A Perth to Darwin road trip is one of the more adventurous drives you can do in Australia. It will take you across large parts of uninhabited areas of Western Australia before reaching the tropical top end in Darwin.
It is one of the lengthier road trips in Australia you can undertake clocking in at over 4,000 km!! At this distance, it’s not a trip for the faint-hearted, this is a serious undertaking!
The drive may be long, but there are plenty of excellent places to stop off along the way. This is the great thing about Australia, road trips may cover large distances, but you have plenty of places to see while doing them.
This Perth to Darwin drive will take you through Western Australia to the Northern Territory and some of the lesser heralded places in the country!
Let’s get into it!
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Perth to Darwin road trip
Quick Perth to Darwin Drive itinerary Distance – 4,147 km (2,576 miles) Time – 10 days Day 1 – Perth to Geraldton: 414 km (257 miles) Day 2 – Geraldton to Monkey Mia: 433 km (269 miles) Day 3 – Monkey Mia to Carnarvon: 352 km (218 miles) Day 4 – Carnarvon to Exmouth: 364 km (226 miles) Day 5 – Exmouth to Karijini: 658 km (408 miles) Day 6 – Karijini to Port Hedland: 316 km (196 miles) Day 7 – Port Hedland to Broome: 604 km (375 miles) Day 8 – Broome to Hall’s Creek: 686 km (426 miles) Day 9 – Hall’s Creek to Timber Creek: 584 km (362 miles) Day 10 – Timber Creek to Darwin: 603 km (374 miles)
The distance between Perth and Darwin is 4,147 km (2,576 miles). It’s a big distance, which makes it one of the longest road trips in Australia that you can do!
If you were to do the trip in one continuous drive, it would take you 44 hours! It’s not until you drive around Australia, that you realise how big it is!
You have two routes you can take. One takes you inland from Perth up to Port Hedland, but I don’t advise doing this route. Instead, it’s better to drive around the coast until you reach Nanutarra and cut inland so you can visit Karijini National Park.
This way you get to see a lot more of the country, instead of travelling through large parts of the outback.
Driving from Perth to Darwin is a serious undertaking, you will spend a lot of hours on the road during the trip. However, you’ll also get to see a lot of interesting and beautiful places along the way!
If you want a map to use while you’re driving, click the image above and save the route to Google maps.
Before setting off
Before you do any road trip in Australia it is important to have everything in order. You need to have a vehicle before you start. Without one, there simply won’t be a road trip! Depending on your numbers and where you plan on sleeping, you have two options.
Depending on how many of you there is, you can either rent a car or a campervan. If you’re planning on staying in hostels, I would go in a car. Otherwise, a campervan would be a good idea, particularly if there are 4 to 6 of you.
You can book these direct with companies such as Jucy and Wicked, but my advice would be to look online. You can use a company such as Rentalcars.com to book your car or campervan.
Driving in Australia can be tricky due to the distances involved. This is exacerbated when the journeys involve covering large areas where there is little sign of civilisation. Running out of fuel in the middle of nowhere is something that you always have to consider.
If your tank is nearly half-full, you should stop at the next petrol station. You never know how far the next one will be. The last thing you want to do on a road trip is run out of fuel!
Australia’s large size makes this more apparent than driving in other countries. Distances between places are so large, it is essential you ensure you have all the tools and safety equipment you need before you set off.
If you break down in the wrong place, you could be there for a while waiting for assistance!
One tip that I picked up during the Australian road trips I did was to take note of signs. When you are in the outback and unpopulated areas, there are little green signs every 5km to let you know how far you are from the next town.
It’s important to look out for these signs. They will help you to gauge how far the next town is and when you can stop to eat and refuel.
If you feel tired while driving, take a break! It’s tempting to try and smash out the miles as much as you can, but this is a recipe for disaster. Accidents are more likely when you’re tired.
A good rule f thumb is to stop every 4 hours or so. This will give you a chance to refresh during the trip. Picking out places you can stop and take a look around along the way is another good way to break up the driving.
Before doing any road trip in Australia, ensure that you have proper travel insurance! I use World Nomads to keep me safe on the road, it’s designed for backpackers and adventurous travellers.
Essential items to pack for a Perth to Darwin Road trip
Before setting off, it’s important to ensure you have everything you need for your trip. You may want to check out my guide on what to pack for a road trip before you head off.
Taking certain items with you will make your life on the road that little bit easier. Driving long distances isn’t easy and it can be a lot harder if you don’t have the right items with you.
This is especially true when driving in Australia as the distances involved make road trips more challenging than in other countries. You must have everything you need in case you break down in the middle of nowhere.
Below are a few items I recommend you take on your Perth to Darwin self-drive, to make the drive that little bit easier!
I firmly believe that road trips are the best way to see Australia. I know what you’re thinking, but Australia is huge! Driving around the country must be awful! I wouldn’t want to be in a car for that long!
Well, believe me, it’s not that bad! Even driving from Adelaide to Darwin through vast areas of nothingness in the outback was enjoyable! The great thing about Australia is that there are plenty of places to see in between the major cities.
Driving from Perth to Darwin is no exception. You have so many places to see on this drive, that is one of the best Australian road trips! Western Australia has some of the best national parks in Australia, and the scenery at the top end of the Northern Territory is very unique.
Places such as Kalbarri and Karijini National Parks are not as well-known as other famous spots in Australia, but they are just as impressive. If they’re not on your Australia bucket list, then they should be!
The great thing about this part of the country is that is visited less than the East Coast. This means that you have fewer tourists to contend with and the scenery is unspoiled by tourism.
It’s, for this reason, I feel you should do this road trip. The West Coast may be less explored, but it is arguably more beautiful and scenic than the East Coast. You have a wealth of varying places to visit that you don’t get on the other side of the country.
Stunning national parks, beautiful beaches, the ability to get up close and personal with marine and wildlife. If all of the above doesn’t convince you to do this road trip, I don’t know what will!
You may ask yourself, what is the point of travelling? My answer is to go on trips like this that showcase all the wonders of the Earth that we don’t see in our everyday lives!
Where to stay between Perth and Darwin
One of the good things about driving from Perth to Darwin is that there are plenty of places to stay along the way. By driving along the West Coast, you are staying in civilisation, as opposed to the outback route inland.
From Perth to Broome, you have a wide choice of places to stay en route. You will find lots of towns and cities, and places like Monkey Mia and the Ningaloo Reef are popular tourist hotspots with lots of accommodation.
Once you head inland from Broome towards the Northern Territory, your choice does narrow somewhat. However, you won’t struggle to find somewhere to sleep!
Of course, if you are doing the trip in a campervan, then you can skip this section. You’re free to park wherever you want and sleep for the night. If you’re doing it in a car, then I have listed some hostels below which are ideal places to stay during this road trip!
Apart from Darwin, Broome is the biggest town that you will visit on this trip. It’s not a big per se, but it is an interesting place nonetheless.
The main attraction in Broome is the beaches, specifically, Cable Beach. It is one of the best beaches in Australia as its sandy shoreline stretches on for miles. A unique aspect is that you can ride a camel up and down the beach!
Broome is not just Cable Beach. Another interesting place to visit is Gantheaume Point, where you can see Dinosaur tracks on the red rocks at the beach during low tide!
Broome is a beautiful spot to check out during the drive and it’s without a doubt, one of the highlights of the trip!
Karijini National Park
Australia has a lot of fantastic national parks, Wilson’s Promontory stands out for me, but Karijini National Park is one you have to visit during this trip!
The park is a large wilderness area in between Broome and Exmouth. The red rocks, crystal clear pools and huge cavernous gorges make it a spectacular place to visit. It’s similar to Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, in nature, but without the giant rock!
It is a great place to stop for a day or two on the drive, as there are plenty of things to do. You can swim in the numerous freshwater pools, hike up to some amazing lookout points and delve into gorges that are over two billion years old.
Karijini National Park is a beautiful place and one you can’t miss out on while driving from Perth to Darwin!
Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park is a lovely area of diverse landscapes. Located over 500 km north of Perth, the park has lots of sprawling gorges and some of the best wildflowers you can see in Australia.
The park is split into two sections, the coastal area, which consists of soaring cliffs with excellent trails and lookout areas, and the inland area with the aforementioned gorges and wildflowers.
I recommend exploring both parts as you will see a variety of landscapes. Nature’s window is one spot you need to visit as it provides you with a perfectly framed view of the length of the gorge.
Another interesting place you should check out is Pink Lake at Port Gregory. It’s worth visiting mainly for seeing a pink lake, it’s a peculiar sight!
It does cost $12 per vehicle to go into Kalbarri National Park, but it is a price worth paying as the sights are spectacular!
Monkey Mia is one of the most popular places to visit in Western Australia. The reason is due to the bottlenose dolphins that come close to the shore. It represents a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with some beautiful creatures.
Dolphins aren’t the only reason to visit Monkey Mia though, there are plenty of other places to see as well. One of which is Shell Beach, which is only one of two beaches in the world where shells replace sand!
Another interesting place to go is the Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, which are the oldest and largest living fossils on Earth. You walk along a specially constructed walkway which takes you over the fossils, while signposts along the way tell you all you need to know about these marvellous fossils.
You won’t be short of things to do at Monkey Mia, which makes it an excellent place to stay for a night or longer during the trip!
Australia is famous for its coral reef, although this is mainly due to the Great Barrier Reef. However, there is more than one reef in Australia! The Ningaloo Reef may not be as well-known as its more famous counterpart on the East Coast, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
If you want to see an abundance of marine life in Australia, the Ningaloo Reef is the place to go! It is teeming with manta rays, sharks and turtles. However, one of the best things about the reef concerns a larger creature.
The reef is home to a large number of whale sharks. As there are so many of them, it’s possible to swim up close with them! They are gentle giants and the Ningaloo Reef is the only place in the world where they reliably congregate from April to July close to land.
This is a good enough reason on its own to visit the Ningaloo Reef. It’s one place you can’t miss on a Perth to Darwin self-drive!
Things to do on a Perth to Darwin road trip
Swimming with whale sharks
As I mentioned above, swimming with whale sharks is one of the best things you can do on this trip. It is a unique experience which you can only do in certain places around the world.
You can’t just jump into the water and start swimming with the whale sharks, despite them coming close to shore. You will need to book a tour to be able to experience this.
The downside of this is that the tours can be expensive. You will be looking at upwards of $150. When you factor that in with the overall cost of the trip, it adds a lot to the expense. However, if you want to do it you should and it’s worth factoring this in before you start the trip.
Not only do you get the opportunity to swim with these majestic creatures, but you will also see a lot of other marine life and explore the beautiful Coral Coast!
Litchfield National Park is located just before you drive into Darwin and it makes sense to check it out before you head to Darwin. Alternatively, you can book a tour and visit it after you arrive in Darwin, which is a good idea if you need to drop your car off urgently!
The primary attraction of Litchfield National Park is the sheer number of waterfalls. They cascade down into beautiful crystal clear pools which are perfect for swimming in. It’s a great opportunity to get out of the car and relax amidst some stunning scenery.
One of the stranger sights in Litchfield is the sight of towering termite mounds! These mounds can reach as high as two metres (6 ft 7in)!! They are worth checking out while you’re there, as are the numerous trails in the park.
Litchfield is one of the best national parks in Australia to visit and one you can’t miss out on during this trip!
Although Rottnest Island is not on the route, it is a great place to visit either before you start the trip or finish the trip in Perth. It is one of the most picturesque places in Australia with lots to see and do.
The main attraction on the island is the little animals known as quokkas. They are small wallaby like marsupials and extremely cute. It’s worth visiting Rottnest for the sole purpose of seeing them!
The island is a protected nature reserve, which means the scenery here is incredible! Numerous white beaches and secluded coves are everywhere just waiting to be explored!
To get to Rottnest Island you will need to book a ferry and island admission ticket, which costs about $73 altogether. I would book these in advance to make sure that you’ll get the chance to visit this beautiful island!
This is an example itinerary and by no means the only route you should take, It is just a recommendation if you want to skip some places or take a quicker route, then you can!
Day 1 – Perth to Geraldton
414 km (257 miles)
Time without stops
4 hours 28 minutes
The first drive of the road trip is an easy one up the coast to Geraldton. Four hours is a long time to be driving, but given you are driving in Australia and the distances are huge, it a short drive, especially considering the endpoint is Darwin!
You have a few places to stop along the way and you could even visit Rottnest Island before you set off if you get up early!
Dongara is a good place to stop. If you haven’t been to Rottnest Island beforehand, you can stop off at the Illegal Tender Rum distillery and tour the premises. You’ll learn a lot about how the rum is produced and taste the produce too!
The next place to stop before you reach Geraldton should be Greenough. Not much is in the small town, but they do have a unique attraction you have to check out.
Due to prevailing southerly winds which buffet the trees, they have begun to lean to one side creating a strange and unique spectacle. To see the leaning trees, you need to be on the Brands Highway as you pass through the Greenough Flats.
Once you get to Geraldton, there are a few things you can do. You can check out the Esplanade, which is a great place to relax after a long drive. Or, you could visit one of the numerous beaches near the town.
You can choose from the soft white sand of Black Beach, surf at Sunset Beach, or go to the sheltered waters of Town Beach.
Day 2 – Geraldton to Monkey Mia
433 km (269 miles)
Time without stops
4 hours 39 minutes
The second day’s drive is slightly longer than the previous days and takes around the same time. As you are heading to Monkey Mia, which is one of the most popular spots on the West Coast, it’s worth just stopping at Kalbarri National Park and nowhere else.
Getting there earlier gives you more time to spend looking around Monkey Mia and potentially swim with the dolphins. The other option is to take your time and stop at a few places along the way.
My choice would be to head to Monkey Mia via Kalbarri National Park. Monkey Mia is a lovely place and there aren’t many places you can swim with wild dolphins so easily around the world!
Kalbarri is a beautiful park with lots of sprawling gorges and some great walking trails. One place you need to see while you’re there is Nature’s Window, which presents you with stunning views along the gorge.
Once you get to Monkey Mia, you can explore the area. Be sure to head to the amazing Shell Beach and take in the sunset if you get there on time.
Day 3 – Monkey Mia to Carnarvon
352 km (218 miles)
Time without stops
3 hours 47 minutes
This is one of the shortest drives on the trip, which means it’s a good opportunity to spend some extra time in Monkey Mia.
If you haven’t had the time to explore the area or do all the activities you wanted, you can do it in the morning before leaving.
This part of the trip isn’t one of the most exciting in terms of things to see along the way. It’s a fairly mundane drive to Carnarvon.
One place you can stop is at Hamelin Pool. Here, you can see the Hamelin Pool stromatolites are the oldest and largest living fossils on earth!
It will break up the drive a bit and the views are lovely, so it’s a good place to stop before you reach Carnarvon. You won’t find much in Carnarvon, but there is one place you should check out.
The Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum explores the role the small town played in NASA’s manned missions during the 60s and 70s. It’s a fascinating museum and you’ll learn a lot about space exploration and Carnarvon’s role in it!
Day 4 – Carnavon to Exmouth
364 km (226 miles)
Time without stops
3 hours 50 minutes
The fourth day of driving is another relatively easy one at just under four hours. Make the most of it, as some of the drives from herein start to become all-day affairs!
One place you have to stop on your way to Carnarvon is the Quobba Blowholes. You will see water surging through rocks, spraying metres into the air at cliffs on the coast.
It’s a slight detour off the route, but it’s worth it because the blowholes are a spectacular sight!
Another place to stop is Coral Bay, which is a small coastal town. It’s an excellent place to get something to eat and if you have some time you can go snorkelling in the turquoise waters before you head to Exmouth.
Once you get to Exmouth, it’s worth exploring the area and deciding whether you want to stay an extra day or not. The Ningaloo Reef is a beautiful place and with a long drive the next day, you won’t see everything in half a day.
If you want to go whale watching or swim with whale sharks, you will need to spend a day in Exmouth to do so.
Day 5 – Exmouth to Karijini
658 km (408 miles)
Time without stops
7 hours 45 minutes
This is the longest drive of the trip and one that can’t be avoided. To make some progress inland towards the Northern Territory, you have to do a lot of driving!
You have two ways you can do this drive. One option is to do as I suggest and head to the Karijini National Park, before going to Port Hedland. The alternative is to drive straight to Port Hedland. It depends on your circumstances in regards to which one you should do.
The best option is to go to Karijini as the sights here are incredible and it would be a shame not to see it. However, if you need to get to Darwin, you can save a day by heading along the coast straight to Port Hedland.
Due to the length of the drive, you’re unlikely to see much of note at Karijini when you get there. Even if you left early, you still wouldn’t arrive until late in the afternoon.
The drive isn’t the most scenic either. One place you should stop is a town called Tom Price, it’s an hour away from Karijini. Not much is in Tom Price, the reason for stopping is for the novelty factor of the strange name!
It’s also a great place to stay the night before heading to Karijini early in the morning.
Day 6 – Karijini to Port Hedland
316 km (196 miles)
Time without stops
3 hours 38 minutes
With a short drive to Port Hedland, the focus of your day should be on exploring Karijini National Park.
Karijini is a beautiful national park, and you can do a lot in half a day. There are plenty of hikes you can do in the area which will give you fantastic views of the towering gorges.
If it’s a hot day, which is often the case in the outback, you can jump into one of the numerous freshwater pools to cool off. You can swim under one of the numerous waterfalls too!
Weano Gorge is one of the best places to go in the park if you want to do all of the above. A short walk into the gorge brings you to Handrail Pool, which is ideal for swimming.
The scenery in the park is out of this world and it’s well worth taking your time to explore it before you head off to Port Hedland.
Day 7 – Port Hedland to Broome
604 km (375 miles)
Time without stops
6 hours 17 minutes
This is another big drive coming in at over 6 hours. Port Hedland is a nice place, but I recommend you get on the road as soon as you can because there are a lot of interesting sights up the road.
One such place is Eighty Mile Beach, which as the name suggests is a very long beach. It’s the largest uninterrupted beach in Western Australia.
It’s situated halfway between Port Hedland and Broome which makes it an ideal to stop for lunch and break up the drive. Relaxing on the beach for an hour or two is a good idea when you have to spend a long time in the car!
Once you arrive in Broome, you can head to another beach, Cable Beach to be precise! It’s a beautiful beach and the perfect place to explore after a long drive. You may even see the famous camels walking up and down the sandy shore!
Day 8 – Broome to Hall’s Creek
686 km (426 miles)
Time without stops
7 hours 16 minutes
This is another long drive, which takes you closer to the border with the Northern Territory. Before you do the drive, you need to decide whether you want to spend an extra day in Broome or not.
It’s a good idea if you have a lot of time. Leaving Broome after less than a day would be a shame as there is a lot to do. However, if you’re time-limited it might be a good idea to leave Broome and do the drive.
This is one of the more mundane parts of the drive from Perth to Darwin. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to see along the route. It’s more a case of doing the drive to get in the miles and edge closer towards Darwin!
My advice would be to try and do the drive as quickly as possible. Stopping every so often to top up your car and recharge your batteries.
Day 9 – Hall’s Creek to Timber Creek
584 km (362 miles)
Time without stops
6 hours 41 minutes
This part of the drive finally takes you into the Northern Territory and closer towards Darwin. Again, it is not the most inspiring drive, but this is just the nature of driving through this part of Australia.
With a near 7 hour journey, it’s best to get an early start so you can make as much headway as possible.
There aren’t many places to stop along the way, much like the previous day, but there are some good spots. The Ord River is worth checking out. It’s one of the fastest-flowing rivers in Australia during the wet season and is an impressive sight.
If you’re feeling a bit adventurous and have some spare time, you could head out to Purnululu National Park. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage park and features the distinctive Bungle Bungle Range, which resembles beehive-shaped towers!
It’s worth a visit if you can spare the time because the range is one of the most striking sights you can see in Australia! What’s even more remarkable is that they were only ‘discovered’ by the outside world in 1983!
Another spot to check out in the park is Cathedral Gorge, which is a towering gorge with incredible acoustics. Try singing and your voice will reverberate around the gorge!
Day 10 – Timber Creek to Darwin
603 km (374 miles)
Time without stops
6 hours 57 minutes
The final part of the drive takes you through the remainder of the route to your endpoint, Darwin. The end of this drive resembles the route if you were driving from Adelaide as we join the Stuart Highway.
Again, it’s another long drive, but one that can be broken up more than the previous two days of driving.
Once you leave Timber Creek, a good place to stop is Nitmulik National Park, one of the best places to visit in the Northern Territory. You can check out the beautiful Katherine Gorge, which towers over the river below. Be sure to take a hike to the top to get a perspective on how deep the gorge is.
You can even go swimming in the river if you wish, but do so where the signs say the river is croc-free! You don’t want to become croc food on the last day of the trip!
It’s probably asking too much to visit Litchfield National Park on the same day. My advice would be to head past it, visit Darwin for a few days and come back one day to see it.
It’s a beautiful park and one you shouldn’t miss while you’re in this part of Australia! You can also visit Kakadu National Park if you want to!
Once you’re in Darwin, I would stay for a few days. It’s a lovely city, with a lot to do. As long as you’re not there during the wet season, you can have a lot of fun in the marina and relax in the sunshine most days!
How much does a Perth to Darwin Road trip cost?
As this is one of the longest Australian road trips, it will cost more than normal. When you factor in the cost of the car, petrol, food and drink and accommodation, it’s not going to be cheap!
However, if there are a lot of you doing the trip, then the cost will diminish. If there are four of you, for example, the cost is a lot cheaper than if just two of you were on the trip.
With any road trip, there are unavoidable costs and they revolve around what I mentioned above. The key thing you need to figure out is whether you rent a campervan, or a car and stay in accommodation along the way.
I received a figure of $1.43 per litre, driving the distance in a campervan led to a quote of $830.22 If there are four of you in the vehicle that will come to $207.55, which is a fair amount of money!
Bear in mind this price may be cheaper if you do the trip in a normal car. It won’t need as much petrol to fill it up and with the reduced weight, it should be more fuel-efficient than a campervan!
However, if there is only two or three of you, the costs will be a lot more expensive. Factor in the cost of renting a campervan per day, which comes to around $49, food and drink and any tours you decide to do and you’re looking at a bill over $500 per person!
If you want to keep the costs down, it is better to do the trip in a big group. It will cost a lot if you do it in a smaller group, but you will still have an amazing time!
In the end, the cost of the trip comes down to how much you’re willing to spend to enjoy yourself and see some amazing places. Yes, the trip will be expensive, but if you’re doing a working holiday in Australia or simply travelling around, it will be expensive regardless of what you do!
Need a rental car?
I use Rentalcars.com whenever I need to rent a car. They offer the most comprehensive listings of rental cars on the web. Plus, their deals are often cheaper than if you went straight to the supplier!
A Perth to Darwin road trip is one of the best you can do in Australia. It will take you to a lesser-explored part of the country, but one that is no less beautiful than the East Coast.
You will see a lot of beautiful places such as Karijini National Park, Monkey Mia and the Ningaloo Reef that are underappreciated. It’s certainly a fantastic and scenic road trip!
Have you done a Perth to Darwin drive? Did you do an itinerary similar to mine?
Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Need travel insurance?
You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.