Spread the love
The name the Coral Coast would probably be more synonymous with the coastline of the Coral Sea on the north east side of Australia. However, it is in fact the name for the coastal region along Western Australia’s mid western coastline between Cervantes and Exmouth. It was named thus because of its unusual coral formations so far south. As we discovered on our Australian caravan trip, there were bounteous treasures of must see places on the Coral Coast.
On our journey, approximately 200 Kms north of Perth we encountered the incredible Coral Coast. There’s more than 1100 Kms of white beaches, outback desert, easy-going coastal towns and the world’s largest fringing coral reef: the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. It’s virtually an untouched and pristine paradise brimming with marine life like giant Rock Lobsters, playful Dolphins, reef fish, Sea Lions and then there’s the amazing Whale Sharks.
Our journey began in the town of Cervantes, the launching point for the Pinnacles Desert, but also has the mysterious Lake Thetis that is one of only a few places in the world with living marine Stromatolites, or ‘living fossils’. The lake’s Stromatolites that look like rocky lumps have been dated to about 3,370 years old. Quiet fascinating.
But even more fascinating is the Pinnacles Desert located in the Nambung National Park, where thousands of limestone pillars rise from the shifting yellow sands. We toured through The Pinnacles on foot but you can also drive through the eerie landscape on 4 Kms of tracks. There are several viewing platforms located throughout the park with great views over the park. An experience that cannot be missed.
After exploring Cervantes and the Pinnacles Desert we headed a mere 28 Kms north to Jurien Bay where we decided to spend a few nights. Jurien Bay is home to a large population of sea lions with breeding sites on the nearby Buller Island and North Fisherman Islands, within the Jurien Bay Marine Park.
If you’re feeling inclined you can get on a local charter boat to some of the chain of small islands just offshore for some fishing or diving and to see these extraordinary wild animals in the waters in and around Jurien Bay. Otherwise my husband ventured into the waters right off the beach into the manmade reef around the old jetty in town which was purpose built for great snorkelling .
On sunset we sauntered out onto the large jetty for a fish, to catch a glimpse of pods of dolphins that swim into the shallow waters of the bay, and to watch the sun dip into the Indian Ocean.
On day two of our stay we drove just north of Jurien Bay to the Sandy Cape Recreation Park which is another superb place to fish, swim or snorkel. We found a fantastic campground right on the beachfront with a great lookout on top of a towering sand dune with panoramic views of the pristine coastline. For the kids or young at heart, I dare you to try sand tobogganing down some of the steep sand dunes that surround Sandy Cape.
The twin towns of Dongara and Point Denison, being separated by the Irwin River, are a brilliant blend of old and new with lovely coastal and rural landscapes. We drove the distance of 132 Kms from Jurien Bay to Dongara’s beautiful main street, lined with Moreton Bay Figs. We discovered the town was charming with a lovely ambience, together with many historical buildings dotted throughout the town.
The best way to discover the historic buildings of the twin towns is to purchase a brochure from the Visitor’s Centre and do the 4.6 Km walk to 28 heritage buildings, including the Royal Flour Mill, Priory Lodge, the Old Police Station and Russ Cottage.
After a frothy cappuccino in town we set off on one of the several trails that you can take through both towns including the Calico Trail, Dongara Trail, Irwin Heritage River Trail, Fisherman’s Trail and the Coastal Trail. We did the Lookouts Trail which started at the Fisherman’s Lookout at Port Denison, along the Marina foreshore , to the crayfish factory, cross the road to Grannies Beach and eventually the estuary of the Irwin River, where there is another lookout.
You can fish, swim or surf at any of the lovely beaches or in the Irwin River. There are many beautiful parklands with good amenities that fringe both the beaches and the river for a family picnic or stroll.
After spending the morning poking around in Dongara we drove to Geraldton, the regional hub of Western Australia’s Coral Coast, just 65 Kms away. What we found was possibly the perfect holiday destination with magical beaches, warm weather, history and heritage, great shopping and a colourful arts and culture scene.
Rich in maritime history, the town has had many shipwrecks over the past 400 years or so. There is the infamous Dutch built Batavia shipwreck of 1629 and the more recent wreck of the HMAS Sydney II in 1941. There is a thriving Rock Lobster industry, a huge agricultural region, a pearling industry, large port and an archipelago of 122 coral islands located 70 Kms offshore, the magnificent Abroholos Islands.
Some of the best experiences in and around Geraldton, and it will take you several days to see them all, are:
What I loved about Geraldton was her maritime history and the gorgeous green rolling table-top hills of pastoral lands that surround the town. We stayed at the campground at nearby Coronation Beach and would highly recommend this to fellow caravanners or campers.
Renowned for ruggedly stunning coastal cliffs and rust red river gorges, Kalbarri offers a wealth of activities and attractions. Kalbarri is a picturesque seaside town and was the next stop on our trip up the Coral Coast.
The town itself is located on the estuary of the Murchison River, which is an ideal playground for all types of water sports such as swimming, kayaking, fishing or snorkelling in the aqua blue waters. There are several beaches either on the foreshore of the river or south of the town where you can swim, snorkel, surf or just enjoy the scenery.
16 Kms south of Kalbarri is the beginning of the most spectacular coastal cliffs that change from ochre to a deep rust red colour contrasting against the deep blue aquamarine of the pounding ocean. We set off on hired bicycles to these sites that are well sign-posted and offer walking trails and pathways to viewing platforms and lookouts over the coastline.
There is Natural Bridge, Island Rock, Shellhouse Grandstand, Eagle Gorge, Mushroom Rock and Rainbow Valley Walk Trail, Red Bluff and Pot Alley. All spectacular in their own right and worth the effort of the short drive and cycle/walk into.
The spectacular scenery of Kalbarri National Park is the result of millions of years of geological formation. As the Murchison River carves it way to the sea, magnificent red and white banded gorges have been cut by the flow. These gorges meander 80 Km’s through the 186,000 hectare park and are an absolute must see during your stay in Kalbarri.
Starting and ending at Nature’s Window, we took the 8 Km loop track which takes you through moderate to challenging terrain and spectacular scenery. The trail takes you along the rim of the gorge and deep down into the river gorge onto the sandy white banks of the river fringed with lovely red river gums.
Geographically located on the most western point of Western Australia, Shark Bay comprises a world of pristine bays, lagoons, islands and the largest natural harbour between Perth and Broome. It is protected by two spectacular peninsulas including Dirk Hartog Island to the west and Francois Peron Peninsula to the east, and covers a vast area of 25,000 square kilometres.
Shark Bay is most famous for its ‘World Heritage’ listing and unique ecological systems of Stromatolites, sea grasses, marine life and rare endangered species including the Dugong. It is also renowned for its friendly visiting Dolphins at Monkey Mia.
We arrived here on a dull day and headed to the town of Denham, stopping quickly at Eagle Bluff to take in the stunning views from the elevated boardwalk and lookout platform. Because it wasn’t much of a day weather-wise we decided to check out the Shark Bay Marine Park at the Ocean Park Aquarium, just 10 Km outside of Denham. The knowledgable tour guides took us through the aquarium, where you can get up close and feed all kinds of marine life, including the large Lemon Sharks.
Next we drove out to Monkey Mia to see if we could partake in the Dolphin feeding and educational program on the beach. Alas, we were too late, but took a stroll along the beach where we managed to spot several Dolphins swimming in the shallow bay.
Although we never ventured further west, the Francois Peron National Park can be accessed by 4WD vehicles only and covers an area of 52,500 hectares of the northern most tip of the peninsula. We heard that it’s well worth the trip to see some of the phenomenal sights such as unusual wildlife and dramatic landscapes.
We decided to head east towards Hamelin Station, our camping spot for the night, to see Hamelin Pool and the Stromatolites – the living sample of the earliest record of life on earth. A viewing platform provides excellent access to the site of Hamelin Pool’s Stromatolites where you can learn more about these living microbes that date back as far as 3,500 million years ago.
There are plenty of wonderful places located at Shark Bay and you could easily spend more time here to engage in all there is to see and do in this natural paradise.
Carnarvon is the hub of the fertile river delta of the Gascoyne River, where a vast array of fruit and vegetables are grown. It is much like an oasis in the middle of the desert as it is situated at the only point of the Australian coastline where the central desert reaches out to the sea.
The town’s waterfront, known as the Fascine, is fringed with a pretty palm lined walkway and features the Carnarvon’s one mile jetty, which is one of the longest jetties in WA. Whilst here take in the awe and magnitude of the OTC Dish that is a huge communication satellite dish constructed in 1966 and dominates the Carnarvon skyline.
We arrived here in the morning and had a quick look around and stocked up on provisions as we were heading further north to a place called Quobba. Driving 75 Km north of Carnarvon is Quobba, a calm coral filled lagoon abundant with fish and shells. It is the southern gateway to the Ningaloo World Heritage area and as such offers amazing snorkelling to view a diverse array of colourful sea life such as tropical fish, corals and sea turtles.
There is a great camping area located amongst the coastal sand dunes overlooking the beach which is where we stayed for four wonderful days. Nearby is the natural phenomenon of the Blowholes which is caused by powerful ocean swells forcing water through sea caves and up out of narrow holes in the rocks causing jets of water to erupt up into the air.
During our stay at Quobba we did a 60 Km day trip to a remote piece of paradise called Red Bluff along some pretty rough dirts roads. This hideaway is an Eco Retreat like no other. There are luxurious Eco-Safari tents or Seascape Bungalows that have panoramic views over the white sandy beach and turquoise waters. There are also campsites available or rustic palm fronded humpies for the more adventurous. So remote and so blissfully magical, that I couldn’t think of a better place to revitalize your mind and body.
Situated just north of the Tropic of Capricorn is one of the most beautiful holiday destinations in WA, Coral Bay. Only a small town with two big caravan parks, a resort and a few shops, it is perfect for a total chill out and relaxing break.
Here the Ningaloo Reef forms a natural lagoon which is horseshoe shaped and is ideal for all forms of water sport. It extends for 80 Kms, 3 to 7 kms offshore, starting about 300 metres off the beach. The water is crystal clear and ideal for swimming and snorkelling.
There are many water activities that can be undertaken at Coral Bay including, glass bottom boat coral viewing, snorkel tours, swim with the whale sharks cruises, fishing charters, manta ray interaction tours, kayak hire, stand up paddle board hire and swimming in the safe calm waters of the bay.
If you have a 4WD it’s worthwhile taking the dirt track 10 km from Coral Bay which allows further coastal access and exploration. There are some beautiful pristine remote beaches such as Oyster Bridge and The Lagoon that are well worth the drive.
Known as the gateway to the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area that encompasses the Ningaloo Marine Park and the Cape Range National Park, Exmouth has an interesting history. It was barely a township until 1967 when the Naval Communication Station was built for the US to spy on their rivals during the Cold War. The base that still remains today, has been renamed Harold E Holt Australian Naval Communication Station.
We spent 10 days here and discovered that the Exmouth coastline offers an endless array of stunning unspoilt, deserted beaches that cater to everyone’s needs. If you drive out along the Mildura Wreck Road into Lighthouse Bay there are a variety of beaches suitable for fishing, surfing or swimming. At the end of the road you will discover the SS Mildura, a wrecked cattle ship that came to grief on the reef in 1907.
The Jurabi Coastal Reserve also provides a number of beaches and marine habitats, from low scrubland down to pristine white beaches, rocky shorelines and scattered reefs. During the Summer months the Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill Turtles nest on mainland beaches between Hunters and Mauritius beaches. These rookeries are extremely important for the survival of these three threatened species of turtles.
40 Km from Exmouth are spectacular rugged limestone ranges, breathtaking deep canyons and 50 Km of pristine beaches, known as the Cape Range National Park. Wildlife is abundant with a variety of birds, Emus, Euros and Red Kangaroos. There are also over 630 species of flowering plants that provide an amazing palette of colours in late Winter when the wildflowers bloom.
There are several coastal camping areas within the park that are ideal as a base to explore the 50,581 hectares of the Cape Range Peninsula. Possibly the highlight of the National Park are the beaches such as Turquoise Bay, which really does have the most beautiful turquoise water, and Sandy Bay that has shallow clear waters ideal for swimming. You can also snorkel at Turquoise Bay – where there is a particularly good drift snorkel; Oyster Stacks and Lakeside.
Probably the biggest drawcard to Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef is the opportunity to snorkel with the gentle giants of the ocean, the Whale Sharks. Every year from April through to July, following the mass spawning of coral, the Whale Sharks congregate in the Ningaloo Marine Park to feed on zooplankton. There are many cruise boat operators in both Coral Bay and Exmouth that take Whale Shark cruises on a daily basis during the season.
It was an awesome experience to swim alongside these majestic creatures and view a myriad of other marine life such as Turtles, Dolphins, Minky Whales, Sharks, Manta Rays and Coral Reef Fish.
The Coral Coast of Western Australia is a wonderland of nature’s bounties and I would highly recommend taking your time exploring every little nook and cranny of this spectacular coastline. My advice is to see this paradise before it gets overrun by tourism. It really is one of Australia’s best kept holiday destination secrets!
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
Comments are closed.