Our trip to Western Australia really started along Australia’s Coral Coast, and what a way to start. This amazing part of our country spans from Cervantes up to Exmouth, 1100kms of pure bliss showcasing a mixture of turquoise waters and rugged landscape. From the Pinnacles Desert in Cervantes to a swim with whale sharks in Exmouth and everything in between, a solid two weeks spent here exploring could have easily turned into three. Below I’ve compiled a list of must-see, do, and places to stay on your trip along this amazing part of Western Australia. Let’s start from the south and work our way up north.
Namburg National Park
Home of the Pinnacles! I can see why this is one of Western Australia’s most visited natural attractions. One minute you are driving along the coast with nothing but ocean to your left and bitumen in front of you, next minute you are surrounded by these natural limestone formations that are 25,000 – 30,000 years old… what the? Rather than the typical white sand you see, the shore is the colour of the desert – it has this beautiful mustard yellow colouring that just makes it so much more special. The trail around the spires allows you to access it by car, with dedicated stops along the way for you to get out amongst them and experience how cool they are.
Continuing on the Indian Ocean Drive, the next stop was Jurien Bay, and what I like to call the home of the ‘ocean doggo’s’, also known as sea lions. These playful pups will swim right up to you and are super friendly – hot tip, make sure your GoPro is charged before you get here (mine was not). You will want not only the memory but the photos and videos to share with family and friends – the experience is surreal. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and a much-needed coffee at Meraki (highly recommended by a coffee fanatic).
If, for any reason, you do like to wander off the beaten track, and in our case, we do quite a bit as we don’t tow, Stockyard Gully National Park is a good one to check out. North of Jurien Bay is a limestone cave that was once used by stockmen as a holding for cattle when driving from Perth to Geraldton. The cave spans 300 metres with a sandy floor and is pitch black (take a torch). Scared of the dark or have a slight case of claustrophobia like me? It looks great from the entry as well.
Geraldton To Gregory
Heading north out of Geraldton is Gregory, home to Hutt Lagoon – another one of Australia’s pink lakes. The extremely high level of salinity causes the lake to throw all different hues of pink. The best time to capture the varieties of colour is on a clear day at sunset or mid-morning. If you have one (definitely not necessary), a drone will definitely come in handy. You will be able to capture where two bodies of different coloured pink water meet. Regardless, drone or no drone, it is still one to tick off the list. On the way in, stop at the Lyndon heritage site to see some old ruins of a once was town.
Kalbarri National Park
The flow of the Murchison River for over 400 million years has created some of the most spectacular sites for your next stop at Kalbarri National Park. One of Australia’s iconic natural attractions ‘Natures Window’, which frames the view of the Murchison River, the Kalbarri Skywalk, and the Z Bend walking trail.
There’s so much to see and do here! Driving into this World Heritage site, you will see the Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool. These guys are the oldest and largest living fossils on earth, which definitely makes them worthy of a visit. A little further up, stop at Shell Beach where only billions of tiny little shells and no sand span across the shore.
Up past the cute coastal town of Denham are two of my favourite places in Shark Bay – Monkey Mia and Francois Peron National Park. It pays to be an early riser for Monkey Mia! The resident dolphins who have been visiting for the past 50 years come in to get fed three times a day anywhere between 7:45 am and 12 noon. To be only metres away from these amazing creatures in their habitats is an experience within itself!
Francois Peron National Park
This is where the red desert sand and cliffs meet white sandy beaches and turquoise waters! A 4WDing adventure through this beauty will not disappoint, visit Big and Little Lagoon, Herald Bight, Skipjack Point, and Cape Peron. We stayed at Bottle Bay, one of the bigger campsites in the park which boasts beautiful sunsets, great fishing, and long walks along the beach.
A visit to Shark Bay cannot go without a trip to Steep Point, the most western point of mainland Australia.
North of Carnarvon be sure to stop in at the Quobba blowholes. It’s best to get there on a high tide so you can see them in action. On the way in, make sure to snap a pic at the ‘King Waves Kill’ sign.
Coral Bay & Ningaloo Reef
I know it’s not nice to play favourites but… Red Bluff campground along the Gnaraloo Bay would have to be a great way to start my favourite part of the Coral Coast – Ningaloo Marine Park.
Coral Bay took my breath away, as we made our way into this beautiful little town we were overwhelmed by the white sand and crystal-clear water. Having snorkelled many places before, Ningaloo Reef went straight to the top of my list. At this point, I didn’t think it could get any better until I got to Cape Range. Getting to this national park, I would highly suggest driving the track that runs from Coral Bay into the park along the water if you have a capable 4WD. There are plenty of sand dunes to have fun on and sometimes nice (in my opinion) to get off the bitumen.
Cape Range National Park
If you don’t get to visit this epic spot for whatever reason, you have to make sure it is a non-negotiable stop on the next trip. This is where turquoise waters meet rugged landscapes! The three top places to snorkel in the park are Lakeside, Turquoise Bay, and Oyster Stacks (my absolute favourite). Staying three nights within the park only added to our amazing experience and we were able to snorkel each spot at least twice. Our sunrises and sunsets consisted of hiking Charles Knife Canyon, Yardie Creek Gorge, and Shothole Canyon – the best time to visit these places as the sun highlights the colours of the rugged stone and dirt.
To finish off Australia’s Coral Coast, treating yourself to a swim with one of the big three in Exmouth is a must. Tours from Exmouth to swim with whale sharks, humpback whales, and manta rays are run daily and book out super quickly. It’s worthwhile booking in advance!
Australia’s Coral Coast will not leave you disappointed in the slightest. Even if you only get to do half or even a quarter of it, there is something to see. It will not be the last time I visit this amazing part of Western Australia!