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Going the distance: driving in Western Australia

Where do you start when trying to summarise the experience of driving around Western Australia?

This state is so vast, so extraordinary, and so famous for its road trips … you would need days to describe its many highlights. Here, we’ve picked out some of our favourite driving routes and destinations in Western Australia. Bear in mind that you can’t do it all unless you’ve got a month or more—the distances between destinations can be mind-boggling!

Gentler drives in WA’s south

Let’s start with the easier driving routes! These are drives that don’t require as much planning, as you only need a car and some accommodation along the way.

The first one to kick off your list is a trip to Margaret River. It’s famous for wine and surfing, and you can easily spend a week traipsing around the many wineries, chocolate factories, boutique breweries and beaches.

The next is a trip down the Albany Highway to Albany, WA’s oldest town. The route itself is easy (albeit long, at about 450km), passing through beautiful farmland that sustains the south-west of the state. There is plenty to see and do in and around Albany, but you’ll also want to drive west to Denmark, and on to Walpole. In the Great Southern, you’ll discover the most pristine beaches and incredible forests in Australia. When you’ve tired of nature’s wonderland, there are plenty of wineries, markets and fresh producers to enjoy, too.

If you’ve got a little more time up your sleeve, you may want to head east of Albany to Esperance. It’s a surprisingly large town, with some great attractions and turquoise waters just a short drive away.

Getting serious with outback drives

For the more adventurous, WA is epic for outback driving. So pack up your 4WD, roll up your swag and set off on a trip to the Kimberley. Up here, be prepared for blisteringly hot days and endless expanses of red dirt; be rewarded with stunning gorges, thriving coastal towns, ancient landscapes and much more.

Some of the highlights of a driving adventure in Australia’s north-west include Lake Argyle, the Gibb River Road, Karijini National Park, the Horizontal Waterfalls, El Questro Wilderness Park, Broome, Cape Range National Park, Coral Bay … the list is endless.

If you don’t have time to get quite as far north as the Kimberley (Broome, a popular starting point for north-west adventures, is 2,350km from Perth), then you could time your driving trip north to coincide with wildflower season, typically from July to October. Kalbarri is a great place to base yourself if you love wildflowers—and it’s a mere 570km from Perth!

Checklist for driving in WA

There’s no doubt about it. WA is vast. And you need to be prepared if you’re planning to tackle some of its bigger distances. Here are some tips for driving holidays in WA:

  • Plenty of planning. Because of the huge distances involved, it’s important to plan your trip carefully. Work out how far you can reasonably travel in a day, and make sure there’s a rest stop or roadhouse you can stop at overnight.
  • Driver reviver. Stop every two hours to give the driver a break.
  • Carry a current road map.
  • Check your car before setting off. Make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip ahead—check tyres, water, oil and fuel. If you can, get your car serviced before you go.
  • Carry all the right gear. Spare tyres. Extra water. Camping equipment. A compressor. Conditions can be very harsh on some of the remote roads up north. If you’re not sure what you need, ask an expert.
  • Carry a satellite phone or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) if you’re travelling north. You’ll find that your mobile phone won’t work between towns or in many of the national parks—and you’ll want emergency back-up just in case.
  • Check the road conditions. If you’re heading into the outback or you’re travelling soon after heavy rains or bushfires, roads can be closed. Ask ahead—local townsfolk are generally happy to help.    
  • Make sure your insurance is up-to-date. Before you set off on a WA road trip, check your insurance policy. If you’re towing a caravan, you’ll want to make sure it’s insured too.

Heading off on a WA road trip is one of the best things you’ll ever do. Start planning and set off soon on your big adventure!