Australia / Destination Guides

Ultimate Western Australia Coral Coast Road Trip Guide

Over the years we have taken many road trips through Australia’s north west. While holidays to Coral Bay are a family favourite, but we have visited many other places along the Coral Coast. The hot weather, stunning beaches and unique sights along the way make this an iconic Western Australian road trip.

As a note, when we travel the Coral Coast highway we usually head to a single destination and stay for a week or two. However, on our last trip to Coral Bay we made the effort to turn it into a road trip. This is the best way to make the journey apart of your family holiday! So, even if you don’t plan to stay in multiple destinations, use this guide to find places to explore as you drive!

Itinerary Ideas for Western Australia’s Coral Coast

So here I have compiled all the tips for a road trip in Australia’s north west. Create your own itinerary and explore the best of the Coral Coast. Get tips for driving up north, sights to see along the way and where to stay.

Western Australia’s Coral Coast

Australia’s Coral Coast stretches along the coast for 1,100km from Cervantes to Exmouth. It is home to stunning beaches, rugged and dry landscape, and unique wildlife.

The start of the Coral Coast, Cervantes, is located 2 hours north of Perth, Western Australia. It would take you over 10 hours to drive the entire route – and that would be missing out on all the amazing stops!

Hot Tip: While a 2WD will get you to most of the main attractions along the Coral Coast, if you want to go off the beaten path you will need a 4WD!

Weather along the Coral Coast

The weather along the Coral Coast is warm all year round. With a Mediterranean climate in the south and a subtropical climate in the north, it is a popular holiday destination throughout the year.

Being a warm destination, with harsh sun, make sure you are sun smart throughout your stay! Always have plenty of water, cover up and use a hat and sunscreen.

However, it is important to note, during the summer period the north is subject to cyclones. So if you plan to visit between November to February, it may be best to stay in within the Mediterranean climate.

Coral Coast Road Trip Tips

To drive the Coral Coast, the main road that you will take is the Coastal Hwy. This road is long, has very few stops and vast empty land along the way. So, it is important to keep these tips in mind throughout your road trip.

Tips for driving Australia’s Coral Coast

  1. Phone reception is limited

    Along the Coral Coast highway, reception is very limited. Make sure you pre-download any maps you need and any games or movies for the kids. If you need reception along the way, you are most likely to get it when passing through a town.

  2. Look out for kangaroos

    Kangaroos and other wildlife are very common along the Coral Coast. Don’t be surprised to see a few pulled over to the side of the road, after being hit by a car or truck.

    Kangaroos are the most active at dusk and dawn so if you are driving at this time be alert! If you do see one, slow down by braking heavily in a straight line and only turn later if it’s safe.

  3. Know where the next fuel station is

    Fuel stations are few and far between along the Coral Coast. When you pass one, make sure you know where the next one is and that you have enough fuel to get there. If you’re not sure, fill up when you have the chance.

  4. Be aware of flooding/ slick roads

    Flooding along the Coastal Hwy is quite common during the summer months, especially between Carnarvon and Coral Bay.

    However, the road can also become very slick and slippery from rainfall at any time of the year. We, unfortunately, witnessed an accident caused by slick roads and fog when leaving Kalbarri once. So be careful on the roads when they are wet!

  5. Be confident with road speeds & overtaking

    Road speeds along the Coral Coast Highway are up to 110km per hour. However, you will often find people driving much faster (or slower). Trucks and people who are towing are limited to 100km per hour.

    With people driving at a mix of speeds and very few dual lanes there is a lot of overtaking that happens on the road. Therefore, driving can become quite dangerous for those who aren’t confident behind the wheel.

Road Trip Australia’s Coral Coast with Kids

The Coral Coast is a popular destination for families. If you are planning to visit with your kids here are a few tips to help make the long road trip go smoothly:

  • Let the kids stretch their legs when you make a stop.
  • But, don’t stop until you need to!
  • Have as much room possible in the car – use a roof rack or trailer.
  • If your kids nap, drive during nap time.
  • Stock up on snacks.
  • Let them use the electronics… but wait till the right time.
  • Have an essentials (toys, food, wipes) easily accessible.

Caravan & Camping along the Coral Coast

The easiest and most common way to travel along the Coral Coast is to take a caravan or camp. The warm climate makes the region an ideal place for a camping holiday.

Read More: Tips for Camping with a Baby

Caravan Parks

Most of the main stops along the way will have a caravan park with facilities available to stay at. Just search for caravan parks in the destination you will be visiting.

National Park Campgrounds

National Park campgrounds are also a popular choice for campers in the north of Western Australia. These are managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife Services and can be booked through their site. Facilities at NP campgrounds vary, details for each will be provided through booking.

Just note: visitor fees will apply in National Parks in the region.

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    Outback Stations

    You can also stay at outback stations along the way. Staying at a station is a very authentic way to experience the outback along Australia’s Coral Coast. Some of the most popular ones are:

    • Bullara Station Stay, Exmouth (from $15/night)
    • Quobba Station, Carnarvon (from $17/night)
    • Murchison House Station (from $15/night)
    • Warroora Station, Carnarvon (from $15/night)

    Free Camping Options

    Free camping along Australia’s Coral Coast is only allowed in designated locations. To find places to free camp you can use an app such as Aircamp to find a spot.

    woman and baby camping in a tent

    Unique Coral Coast Accommodation Options

    Is camping not your style? There are also several other options for Coral Coast accommodation. Why not try glamping at the Sal Salis in the Cape Range National Park near Exmouth. Or if you would like to stay at a resort, try Kalbarri Edge Resort, Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, Exmouth Escape Resort or Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort.

    Australia’s Coral Coast Road Trip Highlights

    • Lancelin Sand Dunes
    • The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park
    • Wild Flowers (from July – October)
    • Hutt Lagoon, Kalbarri
    • Kalbarri National Park
    • Shell Beach, Shark Bay
    • Hamelin Pool, Shark Bay
    • Carnarvon Cacti Farm
    • Ningaloo Reef
    • Cape Range National Park

    Jurien Bay

    2.5 hours from Perth

    Jurien Bay is the first major holiday destination as you head north along the Coral Coast highway. It is located 2.5 hours north of Perth, so not a long drive for a family holiday. Located on the coast with beaches for swimming has made it a popular family favourite destination.

    Top Things to See and Do in Jurien Bay

    • Wildflowers in Lesueur National Park
    • Go skydiving with Skydive Jurien Bay
    • Fishing at the Jurien Bay jetty
    • Swim with Sea Lions

    Detour: Visit Lancelin Sand Dunes

    As you head from Perth to Jurien Bay, stop over at the Lancelin Sand Dunes for some fun! You can book a quad bike tour or hire sand boards or you can just have some fun taking photos and climbing the dunes!

    Read More: 10 Tips for Adventure Photography with Kids

    Detour: The Pinnacles Desert

    The Pinnacles in the Nambung National Park is a popular but unique attraction to visit along the Coral Coast. Filled with limestone formations of up to 3.5 meters high, its a great place for a pitstop on your road trip! You can drive along the track through the desert and park up close to the spectacular formations.

    Entrance Fee: $15 per vehicle


    2 hours from Jurien Bay

    Geraldton is one of Western Australia’s biggest cities, and the only one along Australia’s Coral Coast. It is a port city, attracting cruise ships and trade.

    Top Things to See and Do in Geraldton

    • Head out to the Abrolhos Islands (fishing & shipwrecks)
    • Visit the Geraldton Museum
    • Spend the day at Geraldton Esplanade
    • Explore the historic Greenough Settlement
    • Enjoy a coffee & some boutiques at Geraldton West End

    Detour: Coalseam Conservation Park

    Located far inland, between Jurien Bay and Geraldton, is the Coalseam Conservation Park. An area rich in history and geology, it is home to spectacular bushland, wildlife and springtime wildflowers. If you are driving the Coral Coast between July to October, it is well worth the detour to see the incredible wildflowers in bloom.

    Detour: Hutt Lagoon

    With naturally pink water, Hutt Lagoon is located 30 minutes south of Kalbarri. If you visit on a sunny day the water will look its pinkest! It is a popular spot to capture an Instagram worthy photo. Read this post for tips on visiting the pink lake!


    1 hours & 45 mins from Geraldton

    Stopping in Kalbarri as you head north along the Coral Coast highway can seem like a detour. However, this beautiful nature destination is well worth the extra driving!

    We chose to make a stop here on our last trip up north. On the first day we drove from Perth to Kalbarri, making a few detours and scenic stops along the way. The second day, we made the drive from Kalbarri to Coral Bay, visiting the Kalbarri National Park for sunrise as we left.

    Things to See and Do in Kalbarri

    • Explore & hike the Kalbarri National Park
    • Enjoy some Fish’n’Chips at the Kalbarri Foreshore Playground
    • Go fishing in the River Inlet
    • Hire a canoe & paddle down the Murchison River
    • Watch the Sunset over Island Rock & Natural Bridge
    • Spend the day at Blue Holes beach

    Shark Bay & Monkey Mia

    3-4 hours from Kalbarri

    Shark Bay is located on the Peron Peninsula, which is the most western point of the Australian continent. The main town in Shark Bay is Denham, located just over an hour off of the Coastal Hwy. However, Monkey Mia is the more famous destination in Shark Bay, known for its bottlenose dolphins!

    Just note: while most of the main destinations are accessible by 2WD, much of the area requires a 4WD or boat.

    Things to do in Shark Bay & Monkey Mia

    • Appreciate the wildflowers from July – October
    • Feed wild dolphins at Monkey Mia
    • Visit Dirk Hartog Island for scuba diving, fishing and snorkelling

    Detour: Shell Beach

    This unique beach is made up of billions of tiny shells that stretch for over 70km! It is one of the few places on earth where there are shells on the beach instead of sand so don’t forget to take some fun photos here!

    Read More: Travel Photography for Beginners

    Detour: Hamelin Pool

    Make the stop over at the Hamelin Pool stromatolites as you head in our out of Shark Bay. This fascinating attraction are some of the oldest and largest living fossils on earth, so please don’t walk on them! There is a viewing platform and boardwalk to enjoy them from.

    Coral Bay

    5.5 hours from Shark Bay

    Coral Bay is our most visited destination along Australia’s Coral Coast. To drive from Perth to Coral Bay it will take you anywhere from 11-13 hours (depending on if your towing). However, I highly suggest turning your visit to this destination into a Perth to Coral Bay Road Trip!

    Things to Do in Coral Bay:

    • Take a glass bottom boat tour
    • Walk to the Shark Sanctuary
    • Have a Ningaloo Marine-life Interaction!
    • Go Snorkelling from the beach
    • Try scuba diving (no experience needed!)

    Read More: 10 Amazing Things to Do in Coral Bay

    Detour: Carnarvon

    As you drive from Kalbarri to Coral Bay you will pass through the town of Carnarvon. This town has a great fuel station where you can get some food and stretch your legs, an important thing to do on long drives!

    Here, you can also take a little detour along “The Fruit Loop” drive trail. This will take you past banana plantations, roadside stalls and the insta famous “Cactus Farm!”


    1.5 hours from Coral Bay

    Exmouth is the furthest point in the north west of Australia, along the Coral Coast. Located at the tip of the North West Cape, it is the ideal location for swimming, fishing and snorkelling. You’ll also find lots of adventure activities here too!

    Things to Do in Exmouth

    • Explore Cape Range National Park
    • Visit the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse
    • Go hiking in Yardie Creek
    • Go snorkelling at Turquoise Bay
    • Watch the sunrise at Charles Knife Canyon
    • Experience swimming with a Whale Shark

    Top Beaches in Australia’s Coral Coast

    The beaches along the Coral Coast are some of the most attractive in all Australia. With such an extensive coastline you can easily find a beach to suit your needs. Whether you are looking to go snorkelling, fishing or find somewhere to spend the day with kids, here are the top beaches in Australia’s North West:

    • Point Moore & Separation Point, Geraldton – Fishing
    • Blue Holes, Kalbarri – Snorkelling & Families
    • Shell Beach, Shark Bay – Unique & Photo Worthy
    • Steep Point, Shark Bay – Fishing
    • Coral Bay Beach, Coral Bay – Families
    • Five Fingers Reef, Coral Bay – Snorkelling (four-wheel drive access)
    • Oyster Stacks, Coral Bay – Snorkelling (four-wheel drive access)
    • Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo – Snorkelling & Families
    • Sandy Bay, Exmouth – Families

    Best Times to Road Trip the Coral Coast

    The best time to visit the Coral Coast will mostly depend on what you want to see and do. Different times of the year offer a diversity of experiences, unique to the region.

    If you are looking to avoid the crowds you will want to visit outside of the local school holidays. The school holidays are a popular time for West Australian’s to come explore the region. You will need to check when they are on for the year you are visiting.

    Best Times to See Wildlife

    Australia’s Coral Coast is filled with wildlife throughout the year. However, if you want to visit the region for a particular wildlife experience then make sure you book your trip for the best time and to the best location for that animal.

    Manta Rays

    When: Year Round
    Where: Coral Bay


    When: Year Round
    Where: Kalbarri & Monkey Mia

    Whale Sharks

    When: March – August
    Where: Coral Bay & Exmouth

    Humpback Whales

    When: July – October
    Where: Kalbarri & Ningaloo

    Sea Lions

    When: Year Round
    Where: Jurien Bay & Geraldton


    When: Year Round
    Where: Cape Range & Kalbarri National Park

    Orcas (Killer Whale)

    When: July – August
    Where: Exmouth


    When: Year Round
    Where: Shark Bay & Exmouth


    When: Year Round
    Where: Kalbarri, Shark Bay & Exmouth


    When: Year Round
    Where: Shark Bay & Ningaloo


    When: Year Round
    Where: Nambung National Park & Cape Range National Park

    Best Times for Activities

    On the other hand, if your heading to the north of Western Australia for particular activities, here are the best times and locations:

    Beach Fishing

    When: Year Round
    Where: Cervantes, Jurien Bay, Port Denison Kalbarri, Shark Bay & Carnarvon

    Deep Sea Fishing

    When: January – September
    Where: Abrolhos Islands, Kalbarri, Coral Bay & Exmouth


    When: March – October
    Where: Dongara, Kalbarri, Geraldton, Exmouth


    When: July – October
    Where: Lesueur National Park, Coalseam Conservaton Park, Cape Range National Park, Shark Bay World Heritage Area

    How to Create Your Coral Coast Road Trip Itinerary

    As the Coral Coast is a huge stretch to drive, you will need to create your itinerary based on the length of time you have. To create your west coast Australia road trip itinerary, chose the top destinations you would like to visit and build your itinerary around them.

    Suggestion: If you’re local to Western Australia, you may want to consider visiting just 1 or 2 destinations on this trip and then travel to another destinations next time.

    I have put together some Coral Coast self drive itineraries to help you plan your Western Australia road trip.

    Lancelin Sand Dunes & Pinnacles Day Trip

    2 hours (one way) from Perth

    If you can only head out to the Coral Coast on a day trip, then you will want to visit the Lancelin Sand Dunes and the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park. Only 2 hours out of Perth City, this is a fun way to spend the day!

    Jurien Bay in 2-3 Days

    With only a weekend to enjoy the Coral Coast, you should head to Jurien Bay. You can stop over at the Lancelin Sand Dunes and the Pinnacles on your way. With only a few days to enjoy this coastal town, book a Sea Lion tour or be adventurous and go skydiving!

    From Jurien Bay you can also go visit the Lesueur National Park where you can see native Australian wildflowers!

    Kalbarri in 5 Days

    6 hours (one way) from Perth

    Kalbarri is the ideal destination if you can only head to the Coral Coast on a long weekend. To make the most of your road trip from Perth to Kalbarri, along the way stop at:

    • Lancelin Sand Dunes
    • The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park
    • Hutt Lagoon

    With just 5 days to spend in Kalbarri, be sure to visit the Kalbarri National Park for sunrise, spend a day hiking, another at the beach and try your luck fishing!

    Hot Tip: Purchase a multi day National Park Pass so that you can visit the Kalbarri National Park on more than one day!

    Shark Bay in 10 Days

    10 hours (one way) from Perth

    If you have longer than just 5 days, then keep heading north to Shark Bay! After you have spent 5 days enjoying Kalbarri, make the 3.5 hour drive to Denham in Shark Bay. Along the way you can stop over at:

    • Hamelin Pool
    • Shell Beach

    Once your in Shark Bay you can spend a few days in Denham, a little town with lots of street art! Spend your days at the beach and exploring the coastline before heading to Monkey Mia for the last few nights.

    Be sure to wake up early for the dolphin feeding at Monkey Mia beach. It’s best to have a few days available as the dolphins aren’t there every morning.

    2-weeks Coral Coast Road Trip

    17 hours (one way) from Perth

    With 2 full weeks to travel the Coral Coast, you will easily be able to make it all the way up to Exmouth while still enjoying the destinations along the way. I suggest enjoying all of the stops as you head to Exmouth, then driving straight back to Perth at the end of your 2 weeks.

    Once you have finished in Shark Bay, continue heading north to Coral Bay. Spend a night or two in Coral Bay before continuing on to Exmouth. The top places to visit along the way are:

    • Carnarvon Cactus Farm
    • Ningaloo Reef
    • Cape Range National Park
    • Turquoise Bay

    Tip: To make sure you have enough time north of Shark Bay, you may need to reduce your time at the previous locations!

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      Okay, so there really is so much to see and do along Australia’s Coral Coast. Just like any Western Australian road trip, you will certainly need to plan your itinerary according to the amount of time you have. So, you will need to priorities!


      • Tess
        March 2, 2021 at 8:48 am

        Wow this post gets me SO excited to do a similar trip along the Coral Coast in May! We are adding on Karijini after Exmouth but following a similar itinerary to this. This post is so informative – and all your photos are incredible!

        • Megan
          March 2, 2021 at 11:47 am

          Heading up to Karijini is 100% on my bucketlist!! You’ll have an amazing time. Would love to do it with the family but not sure how we would go hiking there with a toddler… from what i’ve heard its not easy haha! Hope the post gave you some good ideas for your trip.


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