Hightailing it out of Perth for a sneaky escape? Chances are the holiday heavyweights like Broome and Dunsborough that have raked up the kudos for powder-white beaches and resort-style luxury will spring to mind.
But there are a bunch of off the beaten track getaways offering some alluring reasons to get your WA tourist on, from architectural wonders to local produce-matched wine flights.
We’ve put a list of them together—because a road trip is never not a good idea. Here are the best under the radar getaways in WA, from the historic to the gourmet to the just-plain lovely.
Tiny tea shops, roaring wood fires, award winning truffle butter. Nannup nestles in the South West between apple orchards, jarrah wood forests and a big winding river and is flanked by farms that harvest things like lavender and chestnuts. Get on the Blackwood River in a kayak without delay and drift deep into some of the loveliest bushland in the state.
Then follow curling fronds of blue smoke into the little timber town’s jammed-to-bursting antique shops and cute weatherboard-fronted shops. Gorge on soft handmade brie at Cambray Cheese, cool off in nearby Workman’s Pool, go truffle digging in the Blackwood Valley or discover The French Pantry’s seriously good duck rillettes. No visit to the town is complete without savoring an end-of-trip pint and oversize burger at the iconic old Nannup Hotel.
About 3 hours from Perth by car
For a few weekends of the year, Manjimup is where all the action is thanks to Truffle Kerfuffle. But for the most part, Manjimup is pretty quiet and the perfect spot to relax.
There are plenty of bushwalks which can range from a leisurely stroll to a 30km hike along sections of the Bibbulman Track. Head to the Manjimup Wine And Truffle Company and enjoy a wine tasting and some delish eats, then jump in the car and head to One Tree Bridge and Glenoran Pool.
About 3.5 hours from Perth by car
If you’re short on time, Roleystone (and the rest of the Perth Hills for that matter) is great bang for buck. Only 45 minutes out of Perth, there is so much to do you’ll be shocked!
About 45 minutes from Perth by car
New Norcia is a magical little town of red brick chapels, domed steeples and stained glass loveliness that’s run entirely by Benedictine monks in the Australian bush just a couple of hours north east of Perth. They have abbey brewed ale ageing in the cellars beneath their monastery and a museum and gallery filled with masterpieces by Italian and Spanish artists.
Take Great Northern Highway out to the old Spanish mission through swathes of canola and definitely stop at Bindoon Bakehouse on the way for one of their out of control delicious pastries. Then go nuts on some of the most Instagrammable bits of architecture in Western Australia. You’ll find ornate arches and sweeping staircases, lush olive groves and chandeliers inside grand neo-classical hotels.
There’s also a machinery display, an old flour mill and a breathtaking chapel in St Gertrude’s College and you can learn things like letterpress printing at the restored Abbey Press. For the complete monastic retreat experience, you can actually stay over in the Monastery Guesthouse for a couple of days.
Less than 2 hours from Perth by car
A quaint little place, Balingup is the perfect spot to go if you want to unwind. Head to Heritage Country Cheese and sample all of the goodness before choosing your faves and taking them on the road with you.
Make your way to Golden Valley Tree Park for a cheesy little picnic (if you’re clever you would have picked up some apples in Donnybrook on your way down to go with your cheese), then take a drive to Greenbushes Pool for a wander and a dip.
About 2.5 hours from Perth by car
If you can’t fathom the idea of leaving the coast, then get some road trip beats sorted and enjoy the drive to Preston Beach. Head to Yalgorup National Park to check out the Lake Clifton Thrombolites and take in the scenery, then head to the beach with a book. Ultimate relaxation.
About 1.5 hours from Perth by car
While Albany is not exactly under the radar, it's often overlooked because it's that bit further away—but if you can spare an extra hour or two in the car, it's absolutely worth the drive.
With its ravishing, rangy coastline, a ridiculous depth of history and a foodie scene to rival Margaret River’s, Albany has bases you hadn’t even thought of covered. Take one of Australia's important cultural pilgrimages at the National Anzac Centre, experience the southern ocean at its most wild and hungry from The Gap or hike the buffest Stirling Range—Bluff Knoll, just around the corner.
European delicatessen and wood-fire bakery Gourmandise & Co does cracking coffee and drool worthy French pastries, or you can find treats like hot buttered rum and exquisite crab noodles at Parisian-Vietnamese themed Liberte. Mountaintop eatery The Garrison is our pick for incredible sundowner views. A host of talented young guns in the region are behind new craft breweries like Wilson Brewing Company, and Albany distillery Limeburners’ Heavily Peated Darkest Winter whisky was just named the best in the world. Top-notch wineries like Oranje Tractor meanwhile, are doing wine flights—matching morsels of cheese, trout and farm-grown produce with a selection of organic wines for max sensory wowing.
About 4.5 hours from Perth by car
Millstream Chichester National Park
The definition of under the radar, this place has an actual oasis in the middle of the Pilbara. Ancient, red and dotted with bright purple mulla mulla, Millstream Chichester National Park is a seductive expanse of rugged spinifex ranges and deep, cool waterholes calling out for a 4WD and a set of bathers.
Swim at Python Pool, a freshwater creek at the base of the Chichester Range or take an Aboriginal cultural journey with Ngurranga Tours and learn the significance of places like Deep Reach and Jirndawarrunha Pool. You can also watch the moon rise from the lookout over Fortescue River, explore ancient rock art at Hearsons Cove or snooze on the pillowy creekside reed beds beneath giant, ancient date palms at old Millstream.
About 16 hours from Perth by car (or fly to Port Hedland and take the 2.5 hour drive from there)
You know what they say about the journey being as important as the destination? We reckon that little piece of wisdom is spot on, so enjoy the 110km scenic drive along Albany Highway until you get to the Hotham Way Trail.
Explore the Dryandra Woodland and check out Pumphreys Bridge before continuing on to Dewllingup. Once you’re there, hire a kayak and hit the Murray River, walk part of the Bibbulman Track or break out your fishing gear.
There are plenty of cottages and B&Bs, but why not grab your camping gear and head to Lane Poole Reserve so you’re right in the action.
About 1.5 hours from Perth by car
About 250km north of Perth, Green Head is a friendly little town perfect for water babies. Whether you surf, windsurf, fish, dive or just prefer to hang out on the beach, you’ll find something that floats your boat here.
If you manage to get there in wildflower season (August to November) you’ll want to drive the Coorow-Green Head Road to see those babies in full bloom. If you’d prefer to get straight on the water, jump on a boat tour to check out the sea lions!
Less than 3 hours from Perth by car
Home of the epic Avon Descent white-water challenge and the annual Flying 50's vintage car race, Northam is a low-key adventure capital for the regions. But it also has world-class street art, ridiculously photogenic wheat-scapes and the highest concentration of stately heritage buildings Western Australia’s got.
Get a colourfix and silo selfie in front of the sky high murals painted on grain silos at the entrance to town, feel the pioneer vibes in the restored glory of heritage pubs like Dukes Inn, dip an oar into the thrills and rapids of the mighty Avon or find a stash of classic comics at The Book Shed.
Ballooning is also big in Northam—the area’s rolling patchwork of farmland and wildflowers by balloon at dawn may just be one of the most quintessentially WA experiences we’ve come across—so hit up the guys at Windward Ballooning and make sure your camera is charged!
About 1.5 hours from Perth by car
Moore River Region
About 100kms north of Perth, the Moore River Region stretches from Yanchep to Jurien Bay and is the spot to go if you like to keep busy.
There’s also plenty of spots to go surfing, fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving so there’s no danger of running out of things to do around here.
About 1 hour from Perth by car
You’ll need a few extra days for this one if your road-tripping, but trust us when we say Windjana Gorge is well worth the 30-hour drive—just make sure you’ve got good company, a few good playlists and a lot of car snacks.
When you arrive, pitch your tent and try to get a good night’s sleep so you can go exploring the next day. The Lennard River runs through the gorge and forms pools so you might spot a freshwater croc or two, and there are plenty of beautiful walks. This is one for the bucket list.
About 30 hours from Perth by car (or 7 hours from Broome)
Want more? Check out the best scenic drives in WA.
Little Beach, Albany | Image credit: Anna Franklyn, Amazing Albany at West Cape, Albany, Louise Coghill in Roleystone, Anna Franklyn in Northam