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Exploring the Indian Ocean Drive

Ther Milky Way over Nambung National Park in Australia

From Perth’s northern outskirts, the Indian Ocean Drive pulls travellers close to the sea. It hugs a wildly scenic coastline of giant shifting dunes and limestone pinnacles, dazzling blue bays where sea lions haul out, and national parks ablaze with wildflowers after winter rains. 

Against these dramatic natural backdrops, sandboarders surf the largest sand crests in WA and explorers dive historical shipwrecks. Kiteboarders, anglers and paddlers find their nirvana on the sea too, while just inland, hikers wander amongst wildflowers, crunch over salt lakes and explore 300m underground through Stockyard Tunnel. 

You can camp atop sea cliffs, discover 3000-year-old thrombolites and swim with sea lions – all within a 270km-long drive from Yanchep to Dongara. Typical of how remote Western Australia really is, the Indian Ocean Drive didn’t exist a decade ago. Now, the Turquoise Coast is accessible to all, so even though you can, you don’t have to head off-road to make some memories. 

If you’re coming for the almost endless blue bays and white sand beaches, you can pull up right on the foreshore practically everywhere. Small fishing towns and historical beach shack settlements welcome travellers, and there are great places to eat and sleep within sight of the sea. 

It’s pretty obvious here that a connection to the ocean dominates life and livelihoods. Generations-old lobster fleets work Australia’s largest single-species fishery, while inland, the sublime Mediterranean climate nurtures olives, wine grapes, citrus and beautiful, blooming wildflowers. 

Image: Annie Downing

Historically there’s a lot to explore, and not surprisingly, much of what fascinates history buffs (and divers, boaties and snorkellers) lies under the sea. European explorers, many of whom first set their sights on Australia here in the 1600s, sailed dangerously close to the coast, littering the seabed with their shipwrecks and giving rise to harrowing tales of seamanship and survival. Theirs are the stories that transform this tranquil coastline into something more sobering, so jump at the chance to get yourself offshore and exploring, either aboard a tour boat or by bringing your own tinny or kayak.

Before European discoveries, however, this region belonged to the Yued group of the Noongar peoples. They tell of Wagyl, the rainbow serpent, who weaved throughout the land carving out rivers and landmarks like the world-famous Pinnacles and opalescent Dynamite Bay at Green Head. These are the places you’ll connect with too as you travel north, so take your time. Even if the kilometres seem easy to conquer, all that you’ll discover here deserves an unhurried pace. 

This is an excerpt from 100 Things To See On Australia’s Coral Coast. Order your copy below, or grab one wherever good travel books are sold.

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