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If stunning white beaches, turquoise waves, ancient forests and being at one with nature is your sort of thing, you will love, love, love this Perth to Adelaide drive itinerary. While the east coast of Australia is a well-trodden backpacker haven, the south coast of Australia between Adelaide and Perth is definitely the path less travelled.
To fully enjoy everything this natural wonderland has to offer, why not grab some travel buddies and a car and tent or campervan, and follow this epic self-drive itinerary like I did? The coastline may be unspoilt, but this coastal road trip is packed with campsites and caravan parks for the budget traveller.
This comprehensive Perth to Adelaide drive itinerary lists all the best attractions along the way, the drive time and distance between each stop, fuel cost, campsites and those all-important Nullarbor roadhouses to fill up on fuel. Perfect to help plan your journey.
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Perth to Adelaide Drive Time & Distance
How long you spend on this road trip depends on how much time you have to spare. The total distance is over 3,500km, and it takes over 35 hours to drive.
I know people who did it in five days, but this allows very little time to explore and very long days of driving. I spread it over five weeks, with two to three nights in most places I stayed. There’s so much to see that this still felt a bit rushed!
You can roughly split the journey into the following three sections, but note that these distances don’t include detours to campsites, town centres and national parks, which can add a huge amount onto your journey. The total petrol cost for us came to $815, but we detoured into a lot of places.
I’d recommend planning when you need to complete the following sections by if you’re on a schedule.
1. Perth to Esperance coastal drive: 13 hrs – 1,166km
The coastal drive between Perth and Esperance is packed with beautiful national parks, stunning beaches, ancient rainforests and Australian wildlife. You’ve also got a lot of populated towns along the way. I spent over three weeks in this section, and I’d recommend allocating about two-thirds of your journey time here.
2. Esperance to Ceduna via the Nullarbor: 14 hr 30 min – 1,406km
The middle section from Esperance to Ceduna takes you inland to Norseman then east across the Nullarbor. This is by far the most monotonous part of the journey with little to see, and you will probably want to pass through as quickly as possible. I did this in three days with two overnight camping stops.
3. Ceduna to Adelaide via Port Lincoln: 11 hr – 1,042km
The final section of the journey, between Ceduna and Adelaide, gets a lot more interesting, with some beautiful national parks and beaches, and the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins and sea lions in Baird Bay. I’d allocate about a third of your time here. It took me a week, but I would have liked longer to add on the Yorke Peninsula.
Perth to Adelaide Drive Itinerary
Here’s a more detailed overview of each area I visited, including campsites, what to see on the way and the incremental distance and driving times between stops to help you plan your journey.
Yalgorup National Park
Once you’ve left Perth, Yalgorup National Park is a pleasant place to stop at if you have the time, with tuart and peppermint woodlands, elongated lakes and the Lake Clifton thrombolites – living, rock-like structures made from micro-organisms.
To find out more, read about my experience camping in Yalgorup National Park. If you’re on a tight schedule I’d skip this area and head straight down to Busselton or Margaret River.
ON THE WAY:
Penguin Island: A mere five-minute ferry ride from Rockingham, Penguin Island in the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park is a beautiful place to visit. I left Perth early in the morning, watched the sunrise from Kings Park and then spent the day on Penguin Island before driving down to Yalgorup to camp for the night.
Read this blog post to find out more about my day trip to Penguin island.
Perth to Preston Beach, Yalgorup National Park: 1 hr 30 mins – 127km (allow extra time for the unsealed road to the campsite if staying overnight).
Martin’s Tank Lake Campground – Preston Beach, $11 per adult per night
Known for its 1.8km-long Busselton Jetty leading to the Underwater Observatory, the city of Busselton is a popular spot for holiday makers. Busselton boasts beautiful sheltered beaches, a busy foreshore, whale-watching tours from Geographe Bay and scenic drives and walks through the only pure tuart forest in the world.
For more information, read my guide on things to do in Busselton.
ON THE WAY:
Bunbury: this is Western Australia’s third largest city and a good stop-off point for lunch, coffee on the waterfront or to stock up on food. Climb the Marlston Hill Lookout if you have the time.
Perth to Busselton: 2hr 30 min – 223km
Preston Beach to Busselton: 1 hr 20 min – 116km
BIG 4 Beachlands Holiday Park – Busselton, from $43 per site per night
Yallingup & Dunsborough
Popular with surfers, Yallingup is a coastal town with great beaches, heaps of art galleries, cave formations and easy access to the stunning 135km Cape to Cape Track that runs from the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse down to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.
I’d highly recommend walking some short sections of this track as the coastal views from Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park are absolutely amazing. I walked from Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse to Sugarloaf Rock, which has amazingly clear water to swim in – albeit a bit chilly!
Nearby Dunsborough is well worth a visit too, with beautiful white beaches, whale-watching tours and much calmer water that’s perfect for swimming and snorkelling. Here’s my guide on the best things to do in Dunsborough and Yallingup.
Busselton to Yallingup: 35 min, 35km
Caves Caravan Park Yallingup, from $30 per site per night
Probably the most well-known area in Australia’s southwest, holiday hotspot Margaret River is famous for fancy food, wineries, surfing and a general arty vibe; it’s definitely worth a visit. It has a small town centre surrounded by forest and plenty of amazing beaches.
You can drive out to the Lake, Mammoth or Jewel Caves, or stop-by some of the beautiful vineyards for wine tasting (go to the visitor centre for information). I visited the Voyager Estate which was incredibly fancy but still very welcoming of us scruffy backpackers!
To plan your visit, read my top nine Margaret River attractions.
Busselton to Margaret River: 40 min – 51km
Yallingup to Margaret River: 40 min – 42km
Wharncliffe Mill Bush Retreat, from $30 per site (min 3 nights) – a very cool eco-friendly campsite in the forest!
You’re now entering Tall Timber Country! Surrounded by national parks, this leafy area is home to ancient forests of Australia’s hugely tall Karri trees. Read all about the natural sights I saw on the easy self drive through Pemberton on the Karri Explorer Drive. Although it’s not a long drive there’s so much interesting stuff to see it took us a whole day!
If you’re not afraid of heights you can climb one of the fire lookout climbing trees. I took on the 75m Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree (which I hadn’t planned on doing but found much less scary than expected)! The views were stunning!
Whatever you do in Pemberton, make sure you visit the Yeagarup Dunes in D’Entrecasteaux National Park, the largest land-locked mobile dune system in the southern hemisphere. I can’t even explain how beautiful this area was – definitely one of my favourite sights on the whole trip.
ON THE WAY:
Hamelin Bay: known for its sting rays, wooden jetty ruins and gorgeous turquoise water, it’s worth nipping down here before you head east. You can also head down to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and waterwheel at Australia’s most south-western point. Check out this blog post to marvel at my beautiful photo diary of Hamelin Bay and Cape Leeuwin.
Augusta: a pretty spot for a waterside picnic lunch (I saw dolphins and pelicans) but only if you have the time. We tried to visit the Jewel Cave too but unfortunately it was closed due to a power cut!
Margaret River to Pemberton: 1 hr 40 min – 135km
Big Brook Arboretum, $7.50 per adult per night
Leaning Marri – Yeagarup Lake, $7.50 per adult per night. You can walk to Yeagarup Dunes from here, or drive if you have a 4WD.
The Walpole Wilderness Area is still Tall Timber Country, and is known for its famous tree top walk through the 400-year-old red tingle forest in the Walpole-Nornalup National Park.
It’s a pretty cool place to visit, with ancient, burnt out trees and a suspended walkway through the forest 40m above the ground. Here’s my blog post about my experience of the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk.
ON THE WAY:
Mount Chudalup: climb the 187m-high granite outcrop for 360-degree views of D’Entrecasteaux National Park and the coastline.
Pemberton to Walpole: 1 hr 30 min – 126km
Coalmine Beach Holiday Park, from $38 per site per night
Situated on Western Australia’s Rainbow Coast, Denmark is a beautiful place to explore, with amazing beaches, Karri forests and a cute town centre.
I highly recommend the arty Bibblumun Café – the free Wi-Fi and plug sockets came in very useful after all the forest camping! And be sure to check out Green’s Pool and Elephant Rocks in William Bay National Park.
ON THE WAY:
Shelley Beach: nip down to West Cape Howe National Park and visit this stunning beach and amazingly located campsite. This was one of the ultimate highlights of my Perth to Adelaide journey. Here’s my rather eventful story of camping at Shelley Beach in Western Australia, where I met a baby kangaroo and lost my phone down the compost toilet (and attempted to get it out again)!
Walpole to Denmark: 1 hr – 74km
Parry Beach Campground, from $15 per site per night – a popular campsite with a hippy vibe and plenty of facilities for the price.
Shelley Beach – West Cape Howe National Park, halfway between Denmark and Albany. $7.50 per adult per night.
Less than an hour’s drive east of Denmark is the port city of Albany, also home to beautiful beaches, and a great place to get out of the wilderness and make use of the shops if you need to stock up on anything during your road trip.
Be sure to visit Torndirrup National Park to admire the beaches, coastal granites and blowholes. Here’s my guide on what to see and do around Albany.
Denmark to Albany: 45 mins – 56km
Rose Gardens Beachside Holiday Park – Emu Point, Albany, from $15 per site per night.
Betty’s Beach – Betty’s Beach Road, Many Peaks, 49km east of Albany, free.
A tiny coastal town at the mouth of the Bremer River, Bremer Bay is known for its amazing beaches. Unfortunately we had thunderstorms during our night there, but we did manage to catch a beautiful sunset during a dry spell! Check out my guide on what to see in Bremer Bay, which includes how to see killer whales!
If you’re interested in saving some dollars, here’s my post on two beautiful free camping grounds from Albany to Bremer Bay.
Albany to Bremer Bay: 2 hrs – 181km
Miller’s Point Reserve – Millers Point Road, Beautfort Inlet, 50km west of Bremer Bay, $7.50 per person per night.
Bremer Bay Beaches Resort & Tourist Park, from $35 per site per night
The snowy white beaches of Esperance with their pale turquoise water are world famous, as are the kangaroos that like to hang out at Lucky Bay! It’s a lovely town to stay in for a while, and Cape Le Grand National Park is well worth a visit. You might also want to make use of the free Wi-Fi in the Dome café and stock up on supplies before you make the journey across the Nullarbor!
Here are my recommended things to do in Esperance, (as a bonus you also get to laugh at the story of my disastrous night camping in a thunder storm)!
Optional activities in Esperance include a day trip to Woody Island, a scenic flight over pink Lake Hillier in the Recherché Archipelago, or a visit to Pink Lake (that unfortunately isn’t always pink).
Bremer Bay to Esperance: 4 hr – 398km
Esperance YHA, from $30 for a bed in a dorm room
Pink Lake Tourist Park, from $30 per site per night
Cape Le Grand Campground – 50km SE of Esperance, $10 per adult per night
The Nullarbor Plain
This is where your Perth to Adelaide drive gets interesting, or to be more accurate, uninteresting. The Nullarbor, Latin for “no trees”, is 200,000 square kilometres of limestone bedrock, and is monotonous to say the least. There’s isolated, and then there’s the Nullarbor.
While there are a few sights to enjoy (such as a ruined telegraph station half buried beneath sand dunes), and crossing the Nullarbor is a once in a lifetime experience that carries a bit of a badge of honour in terms of Australian travel, you’ll probably want to get across it as quickly as possible.
I’ve written a very comprehensive guide to crossing the Nullarbor, which includes everything from where to stay overnight and where to get petrol to interesting attractions and driving tips. Do give it a read if you’re going to do this journey.
You’ll pass plenty of road trains on the Nullarbor, a few other travellers and a handful of road houses – basically petrol stations with cafes, overnight accommodation and usually metered showers. You can either stay the night at these or use the many free camping areas like I did.
You’ll want to split the drive over a few days; I did it in three, with two overnight stops at the free camping areas listed below. I would heavily advise against driving after sunset because of the high risk of hitting kangaroos and having to navigate around road trains in the darkness.
DISTANCE BETWEEN NULLARBOR ROADHOUSES:
Esperance to Norseman: 2 hr – 205km
Norseman to Balladonia: 2 hr – 191km
Balladonia to Caiguna: 1hr 50 min – 181km
Caiguna to Cocklebiddy: 40 min – 65km
Cocklebiddy – Madura: 1 hr – 91km
Madura to Mundrabilla: 1 hr 10 min – 116km
Mundrabilla to Eucla: 40 min – 65km
Eucla to Border Village: 10 min – 12km
Border Village to Nullarbor Roadhouse: 1 hr 50 min – 184km
Nullarbor Roadhouse to Ceduna: 3 hr – 297km
Total (Esperance to Ceduna): 14 hr 20 min – 1,406k
Acclaim Gateway Tourist Park, Norseman, camping and caravan sites from $39, or cabins from $138
Baxter Rest Area – Eyre Highway, 114km east of Balledonia, 67km west of Caiguna, free
Border Village Roadhouse, unpowered caravan sites from $15, backpacker rooms from $55, motel rooms from $120
Nullarbor Roadhouse, unpowered camping and caravan sites from $20, motel rooms from $139
Bunda Cliffs Lookout – Eyre Highway, 168km west of the Nullarbor Roadhouse, free – no toilets though!
Back to life! Ceduna is an isolated port town at the eastern edge of the Great Australian Bight, home to an IGA supermarket and actual people, yay! It was so weird and quite a relief to see humans and buildings again after the Nullarbor. I camped at Wittelbee, a convenient location to get to Baird Bay the following day.
Esperance to Ceduna: 14 hr 20 min – 1,406km
Wittelbee Conservation Park, $12 per vehicle, no facilities or toilets
For accommodation in Ceduna with an actual toilet, have a browse through Booking.com!
I pretty much chose to stay here because it was a “proper” town, and I had a desperate desire for showers, flushing toilets and civility after crossing the Nullarbor! The beach was lovely and I got to enjoy the most crimson sunset I’ve ever seen, teamed with a sting ray in the shallow waters and a rainbow behind me! Perfect!
ON THE WAY:
Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience: this was actually the attraction that made me choose to travel from Perth to Adelaide. This eco-friendly company is run by a local couple who take small groups out on their boat to swim with wild dolphins and sea lions. I can’t recommend this enough. Read my Baird Bay sea lion swim blog post for more details and pictures.
Ceduna to Elliston: 2 hr 30 min – 235km
Waterloo Bay Tourist Park, from $27 per site per night
If you have the time, it’s definitely worth exploring the Eyre Peninsula and checking out Lincoln National Park and Coffin Bay National Park. The coastal scenery there is absolutely stunning, and Coffin Bay is famous for oysters!
Read more in my article on things to do in Port Lincoln.
Elliston to Port Lincoln: 1 hr 45 min – 168km
McKechnie Springs Farmstay, from $20 per site per night
Port Lincoln Tourist Park, from $25 per site per night
I chose Whyalla based on a picture of a beautiful white beach I’d seen in a brochure, along with the fact that it was a town and I was sick of bush camping at that point. I have to say we were a bit underwhelmed on arrival – the tide was out which made the sand squelchy and the sea look unswimmable, the beach looked nothing like the picture and the town is more industrial than we’d realised.
However, we ended up having a brilliant time! The caravan park was one of the best we stayed in (it even had a pizza oven) and right on the beach. The sea was deep enough for a swim in the mornings, and so close to our tent we could just stroll across in our swimwear!
Read more in my blog post on how Whyalla turned out to be the perfect place to end our trip.
Port Lincoln to Whyalla: 2 hr 45 min – 268km
Discovery Park Whyalla Foreshore, from $35 per site per night
You made it! Time to be utterly flabbergasted by all the noise, traffic and life of a big city after your time with nature. We drove straight from Whyalla to Adelaide as we had a house sit arranged for Christmas and New Year, but there are more places to see in between if you have the time.
ON THE WAY:
Yorke Peninsula: you can read about the beaches and national parks in this area here.
Whyalla to Adelaide: 4 hr 15 min – 382km
Adelaide Central YHA, from $32 for a bed in a dorm room
If you’ve been inspired by my Perth to Adelaide drive itinerary and decided to do the trip yourself, you’ll have an unforgettable experience and take home a bucket load of great memories.
If you want to treat yourself to some free luxury accommodation after all the camping like I did, why not read my blog post on how I saved $30k house sitting across Australia? It’s full of tips on how to become a house sitter with no experience. It was amazing to arrive in Adelaide and have a three-bedroom house with a jacuzzi bath and a place to clean all the camping gear after five weeks of living in a tent! Happy travels!
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