7 Day Road Trip: Perth to Carnarvon Return, Western Australia
Updated: May 29
We travelled from New Zealand to Perth, Australia, to attend a wedding, and decided to take the Indian Pacific Train back to Sydney. Between the wedding and the train trip, we squeezed in a budget northward road trip. Check out the itinerary of our self-drive road trip. I've featured our favourite natural attractions. We are interested in ecology and planned to explore Australia's unique culture and the natural world.
Booked accommodation ~ Purchased travel insurance ~ Checked and packed passports ~Read the rental car agreement ~ Route mapped prior ~ Researched safety tips for the extreme outback environment ~ researched conditions for our late April early May schedule ~ Prepared a written itinerary.
Derek is a confident driver and he hired a Toyota Corolla from the airport. His top tip for rental cars is to take advantage of the specials on offer at airport arrivals. We covered over 3000 km in one week. Another important thing to note is 'no driving from dusk till dawn' on rural roads.
Our northward leg was taken in three stages:
Perth to Yanchep (3-night stay),
Yanchep to Geraldton (1-night stay)
Geraldton to Carnarvon (3-night stay).
Coral Bay snorkelling a day trip from Carnarvon.
The non-stop drive from Perth to Carnarvon, on Highway 1, takes about 10 hours. We took the return, Carnarvon to Perth, in one day leaving at 6 am and returning the rental car at 5 pm in central Perth.
As an aside, we considered a self-drive, meals. rooms and attractions, budget package deal. On reflection controlling our bookings aligned with our interests. Also, the Corolla was a better vehicle than the one offered in the budget package.
Rental $435.24 Fuel $350.
Yanchep Airbnb homestay: $209 for 3 x nights including breakfast (no view)
Geraldton Airbnb homestay: $35 for 1 x night
Carnarvon: self contained flat with pool $411.11 for 3 x nights
Self-catered from supermarkets and local growers + budget take out + wedding feast. Breakfast was included with our Airbnb homestays. The same dollar spend at home.
Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum $21.00
Glass Bottom Boat Snorkeling at Coral Bay Ningaloo Reef $129
The Pinnacles $49.00
Yanchep National Park $18.00
Air NZ Auckland to Perth
Indian Pacific Perth to Sydney
Jet Star Syndey to Auckland
Trip High Lights
Yanchep is only an hour from the Perth Airport, is bordered by the Indian Ocean, and boasts many beaches and wildlife galore.
Love the safe swimming and white sand beach at Yanchep Lagoon. The offshore reef forms a giant swimming pool that is patrolled by lifeguards. A late April dip is quite refreshing.
Our Airbnb homestay is a charmer for sure. The proximity to Yanchep Lagoon is a bonus. The layout of the house is another. The front part of the house is set aside for guests with an en-suite bathroom and independent entry. The living areas and our host's rooms are in the back part of the house with the host and guests' areas separated by an internal door. Each morning, our host Simmi, welcomed us into the household dining with a beautifully prepared breakfast. I love to start the day with a good cup of coffee! Chatting with a local host is a great way to find local gems. Our host also gives some safety tips for outback driving.
Yanchep National Parks' 28 square hectares are packed with opportunities to connect with Australia's national history.
The park boasts hiking trails, lakes, picnic spots and a koala colony.
The evening is a great time to see the park's kangaroos feeding and bounding around. Kangaroos feeding at dusk also warn of the driving risk between dusk till dawn.
We celebrated the wedding in the park beside a beautiful lake. This setting contributed to the intimate and touching wedding ceremony. We celebrated the wedding breakfast in one of the park's 400 caves. Talk about drama.
What an amazing self-drive or walking adventure. Moving through the strange limestone monoliths feels like walking on the moon. A Corolla is a perfect choice for this on-road that feels like an off-road experience.
World Heritage Locations & Roadside Reserves:
When travelling we spend a good deal of our time in parks and reserves. Some are lesser-known, but still memorable, and others have world recognition.
Shark Bay is a UNESCO world heritage site with unique ecology and stunning natural beauty. Shell Beach is my favourite attraction in the region. Here the flat surface of the sea bed combined with the sunny climate causes evaporation and hypersalinity in the seawater. The Fragum Cockle, there are trillions of them, thrive in these salty conditions. Most organisms rely on gathering other plants and organisms from within their environment for food. Very few organisms live in the salty water at Shell Beach, but the Fragum Cockle has thrived, forming a symbiotic relationship with a type of algae. The cockle suns the algae, the algae reproduce through photosynthesis, and the cockle feeds off on the algae. Wow, the power of sunshine.
We stumbled across Nilgren Reserve thanks to a roadside sign. We loved walking through the native plants and found a few out of season wildflowers complete with bees. Reading the information board was a great way to get a sense of the relationship between the land and the local people.
Carnarvon is a delight and surprise to us.
Despite having no rain for years at a time this desert town grows much of the produce for Western Australia. In fact, Carnarvon is a desert oasis complete with an upside-down river. We enjoyed purchasing the local produce and preparing our meals.
Just out of town is a lovely beach with a natural aquarium suitable for snorkelling and has an impressive blowhole.
To top it off, NASA used Carnarvon, as a communication base during some of the Apollo missions. Today, the location is a quaint space and technology museum. Derek has a background in electronics and really enjoyed the museum.
Coral Bay is a day trip from Carnarvon. The Ningaloo Reef encloses the bay and cradles the thick coral and teeming marine life. Two hours of snorkelling is two hours spent in awe.
We were so enthralled we failed to take any pictures.
Photo credit for below goes to Australian Tourism (published with permission)
Please note: copyright applies to all images. All money is in NZ dollars and is indicative of the time the trip was taken.