Despite living in Western Australia for my entire life, Australia’s Coral Coast is somewhere I had never travelled to. As a West Australian, I think sometimes we tend to overlook the beauty in our backyard in favour of an international holiday destination – something I am definitely guilty of! With everything going on in the world at the moment, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to explore Australia’s Coral Coast and wander out yonder! As you’ll see, it turned out to be a great decision, and one that I wish I’d made sooner.
Australia’s Coral Coast spans 1100km along the WA coastline, from Cervantes all the way up to the World Heritage Area of the Ningaloo Reef. The Coral Coast is home to an array of landscapes, breathtaking beaches and bays (yes, the water really is as clear and blue as pictures show it to be), canyons and gorges, and a multitude of wildlife and marine life.
I’ve created a guide to a road trip along Australia’s Coral Coast, from Perth to Exmouth with some stops in between including the Pinnacles, Geraldton, Hutt Lagoon (also known as the Pink Lake), Kalbarri & Carnarvon.
Day 1 – Perth to Carnarvon (approx. 9 hours drive)
- Depart Perth as early as possible ahead of your 9 hour drive to Carnarvon. I suggest stopping in Geraldton to grab some lunch – Flowvitality is a nice little café with vegan options.
- Continue on towards Carnarvon, stopping whenever needed. There is a roadhouse called Billabong Roadhouse that is a good stop to fuel up if you need it, use the toilet and grab a snack.
- Arrive in Carnarvon, home of the Big Banana. It’ll be late afternoon when you arrive, so a walk along The Fascine watching the sunset can be a nice way to end the day and stretch the legs.
- Carnarvon is a relatively small town so I bought my own food to heat up for dinner as I knew I’d be tired and not feeling like eating out. There is a Thai place in town called A Taste of Thai by Fon that I have eaten at before that I know has vegan options.
Day 2 – Carnarvon to Exmouth (approx. 4 hour drive)
- Wake up bright and early to give yourself enough time to have a quick look around Carnarvon ahead of the second leg of the journey north towards Exmouth.
- I HIGHLY recommend a stop at the Carnarvon Cactus Farm on South River Road to admire the huge cacti situated on the side of the road on a plantation. It is a great opportunity to take some photos, or just admire the impressive cacti collection.
- Take a drive along the Fruit Loop Drive Trail to check out the banana plantations and avocado trees. If you’d like to buy some fresh fruit supplies, there are many businesses on the Fruit Loop Drive Trail that sell fresh produce. After all, Carnarvon is known as the ‘food bowl’ of Western Australia.
- After ensuring you’ve got enough petrol for the journey, it’s time to hit the road towards Exmouth! On the journey you’ll pass the Tropic of Capricorn road signs heading both north and south. You know you’re heading in the right direction AND getting close when you get to these signs.
- After about 4 hours you’ll arrive in Exmouth! You’ll probably be hungry at this point, so I highly recommend a stop at my favourite spot to eat in Exmouth, The Social Society. You can read my complete guide to Exmouth here.
- Now it’s time to check in to your accommodation of choice. There is a huge range of accommodation to suit all budgets. I opted to stay at the Ningaloo Lighthouse Holiday Park.
- Unless you’re staying in the Cape Range National Park, it’s probably best to leave entering the Park for a full day so instead I suggest heading to Vlaming Head Lighthouse to watch the sunset.
Day 3 – Exmouth
- If you’ve ever wanted to swim with whale sharks then Exmouth is most definitely the place to do it – HELLO BUCKET LIST! It is normally a full day tour so I would allocate a whole day for this activity. You can read about my experience here.
Day 4 – Exmouth
- If you enjoy kayaking, it’s time to hire kayaks to take out to the Cape Range National Park. Note: you do NOT need a 4WD or roof racks to hire a kayak, many local hire companies hire out soft roof racks.
- Grab a smoothie to go from The Social Society and you’re ready to head out to the National Park!
- Drive out towards Yardie Creek and kayak through the gorge – it is spectacular!
- Head towards Sandy Bay (still within the Cape Range National Park) for a snorkel, swim and lunch. I suggest taking a packed lunch and water with you as there is no where at the bay to buy food or water.
- If your experience is anything like mine, I really enjoyed Sandy Bay and spent far longer than I had allocated. If you find yourself with time, head to Turquoise Bay for sunset – it’s pretty special!
Day 5 – Exmouth
- Have breakfast at The Social Society – it can get verrrrry busy so ensure you’re prepared for a bit of a wait if you decide to head in a little later in the morning.
- Head out of town towards Learmonth for approximately 30kms until you arrive at Charles Knife Canyon. If hiking is your thing, you can hike through the gorge or alternatively, you can drive to the lookout point which is just as good. Note: you do NOT need a 4WD to access this gorge (although you will need to take it easy in a 2WD).
- After you’ve seen the canyon, it’s time to head towards the coast to snorkel at Turquoise Bay. This is the bay where you can do the famous drift snorkel along the bay.
- If you’ve got time, head back to Vlaming Head Lighthouse to watch the sunset.
Day 6 – Exmouth to Kalbarri (approx. 8 hours drive)
- If you’re an early bird and staying close(ish) to the Vlaming Head Lighthouse, I highly recommend heading up there to watch the sunrise before you hit the road – it’s worth the early wake up!
- Today is quite a long drive, so if you leave early enough, a stop off for a quick snorkel in Coral Bay is a great option. Bills Bay is on the main road in town and is the perfect spot for a snorkel and swim.
- Once you’re all sorted after your snorkel and swim, stop off at Bills Bar for a quick bite to eat. I had the vegan nachos and they were a very generous portion that filled me up ahead of the long drive.
- Having explored Exmouth and Coral Bay, it’s time to head back down south towards the next stop on Australia’s Coral Coast, Kalbarri!
Day 7 – Kalbarri to Geraldton (approx. 2 hours drive)
- If you’re feeling up to it after a big day of driving, wake up early and head out to watch the sunrise at Natures Window in the Kalbarri National Park – it is well worth it but be sure to rug up as it can get cold, especially with a breeze.
- While you’re there, also visit the Kalbarri Skywalk which is located just a short distance from Natures Window. It opened on June 12, 2020 so is very new.
- Head back in towards town and stop at the Gorges Cafe for breakfast. Their smashed avocado is vegan and they can also make all of their smoothies vegan – the green smoothie is yum!
- Take a walk/drive around town and stop off anywhere that might interest you. If you have time, consider hiring a boat from Kalbarri Boat Hire on the waterfront for a cruise along the river. Hire times start at 1 hour. Note: you do not need a skippers ticket.
- As you head south out of town, stop of at Blue Holes for a walk along the beach and if the conditions are favourable, a snorkel too.
- Continue the drive south along the coast and check out the coastline and stunning cliffs, stopping anywhere that takes your fancy. Red Bluff is a great spot.
- As you make your way from Kalbarri to Geraldton, head south towards Hutt Lagoon in Port Gregory to check out the famous pink lake. Depending on the day, weather and wind, the shades of pink vary and it is a very cool sight to see. If you decide to swim or get photos in the water, it is VERY salty – you’ve been warned! 🙂
- After checking out the pink lake, it’s time to continue south to Geraldton.
- Depending on where you choose to stay in Geraldton, Sunset Beach is a really beautiful spot to enjoy the last sunset of your road trip.
- Vegan food can be quite hard to come by in Geraldton, however Mad Mexican is a good option for dinner. They do both dine-in and take away.
Day 8 – Geraldton to Perth (approx. 4.5 hours drive)
- As you prepare to head back to Perth, stop off at Fleur Café Geraldton for breakfast. They have a few vegan options as well as delicious coffee, juices and smoothies.
- Once you’re fed and caffeinated, it’s time to hit the road for the last leg of the journey back to Perth.
- If you’ve not been before, stop off at the Pinnacles in the Nambung National Park to see the thousands of naturally occurring limestone rocks rising up out of the ground. It’s a very unique landscape and definitely worth the stop off. It also breaks up the drive nicely.
- Having seen the Pinnacles, it’s time to head home and back to reality.
And with that, is your 7 day road trip guide to exploring Australia’s Coral Coast. It is truly an incredible part of the world and I really hope that you get the opportunity to experience it for yourself!