"It’s Summertime and the living is easy; fish are jumping, and the sun is high.”
Well, these aren’t the exact words to that once loved song, but that’s exactly what it’s like on the Coral Coast. Stretching 1,100km south from Exmouth to Cervantes, you’ll discover some of the best holiday touring experiences Australia has to offer. Let’s dive right in.
The coastal town of Exmouth offers plenty for everyone. It’s located far enough south to miss the wet season during summer and is very popular with Western Australians over the hotter months. There’s plenty to see and do, even though the Whale Shark season is over, Humpback Whales and Manta Rays are known to still be hanging around in November.
Cape Range National Park is so diverse, with ancient gorges, a ripper 4WD track, stunning beaches and fantastic snorkelling opportunities. The Badjirrajirra walk is a 6.8km class 4 loop traversing the top of Cape Range and offers great views of Shothole Canyon and Exmouth Gulf. The Thomas Carter lookout is not far from the car park for those who prefer shorter walks.
The drive to Shothole Canyon leads through the gorge floor and along dry creek beds, with amazingly colourful rock layers before concluding at a picture-perfect picnic spot with a short walking trail.
Sandy Bay Trail is a 43km 4WD track that leads across the range just north of Learmonth and ends at Yardie Creek Road. The track offers a variety of surfaces from washed-out creek beds and ancient limestone reefs to desert sand country. Allow at least four hours, drop your tyre pressures and leave the camper trailer at the caravan park.
Jump on a tour with Yardie Creek Boat Tours and be entertained by Peter ‘Boxy’ Maier. The one-hour cruise takes you up to the rock bar that naturally separates the freshwater from the saltwater. Keep an eye out for the rare black-footed rock wallabies, ospreys and egrets that call the gorge home. After the cruise, why not take the opportunity to drive across the infamous Yardie Creek? It’s likely to be a dry crossing but still something to tick off the bucket list.
The Ningaloo Reef offers some of the best snorkelling in the world. The drift at the stunningly beautiful Turquoise Bay is an absolute blast and if your kids haven’t snorkelled before, a pool noodle will help them float the drift with you. You’ll see loads of fish and even the occasional turtle.
A couple of other great spots are the Oyster Stacks, best visited at high tide to avoid damaging the coral, and Lakeside which has several coral bommies where turtles and the occasional reef shark like to hang out.
Cape Range National Park has numerous campsites that need to be prebooked and there are several caravan parks in and around Exmouth.
More Info: ningaloocentre.com.au/visitor-centre
The small tropical resort township of Coral Bay is located 152km south of Exmouth. With pristine beaches and easy access to the Ningaloo Reef, this is a popular holiday town all year round. There are some 4WD tracks along stunning white sand dunes that lead to fantastic fishing spots or join a game fishing charter that departs from the small port daily.
Bills Bay fronts the township and is part of the Ningaloo Marine Park Sanctuary Zone, meaning it is teaming with schools of reef fish, easily spotted when snorkelling in the shallows. The kids will love feeding the resident spangled emperor snapper, parrotfish, mullet and more which takes place daily at the Town Beach.
There are two caravan parks in Coral Bay or beachside camping at Bruboodjoo Point/9 Mile Camp, 25km north via an unsealed track.
More Info: ningaloocoralbay.com
The World Heritage-listed Shark Bay is one of the most spectacular regions in Western Australia. With its white sandy beaches and turquoise water, burnt orange sand dunes and amazing wildlife, you’ll be blown away.
Hamelin Pools is where ancient stromatolites enjoy the hypersaline waters that have helped keep the tiny microbes alive for over 3.5 billion years. The old telegraph station, constructed in 1884 is nearby, and part of the Hamelin Pool Caravan Park. A little further on towards Denham is Shell Beach, this Insta-favourite is covered in tiny cockle shells washed up over millions of years and is ten metres deep in places.
Denham is the only township on Shark Bay and was once a pearling port, and the Old Pearler restaurant is constructed with shell blocks, quarried from Shell Beach. You’ll find all the main facilities; fuel, supermarket, bottleshop and three caravan parks in Denham and from here it’s only 25km to another special spot, Monkey Mia.
The RAC Monkey Mia Resort is the perfect place to set up for a couple of days and enjoy the stunning beach and resort facilities such as the tennis courts, swimming pools, bars and restaurants. From here it’s a short walk up the beach to experience the daily interactions with wild bottlenose dolphins and you may even become one of the lucky ones picked to help feed them.
Francois Peron National Park is where the desert reaches the sea. Once part of an expansive sheep farm, there are some great historical displays and an artesian pool where you can kick back and relax in the naturally hot water.
Within the park itself, several designated camping areas suit a variety of setups. It’s asked that you reduce your tyre pressures to 20psi and engage 4WD within the park, there are tyre inflators to re-inflate on exit.
While in the park, why not try paddleboarding at Big Lagoon or cast a line in the hunt for whiting, snapper, and bream at Cattle Well, South Gregories, Bottle Bay?
The views from Cape Peron and Skipjack Point are spectacular as the red cliffs reach the white sands and turquoise waters of Shark Bay. Also, keep an eye out for sharks feeding in the shallows. There are remnants of an old cannery at Herald Bay, and the sand is soft here so recovery tracks may come in handy.
More Info: sharkbay.org/place/monkey-mia and www.waholidayguide.com.au/explore-wa/coral-coast-western-australia/coral-coast-region-guide/denham-western-australia
DIRK HARTOG/STEEP POINT
Getting to Steep Point is part of the challenge and definitely 4x4 only. Following the track up the western side of the point takes you along the Zuytdorp Cliffs that tower above the raging Indian Ocean up to 170 metres below. These cliffs are the graveyard of many early European sailing ships, some filled with gold and some never found.
Having beach camped for a few nights, jump on the pre-booked punt that takes you across to the most spectacular place in the world, Dirk Hartog Island. The scenery here is stunning with rugged cliffs, shifting dunes of white sand, secluded beaches and reintroduced local wildlife. Dirk Hartog landed at Inscription Point in 1616 and there is now a project running to return the island to how it was when Dirk arrived.
There are several designated camping areas within the National Park, and you’ll need to be self-reliant, including water and fuel. A better option is to book some space at the Homestead, which includes unpowered sites with access to a camper’s kitchen and ablutions, or the self-contained Ocean Villa or the Eco Lodge, a rustic luxury retreat.
More Info: dirkhartogisland.com
The coastline at Kalbarri is reminiscent of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, with cliff faces weathered by crashing waves, roaring winds and soaking rains. The lookouts at Island Rock and Natural Bridge offers great views of the cliffs as well as being the perfect places to spot whales and dolphins.
The kids will love feeding the pelicans on the riverfront opposite the Murchison River Caravan Park, one of four caravan parks in Kalbarri. The town is renowned for its seafood and you can enhance the experience by joining a fishing charter or a lobster pot pulling tour, then take it to one of the restaurants and have the chef prepare your catch for you.
The Kalbarri National Park is one of the most impressive in WA, with its gorges carved by the Murchison River. Natures Window is a natural rock formation, weathered over thousands of years and now provides a different way to view the Murchison. The new skywalk is a major attraction as it offers a different perspective by stretching out over the cliff top, providing stunning views of the river and cliffs below.
More Info: kalbarri.org.au
Geraldton is where you will find the world’s largest ‘Nemo’ hatchery — Clown Fish is their real name. It is also home to the sobering HMAS Sydney II Memorial, that pays homage to the 645 Australian sailors who lost their lives battling the German HSK Kormoran during the Second World War.
Just off the coast are the Abrolhos Islands, a great place for bird watching and whale, dolphin, and sea lion spotting, but also synonymous with the human suffering that befell members of the Batavia mutiny in the 1600s.
It’s not all about tragedies at sea though, with the unusual sight of trees growing at 90-degree angles in nearby Greenough, kite surfing all on the beaches and the towns chic café culture adding to the towns je ne sais quoi. There are several caravan parks close by and a couple of free sites for self-contained hybrids. A little further north is a couple of great camping options at Coronation Beach Campground and Goodie’s Eco Camp.
More Info: isitgeraldton.com.au
JURIEN BAY, CERVANTES & DONGARA
The seaside town of Cervantes is about two hours north of Perth, and best known for the golden limestone pinnacles in Nambung National Park. After wandering around these weird and wonderfully shaped spires, check out the Stromatolites at Lake Thetis and if fresh crayfish and seafood is something you love, the Lobster Shack is the place to go.
The jetty at Jurien Bay is the perfect spot to cast a line on the hunt for snapper, mulloway and even Spanish mackerel during summer. The Jurien Bay Marine Park is a snorkelling paradise, with corals, sponges, colourful reef fish and the playful sea lions that call this place home.
Just north of Jurien Bay is Sandy Cape, where you’ll find some great campsites. Payment for camping is via an honesty box and sites are on a first come first serve basis. It can get busy during peak times. If you want to have a crack at some sandboarding, Sandy Cape and Dongara has plenty of white sand dunes to conquer. Dongara is also home to The Big Lobster so don’t forget your Insta shot.
More Info: visitturquoisecoast.com.au/camping
Region: Coral Coast, Western Australia
Best time of year to visit: Summer is perfect — it can be a little warmer, but that’s what an Aussie summer is all about.
What to take: Plenty of sunscreen and water, a big hat and your sense of adventure.
Accommodation/Camping Options: There are enough options to keep everyone happy but booking well in advance will help if you want the best spots.
The DPAW site is where to go to book campsites at parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park-stay
Contacts and Information: The best place to start is at australiascoralcoast.com where you’ll find everything you need.
The west coast is always busy when it comes to travel, even in summer, making it sometimes difficult to find camping or accommodation sites. Another option is farm stays, with many properties happy to open their gates for bush camping or accommodation varying in style. Here are a few recommended stations:
Warroora (Warra)Station: warroora.com
Bullara Station: bullarastation.com.au
Quobba Station: quobba.com.au
Gnaraloo Station: gnaraloo.com
Tamala Station: tamalastation.com.au