How to Explore South Western Australia

A road trip across Australia’s Southern Forests

A road trip to South West Australia had been on my list for a long time. After a long flight layover in Singapore, I was back to Perth, which is, together with Melbourne, my favourite Australian City.

I have booked dozens of rental cars for my solo road trips in Australia over the past years, and my experience has always been positive.

Discover South West Australia by car

How to explore South West Australia by car

My ten-day road trip across South West Australia has been truly fantastic. It was one of the longest and most challenging solo road trips I had in Australia. Unfortunately, due to bad weather, I had to re-arrange my driving schedule a few times to see as much as I could of the region in the time I had.

I drove on my own for over  1,600 km in less than ten days and stayed in 6 different locations. I walked along some of Australia’s prettiest beaches and most ancient coastline landscapes. I ate the most exquisite food in Australia and camped alone in a remote national park. Climbed massive dunes by four-wheel drive, joined locals on a moving Anzac Cruise, and met friendly and welcoming people!

It has been a fantastic and best adventure among all Solo Travels in Australia.

I am going through the main activities on this blog post and give you an overview of my road trip to the fantastic South West Australian destinations.

Explore South West Australia Attractions on a road trip

I set off in Perth and drove on the Albany Highway for about 6 hours, including two stops along my way. I would recommend driving instead of flying to Albany, as flights are costly. Unless you get a good flight deal, you are better off renting a car in Perth and driving in a loop back to Perth.

In total it is about 1000km but with all detours plan 1200-1400 km. When you look it up on the Western Australia Map, it may look like a short trip, but you indeed need at least 10-14 days to tour the whole Southwest region.

Travelling alone can be tiring. If you have a travel companion, then it’s a no-brain road trip. If you decide to fly from Perth to Albany, you will need to hire a car locally to explore Albany, WA and its surroundings.

Here is a wrap up of my road trip across the Southern Forests of Western Australia, also known as the Kwongan, home to some of Australia’s most iconic species and ancient landscapes. Some may not know that the Southwest region formed when India broke away from Gondwana 120 million years ago.

Since then, it had a very stable climate for tens of millions of years which allowed it to develop a botanical richness like no other part.

A road trip across the Southern Forests

Visit Albany, the jewel Down South West Australia

Albany is truly a jewel of the rugged South West Australian coastline. I was not expecting this wealth of natural beauty. I felt overwhelmed with all the things to do in Albany.

The place is surrounded by national parks, a wondrous harbour with many little bays, small island and inlets.

While the natural treasure makes Albany stand out, its historic heritage site with the best interpretative Anzac Centre of Australia, its excellent food and wines, and its fantastic fishing spots make Albany the pearl of South West Australia.

I only had 2,5days, though I could check out most of the attractions. Here is a recap of my trip.

Amazing Albany South West Australia

Albany South Coast – The Gap – The Bridge and Whaling Cove

The South Coast of Albany, also known as the Torndirrup National Park, is home to some iconic Albany attractions. I had planned half-day, but I would recommend a whole day here, as there are too many exciting places to visit and a few walking trails. The Gap and the Bridge are the most visited landmarks.

The Gap is a suspension platform (completed in April 2016) that allows visitors to peer through the sheer drop carved into massive granite boulders overlooking the ocean.

The Gap Albany South West

It was a breathtaking moment to stand on this platform. I was stunned watching these massive rock formations.

The Natural Bridge, close by, is a bridge-shaped rock formation linking two massive central plateaux. All around, it’s all a large rocky platform; it looks like an unreal astounding landscape.

The Bridge Albany

Whaling Cove is another iconic destination on Albany’s South Coast peninsula; it’s 6km off the main road, really worth a visit. There is a 6 km return from the car park, walking the trail to Possession Point and Lookout. I couldn’t make it to the top.

This is a must-do thing when visiting Albany. The view from this lookout is probably the best vantage point to get a 360°  panoramic view of Albany’s city with Princess Royal Harbour, King George Sound and the islands on the South and North Channels.

Whaling Cove Albany

There are many hills and outlooks in town; the best Albany lookouts are from the Anzac Centre and Mt Clearance and Padre White.

Denmark Australia – Greens Pool and Elephant Rock

Denmark lies 30 minutes drive from Albany and 45 minutes to Walpole and the Tree Top Walk. As the weather was not pleasant, I had to change my plan and made an extra trip to Denmark to make the most of the last sunrays before the storm.

The extra drive was worth it, as I could see the two gems of this place: Greens Pool and Elephant Rock. They are adjacent to the Williams Bay National Park, about 10 minutes north of Denmark. I also did a beautiful loop-drive on the hills, where you can stop at wineries, eateries, farmers. Again a special place for food & wine in the South West region.

Greens Pool Denmark South West Australia

Walpole Western Australia – The Tree Top Walk

I had heard a lot about Walpole and the Tree Top Walk. I liked the Giant of the Valley, and the ancient Empire walk among giant Karri Tree and  Tingle Tree forests (unique to this region) are very inspiring.

Tingle Trees Walpole South West

The best part of this trip was the WOW Wilderness Eco-Cruise of Walpole Bay that I did early morning. I have been on a few eco-cruises in Australia, but this is something unique. The wealth of information and the entertaining way Gary has to tell about its heritage and its untouched eco-system is something you will not find on any book or travel guides of the site.

Gary’s knowledge and passion for Walpole were inherited through 7 generations. His eco-tour is incredible and incomparable. He’s genuinely embodied the living legend of the place. So don’t miss out on his morning eco-cruise of the Walpole bay.

Walpole Sandy Beach

A Pemberton Discovery Tour

I was not prepared for Pemberton’s unique landscape, either. As I drove into town, it reminded me of Margaret River as the view slowly turned into golden sweeping vineyards peppered by trees and abundant vegetation. Pemberton, to me, was a revelation. Surrounded by ancient National Parks, Pemberton is a great place for camping and a four-wheel-drive adventure.

To make the most of your explorations in Pemberton, you need a 4WD car, though. Even if you have a 4WD vehicle, you might not be able to climb the huge Yeagarup dunes, a striking landmark of Pemberton.

 Pemberton Discovery Tour

I was thrilled to join Graeme in his Pemberton Discovery Tours to the Warren National Park and the Yeagarup Sand Dunes. I also had the chance of trying out his glamping spot on a wet and cold night. While I was a bit scared, this was an excellent opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone and learn something about myself.

Re-discovering Margaret River

My discovery tour of South West Australia did not end in Pemberton. I had planned a re-visit of Margaret River. At the same time, I spent a couple of days visiting new places in town and on the Margaret River region’s self-guided tour. I also revisited Cape Naturaliste and Dunsborough.

I loved touring the region by myself, although there was a lot of driving involved.

If you don’t feel like going on a self-driving trip, check out this 3-day-tour to Albany from Perth.
Here are all Tours to South Western Australia

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How to discover South West AustraliaHow to discover South West Australia by car

 

First published in 2018, last updated in Jan 2021

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How to Explore South Western Australia