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Explore the best of north-western Australia with a Broome to Exmouth drive

Jessica Pilon-Summons

The stunning stretch of coastline between Broome and Exmouth is a quintessential part of Australia. Including sections of the Pilbara, you’ll be far from crowds and cities while travelling here. To introduce you to the sights and delights of this region, we’ll outline how to drive from Broome to Exmouth via the direct coastal route then, on the return journey for your Exmouth to Broome road trip, we’ll head inland for exploration of the rugged beauty of Karijini National Park.

Step 1: Be prepared

With a one-way journey distance from Broome to Exmouth covering 1400 kilometres, it won’t come as a surprise that part of the adventure of this trip is long distances between towns and supplies.

The Australian outback should never be taken lightly so do some pre-planning of fuel and rest stops to avoid running short or driving tired. Carry water and other essential supplies with you.

You can enjoy driving both directions in a 2WD car on either sealed or good-quality dirt roads, but be aware there can be hazards that mainly-city drivers won’t be used to:

  • Soft sand just off the roadside means you need to be cautious about where you pull over
  • Road trains are huge and heavy. They therefore take significant time distance to slow down, so give them the respect they deserve.
  • Animals are most active at dawn and dusk so avoid driving at these times if possible or, if you need to, be on high alert.
  • Other hazards can be dangerous, so believe all caution signs!

Step 2: Pick up your Uber Carshare

Whether you’re starting in one of these destinations, or perhaps further afield in Perth, Uber Carshare is your ideal Western Australia option for car hire between Broome and Exmouth.

Step 3: Enjoy Broome

The colours of Broome are a living artwork, with the turquoise water at Cable Beach washing onto white sand then blending into the red of the land. The full spectrum comes together each evening as the sun sets into the sea.

In addition to natural beauty, Broome is a multicultural hub with a vibrant food scene. Learn about Yawuru (pronounced ‘ya-roo’), the traditional custodians and native title holders of Rubibi, the Indigenous name for the region of Broome.

Explore the town’s pearling industry, take a camel ride along the beach, head out onto the water or up into the air, watch and outdoor movie, visit Australia’s most remote brewery, discover footprints of dinosaurs, and say hello to a crocodile (from a distance!).

If you can choose the time of your visit, enjoy one of Broome’s festivals or the Staircase to the Moon illusion, a natural phenomenon that happens after dark on particular dates between March and October.

Step 4: Broome to Exmouth direct

Your only directional decision for this whole trip is when you arrive at Highway Number 1 just a few kilometres outside Broome. Make sure you turn right to travel south, then you’re on your way! There’s 1400 kilometres – around 14 hours of driving without stops – between you and Exmouth.

That’s waaaaaay too far for one day and, anyway, you’re here to explore and experience the wonders of this far-flung part of the world. So, here are our recommendations of places to see.

Eighty Mile Beach: A four-hour drive south of Broome, Eighty Mile is the longest beach in Western Australia. The name is a little misleading as the stretch of sand is more like 140 miles (220km) long. This is a spot for mindful appreciation of nature, with pristine coastline, almost-endless views, magnificent sunsets and an abundance of migratory birds. If four hours feels too far for your first driving stint, check out a short side-trip to Port Smith Lagoon.

Port Hedland: Two to three hours further south, Port Hedland (and, yes, it’s ‘hed’, not ‘head’). is more of a working town than a tourist destination but that’s all part of the attraction. You can see driverless mining trains making the huge trip to Perth and check out the workings of the port and salt-mines. Enjoy the footpath market, spot passing whales during the middle of the year, visit the museum and, if your dates line up, see the Staircase to the Moon from Cooke Point.

Karratha: Your next stop on this direct coastal drive between Broome and Exmouth is three hours south of Port Hedland. Learn about the Jaburara people and Ngarluma Country - including understanding that ‘Karratha’ is an Indigenous word meaning ‘good country’ - and see some of the 10,000-plus examples of Aboriginal rock art. Get your retail fix at the biggest shopping centre in the region. If you’ve got time on your side, consider one of two side-trips: inland to the lush oasis of Millstream Chichester National Park, or off-shore to snorkel or dive within the 42-island Dampier Archipelago.

Step 4: Enjoy Exmouth

A nearly-six hour drive south of Karratha takes you slightly inland before you say goodbye to Highway Number 1 in order to head back to the coast to get to Exmouth (it’s all well-signed so there’s no chance of getting lost or missing the turn).

Exmouth is where the range meets the reef. Established only in 1967, the town is a thriving community and visitor hub known for fabulous seafood dining options.

Exmouth is the also gateway to Ningaloo Reef, part of the World Heritage-listed National Park, where you can snorkel and dive with small fish all the way up to whale sharks. There’s plenty to do on land too, with hiking around the canyons of Cape Range National Park.

Step 5: The return journey: Exmouth to Broome road trip via Karinji National Park

The alternative route for a drive between Exmouth and Broome takes a sweeping curve inland in order to visit an area filled with jaw-dropping chasms and natural water holes ideal for swimming. The distance from Exmouth to Broome in this direction? Nearly 1600 kilometres.

Here’s a guide to where you’ll go and what you’ll see along the way.

Retrace your steps then turn off at Nanutarra Road: Your first three hours of driving is out of Exmouth and back along Highway Number 1 until it’s time to turn east (inland). A perfect place to stop and refresh (either for lunch or overnight) is the Nanutarra Roadhouse and campground, a few ks before the turnoff.

Paraburdoo: A nearly four-hour drive from the turnoff is an optional spot to stop. The small mining town, named after the local Indigenous word for white cockatoo, was purpose-built less than half-a-century ago for those working in the nearby iron ore mine. Check out the striking Resilience Sculpture, an artwork that reflects elements of the many facets of life here: mining, landscape, community and Indigenous culture.

Tom Price: Eighty kilometres on from Paraburdoo is Tom Price (a town, not a person), which is the gateway to Karijini National Park. At nearly 750 metres above sea-level, this highest town in Western Australia was once owned by the Rio Tinto mining company and named after a vice-president of a US-based steel company who was a key player in opening up the Pilbara to mining. You can learn more about mining by taking a tour and, if you’d prefer to stay in a town while exploring Karijini, this is the spot for you.

Karijini National Park: A wonderland of natural swimming holes, spectacular rock formations, wonderful waterfalls and oases of green, Karijini is yours to explore. The amazing landscape, resulting from the semi-arid plateau land giving way to a series of deep gorges, is a place for relishing rather than rushing. And that’s perfect, as you’ve travelled long distances to immerse yourself here.

It’s ideal to allow a couple of days to explore the various gorges sprinkled through the park, hike the many trails and to take the opportunity to drop into a state of calm contentment as you float in water by day, watch the changing colours of the rock walls and stargaze at night. You can camp within the park or stay at the Karijini Eco Retreat.

Highlights include Dales Gorge, Hamersley Gorge, Fern Pool, Weano Gorge and Oxer Lookout. If you happen to visit after rain, you’ll be wowed by wildflowers in bloom.

North to Port Hedland: The drive along the Great Northern Highway from Tom Price back to the coast at Port Hedland takes four to five hours. If you’d like to break this drive, there’s accommodation and food at the Auski Munjina Village around one-third of the way.

Port Hedland to Broome: A six-plus hour drive direct or, if you’re not ready to finish your journey yet, take the opportunity to explore more of Eighty Mile Beach along the way, or continue north past Broome to the Dampier Peninsula.

Step 6: I want more!

Fallen in love with Western Australia? Though this journey has been a whopping 3000 kilometre adventure, the vastness of this state means there’s far more to explore.

To whet your appetite, check out our more of our Western Australia recommendations, including the Best Day Trips from Perth.


What is there to see between Exmouth and Broome?

Along the coast, we recommend you visit Eighty Mile Beach, Port Hedland and Karratha for a full dose of WA wonder, including endless beaches, turquoise seas and red rocks. If your travels take you inland for some of the journey between Exmouth and Broome, you’ll love the gorges and swimming holes of Karijini National Park and visiting the nearby towns of Paraburdoo and Tom Price.

What towns are between Exmouth and Broome?

Heading north from Exmouth, you’ll travel through Karratha and Port Hedland, both towns well worth exploring.

How many days does it take to drive to Broome?

The first question to answer is ‘How far from Exmouth to Broome’? Via the main coast road, the distance is 1400 kilometres, which equates to around 14 hours of driving without any stops. If you need to drive direct, allow at least two days. However, to enjoy the delights of Pilbara and western Kimberly regions, including Eighty Mile Beach, it’s best to take between 3 and 7 days.

How do I get from Broome to Exmouth?

You have two main options for travel between Broome and Exmouth. The first option is to travel south on Highway Number 1, a journey of 1400 kilometres. For a longer but more scenic route, head inland from just south of Port Hedland to journey to the town of Tom Price and explore the gorgeous (yep, it’s full of gorges to explore and swim in) Karijini National Park.

Information included in this article is accurate as of (12 Sep 2022). The information published on this blog is of a general nature only and does not consider your personal objectives, financial situation or particular needs. The information published on this site/page should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional advice. Images used in this article are free to use images under the creative commons license.