Driving from Perth to Coral Bay is something everyone visiting Western Australia should do! I think it's one of the great Australian Road Trips, with plenty to see and do along the way! Break down your travel time into 3 easy days, stay as long as you like. This itinerary is jam packed to maximise time in Coral Bay.
- Day 1 - Perth to Geraldton
- Day 2 - Geraldton to Monkey Mia
- Day 3 - Monkey Mia to Coral Bay
Perth to Geraldton
The Pinnacles are an easy day trip from Perth, and a must see experience in Western Australia. The fastest way to get there is along Indian Ocean Drive, which takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes from Perth. If driving through to Geraldton, you have to stop here.
What are the Pinnacles? They are limestone columns or formations that were formed 25,000 years ago. Honestly, it looks like you are on another planet. The limestone protrudes from the sand, as you drive around the National Park on a 4km path. There is lots of parking, where you can get out and explore these strange formations. You don't need a 4 wheel drive to check it out. Remember to bring your camera!
There is also the Pinnacles Discovery Centre, which details the history of the area, explains how they were formed, and shares the local culture. It costs only $15 per vehicle to enter, unless you have an All Parks Pass. Entry to the Pinnacles Discovery Centre is included with your park entry fee. Plan on spending 60-90 minutes at the park. When you're finished, stop at Cervantes for lunch, only 30 minutes away.
The distance from Perth to Geraldton is about 400km, which is about 4.5 hours drive from Perth. This makes it an easy trip to drive up to explore Geraldton, Western Australia's 3rd most populated city. With a population of 37,000 people, there are lots of things to explore.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial - This was the biggest surprise for me when visiting Geraldton, an incredible moving WW2 War Memorial. I was shocked to find out that there were Nazis in Western Australia during WW2, and that they got in a battle with the Australian Navy. 645 souls were lost on November 19th, 1941. The location of the ship was discovered in March 2008. The Memorial Site is incredibly moving.
Dome of Souls - which is a dome made from 645 seagulls, symbolising the souls of the departed. I think this is the centrepiece of the site.
Pool of Remembrance - a place of contemplation, with a circular terrace descending down, with water cascading to a pool of water. There is a Silver Seagull marking the coordinates of the wreck site in the water.
The Waiting Woman - this life size statue is incredibly moving. A woman filled with worry and loss, waiting for the soldiers to return.
Stele - a tall tower, functioning as a symbolic grave marker, with flag flying high
Wall of Remembrance - the names, rank and home location of each of the lost souls are written in stone around the Memorial. Also photos etched of the ship and and sailors. The last stone ends with the engraved words "The Rest is Silence"
Geraldton to Monkey Mia
This is a long day's drive, especially if you take this suggested scenic route. We started by driving up to Hutt Lagoon, stopping at Kalbarri National Park before arriving into Monkey Mia. This was the longest day. However, with so much to see it was worth it!
Hutt Lagoon - Pink Lake
Driving direct from Perth, this takes about 5½ hours, but only an hour and 15 minutes from Geraldton. Hutt Lagoon is one of the best Pink Lakes in Australia, very Instagrammable! It's an easy day trip from Geraldton, but we used it as a stopover on the way to Kalbarri. Plan to spend 15 minutes here looking at the Pink Lake and taking lots of photos.
I don't recommend swimming in the Pink Lake, it's super salty and really muddy if you try stepping in it. If you need to rinse off, Port Gregory is just around the corner, with a beach, bbq area and restrooms. The milky strawberry color in the lake occurs naturally from algae. There is less water in the summer than the winter, but it's always pink.
Kalbarri National Park
Hutt Lagoon to Kalbarri National Park takes about an hour to drive. However, you might want to stop in Kalbarri (the town) to grab a bite and to relax on the beautiful foreshore. It costs $15 per vehicle to enter the Kalbarri National Park, unless you have an All Parks Pass. All roads are sealed, so you dont need a 4x4 to explore.
Kalbarri National Park is 186,000 hectares large, with wildflowers, gorges, rivers and cliffs. There is a 8km hiking trail called The Loop Walk, as it circles in a loop. Definitely be careful in the summer. We were there when the temperature was 46°C, and we weren't prepared too well. Bring a hat, sunscreen, bottled water, good shoes (not thongs) and a camera!
Nature's Window - A beautiful rock formation in the shape of window, thus the name. Don't be fooled, only 500 metres from the carpark, but on a hot summers day, it's hard work. Actually it's easy to walk down the hill to the window, but not so easy getting back up. As this is a natural and rugged environment, there are limited guard rails when walking near the cliffs. The photos are incredible, but stay safe. Plan to spend 1-1.5 hours here.
Kalbarri Skywalk - there are twin skywalks which project 25 metres over the gorge, 100 metres over the Murchison river. Safe to say, pretty high and a great experience. There is no hiking required, and it's easily wheelchair accessible. Plan to spend 30 minutes here.
Kalbarri to Monkey Mia
This is final stretch of your day, driving to Monkey Mia. You've probably spent about 5 hours travelling and exploring, and you have another 4 hours drive ahead of you. Just when you get to Monkey Mia turnoff, at Shark Bay Rd, you think you're almost there! But you're not! It's still another hour and 45 minutes to get to Monkey Mia. There are petrol stations along the way, but better fill up while you can. You can stop and stay in Denham, a small coastal town with a population of 1000 people. However, Monkey Mia Resort is a huge attraction in the area.
Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort
Situated within Shark Bay World Heritage Site, this is the best resort in the area. Catering to all tourists, from camping and caravan sites, budget accomodation, family cabins to beachfront villas. We stayed here for 2 nights, but I wish we stayed a week. When arriving to Monkey Mia Conservation Park , you have to pay a fee to enter, separate from the resort accomodation. This is a government fee of $15 per adult of $35 per family, per day, or $60 per family for 4 weeks.
There are gas bbqs for you to cook your food, and even a shared camp kitchen with fridges to keep your groceries. If cooking isn't your thing, there is a popular, laid back pub called Monkey Bar with casual food. They even have a kids movie area which kids love. If you want something less formal but still casual, the Boughshed Restaurant has great views. It's located beside the coffee shop. Nothing beats a Flat White with a view. If you're lucky, you'll even see the emus roaming around the resort.
Dolphins at Monkey Mia
Seeing the Dolphin Experience at Monkey Mia is a must. They are wild bottlenose dolphins that come in for a feeding and interact with humans. Not all humans, just the employees. However, you can see them up close and might even be lucky enough to be selected from the crowd to feed them a fish! They usually choose children, so there is always a rush to be closest to the water.
Pearl Farm Tour
One of the attractions in Monkey Mia is to see the Blue Lagoon Pearl Farm, which is on a pontoon in the ocean. Learn how pearls are formed, how they grow and see a working pearl farm. Plus you get to see lots of wildlife, including dugongs (or sea cow) and turtles. You can even buy pearls.
Within the Shark Bay World Heritage Park, you definitely need to stop at Shell Beach. I'll admit, it wasn't exactly what I expected, but there was lots of shells. Some areas of the shells are 10 metres deep, but that also means that is is hard to walk on, like concrete. So not light an fluffy shells that people show in Instagram, unless you are closer the beach.
All you need is 20 to 30 minutes here. That's enough time to walk to the beach, read about the cockle shells and even go for a quick swim! This is one of the handful of places around the world with have shells instead of sand on the beach. Just don't take any shells home, they are protected as part of the park.
Monkey Mia to Coral Bay
Driving from Monkey Mia to Coral Bay takes about 6 hours if driving straight through. You will want to stop at Carnarvon to check out some quick site, grab a bite and fill up petrol. It takes 3½ hours to drive to Carnarvon from Denham. Stop at the Carnarvon foreshore for some quick fishing, a picnic or a swim.
Things to do in Carnarvon
Carnarvon Space Museum
Most people are surprised there is a NASA space museum in the middle of nowhere Australia. It's worth checking out the museum, just check their operating hours as they can close early at certain times of year. Even if you don't go to the museum, you need to climb the giant satellite, take a selfie and enjoy the view. It's free to climb up the satellite dish.
Carnarvon Fruit Plantations
Carnarvon is the fruit basket of Western Australia. Located along the Gascoyne River, there are 170 plantations growing everything from mangoes, bananas to watermelons and everything in between. We stopped at a mango plantation and had a look to see how it all works. There is also lots of roadside fruit stands where you can buy fresh produce. Pop in and grab some groceries on your way to Coral Bay.
Fruit Loop and Cactus Garden
The fruit loop drive is 26 km along the North and South River Roads, where you find all the plantations. South River Road is where the Cactus Garden is located. This is one man's hobby which grows so many cacti, growing on the verge of his property. The surprise was to see a whole whale skeleton in the midst of the cactus garden! Drive along South River Road, and you can't miss it. It's become a very Instagrammable photo op!
Carnarvon to Coral Bay
The final leg of this journey takes 2½ hours to drive. Again, make sure you get your final groceries in Carnarvon, as there are supermarkets and chemists here. It costs a lot more money in Coral Bay, so load up.
Coral Bay Termite Mounds
On the outskirts of Coral Bay, you start to notice these large mounds along the road and across the horizon. They are termite nests and some of the are over 2 metres high! It's like a high rise for termites. Definitely need to stop and take a photo. We didn't see any termites, but assume they live inside. An essential part of the eco-system across the outback.
Welcome to Coral Bay
So after driving for 3 days (we drove for 5 because of our stop in Monkey Mia) we finally arrive to Coral Bay. A rustic little village along Ningaloo Reef. Filled with tourists in caravan parks, basic hotels, and even a hostel. So much to see and do here, from fishing, snorkelling to reading a book on the beach. Coral Bay is special, and worth the trip! Check out Things to Do in Coral Bay, make memories for a lifetime.