From Perth to Exmouth, the Indian Ocean Drive route stretches for 2800 kilometres and promises you an unforgettable road trip on the west coast of Australia, where the red, arid and unpopulated lands of the Outback extend to the indigo waves of the Indian Ocean. A change of scenery is guaranteed throughout a spectacular trip, where white sand beaches, coral reefs, fishing villages and national parks with rugged terrain pass right before your eyes. If you want to travel in total freedom, there’s nothing like hiring a car, van or 4×4 to discover the wealth of the beautiful coastline’s flora and fauna.
But be sure to follow the rules on Australian roads. You must be at least 21 years old and have an international driving permit (free, valid for 3 years and renewable), do not exceed speed limits (50 km/h in cities and 110 km/h on highways and motorways) and check the road conditions, which can vary throughout the year depending on the weather. And most importantly, remember that in Australia, people drive on the left side of the road! A simple habit that you will become accustomed to more easily by renting an automatic car…
From Perth to the Pinnacles Desert by car
After driving for about two hours and 250 km from Perth to Darwin, you will be awe-struck by the Pinnacles Desert, the first stop on your journey along the roads of Western Australia. A road specially designed for cars crosses this impressive landscape, as incredible as it is unique, where rocky stalagmites, of all shapes and sizes, emerge from a field of ochre sand and point their limestone needles to the sky through the dunes.
Kalbarri, a site worth going out of your way to visit
Get back on the road and head north to travel the 400 kilometres from the Pinnacles to the Kalbarri Natural Park. With the bush as a unique horizon, you feel like you’re riding in the middle of nowhere for hours. Be careful not to miss where the road turns west after Geraldton, the “big” city in the area where you can refuel your tank and your body. Kalbarri National Park is not far from there, crossed by the Murchison River. A single section of paved road crosses this immense plateau that continues to the ocean, offering a stupendous panorama of steep cliffs, but since Nature’s Window is only accessible on foot, you’ll have to park your car or make a big detour to see the famous hole in the rock, which is emblematic of the park.
Next stops: Monkey Mia and Shark Bay
Continue on your way up the coast, 300 kilometres farther north. Since speed is limited and some roads are only passable with four-wheel drive vehicles, choose to rent a van over a small sports car for venturing on the coarse sand roads. Shark Bay is an idyllic cove, known for the diversity and richness of its marine life: sharks, dolphins, humpback whales, manta rays and marine birds, among others. Not to mention that along the cliffs on the main road overlooking the bay, you get an exceptional view of the literally transparent seabeds.
After a little stop at Shell Beach, a beach completely covered in shells, when you leave the main road for the dirt road that leads to Eagle Bluff, beware of kangaroos that sometimes emerge unexpectedly in front of your vehicle.
Schedule the Monkey Mia Dolphin Show on your trip for a time when the rangers and volunteers feed the dolphins by choosing people at random to participate.
Towards Coral Bay
Head to the gorgeous beach of Coral Bay, a small seaside resort of about a hundred residents, located about 1200 kilometres north of Perth and 120 kilometres south of Exmouth, and perfect for diving enthusiasts. If you dream of getting close to whale sharks, take the little road to Paradise Beach, where you can interrupt your road trip for an unforgettable getaway on the sea. If you prefer to keep your feet on solid ground and your hands on the wheel, many 4×4 safaris are organised leaving from Coral Bay, including trips to see kangaroos, emus and turtles that live in the neighbouring parks.
Exmouth, the final destination on your road trip in Western Australia
After driving 200 kilometres along the Australian west coast, you arrive at the end of your trip by entering the heart of Ningaloo Reef Park, where you’ll find Exmouth, a small tourist town and perfect starting point for visiting the must-see Cape Range National Park, 40 kilometres away. Whether you are accessing by the northern paved road or one of the 4×4 tracks, drive slowly, firstly, so you can closely observe the kangaroos that you’ll certainly come across, and secondly, to leisurely admire the dramatic contrast between the cliffs, the coral reefs and the turquoise waters along the fine sand beaches.
To end your trip in beauty and relax after all those days of driving under the sun, hit the road one more time and go snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef, the perfect spot to enjoy the seabed and coral reef on the west coast, which, although less famous than its neighbour to the east, has absolutely nothing to envy.