Stretching from Perth to Geraldton, WA, the Indian Ocean Drive provides a direct route between the WA capital and Geraldton. It services many coastal towns and attractions but, in truth, the drive itself is not particularly scenic. Mostly enclosed by vegetation and dunes, the road provides scant views of the Indian Ocean.
But don’t be fooled. The Indian Ocean Drive provides access to amazing beaches, incredible natural attractions, and charming coastal towns. If you take the time to stop, and you know what you’re looking for, you’ll find some of the best sights on the Coral Coast.
These are just three of the many must-dos when you’re exploring this breathtaking part of the country.
As you head north (or south, depending on your direction of travel), be sure to visit Nambung National Park, home of the renowned Pinnacles.
This incredibly special place is about 190km north of Perth, or a two-hour drive. A well signposted 5km detour off the Indian Ocean Drive along a bitumen road will take you to the main carpark (an entry fee applies), and from there you can explore the limestone formations that give the Pinnacles their name.
These formations jut from the desert landscape like crooked teeth, creating an otherworldly landscape that would suit a science-fiction movie. Some of these limestone pillars reach up to 3.5m in height.
You can explore the park on foot or drive the winding, sandy track through the national park, weaving along a designated trail. It is an awesome experienced, one you will not soon forget.
STOCKYARD GULLY NATIONAL PARK
Three hours north-east of Perth, Stockyard Gully National Park should be one of your next stops. It is accessed by a series of hard-packed gravel roads leading off the Indian Ocean Drive.
These roads will lead to a long, sandy track that’s best negotiated in a 4WD. This track winds its way towards a small carpark. A walking trail, which leads along a riverbed in the base of a gully, will eventually bring you to a series of limestone caves. The largest cave is 300m long and pitch black, so don’t forget to bring a torch and sturdy shoes.
The trail itself is easy enough to traverse – people of average fitness and mobility should not have any difficulty. Take care in wet weather, though, as the rocks and trails become slippery when wet. If the river is flowing, be sure to stay clear of the edges.
Stockyard Gully is part of an old stock route between Perth and Geraldton. The steep-sided gully was a perfect, natural containment system for cattle during overnight stops.
No camping is allowed within this national park; however, nearby Jurien Bay or Cervantes has accommodation options.
Cervantes is a small coastal hamlet that offers more than a place to pull up for the night. While the caravan park is well-equipped and established, there are beautiful beaches to explore – and don’t forget to check-out the stromatolites of Lake Thetis. A 1.2km walking track around the lake, which is on the outskirts of Cervantes, allows you to get a close look at these ancient lifeforms.
The town itself has a pub and some shopping facilities. It is an excellent place to rest up a while as you contemplate the next leg of your Indian Ocean adventure.
Now, Kalbarri National Park is not park of the Indian Ocean Drive, being 155km north of Geraldton. But, honestly, it would be a crime to have come so far and not explore Kalbarri’s coastal gorges and take in the ocean views from the sheer coastal cliffs and escarpments.
Nature’s Window is one Kalbarri attraction that you should not miss. This iconic attraction is a sandstone ‘window’ eroded by the wind that frames a gorgeous view of a river and its surrounds. A moderate 1km-return walk from a carpark will lead you to this must-visit part of Kalbarri National Park.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Max Taylor has been caravanning since he was a kid and was the editor of some of Australia’s most well-known RV publications for almost 10 years.