This is a long trip - 4,331 km - that's like driving from Los Angeles to New York and halfway back again, but through some of the most inhospitable and isolated country in the world. Eight days is also a relatively short time to cover such a vast distance; in reality it will very much be a flying visit. It can be done in that time, as I've done it myself, but it is preferable to treat the 8 days as the minimum amount of time required to do this trip. Not only will increasing the duration of the trip make it safer for those travelling, it will give far more time to visit more places 8 days allows.
The Pilbara region receives periods of torrential rainfall and is very hot between November and May, therefore travelling this route during those months is to be avoided. July to October are the recommended travelling months.
Python Pool, Chichester Range
This drive shouldn't be attempted without a great deal of thought and preparation if you are not used to driving such long distances and over such isolated territory. The latter part of the drive is on the Great Northern Highway. It is among the remotest sealed roads in the world. Some sections are several hundred kilometres in length without so much as a roadhouse, so when you see a roadhouse, fill up there even if your fuel tank is not empty as you might not make it to the next fuel stop.
The coastal road sees a reasonable amount of traffic, but when travelling on some stretches of inland road, yours may well be the only vehicle on it! There will be no mobile phone service available for the greater part of the journey either. The towns on the way are not what most people perceive a town to be; they are often small settlements with no more than a handful of people living there.
Be assured, however, that if you are in trouble, they are always more than willing to help. If you have a breakdown and need replacement vehicle parts, these have to be brought in by road and can take anywhere from a few days to a week to reach you, depending on how isolated your location is. If you follow the instructions given here, you will be travelling on sealed roads all the way, except to visit some geographical features. To avoid getting lost, bogged or broken down, stick to the main roads and avoid taking shortcuts. Many outback tracks marked on maps disappeared years ago through lack of use, so don't be tempted to take one, even if it looks fine.
The inland roads in particular present several major hazards to travellers. Stray cattle and other grazing animals are particularly dangerous and prevalent throughout the Pilbara as potential roadkill. Camels, kangaroos and wedge-tailed eagles, although smaller, are also very dangerous, with wedge-tailed eagles particularly immobile after gorging on other roadkill. Driving at night is best avoided; being equipped with a good frontal roo bar and driving spotlights can help slightly, but is still very dangerous.
That all having been said, a drive like this is the best way to see the Australian outback, and if you plan your trip well, making sure the motor vehicle you take is capable of covering this distance, and you follow the advice given here, chances are you will have a fabulous, event-free trip that will remain in your memory forever.
Wesley Church, Greenough
Day 1: Leave Perth via Great Eastern Highway. At Midland, turn left into Great Northern Highway. Follow the highway to Muchea, turning left onto Brand Highway towards Geraldton. There is very little to stop and look at before reaching Dongara and Port Denison on Brand Highway, but there are roads to numerous coastal townships of Cervantes, Jurien, Leeman and Green Head along the way. All these coastal settlements known for their fishing, swimming, surfing and diving.
The unique Pinnacles Desert of limestone monuments is located at Nambung National Park, near the beachside settlement of Cervantes. Access to Park is by 4-wheel drive vehicles only. The formations are actually the skeletal remains of trees that grew thousands of years ago. Cataby is the traditional stop for travellers, about 250 km north of Perth, with two roadhouses.
Near Cataby is the Salt Lake and the Yandin lookout that (in good visibility days) offers views of surrounding countryside. Rega's Ford is a nice picnic spot on the banks of the Moore River about half-way between Perth and Eneabba. The twin towns of Dongara & Port Denison, to the south of Geraldton, are well known for their crayfishing, fishing, wildflowers (from July to October) and provide a welcome stopover for travellers.
Ellendale Pool, near Walkaway, is a natural freshwater pool formed by Greenough river and fed by underground springs. Between Dongara and Geraldton, the highway passes across the Greenough plains. Numerous buildings in the ghost town of Greenough have been brought back to life by locals and tells the story of the rise and fall of the Greenough community.
The trees on Greenough Plains are unusual in that they have been so blown by prevailing winds, their trunks bend over and touch the earth. Geraldton is now known as the 'Sun City' because of the average of 8 hours sunshine per day and a warm dry climate. The port for the surrounding region, Geraldton is well known for its kilometres of long white beaches which attract swimmers, windsurfers and fishermen as well as those who just love beach walking. 424 km.
Cliffs near Kalbarri
Day 2: Drive north from Geraldton, passing through Northampton on the way to Kalbarri. Off the highway, Kalbarri is coastal town located on the mouth of the Murchison River. Kalbarri is on a stark but beautiful stretch of coastline with red coastal cliffs and gorges. Inland is Kalbarri National Park where the Murchison River winds its way through colourful gorges, which can be viewed from above or from within the gorges themselves. Bushwalking, canoeing the river and fishing are popular activities here.
From July until November the park is transformed into a mosaic of colour with over 800 species of West Australian native wildflowers. Whales are often seen from the cliffs during those months. Return to the highway, and proceed north to Shark Bay; take Shark Bay Road. One of only a handful of regions in the world to gain World Heritage Listing, Shark Bay is teaming with a multiplicity of wildlife - it is at Shark Bay and Monkey Mia where wild dolphins interact with humans.
Be aware that the stark and somewhat desolate-looking landscape can be disappointing to those who go to Shark Bay expecting something else, but if you go expecting to see nature at in its wildest, untamed state, you'll leave fulfilled. Spend the night at Denham. 560 km
Goulet Bluff, Shark Bay