Australia’s South West offers a destination of diversity. Experience it all by travelling the entire length of the region, or design your own self-drive journey. It can take you a couple of days or better still a couple of weeks. Enjoy a gourmet getaway, or get high in nature; the possibilities are endless!
Geographically, this unique region comprises many contrasting landscapes; from ancient mountain ranges and rugged granite headlands along the south coast, to the towering karri trees and hills in the Southern Forests and Valleys and a network of spectacular caves further to the west. The regions’ best attractions are dotted in and around country towns and vast national parks harbouring some of the world’s most unique flora and fauna.
Here is one of our favourite South West road trips:
‘THE BUCKET LIST’ ROAD TRIP
Day 1 Perth to Mount Barker
Follow the Albany Highway south from Perth, through the agricultural town of Kojonup and the gateway to the Stirling Range National Park, Cranbrook. Make your first cellar door stop at Mount Barker – the hub of the Great Southern Wine Region. Enjoy a lazy lunch overlooking the vineyards and stunning country panoramas in the Porongurups, then stretch your legs with a trail walk. Our suggestion: the breathtaking Granite Skywalk in the Porongurup National Park.
Day 2 Mount Barker to Albany
Make your way to the historic city of Albany, filled with charming heritage buildings, restaurants, bars and taverns. Visit the National Anzac Centre at Mount Clarence, where the first and second convoys of Australian and New Zealand troops departed for the First World War. Head to The Gap and Natural Bridge to see the power of nature in action and learn about whaling history at Albany’s Historic Whaling Station.
Day 3 Albany to Denmark
Drive to Denmark, known for its undulating landscape, forests and beautiful beaches. Head to Elephant Rocks and Greens Pool for a swim or walk part of the Bibbulmun Track. Travel along the scenic Scotsdale Tourist Drive, stopping to feast on delicious produce, taste some award-winning cool climate wines, and buy some locally produced art and trinkets.
Day 4 Denmark to Pemberton
Head west of Denmark towards Walpole, where you can experience the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. On the way to Pemberton, take in impressive views from the Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout or stretch your legs at Northcliffe’s Understory Art Trail. Once in Pemberton, pick up a bottle (or two) of wine from one of the area’s many cellar doors - they make the perfect accompaniment to a feast featuring fresh local flavours, including Pemberton’s finest delicacy, marron.
Day 5 Pemberton to Nannup
If you’re looking for a thrill, head to one of the three climbing trees in the region - the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, Gloucester Tree and Diamond Tree - and see how high you can climb. On the hunt for black gold, aka the Manjimup black truffle? Go on a truffle hunt in season or taste this highly prized fungi at restaurants throughout town, then make your way to Bridgetown, stopping by farm gates to buy fresh produce along the way. Once in Bridgetown, meander down the Blackwood River, either by foot, bike or kayak. Move on to Nannup and discover why this town is called the ‘garden village’.
Day 6 Nannup to Margaret River
Take in the misty morning views of Nannup’s rolling hills, then drive to the Margaret River Region – home to world-class food and wine, pristine beaches, surfing, tall tree forests, caves, whales and wildflowers. Picnic under the towering Boranup Forest, or head underground to discover a labyrinth of limestone caves. Alternatively, head to Augusta and climb the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia – Cape Leeuwin – then meet the local stingrays and eagle rays at the peaceful Hamelin Bay. Spend the night wining and dining in the town of Margaret River.
Day 7 Margaret River to Busselton
Go for an early morning surf, before visiting your choice of wineries, restaurants, boutique breweries, art galleries and fresh produce stores. Explore a section of the coastal Cape to Cape Track and check out Canal Rocks and Sugarloaf Rock, two natural attractions shaped by the ocean over many millennia. Get some R&R at one of the many white sandy beaches in the region, then put your head to rest in Busselton.
Day 8 Busselton to Bunbury
Did you know the Busselton Jetty is the longest wooden-piled jetty in the world? Walk or catch a train to the end of this 1.8kmlong pier, then marvel at wild sea creatures as you walk through its underwater observatory. Walk along the Busselton Foreshore where you can grab a bite to eat while watching the kids play on a huge nature playground. Make your way to Bunbury via the Tuart Drive Scenic Route, which will wind you through magnificent Tuart forest. Spend the night exploring Bunbury’s fun dining options and boutique bars.
Day 9 Bunbury to the Ferguson Valley
Here’s a fun one for big and little kids alike – head to the newly refurbished Dolphin Discovery Centre and go on an eco-cruise or swim, where you’ll get to encounter wild bottlenose dolphins in Koombana Bay. Not your thing? Grab a street art map from the Bunbury Visitor Centre and discover the vivid wall murals that are scattered throughout the city, or join an Aboriginal tour for a special insight into this diverse region. From Bunbury, head to the Ferguson Valley. Visit the quirky little village of Gnomesville and stock up on some prime Geographe Wine.
Day 10 Ferguson Valley to Perth
Go for a scenic walk through the Wellington National Park, stopping at Black Diamond Lake or Honeymoon Pool for a picnic. Make your way back up to Perth, detouring through Harvey to pick up some delicious locally produced cheeses and fresh produce. Once in Perth, feast on the spoils of your successful South West road trip.
Here's a selection of some other road-trip itineraries that you can take inspiration from for your next trip.
Driving advice for the South West
Driving in the south west is easy, as there’s plenty of open road and little traffic. You do need to keep alert though, as you’re driving on country roads, and often for long stretches at a time. Remember these simple guidelines to ensure a safe trip:
- Vehicles are not the only road users in the South West
- Try to avoid travel at dawn and dusk as this is when wildlife is most active.
- If you see an animal on the road in front of you brake firmly in a straight line and sound your horn. Do not swerve as it is safer to stay on the road.
- The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving in Australia is 0.05.
- If you're planning to sample wines, beers or liquor, be sure to nominate a Designated Driver.
- The maximum speed limit in WA is 110 kilometres per hour.
- With a maximum of 50 kilometres per hour in built-up areas such as towns and estates.