Start Point: Bayswater Car Rental, Hay St, Subiaco, Perth
Finish Point: Geraldton, WA
Estimated Driving Time: 4 hours 40 mins (Not including stops)
- Badgingarra National Park
- The Pinnacles
- Lake Thetis
- Emu Downs Wind Farm
- Jurien Bay
- Jurien Bay Marine Park
- Mount Lesueur National Park
- Houtman Abrolhos Islands
- HMAS Sydney II Memorial
- Greenough Hamlet
Want to get the most out of the Indian Ocean Road Drive? Remember to set the checkpoints on your GPS!
Hugging the stunning coastline of Western Australia, the dramatic new coastal highway known as Indian Ocean Drive takes you from one charming attraction and stunning viewpoint to the next. The drive opens up a whole world of unspoilt beaches, natural wonders and great opportunities for visitors. Its range of world-class attractions will satisfy even the most demanding traveller.
You don't need a huge budget to do this drive, nor do you need a 4x4 vehicle, although it's fun if you want to do it that way! Pick up the car of your choice to suit your budget from one of the four Bayswater Car Rental locations in Perth.
Just one word of warning. There are so many attractions worthy of a short diversion as you travel, so don’t plan to do too much in each day. Plan to make this a leisurely drive, with memorable stops at towns such as Cervantes, Jurien Bay and Dongara, before arriving in Geraldton with a memory stick full of wonderful photographs and enough happy memories to linger for a lifetime. Happy Trails!
What to See
The national parks and marine parks along this coastline are full of wild flowers, birds, sea lions, whales and marine life. Historic preserved buildings, maritime museums, colonial architecture and a slower pace of life can be found in each charming community. Natural wonders such as the Pinnacles and prehistoric rock formations contrast with the vast man-made wonder of Emu Downs Wind Farm. Beautiful white sandy beaches offer some of the state's best fishing, surfing, windsurfing, snorkelling and diving opportunities. There really is something for everyone along the Indian Ocean Drive.
The Pinnacles, Courtesy from Tourism Western Australia
What to Watch out for
Spring and early summer are the best time to enjoy Indian Ocean Drive, as the area is covered in colourful spring blooms. It is also the best time to see the extraordinary rock formations at Lake Thetis when water levels are low.
It's a good 2 ¼ hour drive to cover the initial 201km stage of this memorable drive from Perth to Cervantes. If you're travelling between June and November, the highway will be lined with brilliant wild flowers on either side. If you’re a nature lover, you will certainly want to take time during your stay in Cervantes to visit Badgingarra National Park. Elsewhere the drive takes in some of the world's most beautiful beaches, towering sand dunes and friendly fishing towns.
The cray fishing town of Cervantes is the portal to one of Australia's most unique landscapes – the Pinnacles Desert and the Coral Coast. The remote community was established in 1962 to accommodate the local cray fishermen and was named after a historic wreck, Cervantes, which ran aground here in 1844. Another wreck, the Europa, is marked by the Europa Anchor monument opposite the Pinnacles Motel.
The glittering white sand beaches are perfect for swimming, snorkelling, fishing and diving. Hangover Bay is a top spot for snorkelling and fishing along with nearby Kangaroo Point. The windsurfing and surfing here are excellent and the local bottlenose dolphins and friendly sea lions are happy to share the waves with visitors.
Follow the boardwalk through the dunes to reach Thirsty Point Lookout. It offers wonderful views of the beach and windsurfers, and is the ideal spot to enjoy the sunset over the Indian Ocean.
Badgingarra National Park
The beautiful Badgingarra National Park is just 46km east of Cervantes. The 13,121 hectares of low rolling scrubland are covered in an unforgettable display of wild flowers in spring and summer. Look out for red and gold kangaroo paws, cone-shaped banksia and mottlecash (the largest eucalypt flower) on the 90-minute hike through the park on the Badgingarra Nature Trail. You are sure to have plenty of wildlife for company in the form of kangaroos, emus, wedgetail eagles and numerous iguanas and reptiles.
The mysterious Pinnacles are the main attraction for tourists, just 17km from Cervantes. Thousands of rocky spires stand tall in a sea of yellow sand, offering a truly amazing sight. Learn more about how these strange limestone pillars were formed and shaped by water and wind by visiting the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre within the Nambung National Park. Expect to see plenty of emus and kangaroos as well as amazing wild flowers in spring. The best time of day to see the Pinnacles is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the softer light brings out beautiful colours in the rocks and casts long shadows across the ground.
The Pinnacles, Courtesy from Tourism Western Australia
Another surprise just outside Cervantes is Lake Thetis, Western Australia's answer to the Dead Sea! It has salt levels double those found in the ocean, creating the weird ancient rock formations known as “stromalites” in the shallow water. These living fossils are formed as microorganisms of blue-green algae are trapped and cemented together, and are billions of years old.
Lake Thetis, Courtesy from Tourism Western Australia
Emu Downs Wind Farm
After all these natural features, a man-made attraction may be what you're looking for. Emu Downs Wind Farm is a $180 million project consisting of 48 tall white wind turbines, each with a capacity to generate 1.65MW of power. Its location near the coast shows why the sea around here is so popular with windsurfers and kiteboarders: there’s certainly plenty of steady wind!.
The wind farm, developed by Griffin Energy and Stanwell Corporation, is primarily used to produce power for the Kwinana Desalination Plant just south of Perth, which produces 40 million gallons of drinking water for the city every day. The tall, elegant turbines are a spectacular site, and make for an interesting photo opportunity from the road.
Emu Downs Wind Farm, Courtesy from Tourism Western Australia
Continue cruising along the scenic Indian Ocean Drive to Jurien Bay, 26km north of Cervantes. It is a popular holiday destination for Perth residents thanks to its sunny climate, long sandy beaches, beautiful reefs and flourishing seafood industry.
Visitors can go swimming, snorkelling and diving to view the underwater caves, coral gardens and colourful sponges which are well protected by a string of offshore islands. The reef is part of the Jurien Bay Marine Park and you may be lucky enough to spot the rare Australian sea lions that rest on Buller Island and North Fisherman Island between looking for food.
Take a fishing charter or a wildlife watching cruise and spot dolphins and sea lions along with massive humpback whales during the migration season which runs from June to December.
Jurien Bay Marine Park
Extending from Wedge Island northwards to Green Head, the Jurien Bay Marine Park includes many of the offshore islands and is known for its natural beauty and exceptional marine life. It is home to colonies of rare Australian sea lions along with seabirds, rock lobsters and reef fish. Sea lions and dolphins are joined by whales in the migratory season. Although it is a sanctuary, most areas allow visitors to fish, swim and dive.
Jurien Bay, Courtesy from Tourism Western Australia
Mount Lesueur National Park
Just 12km northeast of Jurien Bay is the Mount Lesueur National Park, one of the top places in the world for wild flowers. Over 900 different species create a carpet of bright colour in spring and early summer. This significant reserve has several unique and endangered species which are not found anywhere else.
You can drive your rental car to the top of Mount Lesueur and enjoy panoramic views across the park and coastline as far as Green Head. Birdwatchers and keen botanists alike will enjoy the sights of this magnificent national park.
The leg from Durien Bay to Dongara along Indian Ocean Drive is 131km and takes about 80 minutes. The town of Dongara, situated at the mouth of the Irwin River, is known as the "Rock lobster capital of Australia", and a stop at this fascinating heritage community is definitely recommended. Sample local wine and fresh seafood, and make sure you leave time to take a tour of the live lobster facility at the marina, which has up to 35,000 live lobsters at any one time.
Dongara's beaches are legendary, from family-friendly Harbour Beach to Surf Beach where you can enjoy jet skiing and windsurfing. If you have a 4x4 vehicle, drive along the white sands of South Beach to a popular fishing spot. Otherwise you'll have to settle for swimming, surfing, kiteboarding and standup paddleboarding.
You may want to walk the self-guided Heritage Trail linking Dongara with Denison, which has 17 points of interest along the way. Old buildings include the Royal Steam Flour Mill, the 1870s Police Station, and Russ Cottage and gardens dating from the 1860s. Both buildings now house interesting local museums and the restored police station includes the old courthouse, gaol and family living quarters once used by local policemen and their families. Exhibits are of antiques, early settler memorabilia, family heirlooms and information about local shipwrecks.
Dongara, Courtesy from Tourism Western Australia
Port Denison is the twin town with Dongara and shares its beautiful white sandy beaches, watersports opportunities and heritage architecture. The town also has one of the largest fishing harbours in Western Australia. If you have not already done so on your trip, this is a good place to cast a line and catch snapper, whiting, tailor, dhufish and rock lobster.
The best way to appreciate Port Denison is from Fisherman's Lookout, which has great views of the port and harbour. It takes at least 30 minutes to walk up Fisherman's Memorial Trail to the lookout, passing the obelisk built in the 1800s to remember the many lives lost at sea along this stormy coast.
If you're looking for nostalgia, stop off at one of Western Australia's two remaining drive-in cinemas for a night at the movies.
Port Denison, Courtesy from Tourism Western Australia
Make the most of the final stretch of the Indian Ocean Drive, covering the final 66km to Geraldton in under an hour. Arrive in time for a refreshing swim to prepare you for the local delicacy – a well-earned rock lobster dinner.
This historic town has an intriguing mix of Spanish missionary history, indigenous roots and maritime history, with plenty of must-do attractions. Go fishing, enjoy the watersports and beaches, or take a boat trip to the nearby Abrolhos Islands. From July to October this town is the gateway to the wildflower country as it is right on the edge of this colourful natural attraction. A jar of local wildflower honey makes a great souvenir of your trip!
Visit the awe-inspiring St Francis Xavier Cathedral, immerse yourself in Yamaji culture and take in some of the artworks on display in the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery. Another significant cultural attraction is the Geraldton Western Australia Museum, which focuses on the area's maritime history and offers a Shipwreck Gallery of recovered treasures, as well as displays of regional flora and fauna.
With excellent shopping and dining opportunities, Geraldton makes an appropriate grand finale to your Indian Ocean Drive adventure.
Geraldton, Courtesy from Tourism Western Australia
Houtman Abrolhos Islands
The 120 coral-fringed Houtman Abrolhos Islands are easy to reach by boat or via a scenic flight which will give stunning bird's eye views of the Shark Bay World Heritage area. The islands offer a range of marine life for snorkelling and diving, and are also home to large colonies of seabirds.
The wreck of the Batavia lies at rest on Morning Reef, where it sank in 1629. The story of mutiny and murder aboard this ship, which was on its maiden voyage, is told in the Geraldton Museum.
HMAS Sydney II Memorial
The Memorial to HMAS Sydney II is located in Geraldton at Mount Scott. It consists of an ornate dome of seagulls' wings supported on seven pillars along with a wall of remembrance. Volunteer guides offer tours at 10.30am each day and explain the historic tragedy when the HMAS Sydney II sank in 1941, killing 645 crew members.
This heritage settlement is a preserved historic village complete with 19th century homes, schools, a convent, courthouse, gaol and churches. It is a unique attraction that captures the way of life in Greenough in the 1800s.
Where to stay
Although the Indian Ocean Drive is only 424km in length, you will certainly want to spend time enjoying each stage of the journey. It usually takes a week to complete the trip, with stays at Cervantes, Dongara and Geraldton.
Accommodation is very limited in Jurien Bay, so most visitors use Cervantes as a base for exploring the surrounding attractions. The Cervantes Pinnacles offers mid-priced rooms in motel-type accommodation.
Sample Dongara's rich heritage by staying at the colonial style Priory Hotel which has a pool and wide shady verandahs.
Geraldton is a great place to linger for a few days, soak up the atmosphere and visit some of the interesting attractions before your Indian Ocean Drive trip finally comes to an end. The Best Western Hospitality Inn offers good value for money, or enjoy home comforts at the Geraldton Bed and Breakfast. Unfortunately there is no accommodation on the Abrolhos Islands.