Top 10 Amazing Activities to include in your Perth to Shark Bay itinerary
Road trip itinerary tips on the Coral Coast
It’s around 800 kilometres from Perth to Shark Bay, depending on the route you take—the perfect distance for a road trip! Done nonstop, the drive will take around eight to nine hours. However, the beautiful coastline of Western Australia is not a route you want to rush. There is so much to see and do along the way.
With a car hire from Perth Airport and a spirit of adventure, you’ll be off to a great start. Read on for more about Perth, Shark Bay, and all the activities on offer along the Coral Coast.
The Perth to Shark Bay road trip journey begins in Western Australia’s major metropolis, a bold and laidback city near the beach. It’s the most isolated city of its size in the world and serves as a hub for visitors to this side of the vast and diverse Australian continent. Perth is a fantastic starting point for a rental car road trip, and having your own set of wheels makes it easy to get around and explore the sprawling city and suburbs before hitting the highways.
Got some time to spend in Perth before heading out on the 800ish-kilometre journey to Shark Bay? Don’t leave without a trip to one of the stunning beaches. Cottesloe and Scarborough are popular options. Fremantle is also worth a visit for its maritime history and renowned fish and chips. The Swan Valley is an excellent spot for wine tasting, and the city centre has a great live music scene as well as bars, restaurants, galleries, shopping, and the sprawling Botanic Garden.
Shark Bay is a World Heritage Site with some spectacular natural features, a must-see destination for anyone who makes the journey to Western Australia's Indian Ocean Drive. Some of the best places to visit and enjoy include:
- Monkey Mia, famous for wild dolphin encounters.
- Francois Peron National Park, an impressive region of red dunes and shrubland often enjoyed by 4WD.
- Steep Point, the most westerly point on the Australian mainland, where lofty limestone cliffs rise out of the Indian Ocean.
- Shell Beach, tiny shells make up this stretch of 120 kilometres of beach, almost like safeguarding the calm waters.
- Shark Bay Marine Reserve, protected waters where you’ll find an incredible diversity of creatures including dugongs, turtles, sharks, whales and whale sharks, unique stromatolites, and even emus bathing in the shallows.
- Denham, the country’s most westerly settlement and hub for tourism at Shark Bay—the Denham Discovery Trail and Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre are located here.
If you want to experience the unique flora, fauna, and landscapes of WA, Shark Bay should be on your bucket list. And at just eight or nine hours from Perth, it’s a no-brainer for keen road trippers. You don’t need a 4WD vehicle to get to the bay itself; if you want to explore the remote coastlines and dunes in-depth you can sign on for a 4WD tour with one of the local operators.
Perth to Shark Bay distance: What to do along the way
While the 800 kilometres between these two points can be driven in a single day, we highly recommend spreading the trip there—and back—over a few days. This will allow you to fit in the many fantastic sights and experiences on offer along the way.
Here are a few of the wonderful destinations and the activities you can enjoy in each one:
This place in Nambung National Park is one of those otherworldly natural attractions that looks like it was created by supernatural creatures—a truly striking landscape just three hours north of Perth. It consists of incredible natural limestone structures, formed around 30,000 years ago when the sea receded leaving seashell deposits.
Some of the formations reach four metres in height, and the surrounding desert has been a traditional home to aboriginal peoples for thousands of years, adding some incredible history and cultural heritage to the fascinating geology of the area.
There’s a 4-kilometre driving loop you can use to see the landscape, and plenty of opportunity to get around on foot and explore, too. A visit to the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre will provide more information and insight, so be sure to stop in and see the displays.
“ One of the most popular attractions at Jurien Bay is the sea lion colonies. Many of these playful creatures live in the waters and on the shoreline near Julien Bay ”
Continue north from Nambung National Park and you’ll soon be in this lovely and laid-back coastal town with white sand beaches and a quiet, relaxed vibe. It’s a great spot to stop for the night, with accommodation options ranging from holiday homes for rent to motels and B&Bs. There are also plenty of opportunities to camp in the wider area: Milligan Island, Cervantes, Sandy Cape, and more.
One of the most popular attractions at Jurien Bay is the sea lion colonies. Many of these playful creatures live in the waters and on the shoreline near Julien Bay, and local tour operators can get you closer—from a boat, or you can get in the water with a snorkel to enjoy their company. Boullanger Island just offshore is also popular for snorkeling, not with sea lions but amidst the coral and seagrass meadow.
Jurien Bay is home to several fishing tour operators, offering plenty of opportunity to get out and put a line in for local species like Yellowfin tuna and Pink snapper. There’s also skydiving available, and jumping out of a plane is certainly a spectacular way to enjoy this part of the Coral Coast. If you want more
Port Denison and Dongara
Located around halfway through the 8-9 hour trip between Perth and Shark Bay, these twin towns split by the mouth of the Irwin River are low-key but lovely. They feature pristine beaches and have a wide array of water-based activities on offer. The 4-kilometre Dongara Heritage Walk is a great way to see some of the town and its history. Don’t miss out on the photo opportunity presented by the “Big Western Rock Lobster” statue located along the main road.
Kite surfing, surfing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and other adventurous ocean activities are popular, and so is swimming—but only at patrolled beaches. If you prefer to stay away from the waves, try the Thungara Trails, six walking paths to suit a range of abilities, each exploring different cultural, historical, and natural features of the area.
Flat Rocks Beach
This one is worth a quick mention for the sake of any surfers—Flat Rocks is a renowned surf beach with consistent conditions. It’s also a good spot for confident swimmers, and the beach provides a playground for anyone who doesn’t want to enter the water.
This small but significant seaside city should definitely feature on your itinerary! It’s a coastal hub in the area, packed with cafes, restaurants, galleries, and other urban entertainment that complements the fantastic natural delights of the area.
If you’re stopping to spend time in the city, here are a few fantastic things to do:
- See the iconic Point Moore Lighthouse.
- Visit the HMAS Sydney II memorial.
- Walk the Geraldton Heritage Trails.
- Take a trip to dive or birdwatch at the Houtman Abrolhos Islands.
- Spend some time at Yamagi Art, the Aboriginal-owned and operated art centre, and the Geraldton Museum to learn more about the history and culture of the area.
- Hit the beach or stroll the foreshore.
- Sample the seafood that comes out of the crystal-clear waters off Geraldton.
This attractive beach is well worth a separate mention, although it’s just half an hour’s drive north of Geraldton. It’s especially popular with windsurfers, but is a great spot for all beach activities right down to simply picnicking on the sand.
There is a basic council-run campsite, a communal BBQ, and pit toilets.
Kalbarri National Park
The Nanda people are the traditional owners of this beautiful park that surrounds the lower reaches of the Murchison River. The gorge cut out of the landscape by the river is the showstopper here, but there is plenty more to see and do during your visit.
Perhaps one of the most recogniseable (and Instagrammable) sites in the park is Nature’s Window, a breathtaking rock arch framing an incredible view of the Eagle Gorge. If you’re excited to explore more, there’s an eight-kilometre loop track that follows the river. Hiking experience is recommended, as there are steep and uneven sections.
Across from Nature’s Window is a tourism precinct that features twin “Skywalks”, both essentially large viewing platforms that jut out over the gorge. Artwork by local indigenous artists has been incorporated into the experience, and there is also a kiosk serving food and drink. There are no additional fees to access the Skywalk—only the general park entry fee.
Ready to book?
The destinations mentioned above should offer plenty of opportunities to break up the 800-900 kilometre trip between Perth and Shark Bay—and the return trip, too! There is more to be discovered, particularly if you are willing to stretch the eight to nine-hour driving time into several days. Why not head inland and explore the Golden Outback?
If you’re arriving from overseas and are unfamiliar with driving in Australia, here are a few quick tips to help you stay safe on the road:
- Always drive on the LEFT!
- There are some long, straight stretches of highway in Western Australia. Make sure you are always well-rested when driving to prevent accidents caused by fatigue.
- Some areas are remote with scarce civilisation. Fill up your petrol tank regularly. Always carry a spare tyre, water, food, and a mobile phone.
- All drivers and passengers must wear a seatbelt (or use an appropriate child restraint) where they are fitted.
- Check out these model road rules which form the basis of each state’s driving laws.
It’s always an adventure to visit Australia—and remote, beautiful Western Australia is certainly no exception. Stay safe on the roads and enjoy the spectacular Perth to Shark Bay route!