When you just need to get away from it all, there's nothing better than jumping in the car and hitting the open road. When that road happens to pass by magnificent Indian Ocean vistas, yellow-sand desert, delightful seaside towns, wildflower country, national parks and a world-class reef, then you can be assured of a trip that will reinvigorate mind, body and soul.
Western Australia's Coral Coast Highway is counted as one of Australia's great scenic drives, stretching some 1250 kilometres from Perth to Exmouth. There's no shortage of gorgeous sights to contemplate along the way and plenty of stops and detours to make, depending on what tickles you.
Starting out from Perth, two hours north you'll come across the Pinnacles Desert in the Nambung National Park. This fascinating site invokes an other-worldly ambience, with its tall limestone spires rising eerily from intense yellow sands. After taking a thousand pictures to capture this lunar-like landscape, hit the road again and just under three hours later you'll be soaking up the laid-back vibes of Geraldton. The maritime town also serves as the starting point for aerial tours, taking in yet more captivating sights, including the stunning Abrolhos Islands. From the air is also one of the best ways to appreciate the marvel of ever-changing colours of Hutt Lagoon – high salinity levels create bubblegum pink, sometimes lilac and occasionally even red hues.
More natural wonder is in store at Kalbarri National Park, further up the coast, where visitors can revel in 183,000 hectares of outback, with dramatic gorges and dazzling displays of wildflowers to soak up. Get the heart pumping with a visit to the twin skywalks, projecting 25 metres and 17 metres beyond the Murchison River Gorge rim, with a panorama of rust-red cliffs, flowing water and vast bushland.
North from here and there are opportunities to meet some of Western Australia's beloved marine creatures. In the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, head to Monkey Mia and interact with a friendly pod of wild bottlenose dolphins as they feed. At Hamelin Bay, prepare to clap your eyes on the earliest known forms of life on Earth in the form of dome-shaped stromatolites rising out of the water; fossils of primitive life forms that first existed on earth 3.5 billion years ago.
More history, of a human kind, can be unearthed with eco cultural adventures run by Wula Gura Nyinda at Shark Bay, exploring the ancient cultural ties of the region's first people, the Nhanda and Malgana Aboriginal people.
Of course, no road trip is complete without some top-notch eats and at Carnarvon, known as the region's tropical food bowl, you can tuck into the freshest seafood and tropical fruit flavours direct from nearby plantations and farms. Appetite sated, drive three hours north and base yourself at the chilled-out seaside town of Coral Bayin readiness for World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. Opt for a sea kayak, dive charter or snorkel tour to get up close to some giant marine friends: humpback whales, turtles and manta rays are all common sights. At the northern tip of the Ningaloo Reef lies Exmouth, where you can swim with whale sharks. The season runs from March to July, followed by humpback whale swim tours which operate between August and October.
If you manage to drag yourself out of the water, Cape Range National Park on the west side of Exmouth is a place of spectacular rugged limestone ranges and deep canyons.
Wildlfife is abundant with a variety of birds, emus, lizards, wallabies and kangaroos often spotted.. Then all that's left to do is take your pick from a string of stunning lagoons, white-sand beaches and snorkel trails, including the aptly named Turquoise Bay; a perfect spot to contemplate an epic road trip filled with unbeatable memories.
From 1 April to 31 October, 2021, Avis Australia and Hertz Australia will make it easier than ever to overcome the distances by offering a great one way hire car rental deal between Perth and Exmouth. Both companies will reduce their one-way relocation fee (normally AU $1,000) to AU $250 driving Perth to Exmouth and AU $150 if driving Exmouth back to Perth.
Additionally, in 2021, Hertz will be offering one way hire car rental deals between Perth and Paraburdoo, and Exmouth and Paraburdoo, opening up self-drive access to Karijini National Park. Normal hire car rates and conditions apply.
Please check the latest border restrictions in each state and territory before travelling, for more information visit australia.com