May 19, 2023
5 mins Read
Swimming with whale sharks, humpbacks or turtles in Exmouth are just some of the unforgettable reasons to head to Australia’s amazing Ningaloo Reef. It’s one of the region’s hero experiences, best bookended by a few days full of snorkelling, diving, cultural immersion and gorge exploring along this spectacular edge of Western Australia.
Exmouth is a 13-hour drive from Perth along the glorious Coral Coast Highway. Alternatively, Qantas flies from Perth to Exmouth (Learmonth Airport) in two hours, and as of 30 April, the airline will fly directly from Melbourne in just under five hours.
For the best of both worlds, consider a fly-drive holiday. Amble your way up from Perth through Cervantes, Geraldton, Denham and Carnavon then fly down on return (or vice versa).
Arrive in Exmouth in time for breakfast and head to Adrift Cafe for a plate of their loaded savoury French toast. Then it’s a quick stop at the Ningaloo Bakehouse & Cafe for a packable sandwich lunch before heading off to Ningaloo Marine Park, where you can spend the morning exploring Oyster Stacks’ famed coral bommies and drift snorkelling at Turquoise Bay. Tuck into that packed lunch perched on the sand with endless blues as your view.
Next, head to the end of Cape Range National Park to enjoy the views at Yardie Creek gorge; you can hike the two-kilometre trail around the top of the red limestone cliffs or exert far less energy on a cruisy Yardie Creek boat tour. Come dinner, it’s back into town for a casual homemade pasta or barbecue rib dinner at The BBQ Father.
Rise with the sun and ready yourself to head back to Cape Range National Park; today is the big day. Whale shark swim pick-ups happen between 7am and 7:30am (depending on where you’re staying) and will have you on the water before 9am.
As your boat cuts through Ningaloo Reef’s gin-like water, tune in to the safety briefing and await your cue to suit up and slide into the water. Swimming alongside the gentle giants is an experience like no other, their sheer size a humbling experience.
The tour arrives back in port around 5pm, leaving just enough time to shower and head out for a beer and music-filled dinner at Whalebone Brewing Co or Froth Craft Brewery.
Pick up a quick bakery bite or IGA breakfast on your way out of town with the GPS set due south to Coral Bay, 150 kilometres away. You’ll want to maximise your time in this buzzing seaside hamlet, so the earlier you can set off, the better.
Your first port of call is a manta ray swim. Tours leave the cove year-round and often have you swimming with more sea life than just the rays; stay vigilant and you’ll likely spot turtles, dugongs and whale sharks, too.
Choose a half-day tour and there’ll also be time to swim at Bill’s Bay before dinner. Frolic in the crystalline shallows or paddle out a touch further to snorkel the inner parts of the Ningaloo Reef. As the afternoon fades away, dry off and settle in on the sand for a colourful sunset over the water.
It’s just a few metres to dinner from the beach to Bill’s Bar, where gold band snapper curry or buttery prawn linguine awaits.
There’s a big day of driving ahead, so sit down and savour breakfast. You can’t go past a fry-up at Fin’s Cafe, or a selection of pastries from the Coral Resort Bakery.
Next up, join a convoy of 4WDs on a half-day ‘tagalong’ tour with Hazel Walgar, a Traditional Owner of the Ningaloo Coast and owner of Baiyungu Dreaming. Immerse yourself in Baiyungu and Yingagurra culture as you dig for fresh drinking water in the dunes and snorkel the culturally significant Five Fingers Reef.
At the tour’s end, it’s time to drive back to Exmouth, stopping along the way to learn more about the reef at the Ningaloo Aquarium & Discovery Centre.
As it’s your last full day in town, a celebratory dinner at one of Exmouth’s finest eateries – Whalers Restaurant or Mantarays Restaurant – is in order. Both menus lean heavily into local produce, with seafood most abundant in their offerings.
Fuel up for a morning underwater with vegan banana pancakes and fresh juice at The Social Society; you’ll need the energy for exploring the marine wonderland at Navy Pier. Prepare to come face to face with giant gropers, barracudas and wobbegongs at this iconic Exmouth diving spot.
Post-dive, drive along the dramatic ridges of Charles Knife Canyon, Exmouth’s answer to Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Soak in the panoramic views of Cape Range National Park and the Exmouth Gulf before hitting the road out of town (or stay another day before making the short drive to the airport).
Not far from Dubbo, Quentin Park Alpacas Studio and Gallery offers a unique experience to pat and picnic with a herd of woolly alpacas. Discover more extraordinary experiences in the Great Western Plains.View More >
Experience some of NSW’s best scenery, museums, and regional producers in our 1960s sleeping train.View More >
Mount Beauty, the name says it all. A destination for lovers of the outdoors, from extreme to serene.View More >
The rainbow gorges and money-can’t-buy experiences of this coral coast locale prove addictive for Fleur Bainger. It's for these very reasons that yo...
This laid-back resort town on Australia’s Coral Coast is the place to be to explore the wonders of Ningaloo Reef – and it's no.35 on your list of ...
The Coral Coast is home to some of Australia’s most iconic attractions. The Coral Coast Highway is like the writhing body of a serpent as it makes ...
The pictures you see of World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef almost seem too good to be true: a whale shark cruising towards you as smoothly as an ocea...
On one side is rugged outback, on the other a marine wonderland, and in the middle... Monkey Mia, where the red desert meets the sea Western Austra...
The worlds largest rock is in Western Australia, Mount Augusta. (more…)...
For the best travel inspiration delivered straight to your door.$29.95
LEAVE YOUR COMMENT