From Perth, you can drive in almost any direction and sooner or later you’ll come across something incredible. Drive along the coast northwards, and you’ll eventually come to Shark Bay with its abundant marine life and stromatolites. Drive southwards instead, and you’ll find yourself in the Margaret River Region, a haven for foodies, outdoor enthusiasts and ocean lovers alike. However, why not hire a car and drive Perth to Kalgoorlie, some 700 km away, for a different kind of adventure?
This four-day Perth to Kalgoorlie drive offers the best of Western Australia in a nutshell, from the nightlife of Perth to the beaches of Fremantle and the history and iconic red landscapes of Kalgoorlie and its surrounds.
Day 1 and 2: Discover Perth and Fremantle
Before setting off, take some time to explore Perth, the capital of Western Australia. From botanic gardens, museums, and art galleries to Kings Park with its incredible views of the city, the Darling Range, and the Swan River, it’s worth a stop. Before you head out of the city, take the ferry to idyllic Rottnest Island, home to quokkas, then spend a day in Fremantle with its cafe culture, Victorian architecture, historic Fremantle Prison, and the Western Australia Maritime Museum.
We’re not finished yet: laze on the beach or try your hand at surfing or fishing before heading into the hills – taking the Swan Valley Tourist Drive – to visit the wineries of the oldest wine region in Australia. While you’re here, why not stock up on some provisions for your trip inland?
Day 3: Perth to Northam
112 km | 2-hour drive
The road between Perth and Kalgoorlie is called the Great Eastern Highway. It was developed in the 1930s, although in the Belmont area, highway workers found evidence of a convict-era road too. The entire highway is sealed, though, so you don’t need to hire a big 4WD.
Just after leaving Perth, it’s time for your first detour. Mundaring is just under 35 km from Perth’s CBD and is considered a suburb of Perth. Here, turn off the highway and head south to the Mundaring Weir. This is where you’ll find the historic Goldfields Weir Hotel, which dates back to 1898, as well as the C Y O’Connor Museum housed in the old Pumping Station Number 1. This old pumping station is at the start of the Golden Pipeline, which you’ll see running parallel to the Great Eastern Highway for most of the way to Kalgoorlie. The pipeline, which has been in existence for more than a century, forms part of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme to ensure that Kalgoorlie and its surrounds don’t run dry.
Make your way back to the Great Eastern Highway by driving north to Northam. This town lies on the banks of the Avon River and is the largest town in the Wheatbelt Region. Many of the people living in the Northam area are of Eastern European stock since there was a migrant accommodation centre in Northam back in the 1940s to find homes for immigrants and displaced people after World War II.
Northam is another town with a wealth of heritage buildings, such as the Old Northam Railway Station and the Morby Cottage. In fact, in Western Australia, only Fremantle has more buildings on the heritage list.
Day 4: Northam to Kalgoorlie
501 km | 5.5-hour drive
This last stretch of the drive is the longest of your Perth to Kalgoorlie road trip, but there are plenty of little towns and attractions along the way where you’ll be able to get out and stretch your legs. Of course, you can easily turn this stretch into a two-day drive if you have the time!
About 35 km east of Northam is the town of Meckering, which is home to the ‘Big Camera’, one of Australia’s famous ‘Big Things’. The Big Camera is actually a museum of photography and to enter it you walk through the ‘lens’.
Next up is Cunderdin, a town about 23 km from Meckering. Check out the Cunderdin Museum, which is housed in another old pumping station of the Golden Pipeline – Pumping Station Number 3. Don’t miss the earthquake simulator, which will help you get an idea of what it felt like for the people of Meckering back in 1968 when an earthquake with a 6.9 magnitude hit the town causing millions of dollars of damage.
After Cunderdin, you’ll drive through Kellerberrin, Merredin, Southern Cross and the former mining town of Coolgardie before you reach Kalgoorlie. You’ll also be crossing over from the Wheatbelt into the Goldfields along the way. You’ll notice this change as the landscape begins to turn into the barren, red dirt that most people associate with the Australian Outback.
Once you arrive in Kalgoorlie, you’ve reached the end of the road, but not the end of the adventure. This is one of the region’s larger towns and a centre of WA’s gold-mining industry. The largest open-cast gold mine still in operation in Australia is just outside Kalgoorlie.
Much of Kalgoorlie’s history is intrinsically tied to mining. In the foyer of the Palace Hotel, for instance, is a mirror sent to the hotel in 1898 by an American mine manager who was totally besotted with one of the barmaids. What became of the barmaid is unclear, but the mine manager was one Herbert Hoover, who became the 31st President of the United States.
Of course, you can also consider this road trip the other way around from Kalgoorlie to Perth, or make it a round trip!
When is the best time to do a Perth to Kalgoorlie road trip?
When you plan your Perth and Kalgoorlie drive, keep in mind that summer temperatures soar, especially in Kalgoorlie and the surrounds. Therefore, it will likely be more comfortable to make the drive during the cooler months. Early spring, for instance, is a good time because you might still be able to spot some whales off the coast at Perth. But the real reason to visit in spring (around September and through October) is for the wildflowers – Western Australia is home to the largest wildflower collection on Earth with more than 12,000 species, and more than half of these species are only found in this region.
Whenever you go, though, remember to slip, slop, slap, and wrap!