Trekking north and south
It’s a vast State and there’s just so much to see. These itineraries break things up into manageable bites.
THE ROAD TO BROOME
Most West Aussies will plan to take three driving days to cover about 2400km to Broome.
Day 1. This is the 900km from the metro area to Carnarvon. Stay the night.
Day 2. This is 870km from Carnarvon to Port Hedland.
Day 3. This is an easy day of 600km to Broome or carry on 220km to Derby, to regroup for the Gibb River Road.
For drivers sticking to the bitumen of Highway 1, driving from Broome to Kununurra is 1040km.
PILBARA, UP THE INLAND
Travellers are often drawn to Mount Magnet. Many find the the inland attractive, and it’s a good first day’s drive from Perth.
So if you’re heading north on Great Northern Highway, you’ll quickly be free of the Wheatbelt after Wubin, breaking out of the eucalypts and into mulga.
From there, it’s Paynes Find, Mount Magnet, Cue and Meekatharra.
Second night is in Newman, after another straightforward drive.
This combines the coast and inland to reach Broome. Named for the warlu, or sea serpent of Aboriginal belief, the Warlu Way links five Ningaloo Reef, Karijini National Park, Burrup Peninsula, Broome and Millstream Chichester National Park. This 2480km route is from Exmouth to Paraburdoo, Tom Price, Karijini National Park, Millstream Chichester National Park, Port Hedland, the Burrup Peninsula, Eighty Mile Beach and Broome.
It follows a songline linking coast to country.
This is the Kimberley, complete with all the adventure of an ancient land.
In the 1980s, it felt like a big, self-sufficient undertaking. Things are different now. Even in the Kimberley you can stay in accommodation every night — most of it very good.
But, of course, take water, first aid kit, two spare wheels and tyre plugs. Start on the bitumen from Broome along Great Northern Highway, over the Fitzroy River at Willare Bridge and then turn east to Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, and Warmun. If you’re in a four-wheel-drive, duck down the track to Purnululu National Park.
Back on the main road, continue on Great Northern and then turn onto Victoria Highway to Kununurra. That’s the bottom half of the loop complete.
After leaving Kununurra, visit Wyndham, then set off to do the top half of the loop, along the Gibb River Road.
Running east-west across the Kimberley, the Gibb River Road covers 703km between Derby and Kununurra.
When it was opened as a beef road in the early 1960s, it was only really used by Kimberley pastoralists and Aboriginal communities.
Less than 30 years ago, driving the length of it over a couple of weeks, you would have counted passing vehicles on both hands.
The east end of the road, under the gaze of the Cockburn Range, is sealed as far as El Questro Wilderness Park — stay there or at Emma Gorge Resort or cross over the Pentecost River to Home Valley Station.
Then, it’s on to Ellenbrae Station, Mt Elizabeth Station, halfway along the Gibb River Road, past Imintji, with nearby Bell Gorge and Mt Hart Wilderness Lodge and Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary.
There’s a detour off the Gibb River Road to visit Windjana Gorge but you’ll still finish up in Derby. Driving the bitumen back to Broome completes the lap.
THE ROAD TO ESPERANCE
Cut across south-east, diagonally through the Wheatbelt, perhaps Lake Grace and Lake King, to Esperance, with beaches so white you need sunnies, so clean they squeak under your feet and so empty you might feel lonely.
The water is spectacular for its sparkling turquoise colour.
Out there are almost 100 islands in the Recherche Archipelago. Cape Le Grand National Park has panoramic views of the ocean from Frenchman’s Peak.
THE BIG SOUTHERN DRIVE
This big road trip
links Perth to Esperance in a big loop through Bunbury, Margaret River region, Nannup, Pemberton, Manjimup, Walpole, Denmark, Albany, Hopetoun, Esperance, Wave Rock at Hyden, (or Kalgoorlie) and back to Perth.
On good roads, it’s suitable for all vehicles, including caravans.
Allow two weeks, or follow this 11-day suggestion:
Day 1. Perth to Bunbury. Perhaps through Harvey and Dardanup, and Gnomesville in the Ferguson Valley. In Bunbury, visit the Dolphin Discovery Centre.
Days 2 and 3. Margaret River region. Through Busselton, visiting its jetty, to Dunsborough, Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, Bunker Bay and Yallingup.
Head on down Caves Road to Augusta and Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.
Day 4. Margaret River to Pemberton. Drive through the old timber town of Nannup, to Pemberton. Visit Understory, the “art in nature” walk trail in the forest at Northcliffe.
Day 5. Pemberton to Denmark. Drive to Walpole, and visit the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, 40m above the ground.
Perhaps stop at Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks in William Bay National Park on the way to Denmark.
Day 6. Denmark to Albany. Take the scenic Lower Denmark Road through Torbay and Cosy Corner. Head out to Middleton Beach and also to Torndirrup National Park, The Gap and Natural Bridge.
Day 7. Albany to Hopetoun. This is a longer drive day, through Porongurup National Park, with its Granite Skywalk, and the Porongurup Range, and along Chester Pass Road to Stirling Range National Park, and Ravensthorpe to the coastal town of Hopetoun.
Day 8. Hopetoun to Esperance. Fitzgerald River National Park is one of the most botanically significant national parks in Australia. There are more than 1800 species of plants and 200 of birds.
Day 9. Esperance. Esperance is also famous for its kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park, 40 minutes from town.
Days 10 and 11. Return to Perth. There are two options. The first is a 700km trip through Hyden, where you will find Wave Rock and good accommodation. Then perhaps drive back along the Tin Horse Highway to Kulin before heading through Corrigin and York to Perth.
The other option is to head north through Norseman and Coolgardie to Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
Antony Gormley’s 51 Inside Australia sculptures in the salt lake at Lake Ballard are a 90minute drive north of Kalgoorlie.
Day 11. Set off early to drive 600km from Kalgoorlie back to Perth.
This loop is a terrific drive through the State’s unique mulga country.
Perth to Paynes Find on Great Northern Highway, then head north-east to Sandstone on gravel, across to Leinster and back down the bitumen to Menzies.
Then take the “back roads” to Southern Cross.
BIG ROCK ROUND TRIP
This gives a varied road trip to Mt Augustus.
Follow the coastal highway to Carnarvon then turn east to Gascoyne Junction (stopping off at the Kennedy Range, on gravel roads).
From Gascoyne Junction, there are gravel roads to Mt Augustus.
Take the Carnarvon Mullewa Road (locals still call it the Murchison Roadhouse road) past Murchison Settlement to Mullewa. Then it’s main roads all the way home.
Pictures: Tourism Western Australia Quoin Head.
4WD touring in the Kennedy Range National Park.