Ultimate Perth to Darwin Road Trip Itinerary

A road trip from Perth to Darwin is an epic journey that takes you through the vast and diverse landscapes of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Depending on which way you go, this adventure covers a distance of approximately 4,000 kilometres and offers a mix of stunning coastal scenery, expansive outback landscapes and unique cultural experiences.

Promising unforgettable moments and memories that will last a lifetime, it is a true adventure that allows you to witness the incredible natural wonders, cultural heritage and remote beauty of Australia’s vast northwest region.

So get your travel planner app ready and start making notes as we highlight what to expect on your Darwin road trip from Perth.

Plan an Australian road trip graphic

What is the Distance Between Perth and Darwin?

The most direct route to drive from Perth to Darwin is via National Highway 95 and National Highway 1.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Perth to Geraldton419 kms (260 miles)4 hours 22 minutesGeraldton
Geraldton to Kalbarri National Park129 kms (80 miles)1 hour 27 minutesKalbarri
Kalbarri National Park to Monkey Mia362 kms (225 miles)3 hours 42 minutesMonkey Mia
Monkey Mia to Carnarvon352 kms (219 miles)3 hours 37 minutesCarnarvon
Carnarvon to Coral Bay237 kms (147 miles)2 hours 29 minutesCoral Bay
Coral Bay to Exmouth152 kms (94 miles)1 hour 34 minutesExmouth
Exmouth to Port Hedland770 kms (478 miles)8 hours 6 minutesPort Hedland
Port Hedland to Broome604 kms (375 miles)6 hours 18 minutesBroome
Broome to Lake Argyle1056 kms (656 miles)11 hours #3 minutesKununurra
Lake Argyle to Katherine527 kms (327 miles)5 hours #30 minutesKatherine
Katherine to Kakadu309 kms (192 miles)3 hours 15 minutesKakadu
Kakadu to Darwin259 kms (161 miles)2 hours 42 minutesDarwin
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

This route would take you for much of the journey into the heart of the Western Australian and Northern Territory outback. You can expect to drive for about 41 hours – not including stops – and visit places like Meekathara, Capricorn, Newman and Marble.

If you choose to go entirely on National Highway 1, it would be a longer journey. Running predominantly along the coastline and involving about 43 hours of non-stop driving over a distance of over 4150 km.

How Long Do I Need Driving from Perth to Darwin?

The more time you have to complete a road trip from Perth to Darwin, the better. But, at minimum, you should set aside at least five days for the journey. Doing this will enable you to see some significant highlights along the way.

However, as this drive will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for you, it is worth setting aside 10 to 14 days for it.

In this period, you will be able to see many more of the main attractions and spend quality time, including overnight, at the ones you want to immerse yourself in. You can also schedule full rest days where you don’t get in the car at all, should you not want to. 

Best Time of Year to Drive from Perth to Darwin

The best time of year to drive from Perth to Darwin depends on the specific experiences you’re seeking and the weather conditions you prefer. Essentially, there are two primary factors to consider:

First of all, the weather. The Australian outback can experience extreme heat during the summer months (December to February), with temperatures often exceeding 40°C (104°F). If you are uncomfortable with intense heat, avoiding driving during this period is advisable.

Instead, consider the shoulder seasons of spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May), when the temperatures are milder and more pleasant for outdoor activities.

The other factor to consider is rainfall and road conditions. The Kimberley region, located in the northern part of the journey, experiences a wet season from November to April, with heavy rainfall and potential flooding. At this time, some roads can be impassable and limited access to certain attractions is limited. Therefore, for a safer and more enjoyable drive, avoid the wet season and plan your trip during the dry season, which spans from May to October.

Ultimately, the ideal time for your Perth to Darwin road trip will depend on your preferences, heat tolerance and desire to explore specific attractions. Check weather forecasts, road conditions and any necessary permits or park closures before embarking on your journey.

Best Stops on a Perth to Darwin Trip

Whichever route you take, there is plenty to see on a road trip from Perth to Darwin.

But for those who want to take the coastal route entirely along the National Highway 1 (aka the Great Northern Highway), these are some of the unmissable destinations you should plan to visit during your epic drive. 

Geraldton (1 – 2 nights)

If you’re looking for a great family destination, Geraldton has beautiful beaches, fun attractions for kids and educational experiences.

Your little ones can spend hours building sandcastles and swimming in the clear waters at Town Beach or Back Beach

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Geraldton

For some history, check out the HMAS Sydney II Memorial, which honours sailors lost in World War II. Similarly, the Geraldton Museum is also great for young minds, with exhibits on natural history, indigenous heritage and maritime history.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a boat trip to the Abrolhos Islands for snorkelling and to explore coral reefs. While for a closer look at native Australian wildlife, head to the Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park.

You won’t want to miss the impressive St. Francis Xavier Cathedral – both educational and awe-inspiring. There are also plenty of family-friendly restaurants in town with varied menus to appeal to all kid’s tastebuds.

Kalbarri National Park  (1-2 nights)

Kalbarri National Park offers a fun-filled outdoor adventure encompassing breathtaking gorges, rugged cliffs and stunning natural beauty.

The park offers a range of walking trails suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Two of the easiest and most kid-friendly are Nature’s Window and the Z-Bend Lookout, which provide stunning views and opportunities to discover the park’s diverse flora and fauna.

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Kalbarri National Park

Kids will also love swimming in the Murchison River’s refreshing waters at Chinaman’s Beach or the Nature’s Window Pool. While they are sure to be captivated by the sight of emus and kangaroos.

The park has designated picnic areas with facilities, making it convenient for families to enjoy a meal amidst the natural surroundings. In addition, the spectacular coastal cliffs at Red Bluff and Pot Alley provide dramatic landscapes that offer excellent backdrops for family photos and exploration.

Just remember to wear hats, slap on plenty of sunscreen and drink lots of water at the park.

Monkey Mia (1 -3 nights)

Visiting Monkey Mia with children is an incredible experience they will remember for many years.

Monkey Mia is renowned for its friendly wild dolphins that come close to the shore, providing a unique opportunity for children to interact with these intelligent creatures. The daily dolphin feeding sessions, guided by rangers, allow kids to learn about dolphin behaviour and conservation while having the chance to feed them under supervision.

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Monkey Mia

The pristine beaches of Monkey Mia offer endless hours of fun for children. They can swim in the calm turquoise waters, build sandcastles, or run around on the sand.

In addition to the dolphins, Monkey Mia is home to various other wildlife, such as turtles, rays and an abundance of bird species. Kids can spot these creatures while exploring the beach or participating in guided wildlife tours.

The natural beauty of Monkey Mia extends beyond the beach, with nearby nature trails like the Peron Heritage Precinct providing opportunities for family walks, wildlife spotting and learning about the region’s unique ecosystem.

Carnarvon (1-2 nights)

Carnarvon offers visitors a delightful blend of coastal charm, fascinating history and exciting outdoor activities. 

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Carnarvon

One of the region’s main highlights is the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum. You can learn about space exploration, view fascinating exhibits and even interact with hands-on displays there. The museum’s focus on science and technology makes it an educational and engaging experience for everyone.

Carnarvon has its fair share of excellent beaches. At the same time, families can also explore the fascinating blowholes at Quobba Point, witness the stunning natural beauty of the nearby Cape Range National Park or take a boat trip along the Gascoyne River to spot wildlife and discover the unique ecosystem.

To taste local produce, check out the nearby fruit plantations and enjoy picking fresh fruits, such as bananas and tropical varieties, depending on the season. This fun, interactive experience allows children to learn about agriculture and gain an appreciation for where their food comes from.

Coral Bay (1-2 nights)

Coral Bay is an idyllic coastal town renowned for its stunning turquoise waters, vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life.

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Coral Bay

Providing endless opportunities for exploration and adventure, The Ningaloo Reef is one of its main drawcards. A World Heritage-listed site teeming with marine biodiversity, families can take part in guided snorkelling tours or hire snorkelling equipment to explore the wonders of the reef together.

The protected lagoon provides a safe and accessible environment to discover a kaleidoscope of colourful fish and playful turtles. If you are lucky, you’ll even get to swim with majestic manta rays!

For a unique experience, families can join a glass-bottom boat tour or a coral viewing cruise, which allows kids to witness the vibrant coral gardens and marine life without getting into the water.

On land, Coral Bay offers various family-friendly facilities, including picnic areas, BBQ facilities and nearby accommodation options, including caravan parks that cater to the needs of families.

Exmouth (1-3 nights)

Situated near the Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth is a good alternative option if you don’t fancy stopping at Coral Bay.

Aside from the marine life at Ningaloo Marine Park, Exmouth is also home to stunning beaches, including the gorgeous Turquoise Bay, which features shimmering, crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral formations. It is a good spot for swimming and snorkelling with children due to its calm lagoon and easy-to-access reef.

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Exmouth

For a change of scenery, families can explore Cape Range National Park, which boasts stunning gorges, walking trails, and the opportunity to spot wildlife such as kangaroos and emus. Likewise, with its breathtaking red cliffs and boat cruises, Yardie Creek provides a unique adventure for the whole family.

One of the best things to do whilst in Exmouth is to take in the magnificent sunsets the area is renowned for. There are also plenty of family-friendly accommodations, facilities and dining options for you to enjoy.

Port Hedland (1-2 nights)

While Port Hedland may have fewer family-oriented attractions than other destinations, it offers a glimpse into an industrial hub and ample outdoor enjoyment opportunities. So it is an interesting stop for families looking to discover a different side of Western Australia.

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Port Hedland

Port Hedland is renowned for its booming mining industry, and there are several tours you can go on to find out more about it. They include one to see how Rio Tinto makes salt and another of BHP’s Nelson Point facility.

Elsewhere, children are sure to get a thrill when they see the massive iron ore trains that rumble through the town.

For a bit of culture, the Port Hedland Courthouse Gallery showcases local artwork and provides interactive activities for kids to unleash their creativity.

Another exciting attraction they’ll love is the Pretty Pool Playground, which features water play areas, climbing structures and shaded picnic spots. Kids can cool off in the splash pads and enjoy the playground facilities, providing hours of fun.

Broome (1-3 nights)

Broome is a perfect destination for families looking for natural beauty, cultural experiences, and family-friendly attractions. With its soft white sand and turquoise waters, Cable Beach is a paradise for families where kids can play in the gentle waves and enjoy camel rides along the shore.

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Broome

One unique experience families should try to enjoy in Broome is the natural phenomenon called the Staircase to the Moon. During certain times of the year, families can see the moonlight reflecting off the exposed tidal flats, creating an enchanting staircase-like effect. This captivating event is sure to ignite the imagination of young ones.

Families can taste the local culture, visit the bustling Chinatown area and explore its pearl shops, art galleries and historic buildings. Additionally, the Broome Historical Museum offers insights into the town’s pearling past, while the Pearl Luggers Museum allows children to step back in time and learn about the pearling industry.

Another must-visit attraction is the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park, where kids can observe these magnificent reptiles up close and even witness crocodile feeding shows.

Lake Argyle  – (1-2 nights)

A family adventure at Lake Argyle is a fantastic experience to enjoy during your Perth to Darwin road trip.

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Lake Argyle

One of the largest man-made lakes in the Southern Hemisphere, the calm waters of Lake Argyle are perfect for a range of water activities, such as swimming, kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding. Guided tours are available for families who want to fully enjoy the lake’s beauty and serenity.

A wildlife cruise on Lake Argyle should be a real highlight for kids. They can spot crocodiles and numerous bird species while learning about the unique ecosystem that thrives in and around the lake. These cruises often offer informative commentary, making it a fun and educational experience for the whole family.

For a change of scenery, families can explore the rugged landscapes and ancient rock formations nearby, such as the remarkable Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park. You can take guided tours and go on scenic flights to witness these natural wonders up close.

If you want to visit the lake a good place to stay nearby is Kununurra.

Katherine (1-3 nights)

Visiting Katherine in the Northern Territory should be on everyone’s itinerary when planning a Perth to Darwin road trip.

Offering an incredible mix of cultural experiences, natural wonders and outdoor recreational adventures, one of the main attractions is Nitmiluk National Park, home to the stunning Katherine Gorge.

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Katherine Gorge

Families can embark on a boat cruise or hire canoes to explore the gorge’s tranquil waters, marvel at the towering cliffs and perhaps even spot freshwater crocodiles and birdlife along the way.

For a fascinating, educational and interactive experience, you should also visit the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre, where children can learn about the local Indigenous culture, traditional art and Dreamtime stories. They may even have the opportunity to participate in cultural activities and demonstrations.

Over at the Katherine Hot Springs, you should enjoy a soak in natural thermal pools surrounded by lush vegetation. The warm waters provide a relaxing and enjoyable experience for the whole family to enjoy.

In addition, The Katherine Outback Experience is also a must-visit attraction, offering entertaining and educational shows that highlight the region’s rich farming heritage, horsemanship skills and working dog demonstrations.

Kakadu (1-3 nights)

Kakadu National Park is an extraordinary place of ancient landscapes, diverse ecosystems and rich Indigenous culture. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it offers an array of experiences that will captivate the whole family.

AU Perth to Darwin Road Trip - Kakadu National Park

Children will be fascinated by the abundant wildlife in the park, including crocodiles, wallabies and a spectacular range of bird species. The Yellow Water Billabong, famous for its wildlife cruises, allows kids to spot these creatures up close and learn about the importance of preserving their habitats.

At the same time, exploring the park’s rock art sites offers a glimpse into the region’s rich cultural heritage. You can marvel at the ancient stories depicted on rock walls, guided by informative interpretive signage and guided tours to help you understand this ancient art’s significance.

Swimming in natural plunge pools and waterfalls, such as Gunlom Falls or Maguk Gorge, is an experience not to be missed. Allowing you to cool off in pristine surroundings and experience the beauty of Kakadu’s water features.

In addition, the park also offers interactive cultural experiences where families can learn about Indigenous traditions, participate in traditional activities and gain a deeper understanding of the connection between the land and its people.

More Tips for Road Tripping Perth to Darwin

  • This drive often marks the commencement for drivers taking on a Big Lap of Australia, so check out hire car companies and van rentals in Perth
  • Car rental companies, including Hertz, allow you to drop off the vehicle at a different location from where you picked it up. So, if you are short on time, you can always do a one-way hire, making the drive up to Darwin, and fly back to Perth.
  • This drive involves long distances without fuel stops; be sure to fill up whenever the opportunity avails itself. We’ve found Fuel Map Australia and invaluable app to refer to planning fuel stops.
  • You are likely to encounter a lot of road trains on this route, be aware of the safety aspects of sharing the roads with these giant vehicles.
  • When you cross from Western Australia to Northern Territory, be aware you are moving into ACST (Australian Central Standard Time) which is 1.5 hours ahead.
  • We share all our top tips for tackling road trips in outback Australia over here.
  • Seeking more Perth road trip itinerary ideas? We share our best ideas for exploring the west.
  • Darwin makes a great base for exploring the Top End, check out all these Darwin day trip ideas to add yo your itinerary.
  • Up next: continuing your journey across the top end from Darwin to Cairns
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