Uncover the magic of Western Australia in a classic Aussie road trip of a lifetime
This post introduces all the important facts you need to know for organising a Western Australia (WA) road trip. We’ll be sharing with you in future posts about each of Western Australia’s amazing regions in much more detail.
- Why visit Western Australia with kids
- When is it best to visit Western Australia
- How to get around Western Australia (psst did we mention, it’s BIG!)
- Where to visit in Western Australia
This post is part of our Discover Australia & Oceania destinations series.
Why Visit Western Australia?
I am going to put it out there: because it Is the best place to be in the World!!!
OK, I grew up in WA. I am extremely biased as this was MY state, my little corner of the world. It’s here all my formative ideas about travel, the outdoors and hitting the road grew.
Western Australia – referred to locally as simply WA – is often forgotten or simply left off peoples’ Australian itineraries as they are intimidated by the size, the ground to cover and the distances to get there. However, I genuinely believe you won’t find anywhere else in the world where one state or territory has so much to offer, from wildlife to spectacular scenery – it’s the outdoor lover’s paradise.
Making up nearly a third of Australia’s land mass at 2.6 million square kilometres, it’s vast!! Perth might be one of the most isolated cities in the world but one of the most beautiful and family-friendly.
If you can’t fit WA into an Eastern states trip, it is well worth making it into an outright adventure on its own. You really need to allow yourself a minimum 3 to 4 weeks to “see and do it properly”!
Perth International Airport is very well connected to Asian hub cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong in under 8 hours; The Middle East ‘Big 3’ have direct flights of approximately 11 hours and from March 2018 – direct flights from London in 20 hours!!!
When is it best to visit Western Australia
The great thing about WA, due to all the different microclimates across the state, it is really a year-round destination.
Perth is a milder capital than many of its eastern state counterparts, but make no mistake, winters can be cold and wet! You still experience 4 distinct seasons, but the summers are long and the winters relatively mild. On the hot summer days, temperatures are normally in the late 30’s to 40c+; this can be tempered, though, with the “Fremantle Doctor” – an evening breeze off the Indian Ocean that tends to cool things down at the end of the day.
If you are travelling south to Margaret River and Great Southern, you can normally take 5 degrees off the Perth temperatures – though winds and rains vary immensely across the state. Make sure you tune into local news channels for any extremes in weather, particularly if hitting the water or travelling during bushfire season.
The further you head “Up North”, you move through the subtropics to the tropical north – beyond the Tropic of Capricorn! Here you are faced with only two seasons, wet and dry! The wet season runs broadly from November to March and brings with it hot, humid and unpredictable weather – frequently flooding. The dry season is April to October, where days are mild and nothing but blue skies!
It is best to travel outside of state school holidays if possible, only because every other family has the same idea as you and caravan parks and tourists resorts – ideal accommodation for road trippers – can book up well in advance.
Here’s where you’ll find the WA state school dates for the coming year.
The benefit of travelling during these peak holiday times, though, can be a load more kid-friendly events happening both at your accommodation and in the small towns you might be visiting.
Note you also find a lot of “grey nomads” in Western Australia, retirees who chase the sun! They will head up north during the dry season and return down south for the summer; they make up the majority of holiday park residents during the non-school holiday periods.
How to get around Western Australia
Now let’s reiterate the size of WA – it is 2.6 million square kilometres – bigger than 95% of countries in the world! But with a population of just 2.6 million (conveniently a square kilometre each!), most of whom live in Perth and the southwest, you can see there’s a whole lot of outback there.
If you are time-strapped, you can fly from Perth to one of the regional cities in the north, such as Broome or Port Hedland, though make no mistake, you will truly miss some gems if you do this!
You will definitely need to hire a car at some point to make the most of your journey. We suggest you try Discover Cars or Skyscanner Car Rentals (yes, they do cars and flights) to compare prices for the best rentals (school holidays you can expect car prices to go up and vehicles of your choice to become scarce, especially if hiring from more remote locations).
When travelling with a full carload of kids and luggage, your best bet is to travel towing a camper trailer. You can pick up really great value second-hand trailers from Gumtree for an absolute steal (and resell them at the end of your adventure!). By taking a trailer, you can save bucket loads on bringing your own accommodation and cooking gear with you, but unlike “all-in-one camper vans”, you can leave your trailer set up on-site while you go off exploring during the day.
Another lightweight alternative to consider is a car roof top tent. This is ideal if you’re only a small family and don’t have a tow ball on your vehicle.
Where to Visit in Western Australia
Western Australia is broadly defined by six regions (depending on who you ask!). Here we’ve got the highlights of what you can expect in each and some useful further reading.
Undoubtedly for many of you, the adventure is likely to start or end in the capital city of Perth unless you’re visiting as part of an around Australia trip.
The capital is beautifully set around the Swan River and renowned for its parklands and extensive miles of beaches. It has a much more relaxed vibe than its eastern cousins, such as Melbourne and Sydney but a very modern feel. There’s a real outdoors and sporting lifestyle which visitors should definitely take advantage of.
There are loads of day trips possible from Perth too such as heading to the hills and Mundaring Weir; take a ferry out to Rottnest Island; a boat to Fremantle or up to the Swan Valley; explore the many beachside suburbs or get to know the heart of the city better – Kings Park has a multitude of kids parks, walks and learning centres.
- See our top Perth activities with kids
- See our top Fremantle activities with kids
- Best Day trip & weekender ideas from Perth
- Day trip to Rottnest Island
Margaret River Region
The home of fresh produce, unrivalled greenery and spectacular beaches. Stretching from Busselton in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, its an incredibly popular weekender and school holiday destinations for families from Perth looking to escape the heat or get in touch with nature.
Its cool climate makes it one of the best wine growing regions in the world with over 150 wineries, most of which are open daily to visitors. There is also an increasing number of family-friendly breweries popping up along with petting farms through to mazes, and an extensive underground limestone cave network – no wonder it’s such a popular destination!
Not to be forgotten too are the many wildlife experiences. Hamelin Bay is famous for its friendly rays that come into shore and during late May to August its whale watching season in Flinders Bay. Margaret River Region is also home to some of the best surf beaches in the world! The list could seriously go on and on!!!
The town of Margaret River is 3.5 hours drive south of Perth – avoid driving with the weekend crowd on a Friday afternoon though!
- How to Road Trip South West WA in 9 days
- See our review of Big 4 Beachlands in Busselton
- More Australian wildlife encounters
- Trees Adventure in Dwellingup
Albany and the South West
Spectacular beaches and stunning coastline; magnificent forests and marvellous fresh produce. This is our ‘home base ‘when we escape the desert every summer so holds dear memories for us. Just as lush as neighbouring Margaret River but too often overlooked. The port city of Albany, set on the spectacular Kind George Sound is always bustling with activity and a superb place to base yourself exploring the region.
The beauty of this rugged coastline is its many hidden beaches and stunning state and national parks. A drive through the tall timber around Walpole is a must with many small towns with rich histories to explore and try the local produce.
- Top 5 family beaches around Albany
- Top 5 five family-friendly wineries in Great Southern
- Fun family things to do in Albany WA
- Family-friendly guide to exploring Walpole & the Southern Forests
- Glamping in the Southern Forests
Esperance and the Golden Outback
In terms of tourism probably the least visited part of Western Australia but it holds such a rich and important part of Australia’s history.
Visit Kalgoorlie, approximately 7 hours west of Perth, for a taste of mining life and a tour through the state’s history; be wowed by the world’s largest open-cut mine, the “Super Pit”. An essential stop for many on the way to or from Kalgoorlie is Wave Rock near the town of Hyden, a natural sensation towering 15m high and 110m long – a photographer’s dream and a great kiddy playground!
To get a true taste of the region, take on the Golden Quest Discovery Trail which takes you from Laverton north of Perth over 900kms to Coolgardie, stopping at many dams, lakes, historic towns – including a ghost town, Gwalia – and Lake Ballard with its famous metal statues in the water, its claims to fame being the largest outdoor art gallery on earth! It can be tackled in a 2wd with many sealed roads but a 4wd is recommended in case of adverse weather.
One of the most remote towns in WA is Esperance – a good 8-hour drive from Perth. Bremer Bay is famous for being home to killer whales that can easily be spotted during late January to late March, as many sharks, giant squid and whales.
Exmouth and the Coral Coast
Stretching from north of Perth to the town of Exmouth, this drive takes you through many spectacular changes in scenery from the lushness of greater Perth, particularly around wildflower season in the Spring, through to the amazing desert scape of the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park.
Next are the coastal towns of Geraldton, Kalbarri and Denham, before heading into the North West Cape and beautiful Ningaloo Reef before arriving at the stunning waters of Exmouth.
At the southern end, Cervantes is 2 hours north of Perth. The town of Exmouth is 15 hours from Perth – there are interesting stops along the way, but this route does involve a lot of long driving stints.
The remote, rugged and beautiful Kimberley! Wow! Every Aussie child, I feel, needs to spend some time in the Kimberley to appreciate the true Australian outback and vastness of the country. The Gibb River Road from Derby to Kununurra is no longer the dangerous pass it used to be in my childhood!
The largest tourist town of Broome is located on the coast, but you will get the most by touring around the region and basing yourself in the different country towns for a few nights each.
Attractions in the region include Winjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek in the King Leopold Ranges; The Buccaneer Archipelago and the astounding “vertical falls”; man-made lake Argyle; El Questro Wilderness Park (a former cattle station come luxury outback experience), the Bungle Bungle Ranges and the Mitchell Falls to name but a few.
Other important facts to know visiting Western Australia
- British English is the main language, and distance is measured in kilometres.
- The currency is the Australian Dollar (AUD) – ATMs are very widely available, and credit/debit cards are accepted almost everywhere – yes, even in the remote outback!
- You may not get mobile coverage in all areas of the outback depending on which service provider you use – do check this before deciding on a mobile plan
- If taking on dirt roads and 4WD for the first time, take precautions and learn your vehicle before setting off. We talk about desert camping in the UAE in this article, much of the advice doubles for use in the Australian outback.
Want more from Australia?
Stay tuned for more to come from Western Australia and other exciting stops in outback Australia, beyond the big cities. As the song goes “I still call Australia home” and we get great pleasure out of taking our children back to explore the motherland every year. We hope you will fall in love with it as much as we have.
About the author
Keri is a Western Australian at heart, spending much of her childhood exploring the West in the back of a Ford Falcon. Covering the state from top to bottom, this is an experience she now shares with her children and hopes to inspire other Aussies & visitors to get out and see more of the often-forgotten West.
Disclosures: This article contains affiliate links. If you click on these links, it may earn a commission for this blog. Our full disclosure policy can be found here.
© Our Globetrotters