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WA Coastline - Perth To Broome

Words and pics Colin Kerr

The WA coastline is a magical place. Full of beautiful landscapes and interesting towns, it is the perfect location for relaxation and adventure.

For Western Australians and Eastern travellers, there is no greater experience to be had than visiting some of the beautiful places dotted along the extensive WA coastline.

On the beach at Wedge Island off Indian Ocean Drive - near the Pinnacles (2)(Image: On the beach at Wedge Island off Indian Ocean Drive - near the Pinnacles.)

The newly opened Indian Ocean Drive from Lancelin is the first of many great experiences to be had. This sealed coastal drive is a much more scenic option than simply heading north on the inland Brand Highway towards Geraldton.

The Pinnacles - Nambung National Park(Image: The Pinnacles - Nambung National Park.)

With splendid coastal views, there are numerous stops along the way, such as Wedge Island and Grey, but the first main spot to check out is the famous Pinnacles in Nambung National Park. The tall limestone spires and shapes seemingly frozen in time are a wonderful sight. Allow around two hours to look through the Visitor Centre and follow the driving trail through these fascinating formations. 

You can drive through Nambung National Park to see the formations (2)(Image: You can drive through Nambung National Park to see the formations.)

The coastal run from here takes in delightful fishing villages including Cervantes (explore the ancient stromatolites), Jurien Bay (sea lion boat tours), Green Head and Leeman. 

Further on, the twin towns of Dongara and Port Denison have plenty to interest, including historic buildings along an enjoyable heritage trail and a great local bakery. Down by the water is a picturesque boat and fishing harbour, swimming beach, children’s playground and a caravan park right on the beachfront. 

HMAS Sydney Memorial, Geraldton (Image: HMAS Sydney Memorial, Geraldton.)

The city of Geraldton just up the road is a rapidly growing commercial hub. With an active port servicing the mining and grain industries, a large commercial fishing fleet including a cray fishing operation, a new boating harbour/marina and plenty of services and facilities, Geraldton is a good spot to stop and replenish supplies before heading further north. While here, don’t miss the Museum of Geraldton and the splendid HMAS Sydney Memorial to the 645 sailors who lost their lives during WWII.

The next main port of call heading north is the coastal town of Kalbarri. It is best to turn off Highway 1 at Northampton and swing towards the coast to take in the fishing village of Port Gregory, marvel at the fascinating pink salt lake and have a look around the convict ruins at Lynton before going to Kalbarri.

Another approach to the town, from the south, takes a look at the dramatic coastal gorges, including Eagle Rock, Natural Bridge, Pot Ally Gorge and Mushroom Rock — all quite spectacular and best seen in the afternoon light.

In Kalbarri itself, Rainbow Jungle (an award-winning parrot breeding centre) is well worth a visit. You can also paddle up the Murchison River, go horse riding, take a scenic flight at sunset to see the coastal cliffs, fishing charters and, not to be missed, have a seafood meal at Finlay’s (a rustic local restaurant).

On the boardwalk at the stromatolites - Hemelin Pool - Shark Bay(Image: On the boardwalk at the stromatolites - Hemelin Pool - Shark Bay.)

In the National Park just out of town, walk and drive trails lead to the spectacular gorge country of the Murchison River. Don’t miss places like Nature’s Window, Z Bend and Hawks Head, and if you’re here in spring, the wildflowers in the area are quite amazing.

Further northwards, Overlander Roadhouse marks the entry to the region of Shark Bay. With the coastal town of Denham as a base, this World Heritage listed area includes diverse attractions such as the Monkey Mia dolphins, dugongs, turtles and other aquatic life; ancient stromatolites; a pearl farm; local star-gazing tours; Shell Beach; the beautiful Francois Peron National Park, with its red sand dune cliffs meeting the sea; and the lovely artesian water ‘hot tub’ at Peron Homestead.

Back on the North West Coastal highway, it’s another 200km north to Carnarvon, the main service centre for the Gascoyne Region. The area here is a large fruit and vegetable growing region with water supplied by the mighty Gascoyne River. An awesome sight when it is in flood, in dry periods it continues to flow underneath the riverbed. 

The Coffee Pot train on the Carnarvon Jetty.JPG(Image: The Coffee Pot train on the Carnarvon Jetty.)

While in Carnarvon, check out the Heritage precinct, including the famous One Mile Jetty (1897) where you can take a ride in the quaint ‘Coffee Pot’ train to the end of this famous icon. 

Around 20km out of Carnarvon, a turn-off leads to The Blowholes and Point Quobba. Here you can check out the spectacular blowholes, the tall coastal cliffs, try some balloon fishing, get a view of the huge Cape Cuvier salt export facility and, a little further north, see the beautiful waves that roll in at Red Bluff — a mecca for keen surfers from around the country. There are shire campsites and station stay accommodation along this coastline.

One Mile Jetty - Carnarvon (1).JPG(Image: One Mile Jetty - Carnarvon.)

Further north lies the beautiful Ningaloo Reef which stretches some 260km along the coastline, with coral in many places seen just a few metres off the beach. There are wonderful diving and snorkelling areas, glass bottom boat tours, plenty of good fishing and within Cape Range National Park, there are beachfront campsites, spectacular gorge country, a turtle centre, bushwalking options and a delightful cruise (run by National Parks) up Yardie Creek. Both Coral Bay and Exmouth are popular centres for travellers to stop off.

Between March and June here, there is the opportunity to swim with the huge whale sharks that inhabit these waters at that time of the year, or swim with giant manta rays year-round.

Continuing northwards, the Pilbara region is next, with plenty of colourful rocky outcrops, spinifex-covered hillsides, creek beds and large river systems, including Fortescue and Robe Rivers. In late winter, colourful Sturt Desert Peas and Mulla Mullas can be seen along the way.

The tour boat in Yardie Creek - Cape Range National Park, near Exmouth(Image: The tour boat in Yardie Creek - Cape Range National Park, near Exmouth.)

The modern town of Karratha has a wide variety of services and accommodation options available. Nearby Dampier has an attractive palm-lined coastal foreshore and tours are available to look over the huge Dampier Salt operation, iron ore port facilities and, on the nearby Burrup Peninsula, Woodside natural gas operation has a Visitor Centre with tours available. 

While you’re here, don’t miss the beach at Hearson’s Cove. A popular swimming spot, it’s a good place to watch ‘staircase to the moon’ when a low tide coincides with the rising full moon. The Burrup is also the site of many ancient Aboriginal rock art engravings (petroglyphs).

Rock art site in Deep Gorge - Burrup Peninsula - Dampier (2)(Image: Rock art site in Deep Gorge - Burrup Peninsula - Dampier.)

Further up the highway in Roebourne; look for the Aboriginal murals on town buildings, pavements, poles and rubbish bins. This is an historic centre with plenty of old buildings, and the old prison is now the rustic and charming home of the town’s tourist centre. A visit to the nearby old pearling town of Cossack (the north-west’s first port) and Point Samson (try the fish and chips from Moby’s Kitchen) is also recommended.

Whim Creek, once a thriving copper and gold mining township, has a beaut old pink pub — a real icon of the Pilbara. Don’t miss having a look around the bird aviary as you enjoy a drink in the beer garden.

The busy mining town of Port Hedland also offers interesting tours of their operations, another opportunity to see a ‘staircase to the moon’ at Cooke Point, plenty of services and several shopping centres — your last place to top up on supplies before heading onto Broome 613km away — and there is a new free rest area close to the town centre.

Red pindan sand cliffs at Barn Hill - near Broome(Image: Red pindan sand cliffs at Barn Hill - near Broome.)

Further on, Port Smith and Barn Hill are both popular spots. Access to Barn Hill, a station stay experience, is by a sandy track but suitable to all vehicles and is one of our favourite places. 

From here, Broome, ‘the port of pearls’, is just 130km away and as you drive into this appealing multicultural town, it is like entering another world. The beautiful blue waters of Roebuck Bay, camel rides on Cable Beach, the tropical laid-back feel of the place and the many tourist attractions available here will keep most visitors busy for days, weeks or even months before either heading back south or further into WA’s scenic Kimberley region.

 Camel ride - Cable Beach, Broome (1)
(Image: Camel ride - Cable Beach, Broome.)

THE INLAND ROUTE

Another option from Perth is to take the inland route to enjoy some quite different experiences. Stops along the way can include: 

  • New Norcia, where you can tour a monastery founded in 1846 and still run by the Benedictine Monks;
  • Dalwallinu and Wubin, where you pass through an extensive grain producing region; 
  • Paynes Find and Yalgoo, which mark the beginning of the Murchison Goldfields region; 
  • Mount Magnet, where there is an area known as ‘The Granites’ and ‘Amphitheatre’; 
  • Cue and Meekatharra with historic ruins, old time architecture, Walga Rock with its old Aboriginal paintings, the ghost town of Big Bell, as well as huge modern open cut mines operating 24 hours a day;
  • Newman, with an open cut mine tour available, a 4WD gorge, waterhole and Aboriginal rock art trail;
  • Munjina East Gorge, one of the most scenic sections along this entire route;
  • and Indee Station, which provides a great station stay experience, with beautiful sites around the property, including some ancient Aboriginal rock engravings.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

  • Travel distance from Perth to Broome is approximately 2,200 km – all fully sealed roads, suitable for all vehicles.
  • Best time to travel – May to September. Usually hot and humid in summer wet season.
  • Fuel prices at most northwest centres and roadhouses are 20c to 30c dearer than city prices
  • Staircase to the moon dates and times are available at local visitor centres
  • As you pass through townships along the way contact local visitor centres for details of nearby attractions
  • More information — australianorthwest.com, pilbara.com and australiascoralcoast.com

2 comments

  • Jill Harrison: November 22, 2021

    It is a pity that the stromatolite boardwalk at Hamelin Pool is currently closed due to cyclone damage, and the Carnarvon jetty is closed due to disrepair, so therefor the little train is not running.

  • Michael Lennon: November 22, 2021

    My wife and I were in the Pilbara WA in August, September and October this year. Unfortunately the jetties at Shark Bay and Carnarvon had both been extensively damaged by a cyclone and as a result were closed. The viewing of the stromatolites was not possible. The Coffee Pot train is obviously not operating. Walking on and fishing from the Carnarvon jetty isn’t possible. We still had many other things to see and do while we were there.. We will definitely return in the future.

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