Reef Bound: Perth to Exmouth travel guide

When you’re ready to visit Ningaloo, forget about airports. This once-in-a-lifetime road trip is an opportunity to explore all the Coral Coast has to offer: incredible landscapes, sheep station stays and all the marine life you can handle.


Coral Bay

For anyone with a curiosity about life beneath the waves, Exmouth has a real pull. This is the town where Ningaloo, the world’s longest fringing reef, comes right to the shore. Further off the coast there’s the chance to swim with manta rays, whale sharks and humpback whales. Most visitors fly there from Perth, but if you really want to appreciate the Coral Coast – find out more about the journey from Perth to Geraldton here – get ready to drive more than a thousand kilometres. Along the way you’ll see incredible natural landforms, swim at deserted beaches and meet all manner of interesting creatures, both in and out of the water.


A pod of five dolphins swimming through shallow water with boats in the background, Monkey Mia, WA

You might be tempted to go straight past Monkey Mia given its dolphin experience is, well, touristy. But this town, on the eastern side of a peninsula overlooking Shark Bay, offers much more. Hire a kayak and paddle along the shoreline. You’ll likely spot rays, sharks, turtles, dolphins and maybe even a dugong. Shark Bay has a population of about 10,000 of these incredible creatures. You can also join a wildlife cruise to spot them.


  1. Sure, you can get a tasty plate of crustaceans at Cervantes’ Lobster Shack, but you can also take a tour to learn more about this multimillion-dollar industry. You’ll find out how western rock lobsters are caught then watch as some of the live lobsters are processed.

  2. This is one of the most spectacular spots on the West Australian coastline and a favourite of hikers. Even if you’re not keen on trekking, Kalbarri National Park has lots to offer. At the southern end, check out the Natural Bridge and Island Rock. Its best-known attraction is the rock formation known as Nature’s Window, just 500 metres from the Loop car park. There’s also the Kalbarri Skywalk, which projects out a hundred metres above the Murchison River.

  3. Much of Francois Peron National Park, near Monkey Mia, is only accessible by 4WD, so join Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures for a day-long tour with a local Aboriginal guide. You’ll get to visit some of the park’s best lookouts and look for animals like the thorny devil, all while finding out how the Nhanda and Malgana people have looked after this land for thousands of years.

  4. You’ll need to take a bit of a detour to get to Quobba Blowholes, near Carnarvon. But it’s well worth it, with the water sometimes spraying 20 metres into the air. The landscape around here is superb and often quite free of other visitors. Go snorkelling at Quobba Point, just south of the blowholes, but always be on the lookout for king waves.

  5. Of course, you’re going to hit Ningaloo Reef – with its 450 different species of marine life, it’s the main reason for visiting Exmouth. What makes it so unique is that it’s accessible straight off the beach. Time your visit for the marine animals of your choosing: whale shark season is March to June, humpback whales show up from June to November, and manta rays are year-round visitors. Tours to see and swim with all three are available.


Big River Ranch

If you want to explore Kalbarri Country on horseback, check in to Big River Ranch. As well as leading trail rides, it offers guests basic farm-stay accommodation, campsites, a pool and a camp kitchen.

Quobba Station

It’s the outback on the ocean. Quobba Station, bordered by 80 kilometres of rugged coastline, is family owned and has diversified into offering accommodation (look out for the Damara sheep – the Meechams other business). Choose from fishing shacks, safari tents and chalets, most overlooking the water, at the homestead and neighbouring Red Bluff.

Ningaloo Caravan & Holiday Resort

The chalets at Exmouth’s centrally located Ningaloo Caravan & Holiday Resort are basic but well priced, and an easy walk to places like Froth Craft Brewery and the town beach. Book well in advance wherever you decide to stay.


Two people in the distance walk along a beach fringed by tall red cliffs, Cape Peron, Shark Bay World Heritage Area, WA

It’s a long trip to Exmouth. In all you’ll cover upwards of 1,300 kilometres and that’s before you turn around to come back. You’ll need a safe, reliable car, so prebook one from Apex Car Rentals and pick it up from Perth Airport on arrival. It will take you at least six days to give the Coral Coast the attention it deserves then expect to spend three days minimum in Exmouth before heading back.


St Gertrude College Building In New Norcia

On the way back, consider heading slightly inland to New Norcia. It’s Australia’s only monastic town, and you can join members of the Benedictine order in their private chapel to pray or take tea with one in the parlour. The town has 28 heritage buildings, an excellent museum and art gallery, and a true sense of tranquillity.