Your Guide to Travelling Australia: The West Coast

We hope that you have enjoyed our blog series ‘Your Guide to Travelling Australia’ so far! We’ve definitely enjoyed writing it and it’s helped us get through lockdown as we dream of sunny days and holidays.

Your Guide to Travelling Australia: The West Coast is the last in this series as we have already explored the East Coast, Southern States, Outback and Northern Territory. It has been quite the ride!

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve saved the best until last and, if you’ve been following our virtual road trip on our Instagram, then I’m sure you’ll agree with the saying that ‘West is best!’

The sprawling West Coast includes the entire coast from Darwin, in the North, to Esperance, in the South. This coast couldn’t be more diverse and every few hundred miles offers something bizarrely different to the last stop.

The very top of the West Coast, between Darwin and Broome offers some of Australia’s most unbelievable landscapes. Up here you’ll find the Kimberley, Kununurra, Karijini, Purnululu (the Bungle Bungles) and Broome. Some of these places need to be seen to be believed and it’s worth taking some time to explore these places and do some epic hiking.

As you travel south along the West Coast, your next encounter will be the stunning and rich shores of Exmouth, Coral Bay and the Ningaloo Reef. This area of the West Coast is an absolute MUST if you are at all into sea life and snorkelling/diving. Here you can snorkel with Whale Sharks and Humpback Whales (seasonal).

Continuing our journey south to Perth, pass through stunning Monkey Mia and its playful resident dolphins and the Pinnacle Desert where you’ll find thousands of baffling limestone formations.

Perth is one of the Worlds most isolated cities and it gives you the sense that it makes its own rules. The city is vast and vibrant and the vibe is so laid back that you may not ever want to leave! However, if you do fancy escaping for the day then Rottnest Island, with its adorable resident Quokkas is a great option!

The West Coast doesn’t stop there though! Further south again are the stunning regions of Margaret River and Esperance. The iconic white sands and turquoise waters are breathtaking and you’ll also find some spectacular rock formations and incredible lakes here. Also, don’t miss the world-famous wineries of Margaret River.

When is the best time to travel the West Coast?

With the West Coast covering so much of the Australian continent, it also offers a variety of seasons. As well as the four seasons of the south-west coast, the north-west coast (from Broome to Darwin) has a dry and a wet season.

The Top End wet season occurs between October and March (with the wettest months between January and March.) Temperatures and humidity are high during this time and thunderstorms and even cyclones are a possibility. Many roads become flooded and are closed during the wet season making transport through this region difficult.

The dry season (April to September) is generally warm and dry and a lovely time to visit. However, it can become pretty busy with tourists so, as always, we recommend the shoulder seasons (September and April) if you do have some flexibility.

If you plan to include the amazing Ningaloo Reef on your West Coast journey then it’s worth taking into account the whale shark and Humpback whale seasons. You can join a tour to swim with Whale Sharks between March and September and the Humpback Whale season falls between August and November.

A wonderful time to visit the Pinnacles is between August and September, when the days are mild and the wildflowers start to bloom in the Spring. Beautiful.

How long does it take to travel the West Coast?

The West Coast from Darwin, down as far as Perth, offers nearly 4000km of coastline. This is not a distance to take on lightly and will take some time if you plan on visiting all the amazing attractions and sights along the way.

A typical ‘West Coast’ tour, between Darwin and Perth, requires around 3 weeks and we think this is a pretty realistic length of time meaning about 200km of driving per day, on average. There are a few places where you may want to spend more than one night and we would recommend Broome, Karijini and Exmouth.

Upon arriving in Perth, you’ll probably be seeking some civilisation after a few weeks of beaches and camping so we recommend spending a few days in Perth. Get yourself somewhere nice to stay, have a hot shower and wash the sand out of your hair. Whilst in Perth, you’ll almost definitely want to pop across to Rottnest Island for at least a day, although we fully recommend overnight because some of the accommodation there is mind-blowingly beautiful.

On the road again and heading south, you’ll need around a week to really explore the Margaret River region, taking in Albany, Cape Le Grand National Park and the famous Wave Rock. Total time required to travel the West Coast? A month should do the trick and allow you to see all the best bits!

Travelling the West Coast by Car/Camper

Travelling the West Coast in its entirety can be quite a challenge. However, if you take into account the distances and drive times highlighted in the last section then there’s no reason why this can’t be a spectacular month of driving and exploring the magical destinations along the West Coast.

There are plenty of camping spots along the coast and we recommend downloading an app called Wikicamps which displays all the camping spots along your journey and tells you what facilities are in each as well!

The southern part of the West Coast is easy to navigate and has a generally temperate climate. However, as you head North, especially once you leave Exmouth heading North, the roads can get flooded and are closed during the wet season (October and March) making transport through this region difficult.

If you are travelling around the wet season then check the months and perhaps try and reverse your trip, heading south from Darwin in order to avoid the worst of the rain. You’ll be heading into Summer in the South too at this point, making the beaches all the more enjoyable!

The beaches in the South West of the country are absolutely incredible and can take your breath away. The best thing about travelling the West Coast by car or camper is the freedom it gives you to explore those ‘off the beaten track’ destinations and remote bays and coves that make the West Coast so unique.

Travelling the West Coast by Public Transport

The West Coast definitely has fewer public transport options than the East Coast. I think that this is, in part, due to the wet season of the North West Coast which does make it hard for vehicles to pass certain roads and for schedules to remain accurate.

Greyhound does operate a service between Broome and Darwin and a company called Integrity Coaches operate a service between Perth and Broome. So, it is definitely possible, but there isn’t the option of hopping on and off in as many destinations as you’d like.

The time that these journeys take is also a big commitment, with the Broome to Darwin Greyhound journey taking over 24 hours – yikes! If you’re just going from A to B then this is fine but you’d miss a lot of what makes the West Coast special and it would hardly be worth the journey.

If you’re going from A to B then you can also catch a flight. There are several airports along the West Coast: Perth, Broom, Learmonth (Exmouth), Margaret River and Darwin.

Again, you miss the spots in between these destinations however, there are some one-way tours out of Perth and it’s handy to know that you could choose to fly back if you were in too much of a rush to join the longer return tour.

Travelling the West Coast by Guided Tour

As mentioned earlier, there are some awesome tours that encompass the majority of the West Coast or, at least, the few thousand km between Perth and Darwin!

If you want to see the best of the west with a knowledgable guide then absolutely join a tour. The tours generally take around 3 weeks and are split into two tours; the 9 Day Perth to Broome Adventure and the 9 Day Broome to Darwin Adventure. This leaves you with a couple of days in Broome to explore which is great because Broome is epic.

The tours are generally camping tours due to the lack of accommodation along the West coast which is comparatively much less than you’d find along the East Coast.

Tours are pretty active and there’s a lot of hiking which means they generally come with an age recommendation of 16-50. However, children can be catered for upon request and, of course, we realise that all bodies are different and the 50 age limit is negotiable as long as you realise the active nature of these tours!

Your guide, transport, camping gear, all meals (except for Broome) and national park fees are all taken care of for you which means that all you have to do is sit back and relax! This has to be the best part of joining a tour; just simply knowing that everything is taken care of. You get to make the most of your adventure because the tough parts are handled by someone else.

It’s worth noting here that tours North of Exmouth don’t always operate during the wet season so make sure you check availability before you plan your trip over the West Coast.

The South West Coast is similarly catered for with a series of day tours and overnight/multi-night tours. You can pop to Margaret River for the day, for a long weekend or as part of a longer 6 day Esperance tour which takes you to the best locations in the South-West corner including Wave Rock, Albany and Cape Le Grand National Park.

Going to Australia?

We have more blog posts coming soon, answering the questions we hear the most! We’ll be exploring our ‘Top 5 Destinations in the West Coast’ next week.

You can also check out our Instagram page where we recently undertook a virtual road trip around Australia!

@themindfultravelco

Questions?

We’d love to hear from you! Pop your question or comment in the box below and we’ll tackle it in one of our future ‘Your Guide to Travelling Australia’ posts!

You can also contact us via one of our many forms of communication and we’ll get back to you with a personal response.

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