Red Earth and Reef: Perth to Geraldton travel guide

You’ve got wildlife, both on the land and beneath the sea. Then there are the spring wildflowers. And don’t forget the exceptional national parks. A trip along the Coral Coast is a natural adventure.


Aerial view of a line of shacks and jetties on the edge of a small, flat island in turquoise water, Abrolhos Islands, WA

It’s the first half of Western Australia’s famed Coral Coast. On one side of the car as you're driving its length, the incredible Indian Ocean. Every shade of blue imaginable and another world beneath its surface. On the other is a landscape that captivates. At times it is the colour of ochre, but during spring it’s blanketed in a carpet of wildflowers people travel from around the world to see.

How long does it take to drive the 420 kilometres it takes to get to Geraldton? How long have you got? The adventurous could spend days hiking national parks and snorkelling picturesque bays. But give yourself at least two days to get there, a couple of days in Geraldton and two back again.


A shallow lake with what seem like rocks in the water, but are actually living creatures, Lake Thetis, Cervantes, WA

You’d expect to see these formations in the middle of a vast desert – or on the moon. But the Pinnacles are part of Nambung National Park, south of the coastal town of Cervantes. These limestone formations were created about 30,000 years ago when the sea receded. While you’re wandering among them, keep your eyes peeled for kangaroos and emus. There are also beautiful, often deserted beaches in the park, and you can view stromatolites – yes, they’re alive – from a boardwalk over Lake Thetis.


  1. Animal lovers should take a break 50 kilometres north of Perth. Yanchep National Park has a 240-metre-long boardwalk where the star attraction is above you. Koalas live in these trees and they’re easy to spot. If it’s early (or late), you’ll also see lots of western grey kangaroos grazing – at other times they’re usually resting in the shade.

  2. The water at Jurien Bay is the shade of turquoise usually reserved for postcards. Just 2.5 hours from Perth, it’s popular with holidaymakers thanks to glorious beaches, invigorating coastal walks and excellent diving and snorkelling. Sea lions are common, and most people book a tour to swim with them in the marine park.

  3. The waters of Hutt Lagoon change colour depending on the season and time of day, but one thing’s for sure: it will never be blue. Sometimes known as the Pink Lake, its hue ranges from a cheery shade of bubble gum to a rusty red. If you’ve got time, arrive before the sun goes down and watch it transform.

  4. The town of Mullewa is a bit of a detour inland, but it’s worth it. It’s the starting point for a couple of drive trails, one that heads north, but if it’s the right time of year you’ll want to head south. Not only do the wildflowers transform the landscape around here between late July and early October, but the settlement of Tardun is also home to the Wildflower Way interpretive sculptures.

  5. About 60 kilometres west of Geraldton lie the Abrolhos Islands. There are 122 in all, none of them inhabited, except by an excellent array of wildlife, including the seawater-drinking tammar wallaby. It’s beneath the water surface that these islands really shine, however, with exceptional marine life. Divers tend to visit on liveaboards, you can fly over them, or go on a fishing or snorkelling charter.


Pinnacles Edge Resort

Stay close to the otherworldly landscape at Pinnacles Edge Resort in Cervantes. The 26 rooms are stylish and modern, plus there’s an onsite restaurant that serves breakfast each day and has a dinner menu featuring WA seafood and local wines.

Weelaway on Gregory

The bones of Geraldton’s Weelaway on Gregory are thought to date back to the 1860s. Now the property consists of four rooms, each decorated in the traditional style of an old homestead. Guests have the use of a central kitchen, and are just a 600-metre walk from the beach.

Ocean Centre Hotel

Treat yourself to a room at the beachfront Ocean Centre Hotel, where most of the 92 contemporary rooms have views of either the ocean or Geraldton’s marina. There are also cafes, restaurants and historical sights nearby.


Overhead view of a curved jetty stretching from white sand over bright blue sea, Jurien Bay, Coral Coast, WA

Before you leave home, book a vehicle with Apex Car Rentals and pick it up when you land at Perth Airport. Geraldton is 420 kilometres north of the West Australian capital along the scenic Indian Ocean Drive. You’ll want to stop along the way to enjoy the incredible beaches and national parks – perhaps overnight somewhere like Jurien Bay or Cervantes – but be sure to leave plenty of time to spend in Geraldton. It’s a great base for further exploration in the Midwest.


Aerial view of a viewing platform over an impressive gorge and river, Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia

Another 155 kilometres north is Kalbarri National Park, where the Murchison River reaches the sea. Soaring red cliffs, both over the river and the ocean, are a feature of the landscape. There are a number of bushwalks, but the nine-kilometre loop walk that passes Nature's Window is one of the best. Don’t miss the Kalbarri Skywalk, two lookouts that jut out above the rim of Murchison Gorge.