Tips on driving up the WA coast

Although we have fallen in love with Perth, it is time to explore a little more of Western Australia.

Months ago we planned part of our trip up the Western coast. We decided to head north since when we were going to be there in June/July is actually winter in Australia. We were hoping to find warmer weather.

Pinnacle Desert
Pinnacle Desert

We have met lots of Australians that recommended visiting the South as well. We will have to plan another trip for that, possibly in a warmer season!

Anyway we decided to improvise our trip a bit. We did not want to backtrack. This is the reason why we booked a flight out of Exmouth. It would allows to simply drive one way. Of course when you visit a country for the first time, new experiences teach you a few important lessons. Here is what we have learned during this first leg of our Australia travels

1. Car Rental drop off charges

When you book a car rental, it is going to cost you a fortune to drop it off in a different location! Way more than the total rental cost for 2 weeks! Apparently they have to tow it back to Perth. This means that the renter has to pay for it of course. We are used to the US costs and never thought that it was going to be this crazy expensive! However it would have cost us even more to change our flights, so we painfully accepted the extra charges. Something to keep in mind when booking.

Pink Lake, Hutt Lagoon
Pink Lake, Hutt Lagoon

2. Rental car insurance

When traveling internationally and getting a rental ALWAYS put the max insurance on it! We did luckily. However we were tempted to skip. “Apparently” we had plenty of damages (mainly due to bushes scratching the car). I’m saying apparently, because when we dropped off the car there was no one to check the car with us and check it. Anyway without that insurance, it would have been more for us to pay out-of-pocket. Instead it was all covered! They rental companies always recommend full insurance when traveling thousand of miles between locations. Do trust them on that it is a great suggestion.

animals on the roads

3. Night driving

Careful if driving at night! In Australia animals cross the road. You don’t want to be the one to hit them! We never drove at night, but some start coming out at dusk. During that time we have seen kangaroos, porcupines, lizards and emus!

road sign

4. Fill you tank!

Make sure to get fuel when you are low. If you postpone till the next station you might not get there! Specially in the last part of our trip. The distances where much longer between places and we did get a few scares of stopping along the way.

gas station

5. Book accommodation

It might not be the best idea to “wing it” for sleeping accommodation or look for last-minute options. They can be really expensive or there might not be anything available! Unfortunately we have gone a bit over our budget for our sleeping solutions. In fact we didn’t realize it was the Australian school vacation and everyone apparently is traveling in North Western Australia! We have never spent less than AUD $116 (about $85) a night and the maximum AUD $160 (about $118). Maybe if I had booked sooner I would have been able to find better deals. However maybe we would have regretted not doing things the way we did, so I guess you just have to be ok with it. 



Don’t give WIFI for granted! Once you get out of Perth, it is not so easy to get it anywhere. As we drove up the coast many of the places where we slept didn’t have it at all or it wasn’t working. We have learned to take things a little slower, since we can’t be wifi accessible 24/7. We also learned to figure out smart ways to get the wifi and get things done quick. We have sat in cafes (after ordering something), out of grocery stores, out of banks and so on. Remember all this with 3 kids that didn’t care of being in that place for too long, so we had to get things done real fast! 

7. Playgrounds

We found playgrounds everywhere! Yes all along the coast we have done plenty of playtime stops. The best part of it is that they are pretty amazing play sets in beautiful locations. For example right off the beach in some cases! So the kids have fun and the parents enjoy the view!


8. Accommodation expectations

Don’t expect to find super fancy hotels everywhere around here. Of course they would not be in our budget. However we noticed that mostly you will find camping/caravan parks and cheaper hotels. We have slept in bungalows, apartments, cottages or houses. The kitchens saved our food budget and our sanity with 3 kids! 

backyard playing

9. Camper vans, 4wd and caravans

On the road we noticed that the main mean of transportation were camper vans, 4wd and caravans. I love how Australians are so practical and adventurous! We couldn’t rent one for this part of our trip. However we will for the rest of our travels in Australia.

camper vans, 4wd and caravans

10. Extra food 

Always make sure to have some extra food in the car. For the first part of the trip we easily found places to stop and eat. However as the distances got longer between stops it was a little more complicated. Often it wasn’t not very good. We all know what happens when kids get hungry… yon can also find some pretty cool spots to stop for a picnic!

Beach in Exmouth
Beach in Exmouth

11. Shopping

Buy only what you need, so nothing goes wasted and it fits in the super packed car! We tried to but only a limited amount of groceries. We also kept the main things we needed (toiletries, pajamas, change of clothes, cooking stuff and so on) in plastic bags so they could easily be taken in and out of the car. At times we didn’t even take the suitcases out. 

12. Washer and dryer

Don’t give for granted dryer and washer everywhere. We rented a house with the main purpose to get some laundry done while there and of course the washer was broken! So we our first laundromat experience. We decided to do only a wash because a guy before us took over all the dryers! Patience! Lots and lots! So if you do have a washer in the place you are stying, use it, the next place might not have it!

How did we decide where to go?

We based our choices on places we thought might be really worth seeing. I also found a few itineraries online and then created our own out of that. Due to the weather we made longer stops up north and just one-night stops the first nights.

Beach in Exmouth
Beach in Exmouth

Here are is our itinerary and the distances in our 13 day road trip:

Day 1: Perth – Jurien Bay: 220 km

Day 2: Jurien Bay – Geraldton: 198 km

Day 3: Gerladton – Kalbarri: 156 km

Day 4 and 5: Kalbarri – Denham: 378 km

Day 6: Denham – Monkey Mia: 26 km

Day 7: Monkey Mia –  Carnarvon: 350 km

Day 8, 9 and 10: Carnarvon – Exmouth: 364 km

Day 11, 12 and 13: Exmouth

The total of our mileage was over 2400 km. In fact to the stops listed above, you have to add side trips and so on. Just like that you put many many miles on a car! It was a little tiring but 100% worth.

It is amazing to drive to such a distance and witness firsthand the changes in the environment, the people and the lifestyle.

In the next posts I will go a bit into detail about all our stops!

Click here to see more of our posts from our travels in Australia!!!

Check out our posts Driving up the WA coast – Part 1 and Driving up the WA coast – Part 2 to learn more about our stops!


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