Twelve day road trip itinerary: Perth to Albany return
If you've read our other Australia blog posts, you'll know that we love Western Australia. After our first road trip up to Exmouth, where we swam with whale sharks, hiked through gorges and climbed up mountains in Karijini National Park, we knew we wanted to see more of the State. As soon as we returned to Perth, we started researching South West Australia and booked another campervan, and this post details our final itinerary.
PERTH – STIRLING RANGE NATIONAL PARK, 405km (DAY 1)
From Perth, we drove 4.5 hours to the Stirling Range National Park, a landscape of rugged peaks and spectacular cloud formations. We settled into our campsite for the night, as we had an early start the next morning.
WHERE WE STAYED: Moingup Spring, Stirling Range National Park $20
STIRLING RANGE NATIONAL PARK - MOUNT BARKER, 85km (DAY 2)
We climbed not one, but two mountains on this day, and would have climbed a third had the weather not been so ghastly! Toolbrunup Peak was a tiring and difficult climb in tough conditions; expect to clamber over rocky passes and slide over slippery surfaces. Mount Magog was kinder, with beautiful wild flowers lining the path to the summit.
WHERE WE STAYED: Mount Barker Caravan Park $30
MOUNT BARKER - ALBANY, 50km (DAY 3)
On the way to Albany, we stopped off it Porongurup National Park, and walked the Castle Rock Granite Skywalk trail and the Hayward and Nancy Peaks loop walk. The views are breathtaking, and we spotted birds of prey circling their territory nearby. The Porongurup walks were not as strenuous as hiking in Stirling, so we had the energy to explore Albany on foot after.
WHERE WE STAYED: Albany Gardens Caravan Park $30
ALBANY - WEST CAPE HOWE NATIONAL PARK (DAY 4)
Albany is a mixture of stately buildings and modern redevelopment; a town with a spectacular history. Our visit to the Anzac Centre was eye-opening and highly recommended - we also took a 1.5 hour tour of the grounds with one of the centre's volunteers. Nearby is Torndirrup National Park, a collection of windswept cliffs which includes the awesome Natural Bridge and The Gap, and the paradise beach that is Little Beach in Two Peoples Bay. We stayed in a free beachside campsite (which are fairly common in this part of Western Australia) near the water's edge, in between Albany and Denmark.
WHERE WE STAYED: Cosy Corner, $0
WEST CAPE HOWE NATIONAL PARK - Walpole-nornalup national park (DAY 5)
Early in the morning we drove through Denmark before taking the scenic route that winds between vineyards and forest. We visited William Bay National Park, which is home to pretty Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks, vast grey rocks that rise out of the sand.
A short drive brought us to the Tingle Forest, where we did the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk and walked through some of Australia's (and the worlds) tallest and oldest trees. After lunch, we took a leisurely walk along Conspicuous Beach in the shadow of the awesome cliffs. We then drove the Walpole-Nornalup Hilltop Road Scenic Drive. We made it to the frothy Circular Pool and stopped off at the imaginatively named, Giant Tingle Tree!
WHERE WE STAYED: Crystal Springs, $15
WALPOLE-NORNALUP NATIONAL PARK - AUGUSta (DAY 6)
We visited more trees on Day 6 and Matt finally got to climb some! We headed to the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree which at 75m is the tallest of the climbing trees. The Gloucester Tree isn't much smaller, and Matt headed up the pegs to the viewing platform here too. Neither tree has any safety equipment - up you go. Fresh underwear is advised for those afraid of heights... Not fancying the climb, Rachel enjoyed spotting superb fairy-wrens and western rosellas near the forest floor.
Holy Smoke, a café just outside of Pemberton and 5 minutes' drive from the Gloucester Tree, does exceptionally good sharing platters full of local produce. Beedelup Falls was our last stop of the day. A picturesque waterfall with significant Aboriginal value, the falls were a welcome break on the drive to our overnight site at Boronup.
WHERE WE STAYED: Boronup Campground $15
AUGUSTA - MARGARET RIVER (DAY 7 - 10)
After a night sleeping in the forest, we drove to Augusta in the morning and visited the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse before purchasing a caves pass. There are four caves out of 150 that are open to the public, and we decided to visit all four. Excellent guided tours take place in Lake Cave and Jewel Cave, there's a semi-guided tour in Ngilgi and an audio guide-tour in Mammoth. Find out more about the caves here.
In between our visits to the caves, we stopped off at Red Gate Beach for lunch, one of the prime surfing spots in the area. We also found time to visit some of the famous wineries of the area: Voyager, Leeuwin and Laurence, to name a few.
Our campsite was located a short walk from Margaret River township, so we enjoyed dinner in Arc of Iris on the main street, and went to the Margaret River Hotel pub quiz - and won!
The next day, we joined McLeod Tours on a full-day wine tour, which we have written more about here.
Feeling a little groggy, we took a drive to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and enjoyed a scenic walk along the cliff top early the next morning. Had we followed the same path a few months later, we may have seen humpback whales migrating south.
We stopped at Eagle Bay Brewing Company for lunch and visited Bunker Bay, a peaceful sandy beach, before exploring the lovely little town of Dunsborough.
WHERE WE STAYED: Riverview Tourist Park $90 ($30 per night)
MARGARET RIVER - FREMANTLE (DAY 11)
On our last day in Margaret River, we took a morning drive and stopped off at a number of galleries. From jarrah wood furniture to hand-crafted jewellery and Aboriginal paintings, there is a wide range of quality art and homeware on offer.
For lunch we indulged at Vasse Felix. Not only is it the oldest winery in the region, it also boasts an exceptional restaurant with an incredible menu that showcases the best of the South West's local produce.
After taking the scenic drive through Tuart Forest, we arrived in Fremantle and headed straight to Fremantle Prison to catch the last 'Doing Time' tour of the day. After parking up at our accommodation, we dined at Little Creatures and drank at Strange Company and Who's Your Mumma. We have written about how to spend a day in Fremantle here and where to eat and drink.
WHERE WE STAYED: Fremantle Tourist Village $40
FREMANTLE - PERTH (DAY 12)
The next morning, we headed back to the prison for the 'Great Escapes' tour (Rachel loved the first one so much!). If you book two tours, you get a discount and visit different areas of the prison, with new stories told by the knowledgeable guides.
We had to return our campervan in Perth late afternoon, so we lunched in the Moore & Moore café on Henry Street before heading back to the city.