Perth + Ningaloo Reef + Karijini National Park in 10 Days
New York-based travel writer, blogger and photographer Kate McCulley shares her travel tips from Perth to Karijini in ten days.
I have always had a soft spot for west coasts. Whether you’re in the US, Thailand, or Australia, west coasts have epic sunsets that their east coast counterparts can only dream of!
In WA, there’s another benefit — travelling up the west coast takes in some of the best diverse landscapes in Australia. From pink lakes to yellow deserts, red sandstone cliffs and glassy green swimming holes, you’ll be able to see a striking collection of Western Australia in just 10 days.
Perth and Rottnest Island
All great trips to WA start in Perth. This city may not be as large as its eastern counterparts, but it’s filled with vibrant street art, gorgeous beaches, quirky bars, indigenous art galleries, and some of the most creative breakfasts in WA. Not to mention gregarious and friendly local residents!
45 minutes across the Indian Ocean by ferry takes you to Perth’s most remarkable island getaway, Rottnest. Most people come to Rottnest Island for the ultimate souvenir — a selfie with a smiling quokka! These tiny marsupials are all over the island and very friendly to strangers (tip: you’ll find some of the friendliest quokkas close to the settlement).
Beyond the quokkas, rent a bike and explore ‘Rotto’s’ neon turquoise bays, white sand beaches, and inland saltwater lakes. Alternatively, go snorkeling or take a cruise to spot dolphins and whales!
The Pinnacles Desert
A few hours north of Perth is Nambung National Park, home to the Pinnacles Desert. One of the stranger landscapes in WA, these pinnacles are actually formed from petrified trees, surrounded by bright yellow sand dunes. This is perhaps the most alien landscape in the region.
After your desert hop, stop for lunch at the Lobster Shack in Cervantes and take a tour through the lobster processing plant before feasting on your tasty crustacean.
Once you reach Port Gregory, make a pit stop at Hutt Lagoon. This is one of WA’s many pink lakes, its unusual color caused by algae. The color varies based on time of day and time of year, but you’ll get the deepest shades of pink around sunset.
Kalbarri National Park is one the major landmark of this trip. Take a canoeing trip through the gorges with Kalbarri Adventure Tours, then pose while overlooking the river from Nature’s Window, a natural frame made from layers of sandstone.
The best sunset views are from the Kalbarri Cliffs alongside the ocean. After watching the sun dip into the sea, feast on some pink snapper and delicious seafood at Finlay’s, a rollicking outdoor restaurant.
Next, head westward and stop at Shell Beach, a dazzling white beach comprised of tiny white shells. Bring a blanket because shells aren’t nearly as soft as sand!
Monkey Mia is famous for its early morning dolphin feeding sessions, which are sustainably conducted to ensure the dolphins don’t become dependent. Alternatively, keep your eyes out for dolphins on a sunset cruise.
But the absolute most spellbinding activity is a scenic flight with Shark Bay Air Charters. Soar through the air over the wild and varied landscapes of Dirk Hartog Island, keeping an eye out for whales in the ocean, and more pink lakes beside the ocean.
Up next is the gateway to Ningaloo Reef: Coral Bay. This seaside town may be small in size but it more than makes up for it with activities. Ningaloo Reef is just off shore. You can snorkel and dive with tropical fish, turtles, and even gentle reef sharks, but the main attraction in this region is getting to swim with three-meter-wide manta rays (year round), whale sharks (April – July), and humpback whales (June – November).
Looking for a land adventure as well? Head out quad biking at sunset, racing down giant hills and trekking to completely empty beaches.
Karijini National Park
A day driving inland will take you away from the coast and home to new atmospheres: red deserts, sandstone caves, and WA’s tallest mountain in Mount Nameless. Finally, the jewel of Western Australia is Karijini National Park, filled with canyons, river gorges, and some of the most scenic spots we saw on our trip.
Visit Joffre Gorge or Dales Gorge for a climb down and a swim through river gorges as red cliffs surround you.
But for the ultimate Karijini experience, descend into Hancock Gorge and swim your way through to the amphitheater, finishing with a spider walk between the rock walls and a swim in Kermit’s Pool. Stay overnight in a tent at Karijini Eco Retreat and wake up with the sunrise.
After a few days in Karijini, a flight from Paraburdoo will take you right back to Perth. Celebrate with a flat white at one of Perth’s many excellent coffee shops!