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The Great South West Coastal Trail

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Pemberton to Esperance

With your camera and hiking boots at the ready, this captivating trip will take you from the towering timbers of Pemberton to the idyllic wonderland of Esperance. Travelling along the coast of South West Australia, this itinerary will journey through Denmark, Albany and Hopetoun over a period of five to seven days, allowing you to explore some of the country’s most breathtaking national parks and dramatic coastlines, to then stand in awe at the sublime beauty that is Esperance WA.

 

Travel

6 days


Route

Pemberton to Perth

1500km


Best Time of the Year

all year round

Highlights

  • Pemberton
  • Walpole
  • Torrindup NP
  • Porongurup NP
  • Esperance
  • Lucky Bay

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 5

Walpole - Credit Tourism Western Australia

Day 1
Pemberton to Denmark

Distance 185km - Driving Time 2 hours

Starting from Pemberton, this trip is a great add-on for those who want to continue their journey south after travelling from Perth to Pemberton on the Margaret River itinerary. Travelling direct from Perth? It should take you less than four hours to reach Pemberton after sorting out your campervan hire in Perth. You can then choose to stay overnight in Pemberton, or start your travels towards Denmark. 

Walpole offers an excellent break in the journey between Pemberton and Denmark, allowing you to stretch your legs as you walk through the canopy of 400-year-old tingle trees on the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. Stopping in at William Bay National Park is also recommended, where you can explore the park’s impressive coastline, and then cool off with a swim in the tranquil waters at Elephant Rock, Elephant Cove or Greens Pool – some incredibly picturesque spots, so have your camera ready.

From here, it’s a short 15 minute drive into Denmark, where there is plenty more outdoor adventuring to do. Heading west out of Denmark, you could cycle part of the Munda Biddi Bike Trail or trek a section of the Bibbulmun Track, which can be enjoyed through a haze of colour during wildflower season (August to November). Back in the camper, you check out the Mount Shadforth Scenic Drive or the Scotsdale Tourist Drive, both of which offer picture-perfect views over the region, and the chance to stock up on delicious local produce and cool-climate wines.

The Gap - Credit Tourism Western Australia

Day 2
Denmark to Albany

Distance 55km - Driving Time 2 hours

From your overnight stop in Denmark, it’s just a quick 40-minute drive to Albany. Albany is an awesome little place for exploration, with plenty to see and do. Planning for an overnight stop here will allow you to explore what’s on offer in town and the surrounding region, to then have enough time to make the most of your longer trip to Hopetoun tomorrow.

So, what will you do in Albany? Getting out and about is pretty appealing, with Torndirrup National Park just 15 minutes from town. Situated on one of Australia’s most dramatic coastlines, the park is home to spectacular wave-carved rock formations The Gap, Natural Bridge and the Blowholes, which can be reached through a series of walkways and lookouts. If you’re visiting between July and October, there’s a good chance you’ll spot migrating whales from this elevated vantage point.

Driving north out of Albany, Porongurup National Park is just 40 minutes away. As one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, the park is a haven for some of Australia's most unique flora and fauna. Hiking one of the many trails through the park – such as the awe-inspiring Granite Skywalk – you may spot some of the 750 species of plants and 100 species of birds that reside here, while enjoying panoramic views over the park’s 12 peaks, sculpted over the past 1,100 million years.

When it’s time to cool off, head to one of the region’s pristine beaches. With its gentle waves, Middleton Beach is a favourite for families, while Emu Point Beach is perfect for kayaking. Regularly voted one of Western Australia’s best beaches, Little Beach at Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve is well worth a trip, providing the ideal spot for a picnic and a leisurely dip.

Eager to learn more about the history of this area? A visit to the Albany Whale Museum offers a look back at the town’s whaling history, and is the only museum of its kind to be built from the remains of a former whaling station. Stepping aboard the Brig Amity, you can journey back in time to see what life was like aboard a convict ship on this replica of the vessel that carried the first European settlers to the west coast of Australia in 1826.

The state-of-the-art National Anzac Centre is another popular option, allowing you to step into the boots of an Anzac during the First World War, following his journey from recruitment and training to conflict on the frontline in Gallipoli, the Middle East or the Western Front. If you fancy a tipple after that experience, take a tour of the Great Southern Distilling Company or visit some of the region’s exceptional wineries.

Day 3
Albany to Hopetoun

Distance 353km - Driving Time 4 hours

If you missed out on Porongurup National Park yesterday, you can take a detour through the park as you continue on your journey from Albany along Chester Pass Road. Driving on from there, you can stop in at Stirling Range National Park to walk the Bluff Knoll Trail, allowing you to ascend the highest peak in the South West. Providing incomparable views, the trail is home to an array of plant and birdlife, with the entire peak bursting into bloom from August to December.

Another must-see on this journey is the UNESCO World Heritage listed Fitzgerald River National Park. Hitting the park’s walking and driving trails, you will discover flora and fauna unique to the region, including more than 1,800 species of flowering plants. If you are visiting between July and October, you may be lucky enough spot southern right whales and their calves in the waters at Point Ann, one of just three locations in Australia where you can see this happen.

Hopetoun itself is a peaceful town near the coast, which was once a thriving port for the Phillips River Goldfields. Offering a range of superb walking trails and scenic campervan-friendly drives, the town will provide the tranquility you need to rest and reconnect before you continue on your journey. While you’re here, follow the Southern Ocean Road to enjoy magnificent coastal lookouts, taking time out to explore the many beaches with quiet pools perfect for fishing or swimming, such as Mason Bay and Starvation Bay.

Day 4
Hopetoun to Esperance

Distance 182km - Driving Time 2 hours

Head off early from Hopetoun to make the most of your last stop on this trip, Esperance. Looking out onto the scattering of islands known as the Recherche Archipelago, Esperance is one of those places you expect only to see on someone’s screensaver. In terms of beaches, there are plenty to choose from. With calm, tranquil waters, Blue Haven Beach and Twilight Cove are ideal for swimming and snorkelling, while West Beach, Fourth Beach and Observatory Beach offer waves better suited to surfing. Keen to throw a line in? Check out Bandy Creek Harbour or Salmon Beach along the Great Ocean Drive.

Take a trip out to explore the archipelago, where you can day trip or stay overnight on Woody Island Nature Reserve to enjoy bush walking, swimming, snorkelling and fishing. Another option for an overnight stay lies at Lucky Bay. With dazzlingly white sand and translucent blue waters, Lucky Bay must be seen to be believed, especially with kangaroos lounging around on the beach. Located within Cape Le Grand National Park, Lucky Bay features a campground with free barbecues, solar-heated showers and bush walking trails, the perfect place to park up your campervan get dinner on the go and watch the world go by. 

Back in Esperance town, the adventure continues with a range of tours to choose from. Try your hand at sand boarding or canoeing, check out some of the 4WD beach safari trails or join a tour experience for the day to see how it’s done. If you’re looking for something more relaxed, try an island cruise, soak up some history on an indigenous cultural tour, or organise a diving or fishing charter. If you decide to stay an extra day, you could take in the extraordinary sight of the bubble gum pink lake on Middle Island by taking a boat cruise or scenic flight, or head off-road on your own 4WD adventure along the outback coast to discover the bushwalking, camping and fishing paradise of Cape Arid National Park.

Day 5
Esperance to Perth

Distance 720km - Driving Time 2 days

While most people choose to stay in Esperance for a day or two, you can drive back to Perth today if time is tight. Taking the highway, you will be back in Perth to return your campervan in less than 8 hours. Alternatively, if you came straight from Perth to Pemberton, you could take our South West Wine & Exploration Trail in reverse, travelling from Pemberton to Perth to bask in the beauty of the picturesque Margaret River region. You will reach Pemberton in just under 7 hours.

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