The Coral Coast Road Trip
For me a road trip through sparsely populated, wide-open landscapes, offers one a true sense of freedom, excitement, surprise and reward. The opportunity to discover incredible sights and attractions, enjoy unique wildlife, visit secluded beaches and explore quaint towns and villages is so appealing. Driving through those big open vistas, meeting the locals and having fun, is what I call: An Awesome Holiday.
Western Australia (WA) has so much to offer everyone that loves to travel, to explore. Planning a road trip in WA is dependent on two main constraints: time and budget. If you have plenty of both there are Awesome wineries, incredible nature reserves, amazing wildlife, a beautiful coastline and an enormous outback to explore.
Don’t get me wrong, a few nights in a bustling city never goes amiss. Perth offers visitors a great base to settle into this ‘chilled out’ and stunning country. This is where our road trip will start from. If you share a similar passion for enjoying epic road-trips, then read on, Western Australia is for you.
City Break in Perth
I would suggest a few days in Perth, immerse yourself in the culture, there is loads to ‘see and do’ in this spectacular city. Visit uncrowded beaches along the Perth coastline, chill in a trendy café or bar, or enjoy a cycle alongside the Swan River. Perth is laid-back, fun and a safe city to explore.
When in Perth a visit to Rottnest Island is a ‘must do’. Catch the ferry across to this car-free island and meet a cute quokka. This island is a protected reserve and home to 63 beautiful beaches.
The city offers excellent bike paths and fantastic weather almost all-year round making it ideal for cycling. Cycle the paths that follow the Swan River, such a beautiful ride and so scenic, oh, and mostly flat. An added incentive is that the area is home to some of the country’s best wineries and micro-breweries.
After a few days in Perth I would suggest time it’s to pick up a camper van or your car-hire and hit the road.
Your journey will take you north along the uncrowded and unspoilt Coral Coast. With the new direct non-stop Qantas flight from London’s Heathrow Airport into Perth the Coral Coast is destined to become a very popular destination for tourists, for many a good reason, it’s Awesome.
The Coral Coast officially starts around 200 miles north of Perth at Cervantes which is where I would base myself for the first night. From Cervantes the Coral Coast stretches around 700 miles north to Exmouth; gateway to the magnificent Ningaloo Reef. If time is your enemy, there are daily flights which will get you into Exmouth in just over an hour.
Cervantes is a great place to base yourself for the first few nights. The Pinnacles limestone formations in the Nambung National Park are a must ‘see; in the area.
The Pinnacles create an almost ‘moon-like’ landscape in the Nambung desert. The Nambung National Park is one of the few national parks in Australia that remain open after sunset and trust me, it is well worth hanging around.
Firstly, the sunset is a stunning spectacle casting haunting shadows amongst the pinnacles, quite remarkable. It is however when the night closes in that the true magic begins. The night sky shows off its dazzling display of sparkling stars; it is one of the best places on earth to enjoy spectacular star gazing.
Oh yes, and whatever you do, don’t ride out of town without stopping at the Lobster Shack for a meal; the best seafood ever.
Our second suggested place to stay is Geraldton. This awesome city has established itself as a trendy seaside centre blessed with beautiful beaches and a warm, windy climate, making it a popular destination for water sports enthusiasts.
During August and September, visit the Coalseam Conservation Park to witness the beauty of the carpets of colourful flowers that bloom after the rains.
Just south of Geraldton is Greenough. The town is known for its unique leaning trees, the picturesque river, as well as the Greenough Wildlife Park.
Sixty kilometres off-shore from Geraldton are the Abrolhos Islands, a chain of 122 islands. Explore the islands flora and fauna including endangered sea lions and extremely rare birdlife, nesting on the islands’ beaches. Ideal for snorkelling on the reef to see the 1429 Batavia ship-wreck.
Culturally the region offers no less than 14 local Aboriginal sites which are of significance to local Aboriginal people on the Yamaji Drive Trail.
Just an hour north of Geraldton is Horrocks Beach, you will definitely want to stop off here. This Coral Coast hideaway has the most spectacular beach, voted the Australia’s #1 Mainland Beach for 2018 by Brad Farmer; Tourism Australia’s beach ambassador.
Continue north from Horrocks up to Hutt Lagoon at Port Gregory. The beach here is so awesome; the lake is pink, hence the name: Pink Lake. The Hutt Lagoon is a fantastic area to chill out and enjoy the views and refreshing waters.
I would make Kalbarri my next stop-over. This quaint town with friendly folk is an awesome area to explore. Get up early and take a ‘pot-pulling tour’ to catch your own Western Rock Lobster. There are also quad-bikes to rent and go explore the Kalbarri National Park. The Wagoe Beach is stunning, and the Murchison River is great to explore on a river cruise or by kayak.
Look out for Humpback Whales (July – November).
Shark Bay (Monkey Mia)
This is a World Heritage area. I would make Shark Bay my next port of call and I would try and spend at least 2 nights here. You have probably read about it, seen it on TV, or remember someone telling you about the dolphins at Monkey Mia.
Monkey Mia Bay is where wild bottlenose dolphins come in every morning and you can get up close and personal with them. It’s surreal, an Awesome experience and something you should try and do.
This is a spectacular little town is a 4-hour drive from Shark Bay. Known for its spectacular beaches, banana plantations, tropical fruits, fine seafood and warm climate. Carnarvon is situated in the heart of the Gascoyne Region and is the gateway to Australia’s Ningaloo Coast.
Oh my God, what a paradise this is. Renowned for the ‘Big 3’, this coral reef is sublime, the beaches divine. Known as a fringing reef you simply grab your snorkel and mask and walk into the Indian ocean. It’s like being in a massive sea tank, it is unbelievable.
The Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing reef (a coral reef that lies close to the shore) in the world. So, what are the ‘Big 3’:
I do not know why they included the word ‘shark’ in their name. The Whale Shark is huge, gentle and an amazing creature to swim with. At Ningaloo Reef you can do just that; swim with a Whale Shark.
The season through which they migrate is from March to July
When the Whale Sharks move on, the Humpback Whales move in. You can expect to see these magnificent creatures between July and November. However, the best months are August – September.
Giant Manta Rays
Manta Rays are not dangerous and can be seen all-year round. They are usually very curious and swim around the divers. The best time to see them is from mid-May through to mid-September, when their numbers increase significantly, and the mantas become more curious and willing to engage with snorkellers and divers.
The Shark Bay Marine Park north to the Ningaloo Reef is some of the world’s major breeding areas for sea turtles. The turtle nesting season is between December and March, and after a six-week period hatching occurs. Generally, turtle hatchlings can be seen from February to March.
Top Turtle Hatching Spots include Shark Bay, Dirk Hartog Island, Carnarvon and The Nursery at Point Quobba and Gnaraloo. Maud’s Landing at Coral Bay and Five Mile Beach, Worbiri Beach and Jurabi Turtle Centre at Exmouth.
Words like ‘paradise’ come to mind but this is truly an awesome destination. It’s worth doing a Manta Ray tour, there’s a resident population at Coral Bay. Also kayak and snorkel around the Blue Maze and Asho’s Gap, Awesome.
Maybe a last night or few nights (better idea) at Exmouth or straight to the Learmouth Airport if you are flying back to Perth.
Exmouth is the gateway to nearby Ningaloo Marine Park with its coral reefs, colourful fish, migratory whale sharks and humpback whales. The nearby Cape Range National Park has rock wallabies, red kangaroos, emus and euros (wallaroo). The Park boasts spectacular rocky gorges carved by ancient rivers.
Take a trip out to Yardie Creek, which flows between sheer cliffs and do a guided boat tour from where you can enjoy the tranquillity of the gorge and view the wildlife in its natural setting. Visit the amazing Turquoise Bay, made famous for its crystal clear waters, turquoise seas and white sandy beaches.
If you are lucky enough to have the time available, then hit the pedal and carry on up the coast to Broome. If not, Learmouth Airport at Exmouth offers regular daily flights back to Perth and other destinations in Australia.
If riding a camel along the beach is one of those things you just need to try, then head on up to Broome. I would recommend a slight detour into Karijini National Park.
Google Map Exmouth to Broome
Watch out for my next blog post, I am going to to move across to Awesome South Australia.