perth To Exmouth Road Trip Itinerary
  • Lancelin Sand Dunes – I recommend starting off early to spend the morning at the awesome sand dunes, about 1.5hrs drive from Perth. Try sandboarding if you’re up for it, or just explore the sandy expanses!
  • Lunch – Stop for lunch at Endeavour Tavern or Lancelin Fish and Chips, then get back on the highway for about 45 minutes to Pinnacles Nambung National Park. 
  • Pinnacles Nambung National Park – A 4km loop takes you through the main section of the Pinnacles, an amazing array of jagged limestone formations. You’ll need a WA Parks pass or to pay an entry fee to get in. Visit the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre on your way in or out to learn about interesting history and facts about this unique place.
  • Jurien Bay – Another 30 minutes up the highway brings you to Jurien Bay, a cute little coastal town with several accommodation and food options. Take a stroll along the curved jetty to take in the sunset over the ocean.
  • Sea Lion Swim – A highlight of Jurien Bay are the friendly sea lions, who live on a nearby island. Take an early morning tour (bring your underwater camera) to swim and play with these curious sea puppies!
  • Geraldton – Continue up the highway for 2 hours, taking a quick rest at Geraldton, where you can stock up on any groceries or supplies you may need.
  • Hutt Lagoon – Another hour brings you to the Instagram-famous bright pink Hutt Lagoon. Marvel at the flamingo hued waters, which are made by an algae called dunaliella salina. They’re at their most intense colour between 10am and 2pm on a sunny day (it’ll still be pink enough on cloudy days, though). Scenic flights are available if you want to get a birds-eye view of the pretty spectacle.
  • Kalbarri – This beautiful little town is surrounded by dramatic cliffs, lovely beaches and the gorges of Kalbarri National Park. Spend the afternoon exploring the Red Bluff for coastal vistas, Pot Alley to view the red cliffs, or Blue Holes swimming bay for an excellent snorkelling spot around natural rock pools.
  • Stay in the Backpackers YHA or Red Bluff Tourist Park for the budget conscious, or Palm or Edge Resorts for something a bit fancier.
  • Kalbarri National Park – Spend the day exploring and hiking around this magnificent national park. Make sure you bring enough water and snacks to last the day, and dress for the weather. Some highlights to check out are:
    • Kalbarri Skywalk – Walk out over the gorges for breathtaking views on these fairly new platforms – it’s included in the National Park entry fee. 
    • Z Bend Lookout & River Trail – A 1.2km trail from the car park brings you to the epic Z Bend Lookout. Continue along the more challenging River Trail for more beautiful sights.
    • Nature’s Window – This natural rock arch is one of the most popular spots in the park, forming an impeccable ‘window’ to the river only 1km from the car park. Great photo op! 
    • Loop Trail – Starting at Nature’s Window is this longer, fun 9km loop that winds down into the gorge and along the river banks, taking about 3-4 hours.
  • Shark Bay – It’s around a 4-hour drive to the UNESCO listed World Heritage Area of Shark Bay, which is home to numerous flora and fauna species found nowhere else on Earth. On the way to the towns of Denham or Monkey Mia, stop at these sights:
    • Shell Beach – This beach is made entirely of – you guessed it – shells. No sand, just layers upon layers of shells thought to reach 10m deep.
    • Eagle Bluff Lookout – A 400m boardwalk provides amazing views of the crystal clear waters below. Spot sharks, stingrays, turtles or even dugongs if you’re lucky from up here!
    • Ocean Park Aquarium – This eco-friendly aquarium is run by marine biologists that know their stuff, and want to help protect all marine environments. Guided tours run every day between 9:00am and 3:30pm, and there’s a cafe on site if you want to incorporate lunch.
  • There are some great bush campgrounds around here like Fowlers Camp and Whalebone Road Beach, as well as nice Seafront Apartments in Denham and the RAC Monkey Mia Resort in Monkey Mia. 
  • Francois Peron National Park – Famous for brilliant red cliffs and orange ochre sand, you need a 4WD to access the park, or you can jump on an excellent tour like Ocean Park’s 4WD tour. Look out for:
    • Amazing wildlife, such as dolphins, sting rays, and thorny devil lizards.
    • Point Peron, where you can wade for cockles in the shallows.
    • Skipjack Point to be amazed by the aquatic creatures.
    • Bottle Bay for snorkelling in clear water beneath red cliffs.
    • Peron Homestead, a historic site with a walking trail, interpretive centre and rustic ‘hot tub!’
  • Monkey Mia Dolphins – Start your morning strong by enjoying the dolphin experience at Monkey Mia, where you can hand feed families of wild dolphins! The earlier you go (7.45am is about when they start), the better your chance to see more dolphins.
  • Drive to Exmouth – It’s a pretty full day of driving today, taking around 7 hours to reach Exmouth. Make pit stops in Wooramel, well-stocked Carnarvon, and Quobba Blowholes.
  • Exmouth is an abundant resort town with a variety of accommodation and dining options. Mantarays Ningaloo Resort is the only luxury hotel here, complete with infinity pool. Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday resort has dorm rooms up to multi bedroom villas, as well as an outdoor pool and bbq. 
Day 7
  • Exmouth has a bunch of great things to do; it’s difficult to decide between:
    • Cape Range National Park – Some of the best snorkelling and swimming spots in the area are in this park, as well as some excellent hiking trails. Hit up Oyster Stacks and Turquoise Bay for snorkelling, and the Mandu Mandu Gorge 3km hike.
    • Surfing – If conditions are right, Exmouth can serve up some nice waves for beginners to learn on. Hire boards from the Exmouth Surf Centre.
    • Swim with Whale Sharks– Swimming alongside these huge gentle giants is something you’ll never forget! Definitely consider it if you’re around between April and August – it’s one of the only places you can in Australia.
    • Swim with Manta Rays – Another amazing creature you can swim with here are the majestic manta rays. Most tours depart from Coral Bay so it can be done as a day trip from Exmouth.
    • Charles Knife Canyon Gorge  – A winding road takes you along the bottom of the canyon to the top of the ranges, to a stunning lookout great for watching the sun rise or set. Nearby is Shothole Canyon, which has colourful rock layers and abundant wildlife (you’ll need a 4WD to reach this one). 
    • Craft Breweries – Exmouth has two awesome little breweries: Whalebone Brewing Co. and Froth Craft Brewery. They often also do food and live music – highly worth a visit to chill out after a big day of adventuring.


Author: Leo South, owner operator of Why Not Bus Tours since 2017