Top 5 Sights On The Perth To Ningaloo Reef Road Trip
Heading north on Australia’s Highway 1 you’ll surely encounter far more than my top 5 sights on the Perth To Ningaloo Reef Road Trip. There is some strange and very welcoming sights along this challenging 1,250 kilometre journey, where the Indian Ocean laps against the Australian desert for thousands of kilometres… yes, I said thousands of kilometres… will it ever end?
I’m not sure that was my best sell. Admittedly our road trip up W.A.’s coastline was all about kitesurfing and the long straight stretches of road in between could at times wear thin, but if the water was flat and the wind was blowing, we were happy. The water was indeed flat in places, it was also like a swimming pool at times. I’ve not seen water this clear before or since and if it wasn’t for the whole “shark thing” constantly on my mind, I might have enjoyed my time in it even more. Luckily, the attraction of this road trip in one of Australia’s more remote regions goes beyond kiteboards, turquoise waters and straight roads and guess who is going to tell you about it.
I’m afraid Lancelin doesn’t get a number (I thought Top 5 sounded better than Top 6). I just like that this little surfing mecca reminds me of my home town of Torquay on the surfing coast in Victoria. Well, what Torquay was like way back when. Lancelin is the first real beach town north of Perth and is the first encounter with the white sand beaches that W.A. is famous for (which is actually crushed seashell). It will make your eyes water, not dissimilar to crossing paths with a windsurfer whilst carrying a kiteboard under your arm (take up kitesurfing and that might eventually make you giggle).
Loooove the Pinnacles. This place has been on our list for a long while so to visit during magic hour was pretty special. Just 190 km north of Perth, the Nambung National Park plays host to almost 200 hectares of limestone Pinnacles, some almost 5 metres high. They dot the sand dunes as you go up the hillside and look back over the ocean. You can access the area in a 2 wheel drive vehicle and you pay the $13 entry fee at the gate.
This area is known as the turquoise coast and has a handful of small beach towns like Cervantes, Jurien Bay and Leeman all worth visiting. If you’re timing is right you’ll also begin to notice the diversity of Western Australia’s wildflowers in the area.
2.Pink Lake, Port Gregory
Port Gregory is a cute little town that is protected from often ferocious seas by a large reef. It offers great diving and fishing and is also the home of the Pink Lake, or more accurately Hutt Lagoon (the Hutt River feeds it). A tip, try the local service station for a frozen cooked lobster tail. You can thaw it out on the dashboard, fine dining or driving?… not sure.
Hutt Lagoon is pink. Very pink and very big. And yes, it’s all about the algae. A strange and beautiful place and definitely worth the detour off Highway 1 as you can continue on to Kalbarri before rejoining.
To continue the loop from Highway one, Kalbarri is conveniently your next stop from Port Gregory. This quirky little place is essentially a resort on the Murchison River and is home to lots of pelicans, some great surf and a very cool decommisioned piggery that now serves a BBQ banquet to anyone who doesn’t mind the smell (kidding, the bad smell has gone), Finlay’s BBQ was started in cahoots with local fisherman and has become somewhat of an iconic dining experience. Highly recommend it.
The nearby Kalbarri National Park is well worth a visit and you might even spot a humpback whale cruising by or a resident dolphin or two. If wildflowers are your thing you’ll be a happy bunny, from July to October, it’s all about wildflowers. Of 12,000 species more than half of those are found nowhere else on the planet.
We’ve dabbled in quite a few road trips both in Australia and abroad. Check out our posts on our 2 Day Dash To Kakadu and the Best way to drive to Uluru from Adelaide in 3 days.
Ok, you may have been living under a rock for the past 30 years or so and in case you have this will be a lovely surprise. Every morning a family of dolphins line up for their breakfast by the jetty near the RAC Monkey Mia errr… Dolphin Resort. It’s a bit special and weird at the same time. But that’s not all, you can take sailing cruises out onto Shark Bay and catch the dugongs doing their thing (speaking of weird). It’s one of the highest concentrations of dugongs in the world owing to the presence of a rare sea grass, their meal of choice.
The nearest town is Denham, which is a tiny place on the opposite side of the peninsula to all of those dolphins. It is worth a visit to check out the old buildings that were constructed of compacted seashells… I seem to have a weird theme happening here. There’s also some purpose built attractions and terrific local resources like the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre and the Ocean Park Aquarium just south of town.
Although this area is 80 km’s off Highway 1, you’d be a tad nuts to miss it. The roadhouse on the highway junction does an insane sausage roll so you have to stop anyway. To give you an idea as to how good the sausage rolls are, we stayed at Denham for a week and made the 160km round trip back to the roadhouse just to get one (perhaps not a ringing endorsement on Shark Bay’s dining options).
Francois Peron National Park is another attraction that needs to be explored by 4X4 really. You can take tours and witness the magnificent iron red sand dunes plunging into that insanely crystal clear water I mentioned. Makes for a special kitesurfing session!
Covering 260 km’s, the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Marine Park is another example of some of Australia’s pristine aquatic environments. There is turtles, manta rays (they creep me out a tad), humpback whales and whale sharks. Ningaloo Reef is known for the concentration of marine life and really should be enjoyed on a tour. We drove through Exmouth (1200 km’s north of Perth) and back down the peninsula then tried to camp by our favourite kitesurfing spot, you could continue back down the coast if you had a 4X4. We lasted three days before the howling afternoon winds beat us back to Exmouth. But it was a magical three days and a great end to our Perth To Ningaloo Reef Road Trip!
Map of the Top 5 Sights On The Perth To Ningaloo Reef Road Trip
Where to Stay On The Perth To Ningaloo Reef Road Trip
Although we use Airbnb whenever we can, this time we decided on bucking our usual trend and tried a campervan (it hurts to say that… camping is not and never will be my thing). If you are planning to stay for longer than 2 nights, click here to set up an Airbnb account, it can be a roll of the dice in terms of what you get but you’ll likely get way more bang for your buck.
There are limited accomodation options in general, hence the camping decision, but if you fancy going with hotels, try the Hotels Combined search engine if you fancy cracking on with some planning.
Whilst many of the images are our own we did get some help from the some talented individuals, we like to give credit when it’s due! If you click their links under the images you will see some fantastic portfolios of passionate travellers and photographers. All images were obtained under the Creative Commons Licensing Agreements.