The Coral Coast stretches for 1,100km from Cervantes to Exmouth. If you love wide open spaces, beautiful beaches and marine life, you’ll love it. With a Mediterranean climate in the south and a subtropical climate in the north, this west coast region enjoys pleasant temperatures all year round. Kilometres of white sandy beaches, the coral reef just a few metres from the edge of the beach, impressive gorges and canyons are waiting for you.
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Cervantes and the Pinnacles
This must-see site marks the entrance to the Coral Coast (245km north of Perth). The small town of Cervantes is best known for Nambung National Park and its Pinnacles Desert. This vast desert features a multitude of rock formations carved by nature. These limestone rocks, up to 5 metres high and 2 metres wide, are believed to have appeared about 30,000 years ago.
Heading north, Jurien Bay is an ideal stop to enjoy the coastline and possibly meet some sea lions.
As you approach the city, you will be surprised by the trees that are completely bent towards the ground. This natural phenomenon is linked to the south wind. Today, these trunks have become representative of the region. Geraldton is the administrative capital of this part of the coast with a population of about 39,000. Situated on the ocean, the town offers a number of water sports and cultural activities:
Twenty minutes south of Geraldton, the Central Greenough Historic Settlement, traces the settlement of the 19th century pioneers ($10/person – open 9am to 3pm).
The HMAS Sydney II Memorial, a silver dome commemorating Australia’s World War II sailors, offers beautiful views over the harbour (free tour daily at 10.30am).
The Geraldton Regional Art Gallery also has a fine collection of permanent art, and occasionally features exhibitions by committed artists (free – open 10am-4pm).
– Foreshore Backpackers – From $42 for a dorm bed – At Marine Terrace.
at the junction of Durlacher street and Marine Terrace
– Camel bar, live bands and DJ on 3 nights a week.
– Up Nightclub on 60 Fitzgerald St.
– Vibe Nightclub on 38-42 Fitzgerald Street.
Kalbarri National Park
The town of Kalbarri lies 165km north of Geraldton. With a beautiful white sandy beach in the centre, it is best known for its national park.
Kalbarri National Park is meandered by the Murchison River, which carved out the rock millions of years ago to form impressive gorges, bordered by breathtaking scenery. After 25km of unpaved road, you will reach the viewpoints overlooking the gorge. The most scenic of these is “The Loop”, where the rock forms a natural window overlooking the landscape.
From Red Bluff to 10km south of the town, there are numerous lookouts from where you see stunning cliffs formed by the ocean. It is recommended to allow at least one day to visit the park and its surroundings.
Discovered in 1699 by an English navigator, he named the bay “Shark Bay” for its abundant shark population. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1991, the bay is now renowned for its interaction with the Monkey Mia dolphins. Leaving the North West Coastal Highway, a 130km drive takes you through some amazing natural sites.
Hamelin Pool (stromatolites)
This site is one of only two in the world where marine stromatolites can be seen. These living fossils are the oldest organisms on the planet. They are composed of bacteria and algae and grow extremely slowly (0.3 mm per year).
This incredible beach is simply devoid of sand! It is made of tiny shells, all from a single animal species. These billions of shells form a layer 10 metres deep and 120 km long.
This is a superb viewpoint. Set atop a cliff, watch for many marine visitors, such as sharks, dugongs, rays and sea turtles!
The small town of Denham is the commercial centre of Shark Bay. It has many accommodation and restaurant facilities. It also has one of the only petrol stations in the bay and a Visitor Centre where you can get information on nearby trips and camp spots.
Approximately 5km from Denham, Little Lagoon is the perfect place to take a lunch break with self-service BBQs while enjoying a beautiful beach.
François Peron National Park
Covering the northern part of the peninsula, this park is only accessible by 4×4. A lot of wildlife can be seen here, especially from the cliffs of Cape Peron ($15/vehicle).
World-famous for its dolphins, the Monkey Mia Reserve is one of the few places where you can get close to dolphins in their natural environment ($12 per person / Holiday Pass not valid). Every morning from 8am, staff members welcome visitors ready to participate in feeding these adorable marine mammals. The reserve is also a starting point for many tours (camel rides, catamaran cruises etc.).
You can also visit the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort. This is the only place where you can stay overnight in town.
You can also find ocean view villas, hostel dormitories and a campsite. Dormitory rooms cost $30 a night, tent sites $16 and powered van sites $45.
Located a few kilometers from the Tropic of Capricorn, the town enjoys a pleasant subtropical climate all year long (on average 26 °C). Carnarvon is a real oasis where many fruits and vegetables grow. Best known for its banana plantations, the town is regularly stormed by backpackers looking for a job. Most of these plantations are along the Gascoyne River. In peak season, you often see signs at farm gates saying “Sorry No Job”. With only one pub in town, there is not much happening at night.
The closest beach is Pelican Point, 5km from the town center. If you want some beach time, we recommend taking the Blowholes Road, which leads to a few beautiful spots. The Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Culture Center displays the legacy of the five aboriginal ethnic groups of the region. Have a look at the OTC Dish, a huge satellite dominating the town. It played an important role during the 60s and 70s, especially during Apollo’s mission to the moon.
Gascoyne Hotel on Olivia Tce. From $130 per night (not recommended).
Or visit the website www.carnarvon.org.au
Ningaloo Marine Park
The 260km-long Ningaloo Reef (considered the ‘barrier reef of the West’) is most famous for its corals (more than 220 listed species).
There is an abundance of marine life. Dugongs, manta rays, turtles, whales, and a wide variety of fish live in these waters throughout the year.
It is also the only place in the world where whale sharks go each year at the same time to feed on plankton and small fish. From April to July is the best time of year to see them. There are dive shops that even offer swimming with whale sharks! Coral Bay is the best spot to see manta rays, whereas Exmouth is best for whale sharks, dugongs, and humpback whales.
Heading north up the coast, about 230 km from Carnarvon, the small resort town of Coral Bay marks your entrance to this true marine paradise. With about 200 inhabitants, the town has two caravan parks and a backpacker hotel. The few shops are mainly souvenir shops or tour operators. A small supermarket can help you out, but it is advisable to shop in a larger town. There are a number of excursions available, ranging from a kayak trip to a day of snorkelling on a catamaran.
Once a naval base, Exmouth is now a booming tourist town. Though the town centre is not the most picturesque, the surrounding beaches, stretching some 80km to the south, are remarkable. There are numerous camp spots along the coast, which are often fully booked during the high season. We recommend arriving early in the morning to secure a spot for the night.
Whale watching can be done from Exmouth Lighthouse from July to November. There are many tours available for tourists to enjoy the watery riches of Ningaloo Reef.
Cape Range National Park
Located on the northwestern part of the peninsula, this park is particularly rich in wildlife. Inland, you can see turquoise water running through deep canyons and red gorges. Further west, you find beautiful beaches, such as Turquoise Bay or Mauritius Beach.
– Swimming with Manta Rays (July to October). Snorkeling with rays and observing marine wildlife (humpback whales, dolphins, sea turtles, dugongs). Rates: About $200.
– Swimming with whale sharks (April to July). Unique experience of swimming alongside these harmless, up to 12m-long giants. Rates: from $370 – Exmouth
– Whale watching (from August to November): 2-hour tour to watch humpback whales. Rates: $80
Or visit the website www.visitningaloo.com.au
When to visit the Coral Coast?
The Coral Coast is known for its warm climate throughout the year.
In the south, the climate is Mediterranean. This means that summers are hot and dry, and winters are mild and can be wet. In the north, the climate is subtropical. This means that summers are hot and humid, and winters can be variable (from cool to mild).
How to get to the Coral Coast?
Perth is the capital of Western Australia and has an international airport. It is the largest airport with the closest proximity to the Coral Coast so you can start your roadtrip on the coast from the south to the north.
The town of Cervantes, the first official stopover, is only 200 km from Perth. All you have to do is buy or rent a car.
Whether you’re coming from the north, south or central Australia, there are several routes to the Coral Coast, with varying distances to cover:
Perth (WA) to Cervantes: 200km by car
Adelaide (SA) to Cervantes: 2,850km, crossing the Nullarbor Plain
Coober Pedy (SA) to Cervantes: 2,650 km, crossing the Nullarbor Plain Desert
Darwin (NT) to Exmouth: 3,170 km
How long will it take to visit the Coral Coast?
The recommended length of stay on the Coral Coast depends on your interests and the time you have available. However, plan to stay for at least a week to allow enough time to explore the region’s main sights and enjoy the activities.
If you are a nature lover, you can visit the Kalbarri and Francois Peron national parks, which offer spectacular scenery and hiking opportunities. If you’re interested in wildlife watching, take part in dolphin, whale and sea turtle watching tours.
There are also many water activities, such as scuba diving and fishing, that can be enjoyed in the area’s crystal clear waters.