Coral Bay to Exmouth | 4WD Guide & Review

Coral Bay and Exmouth are found in the Ningaloo region and it is one of Western Australia’s most famous family destinations. From Perth, it is 1,122 kilometres away and will require you to take an 11 to 12-hour road trip. The journey to the area might require you to take a multi-day trip but it is totally worth it!

The area around Coral Bay and Exmouth is part of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area. You will also see beautiful beaches, the world-famous Ningaloo Reef, and the Cape Range National Park. There are also a lot of activities that you can in the area all in the backdrop of lush forests and beautiful beaches.

So, do you want to know more about the area? Read more below!

How Will I Get There?

The region is roughly 1,000km away from Perth (130km north of Carnarvon). Coral Bay is a 13-hour drive from Perth, while the trip to Exmouth takes around 15 hours. For the individuals who wish to fly, Learmonth Airport is 30 minutes from Exmouth, and it is located about two hours away from Coral Bay. There are also transfers or rented vehicles offered by the airport in Exmouth. To truly take in the territory, you need your own vehicle to do it.

Why Should I Go to Coral Bay?

The most important factor for most people is the pristine white sands and aqua blue water, while you drift along with the current as you snorkel above the coral. Coral Bay is a lovely and famous place of interest among tourists with many calling it pure paradise. It has great facilities that are a stone’s throw away from the main shoreline. In addition, the area’s facilities incorporate a shopping complex with grocery stores, visitor’s area, bakery, newsagent and souvenir shop. 

You can also have a picnic as there are open grills which are arranged on the grassed section with views of the beautiful beach. Additionally, it is also the perfect spot to sit down and wait for the sunset. Although everything is relatively nearby, quad bicycles are a preferred approach to get around so you can investigate the shorelines, coves, and trails in the area. 

Coral Bay is pet-friendly and your pets are very welcome. In addition, we recommend that you should book ahead of time as the spots in the campgrounds are limited. 

What Can I Do in Exmouth?

Exmouth is a town situated close to the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia. It lies in the northern part of the Ningaloo Reef and has well-maintained street access to the end of the cape and toward the western section of the nearby Cape Range National Park. Exmouth is notable for its incredible angling areas, where you can catch big game fish (e.g. Marlin and Spanish Mackerel). These fishes can be caught from inside 2 kilometres off the shore. Exmouth Gulf features rich marine biodiversity and a nursery for humpback whales, dugongs, and turtles. 

The town of Exmouth with its populace of more than 2,060 individuals depends mainly on the tourism industry. During the peak of the tourist season, the total population in this beachfront town can reach very well above 6,000. There are a number of exciting activities in and around Exmouth that you can do, these include guided tours to view or swim with whale sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, and colourful rock layers. You should head to Vlamingh Head Lighthouse (July – November) if you want to have a glimpse of humpback whales and to Shothole Canyon or Charles Knife Gorge for the rock formations.

The Route from Coral Bay to Exmouth

Coral Bay is 153 km away from Exmouth, so you will have to drive for about 2 hours to reach your destination. There is only one route to reach both of these destinations – the Minilya-Exmouth Rd. So, you will have to follow this path from Coral Bay:

  • Head north towards Robinson St and turn right after 59 metres to stay on Robinson St.
  • Continue straight on Coral Bay Rd.
  • After 11.9 km, turn left onto Minilya-Exmouth Rd and continue onto Murat Rd.
  • After 4.9 km, turn left onto Maidstone Cres.
  • From here, make a U-turn and you have now arrived at Exmouth. 

From Coral Bay, the journey will go through some fairly dry and desolate areas. There are some long straight streets with various rest stops where you can have lunch or stretch your legs. Once past Learmonth, the Minilya Exmouth Road follows along the coast, making the last 30 km or so very breathtaking and pleasant.

What Can I Do and See in the Area?

A typical side-trip for those with 4WD vehicles is to leave the Minilya Exmouth Road and the obscure dirt track which has a signpost saying it is the Ningaloo Road. This is the sole track near the highway that offers access to the coast. In the event that you intend to do this, you should be fully prepared because the excursion to the coast will take roughly 1 hour and it is vigorously ridged. So, those with standard trailers may feel that the track is rather overwhelming, and once you reach the area, you can set up camp. 

There are other activities and places found in Ningaloo like:

  • Ningaloo Kayak Trail: What better approach to witnessing Ningaloo’s marine life than on-board a kayak or canoe? Moorings have been introduced recently for you to tie off and go swimming – discover more information about Ningaloo Marine Park from the Department of Parks and Wildlife website: www.dpaw.wa.gov.au.
  • Cape Range National Park: Take a bushwalk in Cape Range National Park, or ride a boat in Yardie Creek to see the tough gulches, plentiful natural life, and local fauna; including the elusive black-footed rock wallaby, endemic only in the range.
  • Go on a tour on a glass-bottomed boat: Do you want to explore Ningaloo Reef but would prefer not to swim in the sea? That’s simple! A glass-bottomed boat will give you a chance to see schools of fish, turtles, rays and coral reefs. In case you’re seeking for a more up-close look and an invigorating plunge, wear a snorkel and hop off the vessel – the tour guides are well-aware of where innocuous reef sharks hang out to get cleaned by fish, and where the peaceful turtles visit.
  • Turquoise Bay: If you are a person who cherishes swimming, don’t miss Turquoise Bay in Cape Range National Park. Chosen as one of the best beaches in the country, you’ll instantly fall in love when you set foot on the delicate, white sand and see the alluring blue sea nearby. You’ll be more astounded when you detect the massive number of bright fish and marine life only a couple of metres from the shoreline. Snorkel out and take as much time as you need investigating the reef – the more time you take, the more you’ll see. This stunning beach is brilliantly pristine, and keeping in mind that there are regularly a couple of other individuals close by, you will experience no difficulty getting an area all for yourself. Before swimming the floating trail, check-in with Milyering Discovery Center to get tide information.
  • Federation Park Water Sprayground: The recreation centre gives long hours of family fun, including an enormous humpback whale, dolphins, turtles, a ship, and a cave system for your children to play in.
  • Vlamingh Head Lighthouse: The lighthouse is your best chance of watching humpback whales especially from July to November. You can also try to take a long-exposure photograph of the starry night sky.

Where Can I Stay in the Area?

There’re places to stay to suit all visitors in Coral Bay – you can camp under the stars, stay in a caravan park, or unwind in a beachside resort. Exmouth is a larger town, on the eastern side of the region, so naturally, it has every option from backpacking inns to 4.5-star lodgings, motels, self-sustaining apartments, out-of-town station stays, and eco-retreat resorts. More importantly, you have to make a point to book for accommodation and guided tours ahead of time especially if you intend to go during school holidays or over Easter.

Where Can I Find the Best of Ningaloo’s Wildlife?

It’s no big surprise that Ningaloo is becoming well-known as the premier wild and eco-tourism destination of Western Australia. The Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area is one of the nation’s most unblemished natural habitats, overflowing with natural life, both ashore and underneath the waterline. Whale sharks head the rundown, accumulating along the reef from March to August every year. Hot on their heels is the yearly humpback whale migration occurring from June to November. 

From August, emu chicks are looked out for by their defensive dads during the mating season. In a similar fashion, the Ningaloo’s green and loggerhead turtles start settling from November, with hatchlings rising up out of the sand until March. 

The late spring and fall months see the ocean currents washing along the Ningaloo Coast, bringing in enormous quantities of marlin and other game fish, making for the best catch-and-release game angling in Australia. Then there are the all-year regulars: manta rays, turtles, a confounding cluster of colourful tropical fish, and significantly more. Ashore, you’ll see kangaroos, black-footed rock wallabies, monitor lizards, echidnas, dingoes, as well as a wide assortment of birdlife. 

There’s nothing more thrilling than bouncing off the back of a vessel and swimming with the biggest fish in the sea. Your wetsuit and fins are on, your cover and snorkel unblemished, and your heart races with expectation that you’ll float effortlessly then all of a sudden you see white spots from the depths and you understand this is it. The huge whale shark comes into the centre and you’re kicking for dear life! Not to escape, but to catch a glimpse of it. We are quite sure that you don’t want this experience to end because it gives an adrenalin surge like no other. The activity is also appropriate for all ages, swimming with whale sharks should be on your to-do list when you head to this area. You can likewise swim with elegant manta rays in Coral Bay throughout the entire year, or in Exmouth during May and November.

What Events Can I Participate in Ningaloo?

There are two events that you can attend in the area:

  • GAMEX: Western Australia’s most famous fishing event, GAMEX, offers groups the opportunity to vie for 23 distinctive prize classifications, focusing on 35 unique types of game fish in the waters surrounding Exmouth. No other angling competition in the nation offers such assorted and gainful angling inside a short distance to the shore.
  • Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival: Celebrating the coming of Ningaloo’s most celebrated guests, the celebration’s line up will intrigue all ages. The festival’s activities incorporate a grandiose opening ceremony, film watching under the stars, fun run, a float parade, guest performers, art exhibits, concert night, and children’s treasure hunt. Also, there is the chance to see and swim with the guest stars of the celebration – the superb whale sharks. 

What Are Visitors and Locals Saying About the Place?

People who have visited Ningaloo recently are saying these things on TripAdvisor:

  • View the Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Reef from the air as the scenic landscape is amazing! Remember to bring your camera, and look out for marine life. There are grand flights, or if you want an adrenaline surge, a microlight flight. 
  • Visit lovely Turquoise Bay. This beach is repeatedly declared as one of the best in Australia – and the world. You can walk straight off the shoreline and in a  moment swim over great coral reefs to see a bounty of reef fish and other marine animals. 
  • Keep an eye out for the endemic wildlife – and be extremely careful while travelling to avoid them from being harmed and damaging your vehicle. Particularly around nightfall up until dawn when they are at their most active state.

Locals in the area recommend that you:

  • Take your own swimming gear, especially if you would prefer not to lease it at the shoreline. 
  • Around April, if you walk 15 minutes towards the northern section of the bay, you’ll reach some warm shallows, which the locals call the “nursery”. Here, black-tipped reef sharks come to conceive an offspring. When you swim and stand exceptionally still in the water, the sharks nearly overlook that you’re there and will completely surround you. Occasionally, you can see 15 to 20 sharks meeting on the territory to conceive an offspring.

What Things Should I Prepare Before the Trip to Coral Bay and Exmouth?

You should know the following before heading to Ningaloo:

  • There are no fuel stops between Coral Bay and Exmouth so make sure to fill your tank or stock up on fuel before the adventure. 
  • Over the span of this trek, you will just navigate open streets and expressways, so no permits are required. However, there are some alternate routes inside the territory that may require permits for access. 
  • Summer in the tropics can get sweltering hot, so the best time to visit would be from March to November. 
  • The street past the blowholes (70 km north of Carnarvon) is not well-maintained and you can’t drive north past Gnaraloo. Conditions may vary, so check with Main Roads WA before setting off, and take a lot of water with you. In the event that you need to drive onto Coral Bay or Exmouth, head back towards Carnarvon and drive towards the North West Coastal Highway. You should also be careful while driving at daybreak or nightfall when wild animals are most active along the roadside. 
  • Cell phone coverage is limited only to Telstra and Optus around the main towns, it then drops out of range when driving off the beaten track. 
  • You should bring a portable as the campgrounds come up short on this element. The region has soft sand and 4WD vehicles are the only ones that could handle the tough terrain. These tracks are accessible only inside Ningaloo Station property.

Related Questions

Do I Need to Be Wary of Crocodiles in Ningaloo Reef?

Crocodiles are not ordinarily found on the Ningaloo Coast, yet there have been uncommon and separate events of estuarine or saltwater (saltie) crocodiles in the zone.

Where Did Ningaloo Reef Get Its Name?

The coast and reef draw their name from the Australian Aboriginal Wajarri language word Ningaloo which means “promontory”, “deepwater”, or “high land extending into the ocean”. The Yamatji people of the Baiyungu and Yinigudura tribes have occupied the territory for more than 30,000 years.

Are There Crocodiles Around Exmouth?

There are currently an estimated three saltwater crocodiles for every 2 km on the King River which is close to Wyndham, and around four for each 3 km on the formerly crocodile-free banks of the Lower Ord River. Aside from the sightings in Carnarvon and Ningaloo Reef close Exmouth, there have been a number of reports of enormous crocodiles under the Derby jetty.

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