Back at the beginning of March, Western Australia finally opened again to the eastern states. We know this is a daunting thing for many in Western Australia who have enjoyed so long with relative COVID-safeness. While a road trip may initially not be ideal as the state starts to adapt its rules to COVID-normal, we still thought it would be good to share some insights into some of WA's incredible places. There are so many! Here are six of our favourite not-so-well-known road trip gems in Western Australia.
These are tarmac trail adventures, with the added option of some off-road trips if your vehicle allows. As with all of our travel recommendations, we suggest you take time, stay a while, consider your impact, absorb the local energy and always be respectful of those who have come before and the traditional owners who continue to care for the land.
1. Shark Bay
Red rocks, azure waters and white sands meet. Depending on your vehicle, a trip into the Francois Peron National Park might be possible – and we definitely recommend it - it is one of the most beautiful and special places in the world. Fun Fact: Dirk Hartog island is actually the westernmost point of mainland Australia - one for that bucket list perhaps. Denham is a lovely little town with a friendly visitor information centre. There's also Shell Beach enroute from the highway into Denham, basically tiny shells instead of particles of sand, and one of three places in Australia, and one of the very few places in the world where you can see Stromatolites, the oldest living lifeforms on the planet. It really is an incredible part of the world to base yourself for a few nights with plenty of national park camping available.
Dive the World Heritage Site of Ningaloo Reef and explore the Cape Range National Park with its gorges, fossils in the rocks and beautiful snorkelling just off the beach campsites. The national park has fantastic views for miles, and the fossils found have even included Megalodon teeth!
We also love being deep down in the water too, so whenever we’re in Exmouth we always make a special effort to drop into Dive Ningaloo to say g'day to Kirsten and the team and get our fix of fish, turtles, sharks, and maybe even a whale shark or humpback! These guys also have the sole licence to guide divers into the world renowned Navy Pier dive site, which would have to be one of the most concentrated macro sea life dives we’ve ever done.
3. Burringurah (Mount Augustus), Jack Hills and Walga Rock
Burringurah (Mt Augustus)
Burringurah is a geologically and historically interesting mountain, with rock folding onto rock forming into one the biggest rocks in the world. It also forms part of a beautiful national park with plenty of interesting walks. The campsite nearby has a great view of the mountain, a wonderfully friendly owner and spacious camp sites. Just be sure to fill up with fuel before getting here as while there is fuel available at the moment in this area, it is pricy!
There are special places of Aboriginal cultural significance around the mountain as well, including petroglyphs and engravings. There are the whitest ghost gums we've ever seen set against the towering desert red presence of the mountain, with beautiful cooling creeks trickling around its base amidst what seems never ending aridness.
If you're heading north out of the national park, be sure to carry spare wheels, and have a 4wd. The road, while potentially navigable by AWD, has some of the sharpest rocks we've ever seen and it's a long road with not many people around to help if something goes awry.
If you're approaching from the south, then Jack Hills has an outstandingly interesting place in our scientific history - it is the source of the "oldest material of terrestrial origin" - the silicates here are the oldest geological material ever found on Earth, and are the reason the Earth has been dated to 4.8 billion years old. That’s pretty cool! The visitor information centre in Mount Magnet has an interesting set of information about the rocks and what they mean for understanding the history of Earth.
Up this way there's also Walga Rock, which has been a place of importance to Aboriginal peoples and was a meeting place for them for thousands of years. It’s a huge rock, second in size as a monolith, only to Uluru. It’s climbable and has some seriously interesting Aboriginal art.
This ABC article provides a great overview of how incredible the history is around the rock, and what the Wajarri Minangu Land Committee are doing to protect and promote their history.
4. Pemberton, Denmark and the South West Coast
You may have heard of Pemberton, and so had we, but we didn’t realise just how incredible the Pemberton trees are until we visited. If you have a taste for heights, then we suggest a trip into the national park to see (and potentially attempt) the climbing trees. When you get there, you'll understand why we suggest going. The lookouts were constructed up the Karri trees to spot fires back in the 1930s and 40s.
View from halfway up the Bicentennial Tree - the top is 65m!
Denmark and the South West
If you're down this way, we also enjoyed stopping off at all the inlets and little towns on the south coast - Elephant Rock and Greens pools near Denmark are exceptionally beautiful. The thing that struck us about south-western WA is the closeness of towns, availability of great activities (including activities for kids like the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk) and the stunning coastlines.
5. Kununurra, Lake Argyle and the five rivers basin (Kimberley Region)
Kununurra provides a great place to stock up and have as a base for trips out, like to Wyndham where you can witness the daunting site of the King, Pentecost, Durack, Forest and Ord Rivers coming together in the Cambridge Gulf.
While we're not usually one for caravan parks, sometimes there are gems - and the Kimberley Waterfront Holiday Park is one of them. The reason we loved staying here is because of the waterfront camp sites with day and night-time entertainment of fresh water crocs in the lake with their orange eyes glistening back at you from your head torch.
Another place to explore and potentially stay is Lake Argyle, where the sunsets create the most magical hue on the red rocks. Another caravan park provided a safe place for us to lay our heads for the night, with the decidedly less threatening camp entertainment of live music by the local musician Steve Case, and his funny lyrics and great voice.
6. Jarndunmunha (Mount Nameless), Tom Price
Tom Price is a surprisingly pretty and lovingly landscaped green mining town in northern Western Australia, in the Pilbara Region.
Overlooking Tom Price is another surprising geological gem, so-called Mt Nameless, despite actually having a name already, Jarndunmunha. This steep mountain is actually over 1100 metres tall! It looks over the Hammersley Range, which is a magnificently mountainous region, containing 20 of the highest peaks in WA, including six over 1000 metres high. Quite a surprise for an outback region. We were on the summit at sunset and seriously, the changing colours over the range were breathtaking.
We know this is just a small snippet of the fantastic places Western Australia has to offer the road tripper. Hopefully, we’ve even managed to tell you about some little places you didn’t know about. The state is massive and has vast open spaces, pristine beaches, red earth and super-interesting flora and fauna.
It’s definitely worth touring, and we strongly urge you to give yourself some time to do it, or do it over a few trips, as there’s a lot of road to cover and it really is spectacular. If you are on a road trip we'd love to see your photos - please tag @bohoroadtrip and let us know if you have other suggestions for our next WA instalment.