While the three hour trek to Margaret River has become one of Western Australia's tried and true road trips, there's more to see south of Perth than this famed wine region. Work your way east to Esperance and you'll soon find yourself amidst some of Australia's most dramatic landscapes – all without the crowds and queues of the state's well-worn tourist tracks.
Got some time to spare? Spend a week – or two – exploring the state's spectacular south west, from the vibrant beach town of Bunbury to the white sand beaches of Cape le Grand National Park.
With an expedition of more than a thousand kilometres awaiting your arrival, you'll want to hit the road as soon as you hit the tarmac. Pick up your car hire at the Perth Airport and set your sights on the initial leg of your journey, passing through the portside city of Fremantle to reach your first stop: Bunbury. Spend the day in Koombana Bay, where pods of bottlenose dolphins don't shy away from swimmers, or, take the leisurely stroll to the Bunbury Lighthouse, where panoramic views stretch across the city and beyond.
From Bunbury, make your way 50 kilometres further south to Busselton, stopping in to see Dunsborough's spectrum of sapphire-coloured beaches along the way. After some time with your toes in the sand, wander Caves Road to reach the world-famous Busselton Jetty. The longest structure of its kind in the southern hemisphere, this historic wharf stretches nearly two kilometres into the sea, plummeting an additional eight metres below the surface to reveal an underwater observatory, perfect for spying aquatic creatures without ever stepping foot in the sea.
Once you've surfaced from the depths of the Indian Ocean, cruise the countryside to arrive in Western Australia's most famed wine region, Margaret River. A labyrinth of world-class wineries, microbreweries and boutique cellar doors, this stunning collection of vineyards is an adventure on to itself, with ample activities for pathfinding foodies and wine aficionados alike. Short on time? Skip the grapes and vines and take to one of the area's acclaimed surfing spots, from the gentle reef breaks at Cowaramup Bay to Gnarabup's big, hollow barrels.
Back on shore, follow the South Western Highway into the Valley of the Giants, where ancient karri trees form leafy canopies overhead. Scale the 72-metre Gloucester Tree before entering the equally awe-inspiring Walpole Forest, leading to the quaint seaside village of Denmark. Perched on the banks of the tranquil Wilson Inlet, this Dutch-discovered town is the perfect place to settle in for a picnic before embarking on the final leg of your journey.
Saving the best for last, the final stretch of your South West Explorer is jam-packed with coastal sights and outback wonders alike. Take an inland detour to reach Wave Rock – a towering, 14-metre rock formation that mimics the shape of the sea, or, opt to see real ocean views along the Great Australian Bight – a collection of sheer cliffs that seemingly collapse into the water below. To end your epic adventure, settle in for a night of camping in Cape le Grand National Park, where the white sand and turquoise waters of Lucky Bay attract a steady crowd of sunbathing kangaroos all year round.
Ready to embark on an off the beaten track adventure? See another side of Western Australia with a car hire in Perth.