Lee Atkinson shares her favourite Western Australian road trips.
A road trip from Perth should come with a warning: you will spend longer than you planned to in this spectacular place – or at least you’ll wish you could. Discover why they call it the ‘wild west’ in the latest instalment of our series on the best road trips from each of our capital cities.
Wine, wildflowers and wild waves in the Margaret River
The Margaret River area is famous for its wine but it's also got some of the world’s best surf breaks, beautiful uncrowded beaches, caves, forests, whales and coastal walking trails.
Getting there is easy: Margaret River is around a three-hour drive south of Perth via the Kwinana Freeway and the Forrest Highway. Take a break at Busselton, where you can stroll the longest wooden jetty in the Southern Hemisphere (there’s a train if you don’t fancy the 2km walk). The underwater observatory descends eight metres below the surface.
The best way to explore the Margaret River region is along Caves Road, a 110km scenic drive that stretches from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south. The township of Margaret River is roughly in the middle and makes a good base.
The entire scenic drive could be done in an hour or so, but if you really want to explore the area you should split the drive into two days, one day for the south, the other for the north. Highlights in the south include several richly-decorated caves and the karri forests around Margaret River; take a detour off Caves Road and wind your way through the Boranup Karri Forest on Boranup Drive. Continue south past barely-there beach-side communities; stop for a fish burger at the bakery in Augusta; and finally reach Cape Leeuwin, the most south-westerly tip of Australia. The lighthouse here has watched over the point where the Indian and Southern oceans meet since 1895. The point is a good place to watch whales off the shore and during spring, masses of beautiful wildflowers dot the windswept headland.
The Caves Road loop north of Margaret River hits the sea in Geographe Bay at Cape Naturaliste where you can take a tour of the lighthouse or walk around the headland for views of the coastline and, depending on the time of year, spot some migrating whales. The Caves Road then cuts through the heart of the main wine producing area. There are around 50 wineries clumped together in a stretch of around 15km. www.margaretriver.com
Day tripper: The Pinnacle Desert
There aren’t many places in Australia where you can see the sea from the middle of the desert, but in the Pinnacles Desert near Cervantes, you can. Thousands of huge limestone pillars rise out of a stark landscape of yellow sand in Nambung National Park. Don't let the fact that it's a desert deter you: Cervantes is just a two-hour drive north of the city, and the 4km Pinnacles Loop Drive through the national park is fully accessible to 2WDs. Cervantes is also famous for its rock lobster. It's best eaten on the beach and you can buy some in town to take away. www.australiascoralcoast.com
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