Whether you have one day or several weeks, there are plenty of diverse, self-drive wildflower routes to explore in Western Australia. This wildflower road trip includes some other interesting places along the way and explores the heart of wildflower country in the mid-west.
One of the greatest wildflower displays in the world happens each year in WA, as a wave of northerly blooms descend from June onwards, heading south as the weather warms into spring and early summer. There are lots of different regions to explore either by tour or on a self-drive roadtrip.
There are around 12,500 species of flora, 60% which are unique to Western Australia, scattered over landscapes of red dirt, rocky outcrops, tall timber forests or sandy coastal dunes.
If you’re visiting Perth and don’t have much time, from August to October you can visit the expansive Kings Park that overlooks the city and is packed with over 300 floral species (peaking in September), or head to the Perth Hills to get your wildflower fix on various bushwalking trails and in national parks, where the native orchids are a specialty.
Myself and fellow travel blogger The Barefoot Backpacker, who was visiting from England, started out with a day trip north but this slowly increased into nights as we found more exciting places to visit until I came up with what I think is a pretty good 4 night/5 day self drive itinerary heading into the heart of WA’s wildflower country but also mixing in some interesting non-floral sites to see.
Day 1 starts off gently, with a relatively short 2.5hr drive to the sleepy fishing town of Cervantes, known for its rock lobsters and proximity to the Nambung National Park. If you have time, check out the Lobster Shack which gives tours of its lobster fishing industry and serves up freshly caught lobsters for lunch.
If you’re in a 4WD you might like to stop at the Lancelin sand dunes on the way. Pack a flat cardboard box to ride down the dunes or you can hire sandboards or take a 4×4 bus tour there.
We decided to head to Cervantes first and check into our accommodation before heading back to Nambung just before sunset to wander its alien landscape full of thousands of eroded limestone spires.
We had planned to return here later in the night to get some cool photos of the Milky Way and star trails over the eerie moonscape, unfortunately the clouds decided to block our view so we stayed in Cervantes and enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Cervantes Tavern.
Accommodation: Lobster Lodge, Cervantes, AU$95 for twin/double room ($25pp for extra people (2)) with shared bathroom, $35 for bed in dorm.
Heading north early and we’re starting to see the first of bulk wildflowers alongside the road which look stunning. If you’re really into flowers, then Eneabba and Badgingarra along the inland road to Geraldton, or Lesueur National Park on the coast, are worth a stop for orchids and the tiny masses of thryptomenes.
I’m also seriously amazed by how green everything is. We have had a lot of recent rain, but it’s ridiculous, you could easily mistake the countryside for England!
My main goal of the trip is to see the huge fields of everlastings (rhodanthe chlorocephala), a type of paper daisy that comes in whites, pinks and yellows, sometimes all in the same spot! They’re the flowers that usually grace the cover of WA’s Wildflower Guide and for good reason, en masse they are spectacular! Second on the list of must-sees is the rare wreath flower, a circle of green with a bloom of pink, yellow and cream flowers that crowd its edge, giving it the appearance of a Christmas wreath. Wildflower websites will let you know where to find them, but 10km’s north of Pindar is usually your best bet.
Just south of Geraldton we stop in at the historic Greenough settlement which is full of old colonial buildings and just up the road we find the famous leaning tree. You’ll notice a lot of trees in the area have a bit of a lean to them, due to the unrelenting coastal winds, but this tree does seem to be the leaniest.
We stop for lunch in Northampton, a small historical town founded in 1864, full of heritage buildings and our lunch at the Railway Hotel, a quintessential Aussie pub where locals roll in for a chat with friendly bar staff and good food.
Around town you’ll also find a bunch of painted sheep so keep an eye out for them!
I’m so excited for our next location, Hutt Lagoon, just a half hour away. Here we find WA’s lesser-known pink lake. Instagram may have cottoned onto Lake Hillier off the coast of Esperance in WA’s far south, but Hutt Lagoon is also the same shade of bubblegum pink, brought on by some funky natural algae in the water. It’s best seen in the middle of the day when the sun is overhead (when overcast it’s not as bright), to bring out its rich cotton-candy hue.
There’s a lookout and parking area on the south-west side of the lagoon which gives access down to a small beach where the water is more noticeably pink.
Depending on what time of day you get there or how much cloud is in the sky will affect how pink the water looks, but midday on a cloudless day will give you the best view. If you have a drone, you’ll notice the water is a lot pinker from the air as well.
Five minutes down the road we stop at the Lynton Convict Depot ruins which were used from 1853-57 and one of the very few remaining convict buildings in WA that were directly involved with the day-to-day life of convicts. It turns out my 3x great grandfather spent time in their hospital while working as a ticket-of-leave man for a local pastoralist, so that was a nice connection!
On the way back to Geraldton we passed through fields of golden canola and I just had to pull over to get a shot of the sun setting behind them. You’ll pass through a lot of canola fields at this time of year and the opaque yellow blots on the landscape always make me cheery.
We’re stopping the night in Geraldton and staying at the Geraldton Backpackers, set in the historic Grey’s Stores building right across the road from the beach. The place is full of lovely old Victorian décor like pressed tin ceilings, stained glass windows and some lovely Victorian tiling at the entrance. Surprisingly, two of Geraldton’s oldest buildings sit out the back with one used as the backpackers laundry!
Accommodation: Geraldton Backpackers, twin room with shared bathroom AU$95.
This morning we drive up the road to the HMAS Sydney Memorial set beneath a dome of metal seagulls, which is far more beautiful than it sounds and also looks stunning at sunset if you’re here at that time.
There are 645 gulls in the dome each representing a life taken when the HMAS Sydney came under attack from the German cruiser Kormoran, off the coast of Western Australia. Both ships were sunk but never found… that is, until 2008, when most of the memorial was already in place, including a statue of a woman looking forlornly out to sea representing the families left behind. Amazingly, it turns out the woman is staring in the exact direction where the shipwrecks were found!
It was actually quite an interesting memorial and there are a number of plaques that tell the ship’s story, but if you get there at 1030am, there is a free tour that guides you through the different sections.
Back on the road and it’s a quick 30min drive through fields of canola to our lunch stop at Burnt Barrel, an outback BrewBQ plonked in the remote countryside of Nanson, 35kms north-east of Geraldton. Its speciality is smoky, spice-rubbed meat, slow-cooked over the fire and washed down with on-site microbrewed beer. I’m sold!
As sheepies munch green shoots on winery vines behind us, we tuck into some seriously delicious food. I went for a combo of meat including burnt ends, two types of pork belly and pulled pork complete with nicely seasoned chips and coleslaw, washed down with their on-site brewed ginger beer! Highly recommend this place!
Tummies extended, we roll back to the car and loop north through Yuna where the mass everlastings start to appear. After connecting again with the main road we head for Pindar in the hope of seeing the wreath flowers, hopefully arriving after the wildflower tour buses have left to head back to Perth.
Pindar is one of the best spots to see the famous wreath flower (lechenaultia macrantha) and we’re not disappointed. Following signs to a spot just north of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town, we find them in abundance along the side of the red dirt road, looking like someone has thrown giant frisbees from the car as they’ve driven past.
We’re now racing the sun to get to our campsite for the next two nights. I don’t intend to put up a tent in the dark (but we do because we’re inept tent pitchers). It’s only a 40 minute drive to Coalseam Conservation Park, where we’ll be camping at the Miner’s campsite.
Coalseam Conservation Park is one of the few areas where black coal can be seen at the Earth’s surface. It is also the site of the first coal mine in Western Australia.
But it’s the profusion of everlastings that bring most people here in spring. For most of the year the under story of trees is usually quite sparse but after the winter rains, the ground explodes with colour, carpeting the ground in shades of pink, white, purple and yellow. There are many other wildflowers in the area too, including orange immortelles, purple fringed lilies and the very cute pom-pom heads.
You can also find ancient fossils and old mining shafts nearby along with exposed coal seams in the cliff faces near the river. The Irwin Lookout overlooks part of the park and has a great view over River Bend.
If you’re planning on camping in Coalseam during peak wildflower season, you will find a lot of others with the same idea. If you can, try and stay there during the week as the campsites are packed on the weekends. The main campsite is known as Miners Camp but if full there is an overflow area called Breakaway. There are long-drop toilets (very clean and don’t smell), but no power, water or rubbish facilities so bring your own water, food (BBQ’s are available) and take your own rubbish away.
If you require more facilities check out the caravan parks in nearby Mingenew or Mullewa.
We were fortunate enough to scrape into one of the last spots at Miners Camp on a Friday afternoon. There are campsite hosts there who will show you where you can pitch tent and pay the AU$8 per person, per night fee.
The park is also a fire-free zone for campers, but the campsite has a nightly campfire where you can gather and chat with fellow travellers.
Early rise to a very chilly morning but a free cup of tea from a camp neighbour warms me up. Spend the morning bird watching (ie sit at camp table and point out birds). I’m trying to get a photo of the red-capped robins that look like little angry-bird balls of fluff, but they’re so freakin fast it’s hard to get a photo as they constantly fly from one branch to another. Two pink & grey galahs have set up residence in a nearby dead tree, one acting as sentinel at the top while the other repeatedly bashes his head against the trunk. He seems to know what he’s doing. There are also the neon splendid blue fairy wrens flocked by a harem of plain females. I’m on the lookout for these particular teal parrots I’ve seen photos of but instead I’m greeted with a bunch of green & yellow twenty-eights (parrots) that are pretty common in the area. In the distance I can hear the mighty screeches of black cockatoos who fly over the campsite every so often but tend not to land.
Eventually, we decide to head into Mingenew for breakfast. Their bakery comes highly recommended and it’s only about 25 minutes down the road. In the bright daylight we get a better look at the park and find the spectacular carpets of pink and yellow everlastings that are just delightful. I could easily stop every 100m or so to take photos. It’s just disgusting, really.
We head out to Mingenew Hill on the outskirts of Mingenew town which has a great view over the local canola fields and some interesting ‘art’ at the beginning of the road turn off. It’s then out to Depot Hill, which was used as a training firing range during WW2 and there are still some artefacts and trenches around to explore.
I found the ground here full of pink everlastings.
If you have more time and are really into wildflowers, take a 1/2 day trip out to Canna which is known for its huge variety of orchids.
We then head back to the campsite to explore the surrounds and end up crossing the adjacent trickling river and up its banks to the other side where we find sprawling wildflowers and even an old coal mine shaft. There are a lot more birds over this side and I spot the red-capped robins, splendid fairy-wrens, black cockatoos, galahs and twenty-eights flying around. There’s another trail here that does a 3.5km loop up a hill and there are plenty of other trails in the area to explore, but if you’re only here for a day then exploring the road into Miner’s campsite and the river bank opposite the campsite will give you all the wildflowers you need to get your fix. It’s stunning!
That night we find not a cloud in the sky and are able to view the Milky Way like I’ve never seen before, it was just so clear. So many stars!
We stay up for a few hours waiting for the Milky Way to arc its way over to the horizon before we walk down the road to get a few shots.
Time to head back to Perth, but it’s going to be a long day!
We leave Coalseam by 10am, the everlastings haven’t even opened yet and we don’t have time to wait till late morning for them.
A quick stop in Mingenew for breakfast at their famous bakery again. Everyone raves about their vanilla slice, which was pretty good, but if you see the rocky road hedgehog slice, omg that was soooo delicious!
It’s now a race against time to get to New Norcia, 240kms away before their roadhouse closes at 4.30pm. New Norcia is Australia’s only monastic town, founded in 1847 by Spanish Benedictine Monks. The town is full of beautiful, heritage buildings, most with a distinct Spanish flair that sits in stark contrast to its Aussie bush setting.
My favourite building is the New Norcia Hotel, a pub that looks like it’s straight out of a period drama film set and even serves monk-brewed ale. The Monastery, Abbey Church and College Chapels are also worth a look as well.
The reason why I want to get here before the roadhouse closes is that the monks here are famous for their bread and I’m determined to get a fresh loaf to take home. The bakery isn’t open to the public but you can buy the loaves and some other goodies at the roadhouse.
Now for the home stretch back to Perth as the sun starts its daily descent in the west. It’s been a full on 5 days but we’ve managed to see some spectacular scenery. All up we did 1640kms and had a fantastic time, I can’t wait for next year!
Top tips for wildflower enthusiasts
- TAKE NOTHING but photos, leave nothing but footprints – picking wildflowers is illegal and can attract a $2000 fine. Take all your trash with you!
- RESPECT private property and don’t trespass.
- PROTECT canola crops and prevent the spread of disease by staying out of canola fields.
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