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Bubblegum pink waters. Towering forests with a treetop walkway. Cool kangaroos on dazzling white beaches. The Great South West Edge, from Perth to Esperance, might just have the highest wow-per-mile ratio of any stretch in the world. And we’ve got the itinerary to help you capture the best of it.
1. Start your Great South West Edge road trip from Perth
As with most amazing adventures in Western Australia, the journey begins in Australia’s sunniest capital. You’ll want to get an early start – but if you’re the kind of traveller that absolutely cannot function without a caffeine boost, you’re in luck. Perth has a reputation for great coffee, and for brewing up new ways to make a delicious cuppa – you can even try a hand at it yourself if you’re staying a while.
Then, it’s time for our first stop on the picturesque Great South West Edge road trip:
2. Chill by the ocean at Indijup Natural Spa
After a three-hour drive, you’ve deserved a nice break. And it doesn’t get much better than a spa sesh in a natural saltwater pool right by the Indian Ocean. This little oasis is completely walled off by tall, rugged rocks. That is, except for one narrow bit where they lower just enough to turn ocean waves into cascades of lovely, bubbly water for you to bathe in.
Take your time soaking up the sun and the ocean spray to your heart’s content. For the best photo, climb (carefully!) up the surrounding rock formations to get a shot from above. And when you feel ready to leave (which, well, may seem like never) clamber back to the car park. It’s time for even more leisure.
Directions: Turn off Caves Road to Wyadup Road, then follow it to the end until you reach the car park.
3. Sip some of the world’s best wines at scenic Margaret River
In around an hour, you’ll find yourself in the grape-est part of Western Australia (sorry). Make your way to one of Margaret River’s renowned vineyards for a luxuriously late lunch. Coupled, of course, with a fine glass (or two) of Chardonnay. But also make sure you make time to wander through the sun-kissed rows of green where the grapes grow.
It’s not just your taste buds that will have a party at Margaret River, of course. The foodie delight of the Great South West Edge is also a major world surfing capital. It’s no surprise, then, that it boasts some fantastic coastal sights.
With so much to do, you’ll want to stay a night to savour everything Margaret River has to offer. Next morning, you can watch surfers master waves, or take a morning walk on a short section of the Cape to Cape Track – a super-diverse, 135 km coastal trail – to wake up all your senses. Looking for something a bit more ‘underground’? Drive about 30 miles south to Jewel Cave, where you’ll a tapestry of jaw-dropping stalactites – one of which is as wide as a drop of water and longer than 5 metres. Time to put your phone’s low light photo capabilities to the test!
4. Take a deep breath among ancient trees in Valley of the Giants
Next up, we’re going up. Way up, into the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk in Walpole-Nornalup National Park. From the 40 metre-high walkway, you’ll get gorgeous photo opportunities in a sea of green, and a bird’s eye view of Western Australia’s majestic tingle trees. These one-of-a-kind eucalypts are unique to the region, and some are as old as 400 years old.
Got a fear of heights? Worry not. You can explore the wonder of the woods with your feet on solid earth as well. A particular highlight is the giant tingle tree with its fire-hollowed trunk. There’s plenty more to discover at the national park too, such as the Circular Pool and the Bibbulmun Track.
Directions: From Margaret River, head to Mowen Road. From there, the route should be straightforward. Give yourself a good 4 hours to get there; and more if you want to stop and explore little towns and natural wonders on the way.
5. Swim in a pool within the ocean at Greens Pool
Before humans came up with infinity pools, nature had created Greens Pool. Encircled by wave-breaking rocks, these tranquil turquoise waters in the Denmark region give you a magnificent view of the Indian Ocean. It takes only around a half hour to get here from the last stop, Valley of the Giants.
It’s a great spot to swim, snorkel and snap some perfect pictures. But don’t forget to visit the equally Instagram-worthy Elephant Rocks either. Gazing at these smooth, giant formations, you can tell how they got their name.
An overnight stay nearby is recommended – as you’ll likely need the whole day for the next attraction.
6. Spot an orca or two, or three, at Bremer Canyon
Now it’s time to leave Denmark behind and head to Bremer Canyon, the number one gathering point for orcas in the Southern Hemisphere. So, why here? Researchers think that it could have something to do with the Flinders Current creating a nutrient-rich environment here. A bit like a farmer’s market for orcas.
Regardless, it makes for fantastic whale-watching opportunities. There are many tour operators, but make sure you choose one that really cares about these amazing animals. For example, Whale Watch Western Australia also has marine specialists on hand to explain orcas’ intricate language. There are opportunities to spot whales of all varieties in the Great South West Edge year round, but main orca season is January-March. It’s a good example of how there’s great things to do all year round in Western Australia.
Directions: Most whale watching tours leave from Albany, which is an hour’s drive from Greens Pool.
7. Relax on the whitest sand beaches ever in Esperance
Even driving itself is a gorgeous experience in Esperance, as you’ll see for yourself as you make your way across the Great Ocean Drive (a.k.a. “Australia’s most beautiful stretch of road”). There’s nearly 100 islands dotting the landscape, plus plenty of dream-like beaches – probably the main reason you’re here. Twilight Beach in particular, is officially one of the top 10 beaches on the continent.
In short, well worth the roughly four hour drive from Bremer Canyon. But it’s not just the dizzyingly, dazzlingly white beaches and clear blue waters. It’s also the company you’ll find on these beaches. Which brings us to…
8. Sunbathe with kangaroos on the pure white sands of Lucky Bay
Hop along here and you’ll see that you’re not the only one enjoying Australia’s whitest beach sand. Lucky Bay, in addition to being popular among travellers, is also a hot spot for ‘roos. You might normally be the type of traveller who prefers to peace out alone by the water, but we’re sure you’ll be making an exception for these furry fellas.
9. See the rosy side of nature over Lake Hillier
Our last stop on the Great South West Edge road trip is a real bucket list item, and a truly out-of-this-world sight, even for a country with plenty of them. Lake Hillier, on Middle Island and off the south coast of Australia, provides a vivid contrast of bright pink and deep blue water. You can either take an island cruise tour, or – if you want to get the clearest view – book a chartered flight that leaves from Esperance Airport.
And why is Lake Hillier pink? While there’s no consensus, many scientists think it may have to do with a certain type of microalgae that produces carotenoids – the same pigments found in carrots.
10. Take the scenic route back home via Wave Rock
Finally, it’s time to head inland for the drive to Perth. That’s where you’ll encounter the last Instagram darling spot of this trip, Wave Rock, approximately four hours from Esperance. Tucked away in Hyden, this curved, smooth and 15 metre tall granite formation looks like the perfect wave frozen in time, eternally waiting for a surfer to come along (coincidentally, a popular pose for photos taken here).
Directions: Take the National Route 1 until Ravensthorpe, then turn onto State Route 40. You can continue on it after Wave Rock back to Perth.
How many days does the Great South West Edge road trip take?
We would recommend around 11 days to see the Great South West Edge, but of course that might vary by your pace and by how much you want to get done. You might also decide you want to spend a few extra days in areas like Margaret River and Esperance to take in all the sights.
Want more Western Australia?
Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the wonders the Great South West Edge and Western Australia have to offer. You can explore more of this adventure-packed region – plus trips, tours and working holiday packages – right here.
Looking for more inspiration? You can also further explore Western Australia by checking out these articles:
- Top 5 Western Australia Road Trips
- 15 ways to get closer to nature and wildlife in Western Australia
- Top day trips from Perth
- 15 best places to eat, drink and stay in Perth
- Last minute flight deals to Perth
- How to holiday in Western Australia for less than £1000
- Gap year goals: Working Holiday in Western Australia
- Big Adventures on a Small Budget in Western Australia
- How to get to Western Australia for less