Plan your itinerary along The South West Edge in WA
Enjoy breathtaking scenery, walks, wildlife and wineries, tucked between the ocean and the trees while road-tripping along The South West Edge.
With 2021 clipping our wings, the hankering to explore little-known paths and disappear into far-flung environments is greater than ever. Find freedom along the 1200-kilometre South West Edge, an epic, 12-day road trip from Perth to Esperance.
It wends through magical wine regions and tall tree forests, edges empty beaches and reveals sculptural boulders and rare marine life, deepening your breath with every moment of adventure. Here’s our guide on what to do, and where to stay.
Perth to Bunbury
Visiting Perth and not snapping a quokka selfie would be like exploring the Red Centre without seeing Uluru.
Not seeing the quokkas on Rottnest Island would be a bit like not seeing the Sistine Chapel when visiting Rome.
Rottnest Island’s icon, AKA the happiest animal in the world, is only a 30-minute ferry jaunt across the channel from Fremantle.
The sparkling waters of the Basin on Rottnest Island.
Hire a bike and be dazzled by Geordie and Little Parakeet bays or The Basin.
Back on the mainland, follow Fremantle’s rows of historic buildings and discover bijou bars like Darling Darling, Nieuw Ruin and Gimlet, or be swept up in the atmosphere of the Fremantle Markets.
The eclectic Fremantle Markets.(Image: City of Fremantle)
Depart the metropolis for Bunbury, via the world’s largest dam mural at Wellington Dam – all 8000 square metres of it.
The Wellington Dam Mural, WA. (Image: Annabel Claire)
Lunch at the Kiosk then motor to nearby Gnomesville in the bucolic Ferguson Valley for a very un-garden variety mass of red-hatted characters peeking from the bush.
Gnomesville is one of the more unconventional and highly amusing attractions along The South West Edge. (Image: Jarrad Seng)
In Bunbury, slide into Market Eating House for a Middle Eastern-inspired dinner by the former head chef of Melbourne’s Little Press & Cellar.
Grab a nightcap at Lost Bills and, in the morning, refresh with a wild dolphin ocean swim at the Dolphin Discovery Centre.
Where to stay: Warders Hotel, Fremantle is a haven of tranquillity while Quest Bunbury Apartment Hotel is a moment’s walk from Koombana Bay, where dolphins frolic.
Bunbury to Margaret River
Margaret River is both a waterway, a town and a region that sweeps across some of the most valuable vineyards in Australia.
Busselton is home to the longest timber-piled jetty in the southern hemisphere.
Explore its top end with a mini train journey along the 1.8-kilometre Busselton Jetty and delve into the Underwater Observatory, one of only six underwater observatories in the world. Next, wander around Dunsborough, a coastal chic community facing the peaceful Naturaliste coastline.
The coastline at Dunsborough. (Image: Salty Wings).
The area is captured evocatively by local photographer, Christian Fletcher, whose gallery is on the main street, near The Pour House bar and kitchen.
Trace the coastal walking trail to Meelup Beach, a bush-edged oasis of gin-clear water and sugar-white sand. Drive to Cape Naturaliste and explore the lighthouse and Ngilgi Cave.
The Injidup natural spa at Yallingup. (Image: Jarrad Seng)
Depart for nearby Yallingup to swim in the crystalline lagoon before lunching at the new cafe-restaurant of the same name.
The Aquarium at Yallingup. (Image: Aquabumps)
Consider following a section of the Cape to Cape Track, especially the bush and boulder-strewn stretch between Smiths Beach and Injidup, leading to The Aquarium rockpool, a glassy swimming hole.
Smiths Beach Resort, Yallingup. (Image: Bobby Bense)
Where to stay: Smiths Beach Resort’s airy, modern apartments sit opposite the sea and have an inhouse restaurant and pool.
Margaret River to Pemberton
Follow tree-lined Caves Road to Margaret River town, stopping in at the wineries threading from it. Alternate from big names such as Cullen and Vasse Felix to boutique makers including Domaine Naturaliste and Passel Estate.
In the vines at Vasse Felix, Margaret River. (Image: Tourism WA)
Once in town, mull over the region’s most comprehensive wine list at Settler’s Tavern or dine al fresco at Margaret River Brewhouse. Time your trip for a weekend as the Saturday morning Margaret River Farmers’ Market deserves your undivided attention.
Pick up a treat at Margaret River Farmer’s Market.
Watch the waves curl (and, in season, whales breach) at Surfers Point then drive about 20 minutes south on Caves Road to Boranup Forest, a thicket of pale-white, ruler-straight karri trees that claw at the sky. Stop, hush and breathe.
From here, strap in for a 1.5-hour drive to WA’s truffle headquarters, Manjimup. Truffle season happens over winter; book a dog hunt with Australian Truffle Traders or dine at Tall Timbers to inhale their heady aroma. Other times, take a dip at historic Fonty’s Pool, check out the new Manjimup Timber and Heritage Park (and its thrilling 17-metre-high slippery dip).
Pemberton is one of the most beautiful self-drive regions in Western Australia. (Image: Frances Andrich)
Manjimup and neighbouring Pemberton are surrounded by masses of even taller trees that loom over curving, hilly roads as avocado and apple orchards stretch away like corduroy.
The Gloucester Tree. (Image: Frances Andrich)
Load up with fresh produce at the farm stores and roadside fruit stalls, then head to Pemberton to marvel at the 58-metre-tall fire spotting Gloucester Tree before sipping wine or whisky from the globally-sourced selection at Jaspers Pemberton.
Base yourself at the RAC Karri Valley Resort. (Image: Tourism WA)
Where to stay: The lakeside villas and forest cabins at RAC Karri Valley Resort, Pemberton, gaze over placid Lake Beedelup.
Pemberton to Denmark
Kick off with a bush hike to the Walk-Through tree and onto Beedelup Falls. Later, join a bouncy, forest roving tour to the world’s largest moving sand dune system, Yeagarup Dunes and be wowed by the fossilised trees left in its wake.
The Valley of the Giants is not a misnomer. (Image: Jarrad Seng)
Drive for just over an hour to Walpole, a tiny inlet town famous for its Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, which stretches through the canopy of 400-year-old tingle trees in the Walpole Wilderness.
Take a dip at Greens Pool. (Image: Jarrad Seng)
Continue through the wilderness region’s national parks and nature reserves to Denmark, home to emerald waters dotted with enormous, grey rounded rocks – hello Greens Pool and Elephant Rocks.
The rounded rocks
of Elephant Rocks, Denmark. (Image: Jarrad Seng)
The two are walking distance apart but each distinct; be sure to visit both. Return to town via the Mount Shadforth Scenic Drive and stop in at cool-climate wineries such as Singlefile.
Where to stay: On a tranquil perch surrounded by the green of William Bay National Park at Parry Beach Breaks, Denmark.
Denmark to Albany
Bid the tall trees farewell and drive 55 kilometres along the coastline to Albany, the Great Southern’s largest town.
The Gap stretches out over the granite sea cliffs at Albany. (Image: Kyle Bowman)
Stock up on genuine French pastries at Gourmandise & Co in the main street, then peel out to Torndirrup National Park, 16 kilometres away, where you’ll sense the Southern Ocean’s thrilling energy at The Gap, a cleft in granite cliffs topped with a 40-metre-high platform that juts over the edge.
Follow the pathway to Natural Bridge, another sculpted rock wonder. If that ignites you, drive 58 kilometres to the Granite Skywalk in Porongurup National Park. A 1.5-kilometre walk in, a suspended walkway wraps around a looming boulder surrounded by endless park views.
Visit the National Anzac Centre for an immersive experience of Anzac legend. (Image: National Anzac Centre).
Grab a pie from the lauded Mt Barker Country Bakery and pop in to nearby Plantaganet Wines for a tasting. Return to Albany and allocate a few hours (and maybe a few tissues) for the National Anzac Centre, found atop Mt Clarence; stare at harbour views and think of the 30,000 ANZACs who sailed from here, many never to return.
Toast them after dark at Liberté, a Parisian-style bar serving Asian fusion then dine on local seafood at Majuba Bistro.
Where to stay: Cape Howe Cottages lie halfway between Denmark and Albany, surrounded by a private nature reserve and distant ocean.
Albany, and beyond
More killer whales converge off Bremer Bay, two hours’ drive from Albany, than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. Reach the coastal hamlet and join a sea expedition from January to April each year.
Bremer Bay near Esperance is the only place in Australia with a dedicated killer whale experience. (Image: Jarrad Seng)
Watching pods of apex predators slice through the dark blue is a lesson in awe, and you’re almost guaranteed to see other species such as dolphins, pilot whales and giant sunfish. The tiny town has a new microbrewery and excellent pub meals are served at the resort. Continue eastwards, destination: Esperance.
The beach kangaroos at Cape Le Grand are world famous. (Image: Jarrad Seng)
Home to some of Australia’s whitest beaches, Esperance dazzles in the sunlight. Follow the 40-kilometre-long Great Ocean Drive loop before heading further east, to where roos laze on the sand at Lucky Bay, in ruggedly beautiful Cape Le Grand National Park.
Cap things off with a chopper flight to bubblegum pink spectacle, Lake Hillier on Middle Island, part of Esperance’s 105-island archipelago.
The insta-famous pink Lake Hillier near Esperance. (Image: Jarrad Seng)
Return to Perth after your fulfilling adventure living life on The South West Edge.
Where to stay: Basic but clean and comfortable Bremer Bay Resort and the white-on-white A-frame hideaways at Esperance Chalet Village.