In May, I spent 3 weeks exploring the road between Perth and Broome by campervan. It was a whirlwind trip of dreamy beaches, fantastic animal encounters, wild national parks, the beautiful Ningaloo Reef and a glimpse into the campervan culture of Australia.
I’ve wanted to take a camper trip for ages, especially after hearing from passengers and consultants here at Travel Nation how much fun they can be. We hired a luxury campervan – the Maui Ultima and it was everything we hoped it would be.
My favourite features were the pull out barbecue and the pull out television – we ate from the barbecue every single night with corn on the cob, steak, sausages and chicken all on the menu. You might think “why have you gone all the way to Australia just to watch television?” but as we were visiting during the Australian winter, the early sunsets and dark evenings actually meant it was nice to be able to watch an episode of something before we turned in – I think otherwise we might have been asleep by 7pm!
We began in Perth before winding our way up the coast, heading inland to Karijini National Park and finishing in the beach town of Broome, high up on the north-west coast of Australia. It’s a much less explored area of the country, in fact most of the tourists we met were Australian, over from the east and south coast’s exploring the other side of their country.
Just an hour’s ferry ride from Perth, Rottnest Island is a paradise of hidden beaches, low lying lakes and cute marsupials called quokkas. The best way to visit is a day tour package (which we can arrange), with a transfer to the port, bike hire and the ferry ticket all included. We biked around the tiny island and quickly found some friendly quokkas! It’s a great place to spend the day relaxing on the beaches and snorkelling in the clear water and enjoying the company of the locals. A visit to “Rotto” is an absolute must!
The Pinnacles lie 2 hours north of Perth and were our first stop off after we picked up our campervan. I wasn’t sure what they would be like – could some rocks in the ground really be that interesting? As soon as we arrived, I realised how photogenic they are! They’re close to the ocean and the contrast between the blue water and the mustard yellow rocks is beautiful. There are several walking paths you can follow that wind through the rock formations and enjoy the views over the fields of yellow pinnacles.
The beaches of Western Australia have to be seen to be believed! Around every bend in the road there is a little sign showing a turn off, where you’ll roll up to an empty sugar white beach, each more beautiful than the last. Hangover Bay, Jurien Bay, Green Head – I could go on forever, and those are only the fairly well known ones. We took advantage of these stunning sections of the coast by parking up our camper and heading to the beach each lunch time – enjoying the warm breeze and white surf that crashes down on the shore.
We hopped on a tiny plane and flew over to the Abrolhos Islands, famous for the first European building in Australia and as the scene of the gruesome mutiny that caused its construction.
The low lying islands are dotted like jewels in the ocean, where fishermen live seasonally and pull spiny rock lobsters from the shallow waters. We had a scenic flight over the 3 island groups before landing on East Wallabi Island and spending the day snorkelling amongst the pristine coral, hiking through the shrub land to find the eponymous wallabies and wandering along the empty beaches enjoying the solitude of the tiny island. It’s a fantastic day trip to take from Geraldton on the mainland and you’re seriously missing out on a piece of Australian history and some of the best views on the west coast if you don’t visit. We can book you a half day or full day trip out to the islands – just ask!
I can’t quite explain how wonderful our time in Monkey Mia was! Firstly it was our first proper day off driving of the whole trip. We spent the day wandering along the beach and out into the ocean where you can stand 3 metres out and still in ankle deep water on the tip of a sand caye.
The absolute highlight however is the dolphins! Each morning there are 3 feeding sessions where everyone in the resort comes down to the beach to watch the wild dolphins snap up the 3 fish they are allowed daily. We were excited about going down the next morning but as soon as we arrived on the beach the afternoon before, there were already 3 dolphins darting around in the shallows. Later we went paddle boarding and they started following us around, popping up around us to say hello – absolutely one of the most magical wildlife experiences of my life. There are also manatees further out to sea amongst the sea grass beds – we didn’t spot any but it’s the perfect excuse to come back!
One of the huge attractions of Western Australia is the opportunity to swim with mantas and whale sharks. We did a manta ray tour from Coral Bay and spent the day in paradise watching reef sharks and stingrays, cuttlefish and two beautiful turtles that rose up from a puff of silver cleaner fish giving them a polish. We actually saw 3 different manta rays, which were swimming slowly around looking for food so we could snorkel directly above them for about 30 minutes as they barrel rolled and swirled around, with tiny sharks swooping around below its belly.
Our whale shark tour was from Exmouth and took us out beyond the reef to spot these giants of the deep. We had the chance to swim with 2 sharks, both ver 7 metres long. You can’t quite believe how big they’ll be until you’re dropped into the water facing one! The experience was unparalleled and it’s hard to explain how fantastic it was so let me just say: get yourself to Western Australia now!
Located in Cape Range National Park, Turquoise Bay is a pretty beach with azure water and sand like sugar. However, the real highlight of this beach lies under the water, in the fringing Ningaloo Reef that lies just offshore.
Turquoise Bay is home to a strong current that runs along the beach – just walk to the end, pop on your snorkel and you’ll be carried along the beach, no need even to swim as the current is so strong! Only a few metres into the water and we were surrounded by clouds of pink and yellow fish, dark green corals and the occasional blue starfish. One of the best places we snorkelled and so so easy to do right off the beach – it’s probably my favourite snorkel spot in the world!
I had visions of Karijini being a vast red wilderness: harsh rocks, steep gorges and small creeks feeding the small amount of water available into dark green pools. In reality it was very different; lush and verdant, with every shade of green you’ve ever seen peeping out amongst the cracks in the rock. As our camper didn’t wasn’t a 4WD, we could only access a small area of the park. I was worried we were missing out but in reality it was fantastic, especially as we only had one full day to explore.
If you want to spend a few days here I’d recommend you go for a 4WD campervan as there are plenty more areas you can enjoy with the right set of wheels. We hiked along the top of Dales Gorge before descending into the deep, admiring the angular beauty of Fortescue Falls before heading back along the floor of the gorge, following the river to its destination, Circular Pool. The climb out was pretty brutal but completed an amazing 4 hour walk that I’d definitely recommend if you want to enjoy the park. It’s also very cool in the gorge as you are out of the sun!
Broome is a great place; it feels very big when you arrive after all of the tiny towns along the coast but in reality it’s pretty small. It’s a great place to relax at the end of your trip and I’d recommend you check into the Cable Beach Club, just like we did. Beautiful rooms, huge grounds full of frangipani bushes and tall palms, both family and adult-only pools – what more do you need?
We had cocktails each night at the Sunset Bar and Grill and watched the sun sink into the ocean beyond Cable Beach. We were also there for ‘Staircase to the Moon’, a phenomenon where the recently set sun illuminates the moon ins a deep shade of orange, which reflects over the mudflats of Roebuck Bay create rungs of a ladder up climbing up to it. If you want to experience the sunset from a different perspective – you could ride across cable beach on a camel at sunset!The west coast of Australia is such a beautiful place to visit – even after spending three weeks exploring I’d go back tomorrow if I could! There are so many other great experiences I can’t fit into this blog: feeding kangaroos, spotting a rare echidna up close, Shell Beach and the coastline of Kalbarri National Park, just to name a few. I’m already planning my next campervan caper from Perth to Adelaide so I can enjoy the delights of the south west as well – watch this space!
If you’d like to hire a campervan in Australia, there are endless opportunities to explore off the beaten track. Car hire is another option, or if you don’t want to drive yourself, there are plenty of small group tours that will take you to some of the places I went. For more information on Australia and to book your trip – contact one of our Australia specialists or call us on +44 1273 224522.