Perth may be one of the most remote cities on Earth, but it is surrounded by plenty of incredible attractions. As the capital of Western Australia, Perth is tantalizingly close to secluded beaches and deserts dotted with otherworldly rock formations. Whether you're in the mood for wine, wildlife, or natural wonders, this huge state has got you covered.
Western Australia's public transportation system is relatively limited due to its low population density, so you will likely need to book a tour or rent a car to see most of these destinations. Read on for how, when, and where to go on the best road trips from Perth.
Swan Valley: Food, Wine, and Wildlife
The Swan Valley is the oldest wine region in Western Australia, with over 40 wineries and dozens of farm-to-table restaurants. Highlights include Olive Farm Wines, Pinelli Estate Wines, Funk Cider, Ironbark Brewery, and Upper Reach, all of which you can visit for tastings and tours.
If culture is more your style, make sure to visit Maalinup Aboriginal Gallery, Illusionary Art, and Gomboc Gallery and Sculpture Park. This lush valley is sunny almost all year round, but the grape vines are at their most picturesque in spring.
Getting There: You can drive to the Swan Valley in just half an hour from Perth, but if you plan on tasting the wines we recommend appointing a designated driver or booking a tour. You can also catch a train to Guildford station and take a taxi or hire a bike from there.
Travel Tip: The Caversham Wildlife Park is one of the best in the region for getting up close and personal with native Australian animals.
Rottnest Island: Meet a Quokka
Just 11 miles off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island is fringed with white sand beaches and surrounded by a coral reef. Also known as Wadjemup—meaning "place across the water where the spirits are"—Rottnest Island is traditionally owned by the Whadjuk Noongar people.
With a thriving population of over 12,000, the small, smiley quokkas are the island's star attraction. They are generally nocturnal and spend most of the day resting in the shade, but are often happy to approach people. However, it is important that visitors don't feed the quokkas, as doing so can make them sick or change their natural behavior.
Getting There: Three ferries operate between Rottnest Island and Perth, leaving from the city center, Fremantle, North Fremantle, and Hillary's Boat Harbour. The journey takes between 25 minutes and 90 minutes, depending on your departure point. There is an airport on the island, so you can also arrive by air taxi, helicopter, or seaplane.
Travel Tip: While on the island, bike rental is available, as are hop-on, hop-off bus tours.
The Pinnacles: Discover the Desert
Nambung National Park, home to the Pinnacles desert, is a two-hour drive north of Perth. Here, thousands of limestone pillars tower over a desert plain, forming fascinating shapes and shadows. The Yued people are the Traditional custodians of Nambung National Park.
During your trip, you can also stop off and visit the gorgeous beaches at Kangaroo Point and Hangover Bay. Cervantes, the nearest town to the park, is famous for its rock lobster (try the Lobster Shack for lunch).
Getting There: From Perth, rent a car and take the Indian Ocean Drive north, or book a tour. There are north-bound buses available Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday; south-bound buses are available Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Check Integrity Coachlines and TransWA for full timetables.
Travel Tip: If you have enough time to stay overnight, the columns make for a unique sunset. Plus, Nambung National Park is a world-class stargazing destination. Camping is not allowed in the park, but Cervantes has a full range of accommodation options.
Wave Rock: Culture and Nature
Wave Rock is a stunning, 50-foot-tall granite cliff that curves through the landscape for more than 300 feet. The rock is thought to be 27 million years old; the streaks of color were created by water running through the minerals on the wave's surface.
This region is the traditional land of the Ngoonar people, for whom the rock holds significance as a meeting place. Don't miss the wildlife park or Mulka's Cave—which features more than 450 Aboriginal rock paintings—during your trip to the region.
Getting There: The drive from Perth to Wave Rock takes just under four hours. Tours are available from Perth. The bus from Perth to the nearby town of Hyden departs once a week on Tuesdays and returns on Thursdays.
Travel Tip: Visit in spring (September to November) for the best chance of seeing wildflowers on the plains surrounding the rock.
Shoalwater Bay: Snorkel, Kayak, and Swim
Shoalwater Islands Marine Park covers a group of rocky limestone islands south of Perth, and is home to penguins, sea lions, sea birds, and bottlenose dolphins. The aptly named Penguin Island is one of the region's most popular destinations and can be visited from September 15 to early June (it is closed in winter for nesting season).
The reef offers rewarding snorkeling, and there are dozens of sandy beaches to relax on afterwards. Dive permits are required to explore the Saxon Ranger, a 400-ton former fishing vessel that was intentionally sunk off the coast for a dive wreck.
Getting There: Shoalwater is a 45-minute drive south of Perth, or you can take the train to Rockingham and transfer to a local bus.
Travel Tip: Ferry tours operate from Mersey Point. There are also kayaking tours and equipment rental available in town.
Margaret River: Breweries, Boutiques, and Beaches
On the south western tip of Australia's coastline, Margaret River is another well-established food and wine destination. When it comes to food, Arimia and Leeuwin Estate are a cut above the rest, and you won't regret tasting organic wines at Voyager Estate. Add the wineries around the nearby towns of Wilyabrup and Yallingup to your itinerary and you'll be spoiled for choice.
This sleepy town also has famous surf beaches and an artsy atmosphere. While you're there, walk or cycle along the river, browse the local stores, or catch a movie at the outdoor cinema at Cape Mantelle during summer.
Getting There: Margaret River is a three-hour drive south of Perth. Buses depart once daily.
Travel Tip: Just outside of town, Mammoth Cave contains the 50,000-year-old fossil jawbone of an extinct giant marsupial species.
Busselton: Under the Sea
On the shore of Geographe Bay, Busselton is a laid-back coastal city with a population of around 40,000 residents. Visitors are drawn to the area's sprawling white sand beaches and the historic Busselton Jetty, built in 1865. The foreshore is packed with with free barbecues, a skate park, playground, and cafés.
At the end of the jetty you'll find an artificial reef known as the Underwater Observatory. The Observatory allows visitors to admire more than 300 species of marine life in their natural habitat. Whale watching tours also operate from Port Geographe Marina from September to December.
Getting There: It'll take you around two and a half hours to drive to Busselton from Perth. Daily public transport connections are also available.
Travel Tip: Busselton is only half an hour's drive from Margaret River, making for a varied weekend of sightseeing.
Yanchep National Park: Koalas and Kangaroos
At Yanchep National Park, a dedicated koala boardwalk offers one of the best chances to see these cuddly animals in their natural habitat. In the mornings and evenings, western gray kangaroos can also be seen hopping around the park.
Yanchep features caving, hiking, and a nine-hole bush golf course, as well as camping, birdwatching, and BBQ facilities. At Trees Adventure, the high ropes and zip line course make for an entertaining family day out.
Getting There: Yanchep is a 45-minute drive north of Perth.
Travel Tip: Wangi Mia Meeting Place cultural center is open to the public on Sundays and public holidays. Bookings are essential for the Aboriginal Experience, which explores the culture of the Noongar people.
Albany: A Historic Port City
One of the oldest cities in Western Australia, Albany was a thriving port and gateway to the goldfields for most of the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, it is a prominent whale watching destination between June and August, and is home to the National Anzac Centre, a museum that explores Australia's involvement in World War II. Albany was the last port of call for troopships departing Australia during the conflict, giving it special significance for many soldiers.
When it comes to beaches, don't miss Little Beach at Two People's Bay Nature Reserve, half an hour east of Albany. Closer to town, Middleton Beach and Emu Cove are tranquil bayside swimming spots.
Getting There: Albany is a five-hour drive from Perth, or six hours by bus. There are also daily flights between the two cities.
Travel Tip: Twenty minutes south, along the rugged coastline of Torndirrup National Park, you'll find an impressive rock bridge and a turbulent inlet known as the Gap. It can be seen from a clifftop viewing platform.
Serpentine National Park
The main attraction at Serpentine National Park is Serpentine Falls, a crystal clear waterfall flowing over an imposing, granite cliff face. At its base, a viewing platform has stairs leading down to a pleasant swimming hole.
Free BBQs, toilets, and walking trails can be found in the park, as well as a food and drink kiosk that operates on weekends and public holidays. In the afternoons, local kangaroos are known to visit the picnic area.
Getting There: Serpentine is around an hour's drive south of Perth.
Travel Tip: The Serpentine Falls area often fills to capacity, especially on weekends and during school holidays. Arrive before 10 a.m. to guarantee entry.