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Pinnacles & Yanchep National Park Day Trip From Perth

the pinnacles in nambung national park

Although Western Australia is a huge state, you don’t have to drive far from the city to enjoy some of WA’s best attractions. Visit the Pinnacles and Yanchep National Park with a day trip from Perth to discover unique natural formations and native wildlife!

There are SO many appealing things to do in Perth. One attraction we wanted to tick off was a day trip to the Pinnacles. When we looked at planning our outing, we realised it made sense to add on a visit to Yanchep National Park too. This stop wouldn’t take us out of the way, in fact we’d be passing right through the national park!

Here’s a suggested day trip itinerary for visiting the Pinnacles and Yanchep National Park and what makes these places so special.

Pinnacles and Yanchep National Park Day Trip Itinerary

Our day trip to the Pinnacles and Yanchep National Park was split into two. First, we drove from Perth up to Nambung National Park, where you’ll find the Pinnacles. Then, we drove south back towards Perth stopping at Yanchep National Park on the way.

The full day took us 11 hours including travel time, and we could have easily spent longer if we wanted.

8.30am – Drive from Perth to Nambung National Park

Driving from Perth took 2.5 hours to reach Nambung National Park, where you’ll find the Pinnacles.

The drive is pleasant enough if a bit boring at times. You need to be aware of how you cope on long drives when you embark on any road trip in Western Australia. We kept occupied with chatting and the occasional car game, but if you get bored easily maybe bring along a podcast or audiobook to enjoy!

Make sure you fill up your petrol before you go any further north than Yanchep. You’ll struggle to find petrol stations in more remote areas.

Along the way you’ll pass through a diverse range of landscapes. From the thick forests nearer Perth to the dry hostile landscapes along the Indian Ocean Drive. Keep an eye out for glimpses of the beautiful ocean to the west, and the occasional ginormous sand dune to the east!

the pinnacles desert car park

11am – Explore the Pinnacles

Once you arrive at Nambung National Park the signs will guide you through the park’s roads to reach the entrance. You’ll pay on arrival per vehicle. It costs $15 per vehicle (up to 12 passengers) to enter the national park. Hold on to your ticket as you can use it to enter Yanchep National Park later.

You’ll get a pamphlet and map and directed to the car park. Once you’re all set, it’s time to explore!

There are two main ways to see the Pinnacles in WA:

  1. Walk around the desert starting with a 1.2km boardwalk to reach the Pinnacles.
  2. Drive the marked 4km track through the desert with some stops to pull over and get out.

We ended up doing both!

We gathered our bearings by going for a brief walk from the car park along a loop track around part of the Pinnacles. Along the way we stopped for goofy photos, admired the scenery, and enjoyed views from the lookout.

The walking track is signposted along the way with an emu foot logo. We strayed off the track on a couple of occasions because the benefit of walking meant if something looked interesting we could go and investigate!

footpath sign post in the pinnacles desert

We also loved the walk because we could escape the crowds who tend to stay close to the car parks. There were times when we couldn’t see any other visitors around which made the experience much more magical.

The walk takes around 30 minutes in total, but we paused a few times and got distracted by local wildlife…

11.30am – Embrace the Wildlife

A particular highlight for us came about halfway through the walk. We’d crossed over a hillside and into the further part of the Pinnacles desert. We talked about the native wildlife we wanted to see in Australia and if we’d see any on this day trip. We’ve previously had some bad luck with missing out on seeing the local wildlife (looking at you, dolphins at Penguin Island) so I joked there’d be no way we’d see anything at the Pinnacles. I even said:

“If we see an emu today I would be SO happy.” 

Could you believe that within a minute or so I hear Kazimir exclaim:


Yes, our luck had changed and off in the distance he spotted a small mob of emus (yes, that is the correct collective noun). As they were headed in our general direction, we decided to see where they went and followed, keeping a safe distance of course.

It turned out there was one adult and 9 young emus. The Pinnacles is perfect for a family outing, right?!

They walk fairly slowly so we made a loop around to get in front of them, just as they came to a clearing between the Pinnacles and crossed the driving track. Here several other visitors had spotted them and pulled over to take a look.

emus walking across sand road

As we’d had our private show from the emus we chose to turn back and continue on our walk and leave them be. But wow, we were thrilled to have spotted them!

Emus are very common in Australia, but living in the city we don’t get to enjoy the wildlife much.  As Australia’s iconic bird I felt we must see some eventually – and we did! And to have them all to ourselves was especially magical.

In all honesty, if it hadn’t been for seeing the emus the walk would have been fairly dull. Although the Pinnacles are incredible, once you’ve seen some of them you’ve kinda seen them all. It’s not like there’s one BIG Pinnacle that is the, ahem, pinnacle of them all.

emus walking through the pinnacles desert

12.30pm – Visit the Museum & Shop

Returning back to the main entrance there are several facilities. There are toilets and a small gift shop which also sells some snacks, drinks, and ice creams.

If you’re visiting on a hot day it’s a good idea to bring lots of water with you, but an ice cream certainly went down a treat after our walk!

If you’re into souvenirs or need to pick up some supplies (suncream, hats etc), then here’s the place to do it.

The museum is a single room with a few displays of artefacts and information about the Pinnacles. There’s nothing that you couldn’t learn online or through research, but it was interesting to see a timeline of the area.

view over the pinnacles desert and sand dunes

1pm – Drive the Pinnacles Track

After all the excitement with the emus (a sentence I never thought I’d write), we decided to also do the drive. You see the exact same spots as on the walk plus a bit more, but from a different perspective.

You don’t have to drive a 4×4 to do this, either. We were in a compact car which handled the sand perfectly fine! If you are hiring a car, make sure to check you won’t be violating any terms of the contract, just in case.

The whole drive takes about 20 minutes without any stops along the 4km track. If you’re just driving and foregoing the walk, I’d highly recommend pulling over at the designated stops to hop out for a quick wander! You’ll have to drive really slowly too, 10km per hour maximum.

scenic drive in the pinnacles desert

1.30pm – Drive to Yanchep National Park

Once you’re satisfied with your visit to the Pinnacles, it’s time to drive south again to Yanchep.

The drive between the Pinnacles and Yanchep NP is around 1.5 hours, so the bulk of the return journey is out the way!

You’ll drive along the same route along the Indian Ocean Drive as you did on the northbound trip. It’s a simple and easy drive but do take care with your speed and watch out for any clusters of traffic at busy times at the weekend and holidays.

When you arrive at Yanchep National Park, simply show your ticket purchased earlier at Nambung NP and you’ll be given a map and directed to the car park.

view over lake in yanchep national park

3pm – Walk on the Koala Boardwalk

First on your list, head for the Koala boardwalk to spot some friendly koalas having a nap in the trees!

Koalas are not native to Western Australia but there they have a handful of them cared for in this enclosure. The 240m boardwalk is raised high enough that you can get a good look at the sleepy koalas, but not too high to give you wobbly legs.

If you visit at the right time, a ranger will be on hand to answer any questions you might have, and explain a bit more about the work done to protect koalas here.

koala sleeping in tree yanchep national park

3.30pm – Enjoy a Bite to Eat

There is a delightful cafe at Yanchep National Park. Chocolate Drops Tearooms offers a variety of snacks, hot meals, and most importantly – chocolate!

chocolate cookies in jars

They hand-make their own chocolate on site, and boy is there a wide range to choose from! You’ll truly be a kid in a sweet shop here.

The kitchen closes at 3pm, you can still buy basic snacks and choccies until 4.30pm at weekends and school holidays.

As there are so many picnic tables and BBQ facilities around the park, you could bring your own food to enjoy a picnic. You’ll be able to enjoy all the beauty of the park at your own comfort!

4pm – See the Kangaroos

As the daylight begins to get lower and more golden, the wild kangaroos come out to play!

Yanchep is home to an abundance of Western Grey kangaroos who happily come out of the shade to eat the grass and stretch their long legs before dusk.

If you stay for long enough you’ll see more and more appear seemingly out of nowhere. Once you see a couple they all appear!

It really never gets old seeing kangaroos in the wild, they are such an icon of Australia.

kangaroo stands upright in yanchep national park

5pm – Drive Back to Perth

When you’ve seen all the ‘roos you wanted, it’s time to drive back to Perth. The drive from Yanchep National Park to Perth is around 1 hour. Depending on the time of year you visit you might want to stop off at one of the beachside spots from Yanchep Lagoon down to City Beach to catch the gorgeous WA sunset over the ocean.

Tips for Visiting The Pinnacles & Yanchep National Park

Visiting the Pinnacles:

  • Go to the Pinnacles earlier in the day. The WA winds are strong in the afternoon, and by the time we left the park it was getting quite blustery. Plus, the afternoon was when we noticed the car park really fill up and more tour groups arriving. Before, we had plenty of space to ourselves and beat the larger crowds.
  • Bring a hat and sunglasses. There is limited shade around the Pinnacles, and it’s a desert so expect quite a dry heat. And you can also expect lots of flies… They love the moisture around your face so you’ll be batting them away!
  • Bring food and drinks. Although there is a shop, the options are limited and pretty unhealthy. Keep your energy up with your favourite, filling foods.
  • Embrace the walk. If we hadn’t taken the walking track around the desert we’d have missed the emu encounter. See these natural phenomenons from all angles by getting up close.

woman poses in the pinnacles desert

Visiting Yanchep National Park:

  • Don’t throw out your ticket from Nambung NP! As mentioned, the same ticket can be used to enter multiple parks in one day. This saves you $15!
  • If you plan to visit the tearooms make sure to arrive early enough before 3pm when the kitchen closes. Also be sure to book a reservation if you’re visiting with a larger group.
  • Don’t touch or feed the kangaroos. While they are so cute, they are still wild animals that deserve our respect by keeping a good distance.
  • Consider staying overnight! There are so many other activities to enjoy at Yanchep, so if you don’t have enough time in just one day to see everything you could camp or stay at the Yanchep Inn.

koala yawning in yanchep national park

Tours to Pinnacles & Yanchep National Park

There are plenty of websites out there that will offer tours to take you from Perth to the Pinnacles and Yanchep National Park. I’m sure these tours are great, but at £80+ for transport and park entry (and maybe lunch thrown in), it hardly seems worth it.

The main benefits to a tour would be:

  1. You won’t have to drive
  2. Live commentary might provide some interesting facts
  3. Takes the pressure off planning

HOWEVER, you could hire a car for that much, so I honestly can’t justify the cost. Plus half the fun of day trips in Australia is the drive itself, embrace it if you can!

view over the pinnacles desert and sea

About Nambung National Park

Nambung National Park is part of the Coral Coast of WA with the nearest town being Cervantes. As well as the Pinnacles desert there are also coastal dunes and 2 beaches to visit.

The park’s name possibly comes for a indigenous word meaning crooked or winding. It was used to describe the Nambung River which flows into the park.

The park is home to diverse mix of wildlife from kangaroos, dingos, red foxes, possums, as well as various birds and reptiles.

emus walking across sand in nambung national park

What are the Pinnacles?

WELL. Exactly how the Pinnacles were formed is up for debate. It’s generally agreed that they were formed up to 30,000 years ago made from the deposits of sea shells.

There are a couple of theories, which are very basically explained as:

  1. They are the result of extensive weathering over many years.
  2. They’re the preservation of tree casts.

(Take a look at a proper summary of the Pinnacles formation theories). 

Whatever they are, it creates an other-worldly vibe as you explore over 17,000 hectares of the yellow sand and strangely contorted pillars. There’s got to be something about them, as the Pinnacles are Western Australia’s most visited attraction!

the pinnacles in nambung national park

What else is there to do?

  • Bushwalks & beaches – Enjoy the rest of Nambung National Park at Kangaroo Point, Hangover Bay, and the Lake Thetis boardwalk.
  • Visit Cervantes – Use this coastal town as a base to explore the various activities of the Coral Coast.
  • Sand Boarding in Lancelin – If you want to extend your trip or enjoy a long day, you could detour to Lancelin and go sandboarding on the dunes from just $12.50!
  • Sea Lions at Jurien Bay – See the friendly locals with a boat tour! You might even see dolphins and whales at the right season.

About Yanchep National Park

Yanchep National Park has a very different atmosphere compared to Nambung. It’s unique limestone caves and coastal woodland surrounding a lake means there is something for everyone to enjoy.

The name Yanchep comes from “Yandjip” which is the local aboriginal name for the local reed found around the lake.

koala sleeping in tree

What is there to do at Yanchep National Park?

  • McNess House Visitor Centre – Book activities and find out more what’s on offer at the park in this historical building. You can also browse the gift shop for souvenirs!
  • Walking tracks – Recent bushfires meant we couldn’t enjoy any of the 9 walking tracks available at the park. I’ve been told that they are beautiful though! They range from short 500m all the way to 46km and can suit all interests that showcase the diverse landscapes of the area.
  • Stay overnight – Camp at Yanchep National Park in the Henry White Oval or book a room at Yanchep Inn. Prices range from as low as $80 for a  inn room during the week and are up to $355 for a deluxe lakeview room at the weekend. Onsite dining options are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serve an excellent variety of crowd-pleasing dishes with a couple of vegetarian options.
  • High ropes tree adventure – For the adventurous folks try the treetop adventure course! We did this with the same company in Dwellingup and LOVED it!! It’s brilliant for kids and adults, albeit an adrenaline rush at times. You’ll traverse the ropes, zip down flying foxes, and enjoy a unique view over the park.
  • Caves – You can explore some of the 400 caves found in the park with adventure caving for $200. Or, try a guided tour of the Crystal Cave to learn about this mysterious underground world for $16 (45 min tour).
  • Golf – Yes, Yanchep National Park even has a 9-hole golf course! For $11 per person this is a fun activity to relax on your day trip.
  • Aboriginal culture – Learn about the Noongar people who are indigenous to the area with a 45 minute session ($16 per person) at the McNess House Visitor Centre.

Fancy this day trip to the Pinnacles Desert and Yanchep National Park? Let me know if you spot any emus and kangaroos on your visit!


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1 Comment

  • Reply
    04/30/2020 at 6:15 pm

    Wonderful emu photos and your story with trip guide really makes me want to visit!

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