5 of the Most Scenic Drives in Perth
On those lazy days, get out of the house in the comfort of your car to cruise through Perth’s most mesmerising landscapes.
With its varied landscapes and such vast distances between major centres, there’s no denying that Western Australia is road trip country. But you don’t have to venture far from the capital to find a pretty route to take.
Stay in the car or hop out along the way to enjoy these five scenic drives around Perth.
1. Sunset Coast Drive
|Stop-offs||City Beach, Scarborough Beach, Trigg Beach, Hillarys Boat Harbour, Mullaloo Beach, Mindarie Marina.|
|RAC member benefits||Get 10% off at La Capannina, Get 10% off general admission at AQWA|
Roll your window down and fill your lungs with salty air as you drive the length of Perth’s coastline.
Start your journey in Cottesloe with an early morning dip and an Il Lido coffee to go. Then, follow West Coast Highway north as it hugs the shore through City Beach and up to Scarborough. Along the way, take a quick detour to Reabold Hill—the highest natural point along Perth’s coast—for unspoiled views back over the city.
If you’ve brought the dog along for the ride, stop to stretch your legs at Peasholm Dog Beach, just short of the Scarborough esplanade. If not, continue on for a spot of shopping at Cordingley’s Surf and Livid Skate or grab lunch by the beach at La Capannina.
North of Scarborough, West Coast Highway turns into West Coast Scenic Drive. Follow it along the shallow reef rockpools of North Beach and the sandy white beach of Trigg to get to Hillarys Boat Harbour. Big and little kids can marvel at the creatures of the underwater world at AQWA before a sheltered swim at Hillarys Marina. Post-swim, sate hungry bellies with a Batter Up fish and chip feast.
If you’re with the kids, you might be tuckered out and ready to turn home. Otherwise, the last leg of the drive takes you from marina to marina, winding through the beachside suburbs of Mullaloo, Ocean Reef, Burns Beach, and Mindarie. At the endpoint, unwind at Mindarie Marina’s Cabana Poolside Bar.
2. Zig Zag Scenic Drive
|Distance||Zig Zag scenic drive: 2.9kmScenic route: 40.1km|
|Stop-offs||John Forrest National Park, Gooseberry Hill Lookout, Rocky Pool, Darlington Estate|
|RAC member benefits||Get 50% off digital national park passes|
Enjoy what are, arguably, the best views of Perth city as you trundle your way through the narrow, hairpin turns of Gooseberry Hill’s Zig Zag Scenic Drive.
Before driving to the main event, stop by John Forrest National Park for a morning walk to Hovea Falls. It takes around 25 minutes to reach the winter falls on foot, where you’ll be rewarded with the sight and sound of water cascading down granite sheet rock.
Divert onto the Great Eastern Highway and take a right at Scott St to get up to the Zig Zag Scenic Drive. Once a section of railway that serviced the Kalamunda area, the one-way loop is now a tourist drive (or walk or bike) with unparalleled views out over the Swan Coastal Plain. Stop along the way for photos of the cityscape in the distance and the surrounding Beelu National Park. The switchback road is only open from 11.00am to 8.00pm each day, so time your arrival well.
Head from one national park to the next, making a beeline for Rocky Pool in Kalamunda National Park. Follow the tree-flanked Helena Valley Road until you reach a safe parking spot, then it’s all on foot from there. The walk is intermediate, so bring sturdy shoes and plenty of water. Once at the pool, reward yourself with a refreshing dip.
After all the effort of getting to the pool and back, reward yourself with a perfectly cooked chicken breast risotto at the journey’s endpoint, Darlington Estate Winery. The drive out there will take you through the leafy suburb of Darlington, before arriving at the undulating vine-covered property.
3. Fremantle to Rockingham
|Stop-offs||South Fremantle, Coogee, Woodman Point, Rockingham Foreshore, Point Peron|
|RAC member benefits||Get 10% off at Bib & Tucker|
Perth’s southern coastline is just as scenic as the north; the stretch between Fremantle and Rockingham particularly so.
Start your day with breakfast at Bib & Tucker, a stunning seaside spot (with food to match) perched above Leighton Beach in North Fremantle.
Once fed and caffeinated, drive into Fremantle, one of Perth’s most culturally rich suburbs. Pay the Fremantle Markets a visit to pick up some snacks for the road from Artisan Dough Bakery, then make a beeline for the coast.
Follow Marine Terrace along the beachfront, stopping at South Beach for a paddle in the crystal water. Then, it’s on to Coogee. But not without a quick stop for photos at the graffiti-covered South Fremantle Power Station. Relax on the sand at Coogee Beach, or bring your snorkel and paddle out to the Coogee Maritime Trail. The dive and snorkel trail starts at the shallow Omeo shipwreck, continuing for 200m to the west along the southern groyne.
Snorkelling is hard work, best rewarded with a long lunch at Coogee Common—a historic hotel-turned-restaurant overlooking Coogee Beach. Post-oysters and prawn and olive skewers take a leisurely drive toward Woodman Point, where there’s a picturesque jetty and park to explore.
The penultimate stop on this drive is Rockingham Foreshore. It’s as family-friendly as it is scenic, lined with plenty of cafes for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Drive the length of Rockingham Beach Road slowly and admire the blues beyond the parklands before finding somewhere to pull up. Kids in tow? Let them burn some energy on the shipwreck playground while you refuel with coffee from Lu Lu’s Cafe.
Finally, cruise the 5km to Rockingham’s most western point at Point Peron. There, you’ll find a great vantage point of the cape from the Point Peron Gun Battery and plenty of calm bays to go snorkelling.
4. The Swan River
|Distance||From 20-30km (depending on your endpoint)|
|Stop-offs||South Perth, Elizabeth Quay, the Blue Boathouse, Matilda Bay, Freshwater Bay, Fremantle Harbour|
|RAC member benefits||Get 15% off at Cicerello’s Fremantle|
Perth has plenty of great waterside drives. Still, none are quite like the drive from the city to the coastline, following along the course of the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River). Spend a day winding your way through the many bays—and sprawling luxury homes—down to the river mouth in Fremantle.
Start the drive from the Old Mill in South Perth, a restored relic of the 1830s. It’s right by the South Perth Esplanade, which will be the first of your riverside drives along this route. Follow it to Mends St before turning left onto Millpoint Road and hitting Canning Highway. Cross to the northern banks of the Swan via the Causeway and Heirisson Island, stopping there to take a stroll along the scrub-lined walking tracks.
Set the GPS for Mounts Bay Road, and you’ll get a drive-by view of Perth’s cityscape from Riverside Drive. The Perth Belltower is worth stopping at to get a photo, and there’s delicious gelato a few hundred metres away at Gusto Gelato’s Elizabeth Quay kiosk. Grab a scoop or two and tour the quay as you eat. Hot tip: the best view of the inlet is from the Elizabeth Quay Bridge.
The next photo opportunity—Perth’s famed Blue Boathouse—is just outside of the city along Mounts Bay Road. It’s the gateway to the next part of the drive, which meanders its way through the tree-lined suburbs of Nedlands, Dalkeith, and Claremont. Alternate between watching the river on your left-hand side and picking out your dream home on the right. Keep it up as you follow the river through Peppermint Grove and Mosman Park, or expedite your trip to the terminus by following Stirling Highway into Fremantle.
There, head to the point where the Swan River meets the Indian Ocean at the entrance to Fremantle Harbour. Visit the WA Maritime Museum to learn more about the city’s maritime history before enjoying a meal with a view of the water traffic from Cicerello’s.
5. Perth to Northam
|Stop-offs||Rotary Lookout, Mundaring, Bakers Hill, Northam|
|RAC member benefits||Save on fuel for the road|
There’s no one best time to make the trip out to Northam, the route abounding with beauty in every season. See the rolling hills covered in a low-set fog during the winter months or farmland covered in fields of yellow as spring begins to break.
You’ll feel your ears pop as you turn off Reid Highway onto the Great Eastern Highway to begin your journey east, climbing higher and higher into the Darling Scarp. A quick detour to the Rotary Lookout on John Forrest National Park’s Park Road Loop is highly recommended. From such a distance, the city looks so small.
Continue on towards Mundaring, a charming little suburb known for its Federation-style buildings. Venture inside one of them to find a table at A Patch of Country cafe, where fresh coffee and scones are on the menu daily. If a good old country-style parmi is more to your taste, save your stop for the Mount Helena Tavern just a little further down the road. From there, it’s onwards towards endless fields of flowering yellow canola.
Even when the fields aren’t flowering, the landscapes—and the award-winning Bakers Hill Pie Shop—are worth the drive. Once you’ve made it this far, it’s just another 15 minutes on the road to Northam, where Bilya Koort Boodja Centre for Nyoongar Culture and Environmental Knowledge, Temperance Bar, and one of FORM’s painted silos are waiting for you.
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