It’s a long way from Perth to Exmouth, but this small town at the far north-western tip of Western Australia is a place that’s packed with outdoor adventure and unbelievable natural scenes.
Little known outside of the state, Exmouth WA is found on the coast of the North West Cape Peninsula, and it’s one of the best places to visit the exceptional Ningaloo Reef from.
This is one of the largest reefs in the world, home to sharks, turtles, rays and more all year round, while it’s also a migratory point for whale sharks in certain seasons. On land, there are creeks, deep gorges, white sand beaches, rock wallabies and even a few craft breweries.
It’s remote, it’s isolated and it’s quite a journey to Exmouth from Perth. It’s certainly worth the effort though, and to help you to plan your trip, here’s my guide on travelling from Perth to Exmouth, including my road trip itinerary!
The Best Time of Year to Travel From Perth to Exmouth
Exmouth is found far north of Perth, at least 1200 kilometres as the crow flies, and this northern location ensures that the area has hot weather, all through the year. The north-west coast is characterised by a semi-arid climate, which means that for the most part, things are hot, dry and dusty.
Compared to inland areas though, Exmouth enjoys some cooling winds in the heat of summer but is also susceptible to thunderstorms. Rain can hit Exmouth all through the year, but it’s most likely to fall between January and June. In reality though, there’s no real wet season, not like the tropical north further along the coast towards the Northern Territory, and there’s very little rain even in the rainiest periods. Cyclones can hit the coast here between December and April though.
This ‘summer’ period is the least popular time to visit Exmouth – particularly as there is already excellent weather in the south of Western Australia – and you’ll find things are much quieter up this end. Temperatures can frequently top 40 Degrees Celsius in December and January.
July through to December is the driest period of the year for Exmouth WA, and this ‘winter’ period is the most popular time to make the journey from Perth to Exmouth. Temperatures average out at around 25 Degrees Celsius, making it the perfect escape from the colder weather to the south. There’s generally clear skies and visibility in the water around the Ningaloo Reef is at its best.
Of course, peak season means that Exmouth is much busier, and with limited camping sites and accommodation in the town and in the national park nearby, you will want to try and book in advance when you can.
If you are travelling to Exmouth specifically to swim with whale sharks, then sightings are common between March and September.
Perth to Exmouth Flights
Exmouth has a small, regional airport which is located just 15 kilometres to the south of the town itself. Exmouth Learmonth Airport (Airport Code LEA) is tiny, and only has scheduled connections to Perth.
There are at least 2 scheduled flights per day from Perth to Exmouth with Qantas, and 2 return flights from Exmouth to Perth. Fares start from around AUD 150 each way, but you’ll need to book in advance to get this low price.
Of course, flying is the quickest way to travel to Exmouth WA, and flight time averages just under two hours for the journey.
There’s a convenient shuttle service which runs from the airport to the town centre. Operated by Exmouth Bus Charter, the service MUST be booked in advance, as the company only meet flights with confirmed shuttle bookings.
From Exmouth Airport you can also transfer south to Coral Bay, using Coral Bay Airport Transfers, as this is the closest airport. Book in advance too.
At the airport, you can also pick up a hire car, but again, make sure to book in advance as vehicles can be limited, particularly in peak season.
The Bus From Perth to Exmouth
The only company offering a bus service from Perth to Exmouth is Integrity Coach Lines. They operate coaches from Perth that travel all the way north to Exmouth, and then further along the coast too.
You can purchase a convenient Hop on Hop off Pass if you are planning on exploring this part of Western Australia, but bear in mind that departures are very limited. Check their website for destinations and departure days. By bus, it’s a long journey, with a travel time of 15 hours straight, not including any stops or hold-ups.
How to Get Around Exmouth WA without a Car
While many remote destinations in Western Australia can be difficult to visit without your own car, Exmouth is actually one of the few places where- at least in peak season – you can just about get by without a car.
If you fly in, then you can take the shuttle to town. If you take the bus from Perth, you’ll get dropped off in town. While there is no public bus as such for getting around, there are shuttle buses that are run by tour companies in peak season.
These can take you from Exmouth to Cape Range National Park. For example, Yardie Creek Boat Tours offer a shuttle to Turquoise Bay. They aren’t cheap of course, but it’s doable.
Many tour companies also offer comprehensive sightseeing tours of the area, while companies offering whale shark swims will pick up clients from their accommodation.
The Ultimate Perth to Exmouth Road Trip Itinerary
While flying might be the quickest route north, if you have the time then the best way to travel from Perth to Exmouth is to drive. This is an Aussie road trip of epic proportions, and there are plenty of epic stops all along the way.
Unlike the much more densely populated southwest of the state, where there are multiple routes and different ways to get from place to place – from Perth to Esperance for instance there are multiple routes – the north is much more sparsely populated and much less developed. That means that there’s only one practical route when it comes to a road trip, and that’s to follow the coastal highway for the majority of the journey.
The further north you travel, the more strung out destinations become too, and while at the start of the road trip you’ll have lots of potential stops in a short period of time, the distances between places soon start to become longer and longer.
The number of stops you actually make will depend on how much time you have. The journey is at least 1200 kilometres, which realistically you could complete in a rush in 2 days one way. For most, that’s just too quick though, and you can easily spend two weeks driving from Perth to Exmouth and exploring the best sights en route.
This is the Perth to Exmouth itinerary that I took, and the best places that I saw along the way.
This is where your road trip to Exmouth begins, in Western Australia’s state capital. It’s a long journey north, and in Perth, you’ll want to make sure that your car is in working order and that you’ve stocked up on supplies for the ride.
Take an extra jerry can of petrol for those long, remote roads and take plenty of water. Keep some non-perishable food in the car too, and make sure you’ve got some roadside assistance or insurance.
If you are travelling long term around Australia, then you’ll want to make sure that you’ve checked off the best places in the Southwest already, because it’s a long way from Exmouth to Perth if you want to return. Make sure you’ve seen all the best things to do in Albany WA, and visited Esperance too.
Distance From Perth to Exmouth – Approx 1249 Kilometres
Your first stop will be the spectacular sand dunes of Lancelin. Found just an hour from Perth, Lancelin is a small coastal town with big dunes.
For adventure sports lovers, this is a fantastic place to visit, as the huge sand dunes that extend far back from the shore are perfect for sandboarding. This unusual sport is slowly gaining popularity, and in Lancelin, anyone can give it a go. Just hire a board at the dunes and get surfing.
Next up, you’ll be driving from Lancelin to the Pinnacles, a highly unusual landscape that forms an integral part of the wider Nambung National Park.
It’s a sort of otherworldly landscape, but in all honesty, if you’ve seen anywhere else in Western Australia like the Porongurups in the south, or Wave Rock in the Outback, then the Pinnacles will pale in comparison. They are impressive, but they aren’t as impressive as the tourism board wants you to think they are, so if you’re pressed for time – this is a contentious comment I expect! – then just cruise on by up the coast.
Along the coast, you’ll soon come to Jurien Bay, which is an excellent spot to stay the night if you’ve spent all day exploring on the road up from Perth. Alternatively, you can just call in, check out the coast and then head straight up to Geraldton if you want to spend the night in the city.
Jurien Bay is essentially a holiday resort, but one that has excellent campsites and wonderful beaches. You can snorkel along the coast, you can skydive, or enjoy a few water sports. There are a lot of activities to do in Jurien Bay.
You can also, as I did, do nothing at all except cook up some BBQ food and chill on the beach while the sunsets. It’s really just a lovely, lovely place.
Carry on north along the highway from Perth to Exmouth, and the last real city of any size for thousands of kilometres – until you reach Port Hedland way in the north! – is Geraldton.
This is a city of around 30,000 people, making it one of the largest cities in Western Australia, and if you need any more supplies, then the supermarkets here are a good place to pick them up.
There are also quite a few things to do in Geraldton, and you’ll want to stop off for at least a morning or afternoon for a whistle-stop tour, if not spend the whole day exploring.
You can visit the moving memorial to HMAS Sydney, a navy ship that was lost in a battle with Germans off the coast here in World War II. Visit the superb local museum, which beats most others in the state, and where you can find relics excavated from sunken shipwrecks and call into the local aboriginal arts centre.
The Principality of the Hutt River
Head north from Geraldton, and after the town of Northampton, take the dirt roads that head into the farmland, because out here, in the absolute middle of nowhere, you can find the Principality of the Hutt River.
This is Western Australia’s most peculiar tourist attraction, because this farm is in fact, a self-declared independent nation. For decades, it was run by Prince Leonard, who passed away recently, and left the reigns to his sons.
They still assert their independence from Australia, and you can get a nice stamp in your passport, meet with the ‘Princes’ and learn all about their feuds with the state and federal governments.
Kalbarri National Park
After touring through Australia’s most infamous micronation – although, surprisingly, it’s just one of many breakaway Aussie states! – you can make your way back to the coast to visit a more traditional tourist attraction, Kalbarri National Park.
Kalbarri has some of the most impressive cliffs that you’ll find anywhere in Western Australia. They are simply insane to stand on the edge of, and there are various coastal walks of various lengths that you can hike along to see more.
The national park is also famous for a natural feature known as Nature’s Window, a hollowed-out piece of rock that offers a natural window across the surrounding landscapes.
One of the best destinations on the Perth to Exmouth itinerary will always be Shark Bay Western Australia. This rugged peninsula is stacked with history and natural beauty. This was the first place in Western Australia where Europeans ever set foot when a Dutch explorer by the name of Dirk Hartog landed here in 1616.
Monkey Mia, a famous caravan park and resort, is home to a pod of super friendly dolphins that make their way to the beach every morning to be fed fish. Across the peninsula, you can find remote national parks, beaches made entirely of shells and much, much more, in this spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Shark Bay, it’s a good 300-kilometre drive along an empty highway to Carnarvon, a ‘city’ of 5000 people, that forms the centre of life in this remote part of Western Australia.
Carnarvon WA is known for its farming industry, and the city is home to a huge number of banana plantations and fruit and vegetable growers, most of which are found along the banks of the river, in what is an otherwise arid part of the state.
This is a good place to stock up on supplies before you carry on up the coast to Exmouth, as there are several supermarkets here. You can also get cheap produce from the farms, as well as high-quality local delights such as Carnarvon Banana Bread and Mango Ice Creams.
There are a few historic sights to explore, a long, wooden jetty and a charming waterfront in Carnarvon.
Detour: Kennedy Range and Mount Augustus
From Carnarvon, you can carry on along the coast and reach Exmouth in a good 4 hours if you don’t stop, but if you have time – and by time, I mean a few days minimum, to spare – then you can take a detour – and by detour, I mean a really, really, big detour – to see a part of Western Australia that few travellers ever explore.
If the coastal highway is getting too touristy for you, which in peak season, it easily can, then this is an excellent way to escape the crowds. From Carnarvon, you can head inland, and make the journey to Gascoyne Junction, then to the Kennedy Ranges National Park, and finally onto the Mount Augustus National Park.
Mount Augustus is the largest rock in the world, bigger even than Uluru, but it’s so remote that few people actually ever see it in all its glory. From Carnarvon, it’s a good 500 kilometres each way, but you’re never really going to be in a closer location to visit than when you are driving along the North West Coastal Highway!
You can stop off at the equally unknown Kennedy Range National Park, which is close to Gascoyne Junction, in order to break up the journey. The roads in this part of WA are all dirt roads though, so check the conditions at the Carnarvon Visitor Centre before setting off. A four by four certainly would help, but I made it there and back in a two-wheel drive. Just take plenty of water, food and extra fuel. You can refill at the Mount Augustus Caravan Park, but petrol out here is twice as much as Carnarvon, which is already twice as much as Perth!
Whether you take the long, Outback detour or not, when you finally make it back to the highway, you will want to stop off at Coral Bay, the last stop in fact, before you make it to Exmouth.
Coral Bay is a small community – it’s really just one street, a few caravan parks and a couple of shops and pubs – but there are some amazing beaches here. It’s a really laid back place, with a holiday vibe that you can’t escape. The pub is good and the bakery is even better – especially considering how far from anywhere you are.
You can snorkel the Ningaloo Reef here, and you might even be lucky enough to spot a whale shark or humpback out in the deeper water.
After lazing around in Coral Bay, it’s time to complete the last leg of your mammoth journey from Perth to Exmouth, and the final stretch of the journey is an easy 150 kilometres – nothing at all compared to what you’ve just covered!
Exmouth is a small town, but you’ll find some much-needed pubs and restaurants, as well an IGA and a decent bakery – although the bakery in Coral Bay was on another level in my opinion, especially the pies!
You can find caravan parks and hotels in Exmouth, while if you head around the North West Cape, towards Cape Range National Park, you’ll find more caravan parks here and then camping sites within the national park.
Cape Range National Park is a glorious place to explore, and you can hike along trails that follow creeks and lead into the gorges. From the beaches, you can easily access the Ningaloo Reef. Many of the best snorkelling spots are actually just offshore and can be swum to easily. The tidal difference here though is huge, so check in with the Visitors Centre for the best times to snorkel at the various spots.
From March through to September, you can join boat tours that head out to deeper water in search of whale sharks, as there’s really nowhere else in the world where you can swim with these majestic creatures in such an ethical manner – it beats swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines, for sure – and with such a high chance of seeing them.
Where to Next?
After completing your epic Perth to Exmouth road trip, you might be wondering where to head to next. It’s a long way back to Perth again, but it’s also a long way to anywhere else in Western Australia!
Many travellers will call into Exmouth as part of a wider Perth to Broome road trip itinerary, and you can carry on along the North West Coastal Highway, calling in at remote mining cities such as Port Hedland and Karratha on your way. From Broome, you can then travel even further north to Darwin.
Rather than taking the highway straight to Broome though – a journey of some 1300 kilometres, which is further than the distance from Perth to Exmouth! – you can travel inland, into the heart of Pilbara, to visit Karijini National Park.
From Exmouth, it’s a good 600 kilometres, but Karijini National Park is the best national park in Western Australia. It’s an adventure playground of gorges, natural swimming pools and mountain tops!