Western Australia is a massive place. I don't think you can really appreciate its size, until you've driven it. A lot of people visit Broome from Perth every year, whether its just to enjoy the spectacular sights of Broome, or to begin a huge 4WD adventure to Cape Leveque and the Gibb River Road.
Its 2241 kilometres from Perth to Broome (along the inland route). Google says it takes 23 hours and 25 minutes. The thing is though, this doesn't allow for fuel, toilet and food stops, as well as stopping to break the trip up! Realistically then, you are looking at a minimum of about 26 hours travel, and most people would take longer than that.
So, how long should you allow leave to get from Perth to Broome by car?
For me, I think it comes down to a number of variables. However, before I go into them, I will mention we drove it in two days. Perth to Newman, and then Newman to Broome. We’d done the Perth to Newman stretch once before in a day, as well as Perth to Coral Bay straight a couple of times, and figured we’d be fine .
Leaving at 3AM in the morning allows you to make a lot of progress before the sun comes up, and you miss all of the big mining equipment leaving from Perth. It also ensures you aren't driving in the dark after many hours of travel. At least the dark part of the drive is when you are first up, and wide awake.
However, looking back at the trip, I’m not sure I would do it again quite like that; 3 days would make it a lot more relaxed.
So, what should you consider?
The vehicle you are driving
The vehicle you are driving makes a huge difference. If you can stick it on cruise control and drive at 110km/h without having to lift a finger, you will get there a lot faster than someone in an old, slow 4WD. You will come across a number of road trains, that are up to 54 meters long. They do 100km/h. You can choose to sit behind them, or overtake.
However, overtaking isn’t possible in every vehicle. I know my old Hilux would have needed the nullabor straight to overtake one of these. It’s a breeze in our 80 series, and it is with any car that can comfortably get moving quicker from 100km/h.
Whether you have kids or not
If you have children, you have to stop a lot more regularly. This is obviously age dependant, but with adults in the car you can get away with only stopping every 3 – 6 hours. The less you stop, the faster you travel. It’s a balance between comfort and speed, whilst doing it safely. Try driving more than a couple of hours with young kids in the back of your 4WD, and you will be driven insane (as will they)!
How much time you have available
For those who are permanent/semi permanently on the road, there’s less need to rush. Take your time; find some magic camp sites on your way up and enjoy them. We were limited to 5 weeks in the Kimberley, so allowed 2 days to get up to Broome, and about 4 to get back. It’s such a long drive up there, that you want to make the absolute most of any time that you have.
Your history when driving long distances
If you’ve never driven north of Cervantes, there's a good chance that doing such a long drive over a short period of time is a bad idea. I can safely say that you never really appreciate the size of Western Australia until you have watched the kilometers tick by when driving it! Unless you’ve done over 700km in a day, I would not be recommending doing the trip from Perth to Broome in under 3 days.
Who you are going with
The actual driving is easy. Its not always fun, but its simple and its easy. I don’t have a problem concentrating, but find it extremely boring and slow if you aren’t doing something. The best way to pass the time is to talk to someone, and the more people you have along, the quicker the time goes.
When you go with more than one vehicle, you have more people to talk to, and you are paying attention to the road conditions to pass on to the other vehicle. Two vehicles are especially useful when it comes to overtaking road trains. If you have a vehicle in front, they can radio back and give the all clear, making for a much safer practice.
How much you want to spend on fuel
In any vehicle, the difference between fuel consumption at 100 and 110km/h is considerable. In our 80 series, the EGT’s go from around 260 – 290 post turbo to 330 – 380 at the above speeds. This in turn translates to a considerable difference in fuel consumption; roughly 1 – 2 litres per hundred kilometers. If this doesn’t matter to you, then by all means sit on 110km/h. The more modern your vehicle, the less fuel it will use anyway.
We made the decision to sit on 110km/h where possible to reduce the time to travel. This was done to improve our safety, ensuring we were on the road for as little time as possible. I decided that the extra cost of fuel was well and truly worth it, after being on the road for over 15 hours!
If you know you have to set up a tent and cook dinner before you hit the sack, your travel time should reflect this. We were originally going to camp for the night at a Caravan Park, but ended up with a little motel room in Newman. The best decision we made the whole trip; we were absolutely knackered by the time we arrived.
Above all, make sure that your method of driving from Perth to Broome is safe. Don't drive tired. Don't push yourself. Stick to the speed limit, and respect others on the road. Better to spend a bit longer getting there, than to not arrive at all.
How long then?
Well, consider the above points, and make your decision. I know some people do it in one day – two drivers who rotate and sleep, very rarely stopping. Not something I’d recommend, or want to be a part of. Two days is doable, but not comfortable. 3 days would be much nicer, and longer if you have time.
Have you driven from Perth to Broome? How many days do you recommend?