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Trip Report Road Trip: Perth-Exmouth-Perth - It's a Bloody Long Way!

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This trip was utterly exhausting…4,059 kilometers in 15 days. It was meticulously researched, yet far from perfect. Was it interesting? Absolutely. Would I do it again? I think not.

The travelers:

Bill and Mel, middle age American expats currently residing in Perth, Australia.

The itinerary:

Perth - Kalbarri – three nights
Kalbarri - Denham – three nights
Denham - Carnarvon – one night
Carnarvon - Exmouth – three nights
Exmouth - Coral Bay – three nights
Coral Bay - Carnarvon – one night
Carnarvon - Greenough – one night
Greenough - Cervantes – one night
Cervantes – Perth

The transportation:

A formerly pristine 2008 Toyota Corolla.

Day 1 - Perth – Kalbarri (approximately 577 km, eight hours)

We picked up the Brand Highway about an hour’s drive from our home in Perth. Highways in Western Australia are akin to side streets where I come from; one lane in each direction. This makes for painfully slow driving when you’re trailing caravans and road trains; passing is often downright scary. Sure, there’s the odd passing lane, but they’re few and far between. About 90 minutes outside of Perth we made a detour to the tiny town of Gin Gin for caffeine and sugar at a nice little cafe called CU @ Park.

The drive consisted of a bit of everything; rolling hills, pastures, livestock and railroad crossings…yes, trains cross the Brand Highway, which has a speed limit of 110 km per hour. We encountered more than our share of inconsiderate drivers; slow moving vehicles that immediately jumped into the scarce passing lanes, effectively clogging up the lane for the faster moving vehicles behind them; caravans trailed by a dozen cars unwilling to pull over to let traffic by, and a shocking number of tailgaters.

We stopped in Dongara, where we had a picnic overlooking the Irwin River Estuary, and then drove down to the water’s edge for a quick look see. A motorcycle convention seemed to be underway at the Dongara Bakery. I’d have thought they’d gather at the pub…

We continued on towards Geraldton, noting the abundance of B&Bs – many more than my research had suggested. We were both surprised at how green it was through here…visions of Coober Pedy had danced through our heads, yet here olive trees dotted the landscape. Road trains were plentiful and we passed many a sign advising that they can be as long as 36 meters (118 feet!).

The highway was closed near Geraldton due to an accident, which we later learned was a fatality. There was plenty of warning that the road was closed; refreshing, as that’s not usually the case in WA. Traffic was diverted onto a long network of country roads which meandered through the town of Walkaway. We arrived in Geraldton some six hours and 422 kilometers after leaving Perth. We still had a long way to go, so we quickly gassed up and located the North-West Coastal Highway.

We got a glimpse of the Indian Ocean as we left Geraldton and passed several vineyards, once again surprised, as we didn't realize they grew grapes up this way. We eventually turned onto the southern access road at Northampton and worked our way towards Kalbarri via the scenic route.

I’d read that the Principality of Hutt River was located somewhere between Northampton and Kalbarri, so we kept our eyes open for evidence of the place. For those unfamiliar, Hutt River claims to be an ‘independent sovereign state’ that seceded from Australia in 1970. Tourists are invited to visit the principality between 10-4 and have their passports stamped. It sounded quirky and fun, so we’d planned to stop there. The turnoff is marked with a small street sign that gives no indication as to the distance. We took the turn and drove several kilometers in the rain on the sandy unsealed road, but it was almost 4 pm, and we’d run out of steam, so we bailed. We asked about it later at the Kalbarri Visitor’s Center, and were told that the province is located 45 km from the turnoff.

The last 150 kilometers of our first drive day seemed to go on forever. We were tired and desperate to get out of the car. We arrived in Kalbarri eight hours after leaving Perth and checked into our lodging for the next three nights, the Kalbarri Seafront Villas. My review can be found here:

Kalbarri was hopping. It was a three day weekend, and unbeknownst to us there was a ‘Canoe and Cray Festival’ scheduled for the following day.

We had dinner at the Hotel Kalbarri bistro, which was a short stroll from our accommodation. Bill had oysters on the half shell and shrimp in garlic sauce ($16.50 each). I went for the pumpkin and ginger soup ($8). The serving was so big I had no chance of finishing it. Good and filling, two thumbs up.

Next up: Exploring Kalbarri National Park

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