The Pinnacles at Nambung National Park on Indian Ocean Drive

The Ultimate Guide to Perth’s Indian Ocean Drive

Indian Ocean Drive stretches from the outer suburbs of Perth until it meets up with the Brand Highway south of Dongara.

As the name suggests the road runs along the coastline of the Indian Ocean. As you drive along you will catch glimpses of sparkling blue water, patches of pure white rippled sand dunes, and countless grass trees stretching along the highway. The scenery is stunning and I always feel like a child when a patch of dunes comes into view. It has to be seen to be believed.

Dotted along the highway are a number of beach side holiday towns. These towns are very popular with Perth locals for school holidays and long weekends away due to the fact that they are close by and easy to get to.

It also attracts a lot of tourists to Perth who want to get out of the city (but not too far) and see something incredible.

With so much to see and do, you can use this article to help you decide which town and what attractions are best for you and your family.

Because it is a busy road, it is also a dangerous road.

Is Indian Ocean Drive Perth’s Most Dangerous Road?

There have been a number of accidents on Indian Ocean Drive over the last few years. Many of them have been fatal. This has led to calls from the public to improve the safety of the road.

More signage has been erected advising people of when it is safe to overtake other cars. Voluble line markings on the road have been included (so if someone slides across the line markings on the road they will hear a sound) which will hopefully bring their focus back to the road. They are also beginning to widen the road in some areas.

Most of the road is a single lane highway with overtaking lanes every now and then. Impatience on the road has often led to reckless overtaking which has been the cause of many accidents on Indian Ocean Drive. Inexperience on Australian roads could also be a reason that the road is so dangerous.

It is a good idea to be aware on this road, but there is no need to be afraid. Always drive carefully, with a sense of caution and watch and pre-empt what other drivers are doing. Keep a reasonable distance between yourself and the car in front of you so you can stop if you need to.

Most importantly, don’t let the dangerous road reputation stop you from visiting this region. It is a beautiful part of Western Australia with a lot of things to see and do.

Below I will give you a summary of the major towns and sites to stop at so that you can plan your own trip to the Indian Ocean Coastline.

Yanchep

Yanchep is the first town that you come to as you drive north from Perth along Indian Ocean Drive.

Perth suburbs have been stretching north for quite some time and while Yanchep used to be a small beach side town, it is now considered a Northern suburb of Perth.

It still has a lot to offer the holiday maker, and is an excellent option for a day trip or a weekend stay.

Yanchep National Park

Yanchep National Park is excellent, with heaps to do. Camping is available and is able to be booked through the DPAW website. We have camped here ourselves and you can read about what we did here.

The National Park has multiple high quality walking trails that vary in difficulty and in length. We did quite a few of them when Em was 3 years old and she managed pretty well.

Em sitting on the ground on a walking trail
she had to have a couple of breaks though…

There are a number of cave systems throughout Yanchep and you can enter the Crystal Caves through a tour at the park. There are also caves that you can hire for events, which look amazing if you want an unusual venue for an event.

A stalagmite that looks like King Kong

There is a lake, many grassed areas with lots of local grey kangaroos, a pub, a kiosk, and a koala colony with a boardwalk. Koalas are not native to WA and this is one of the few places that you can see them here without going to a zoo.

National Park fees apply, as it does to Nambung National Park where the Pinnacles are. I have written full details about National Parks passes in that section below.

Yanchep Beaches

Yanchep has many beautiful beaches. Even the dog beach is gorgeous!

Em and her cousins playing in the turquoise blue waters at the dog beach in Yanchep
The Dog Beach in Yanchep…. pretty nice

My favourite beach for young children is The Lagoon which is protected by a section of reef just offshore. It also creates a series of rock pools for little fish to get caught in, so is a great spot for a bit of snorkelling as well. It is very popular with families and has a park with kids playground, bathrooms and change rooms across the road.

Amenities

Yanchep is now a big town and has all the amenities that go along with it. Here, you will find the last large Woolworth supermarket until you get to Geraldton so this is the best place to stop if you need anything before you head further north.

Two Rocks

Two Rocks is almost like a sister city to Yanchep as it is very close by. It is a nice little town with a little cluster of shops, some great fish and chips and excellent fishing.

Leeman’s Landing

There is a marina called Leemans Landing located across the road from the local shops. It is a great spot to have a walk around and if you are lucky you might spot a dolphin or two.

Atlantis

Two Rocks used to have a theme park called Atlantis, which was similar to Sea World or the like. It went the way of many old theme parks in Western Australia and has been closed for many years. Many of the statues remain however and a housing estate has now been built around them.

The highlight of what remains is the huge statue of King Neptune who resides on a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean. It is definitely worth checking out.

Guilderton

Guilderton is a favourite with Perth locals. If you would like to stay at the local caravan park make sure you book well in advance (up to 12 months) because it books out fast. We have never actually stayed here but have stopped in many times when we have stayed at nearby towns.

Moore River

Moore River with the ocean in the background

A huge reason for Guilderton’s popularity is the Moore River. This is where the mouth of the river meets the ocean. There is most often a sand bar separating the two, but after heavy rains the river can open right into the ocean.

Most of the time, the attraction of the river is that it is calm, beautiful and very safe. The river is the perfect place to grab a kayak or canoe and explore. There is an island on the other side of the river where you can pull up and climb and explore.

On the foreshore of the river there are some shelters and barbeques, and lots of grass. Many people set up shelters and get comfortable for the whole day

Beach

The beach is a short walk away from the river, however I find the water to be quite rough. Em got dunked by a wave for the first time here. We were washing sand out of her hair for days. She cried for at least an hour, but now has a bit more respect for the power of the ocean.

Kiosk and Playground

There is a fish and chip shop, corner store and kiosk across the road from the river if you need anything while you are there. There is also a playground, which HAS NO SHELTER and will burn your bum on a hot day! (Beware!)

Walking Tracks and Lookouts

There are a number of walking trails through the area, including one from the foreshore to a lookout that looks over the river mouth and ocean.

A lookout over Moore River and the Indian Ocean that you are able to access from one of the walking tracks

This loop is broken up into 3 parts so you can choose how short or how long you would like it to be.

There are a number of other walks throughout the area which covers the town, the coast and bushland. You can access more detailed maps online with links to each of the walks.P

Seabird

Seabird is one of the smallest towns along the Indian Ocean drive. It is most famous for the erosion that the coastal cliffs are experiencing. Some houses that are built on the cliffs with beautiful views of the Indian Ocean are teetering on the verge of destruction.

There is a caravan park in town a local shop, access to the beach and a playground. The best reason to stop in at Seabird is for a meal at the pub which has stunning ocean views.

Ledge Point

Ledge Point is another tiny town with not too much to do besides fishing, swimming, walking and relaxing. It is a great spot to stay if you want to get back to basics on your holiday.

There is a local caravan park, a small shop and many holiday houses which you can find on airbnb or similar site. It is a sleepy seaside town worth checking out if you are into fishing or boating.

The Beach

All activities in the area centre around the beach. Fishing, boating, swimming and four wheel driving are all popular. The beach is not one of Western Australia’s best, but the water is clean and blue. It can get windy (like most of this stretch along the WA coast) and the waves can be rough. The seaweed tends to pile up as well, depending on what the current is doing.

Ledge Point is very close to the larger town of Lancelin. Less than half an hour and you can access all that Lancelin has to offer as well.

Lancelin

Lancelin offers many of the same things as the other towns in the area. It is one of the bigger towns so it has a few more shops, a couple of bakeries and a bunch of different accommodation options.

The Dunes Dude

As you approach Lancelin you are confronted by ultra white rippled sand dunes. They are surprisingly set back from the beach and are a major drawcard for the area.

A patch of white dunes as soon from Indian Ocean Drive as you approach Lancelin

Four wheel driving through the dunes is a favourite past time for many. Make sure you are an experienced four wheel driver or go with some one who is. The dunes in this area are also popular for sand boarding and dune buggying so you need to be aware of others and what could be over the crest of a dune.

The dunes are constantly shifting with the wind so even if you know the area well, be aware that things are changing all the time.

Sand boarding is heaps of fun. Many do it standing, like they are surfing, on special boards, but this can be dangerous. If you don’t have a sand board, a good old cardboard box will do. Just make sure it is big enough to sit on and hold the box flap up in front of you. The least fun part is walking back to the top of the dunes to slide down again.

Playgrounds

There are a couple of playgrounds in Lancelin. One is right near the beach and includes a huge jumping pillow. Kids love these things and many caravan parks have built their reputation on having one. Here, it is completely free for the kids to use. How awesome is that. There is also a slide and play area and one of those spinning things, which I used to love as a kid but makes me feel ill watching it now.

The playground in Lancelin with the free jumping pillow

Further back from the beach is Wangaree Park which also has some play equipment, a skate park, some barbeques, outdoor gym equipment and some picnic areas.

Beaches

All the normal beach activities as found in other local towns are in Lancelin too. You will also find beaches dedicated to Wind sports like wind and kite surfing. It is apparently one of the best spots to learn how to kite surf though if you are trailing some kids you might prefer to sit on the shore and watch the experts do the tricks.

Tours and Events

There are plenty of tours and events available in Lancelin from four wheel driving, to exploring the dunes, to chartering a fishing boat to catch some fish. Check out Trip Advisor for the best tours in the area.

Wedge Island and Grey

Wedge Island is a bit of a legend in Western Australia. If you drive around in Perth for long enough you will see many ‘Save Wedge’ bumper stickers on the back of cars. These stickers are referring to the ‘semi-legal’ fishing shacks which are found here.

Some time ago there was a campaign by the local council to have them removed. Needless to say the council failed and Wedge Island is now a symbol of Power to the People! I love it.

The road into Wedge Island is now sealed, but you can also drive there along the beach from other entry points. There is pretty much nothing in the town except for the shacks which are all ‘owned’ (technically leased from the shire, I believe) by locals.

There is no camping at Wedge unless you are staying at one of the Shacks. Bummer.

It is beautiful here. Stretches of white sand with glittering blue ocean, friendly locals and great fishing. Many people drive right past without realizing it is there. And that is just the way the regulars like it.

There is actually an island off the coast which is called Wedge Island, which is where the settlement gets its name from. You can swim or boat over to the island to explore if you are so inclined.

Cervantes

Cervantes is a well-known town that has lots of amazing and unique attractions. The Pinnacles and Stromatolites are 2 things that you will see (almost) nowhere else in the world. The town itself is a good size town with a nice beach and lots of amenities so besides the amazing natural wonders there is plenty of other things to do.

The Pinnacles – Nambung National Park

Em dressed in yellow in a yellow desert standing among the Pinnacles

The Pinnacles at Nambung National Park is one of the highlights of this region. The mysterious pinnacles rise out of a yellow sand desert and stretch for miles. There is a 1.2km walk through the Pinnacles, or a drive that you can also do along a dirt track. There is also an information centre and gift shop.

No one is quite sure what they are, but the information centre has a couple of theories. My favourite is that they are calcified trees from an ancient forest. They have been covered by sand and uncovered again as the sands shift. As the sands shift, more are exposed and some are hidden again.

If you are doing the walk and it is a warm day, make sure to bring plenty of water with you. The walk is easy to do. We did it with Em when she was 5 and she enjoyed it.

National Park fees apply. It is a $13 fee per car for day entry. If you live in Western Australia, or if you are planning to travel around WA for a while I recommend buying the 12 month National Parks pass for $88 (pensioner discounts can apply). If you are an RAC member you can access this for half price as one of their ‘rewards’. This makes the annual pass excellent value. We buy one every year and believe that it is good to support our amazing National Parks.

As you drive around the entire region, you will occasionally notice random Pinnacle like structures grouped together in ones and twos. It makes you wonder how many more there are that are hidden beneath the sands. Were they trees on Gondwana land, when dinosaurs roamed the land? No one knows but I like to let my imagination run a little wild sometimes.

Stromatolites at Lake Thetis

Another amazing natural sight located at Cervantes is an example of Stromatolites. They developed over 3 billion years ago and are the oldest lifeforms on earth. They are found almost nowhere in the world but there are 3 examples in Western Australia.

Stromatolites in shallow water

My dumbed down version of Stromatolites (and how I like to think of them) is that they are breathing rocks. You need to engage your imagination when you visit the Stromatolites because they look like a bunch of boring rocks in shallow water.

Don’t be fooled. They are amazing and it is a privilege to be able to view them for FREE!

Stromatolites were created by cynobacteria which are single organism cells which join together to create a rock like structure which release oxygen into the atmosphere when they ‘breathe’. The oxygen that they released allowed other life forms to develop on earth. Thank you for being the forbearer of life on earth Stromatolites.

Check them out. Take your kids and engage your imaginations so you can appreciate the enormity of what you are seeing.

Lobster Shack

Crayfish is a staple of the region and almost all the towns along this stretch of the Turquoise coast are known for cray fishing. If you haven’t managed to make friends with any locals as they come to shore with their catch, you can head to the Lobster Shack for a feed. They are only open for lunch so make sure you head down between 11am and 3pm.

They also offer fishing charters and local tours so check these out through their website if that is something you are interested in.

Seafood feast at the RSL Bowls Club

If you miss the Lobster shack for lunch and want to eat a local seafood feast for dinner head to the Cervantes Country Club for a seafood platter. It is walking distance from the local caravan park and the food is tasty and good value. Happy hour can get a bit hectic inside so try and go early if you have kids.

Jurien Bay

 Jurien Bay is the largest of the towns along this stretch of road. It is referred to alternately as Jurien Bay and its shortened version – Jurien.

There are plenty of shops, cafes, bakeries and kiosks in town so plenty of choice if you want to have a meal out. There are some awesome sights around town, including the following:

Sandy Cape Recreation Area

A low cost camp only 10 minutes north of Jurien. It can get very windy here but it is an amazing spot. If you are staying in Jurien Bay, you can head here for a day trip or even a couple of hours. The beach over the dunes is sparkling blue and sheltered. Apparently dolphins often frequent the bay but we didn’t see any while we were there.

Walking on the white sand beside the turquoise water at Sandy Cape

Behind the camping areas there is another set of dunes. Head over and explore, or take the kids to play in the biggest sand pit they will ever see.

You can read in more detail about our camping experience at Sandy Cape here.

Caves

Drovers Cave and Stockyard Gully Caves are both a short drive away, set back from the beach. You will need a 4wd to get to them. Make sure you are prepared to get there. We got stuck on the way Stockyard Gully Caves at 4pm in the afternoon when our 4wd wouldn’t engage! We were lucky that someone came along within 5 minutes who winched us out.

If you do decide to visit either of these caves take a bright torch with you and be careful. They are enter at your own risk affairs and there are no tours through the caves.

Beach

The main beach at Jurien Bay is beautiful, clean and well maintained. The Dobbyn Beach foreshore has a cool kids play ground, a grassed area with gazebos and barbeques, toilets, change rooms and some exercise equipment.

Nearby, there is also a jetty that you can walk down or use for a spot of fishing. The beach stretches quite a way and also has a section that allows dogs if you have your furry friend travelling with you.

Snorkelling

Jurien Bay town beach is a great and popular location for snorkeling. The old jetty has disintegrated and has formed a reef like structure which has been added to by the local council who contributed reef like balls close to the remains of the old jetty.

It is quite close to shore so is a great snorkeling experience for kids. There are Underwater Swim Cards available from the local shops for a $5 donation which you can use to identify different species of fish and make it even more interesting for kids.

Turquoise Way Trail

This is the 14km bike and walking path that stretches north and south from the main beach. It is a lovely walk whichever way you turn. The path is paved and easy to navigate so is easy to walk with a stroller. There are also a few information boards along the way with some information on the area.

Lesueur National Park

Mount Lesueur in the background surrounded by grass trees in the foreground.

Is only a short drive away. During wildflower season (August and September) it is a hotspot for many of Western Australia’s 12 000 diverse and unique wildflowers.

There are a number of walking trails through the park varying in length and difficulty. There is also a drive that you can do which loops through the park. The loop track is on sealed road but most of the road to get to it is unsealed. There are plenty of places to pull over and have a closer look at the local flora and fauna.

Greenhead

Is a fishing town located less than half an hour away from Leeman. It is well known for fishing, cray fishing, boating and all the rest.

Art Galleries

There are 2 local art galleries in Greenhead – Blue Ocean Gallery and Green Head Gallery for something different to occupy your time in the area.

Dynamite Bay Picnic Area

Is a protected bay ideal for swimming and picnicking and is close to a small cluster of shops if you wanted to grab a coffee.

Sea Lions

Fisherman’s island, off the coast of Greenhead is home to a colony of breeding Sea Lions. Tours are available from the local area except for during the mating season of August.

Leeman

Leeman is the quintessential sleepy fishing village. The beaches are not the best on the Indian Ocean Road. People go here for the fishing rather than swimming. There are often stingrays to be seen near the local jetty which is a bit of a novelty.

Dhu Fish

We had a caravan at Leeman in the local caravan park when I was growing up. My uncles all used to go fishing off the coast for Dhu fish, and our caravan annex had 3 freezers in it to store all the fish they caught. There is not much to do in the area but I have fond memories of playing with other kids in the caravan park and walking down to the local jetty.

If you do stop into Leeman I would suggest a stop at the fish and chip shop to order a serve of the Dhu fish. It is a fish local to Western Australia and it is delicious.

Cheap Fuel

The petrol station on the highway generally offers the cheapest fuel on Indian Ocean Drive so if you need to fill up this is the spot to do it.

Beekeepers Nature Reserve

The Beekeepers Nature Reserve is quite a large piece of bushland that is set back from the coast. There are quite a few free camps throughout which you can find details on wikicamps.

It is known as Beekeepers reserve because there are lots of wild bees in the area. They can be aggressive in periods of low water. During wildflower season (August and September) it is worth having a look to see what wildflower treasures you can find.

It is 4wd accessible only. Take anything you may need with you as there is no facilities within the reserve.

Cliff Head

Cliff Head is a free camp right on the beach that is maintained by the Shire of Irwin.

Em splashing in the water while Rick sits on a pile of seaweed

It is a gorgeous camp and we love it here. I believe it offers all the best things about camping and it is completely free.

You can read in detail about our trip to Cliff Head here.

The Indian Ocean Drive meets the Brand Highway

From here on in, you will be travelling along the Brand Highway. There is still plenty more to see as you head further north including:

Greenough

A quaint historical town where you can stop at the gallery/museum for a meal, toilet break or walk around.

Port Denison and Dongara

Are sister towns each located on opposite sides of the river. They both offer heaps to do and heaps of places to stay.

Geraldton

The largest town North of Perth, Geraldton has heaps to see and do including a museum and a great playground and free water park for kids on the foreshore.

As you can see there are heaps to see and do along the Indian Ocean road. If you are still having trouble deciding which of these beachside towns is best for you, check out my post on Where to Stay on Indian Ocean Rd for some suggestions based on activities you may like to do.

The hardest decision you will have is deciding where to stay. Keep an eye out for my other blog posts to help you decide which spot is the best for you. 

I am constantly updating this website and adding new information. To keep in touch sign up to my newsletter here or hop on our Facebook page to follow our adventures.

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Comments

  1. Perth and surrounding are on my list. I’m soon coming to Australia so looking forward to it. And my to-do list gets just bigger. I love caves so Yanchep National Park here I come. Thanks to sharing your experiences.

  2. The Pinnacles look fascinating, as do the stromatolites. I’d love to see some of these great places.

  3. Australia is somewhere I have always wanted to go. The snorkling sounds great and the beachs on the Indian Ocean are beautiful. This makes me really have wanderlust. Thanks for all the great tips. I am glad to hear they are improving the roads.

  4. This is an impressively comprehensive guide. I had no idea that the drive is considered so dangerous. But it wouldn’t deter me! I would love to go four-wheeling in the dunes! And those stromatolites are gorgeous!! I have never heard of those before, but they beautiful!

    1. Thanks Heather. Yes the Stromatolites are amazing. I get excited every time I see them. We are so lucky to have something so rare close to home.

  5. Such a fascinating area. I want to see the Pinnacles and the yellow desert! The breathing rocks sound awesome, too. Plus the caves and the sleepy fishing town. We did the Great Ocean Road off Melbourne.

    1. Thanks Carol. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! Yes, the Great Ocean Rd is amazing too. We will be there later this year. Thanks!

  6. Nanbung National Park looks so interesting! I also would love to visit the Lagoon. I like that it is protected by a reef and that there are rock pools. Sounds like a fun spot to spend the afternoon.

  7. I only spent a couple of days in the Perth area so I didn’t have time to see much else. I did, however, get to Geraldton and Port Hedland so now I just have to fill in the space between.

  8. Sparkling blue water, patches of pure white rippled sand dunes, weird and amazing rock formations, caves, fishing towns, a yellow desert, and plenty of adventure … sign us up. But what the heck are grass trees?

  9. I am hearing about stromatolites for the first time and yet they’re quite impressive and worth visiting. This is such a comprehensive guide for Perth and around. I wonder if my cousin of all of these places (she lives in Perth). Which reminds me I have to visit too. Hopefully soon!

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