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A Holiday in Coral Bay
A Remote Beach Paradise on the edge of the West Australian Outback
A holiday in Coral Bay Western Australia combines days of blissful laziness and relaxing on the beach with action-packed adventure and awe-inspiring wildlife encounters out on the Ningaloo Reef.
Why Visit Coral Bay Western Australia?
You can experience some of the best fishing, diving and snorkeling to be found anywhere in Australia at Coral Bay.
One of the most amazing and unforgettable adventures you can do at Coral Bay is swimming with whale sharks and manta rays - a major attraction for backpackers on the road trip up the west coast.
Read my article on why I recommend Coral Bay to adventurous beach-loving travellers as a destination not to be missed.
About the Town of Coral Bay Western Australia:
Coral Bay Western Australia lies right at the point where Australia's vast western outback meets the sparkling blue Indian Ocean at the Tropic of Capricorn. It's about 1200km north of Perth, and a minimum of 2 hours driving to either of the neighbouring towns - Exmouth in the north and Carnarvon to the south.
It's just a tiny coastal settlement consisting of a few shops, a street of houses, a couple of caravan parks and a "resort" (more like a motel), but the location on the Ningaloo Reef is absolutely magical.
There's a good number of people from Perth and elsewhere in the state who keep returning to Coral Bay Western Australia year after year for the awesome fishing, camping, snorkeling and 4WD adventures that are unparalleled anywhere else. This is really saying something, given that the town is about 1200km north of Perth, equating to a 12-14 hour drive.
Like so many other Western Australians, I love Coral Bay because it's a place where I feel free and peaceful, and truly alive. The pristine natural beauty and the abundance and variety of wildlife amazes and inspires me every moment that I am there.
Plan Your Trip to Coral Bay Western Australia:
- Beautiful Paradise Beaches
- Coral Bay and the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park
- Effortless, Relaxing Snorkeling
- Amazing Wildlife Encounters
- Incredible Fishing
- Explore Coral Bay independently by boat, four-wheel-drive or your own two feet
- Getting to Coral Bay
The view from town - Coral Bay Western Australia:
The town beach at Coral Bay Western Australia, and entire coastline beyond, is a calm paradise where small wavelets of crystal clear water break lazily on the white sand.
Coral Bay Beaches: the very end of the town beach where it curves around into Purdy Point at the southern end of Bill's Bay:
Looking out towards the horizon, on most days you'll see a white line of waves breaking a few kilometres out. This is the main barrier of the Ningaloo Reef - which stretches north and south for hundreds of kilometres from Coral Bay, creating one long and almost continuous protected lagoon of calm, gentle water.
Find out more about swimming and sunning on Coral Bay's paradise beaches, or jump to one of the beach pages by clicking a link below:
Coral Bay Beaches and Shore-based Snorkeling Pages:
Coral Bay and the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park
Along the entire 300km-long coastline of the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef Marine Park, Coral Bay is the only town.
Ningaloo is a fringing reef system, which basically means the main reef is close to the shoreline, with a calm shallow lagoon between the beach and the main reef.
The Outer Ningaloo Reef is within 100m of the shoreline at it's closest points - seen at a few snorkeling sites of the Cape Range National Park to the north - but near Coral Bay, it ranges between 1 and 4 kilometres out to sea.
Seagrass meadows and extensive patches of coral spread out across the seafloor of the sheltered Ningaloo lagoon, providing the perfect habitat for fish, rays, turtles and dugongs. From the knee-depth shallows all the way out to the main reef, the water teems with fish of all shapes, sizes and colours.
Effortless, Relaxing Snorkeling at Coral Bay Western Australia
The calm water and accessibility of the coral and fish from shore make snorkelling at Coral Bay effortless and relaxing. There are no waves, rips and surges at Coral Bay beaches - and no need for a marathon swim or boat trip to get out to the good snorkeling sites.
It's a wonderful place for small children to learn to snorkel - safe, unthreatening, not too far from the beach, and most of all - brightly coloured fishes and giant clams to see!
Check out the Coral Bay snorkeling page, where I've detailed my favourite shore-based snorkeling sites near Coral Bay. Or else go to Snorkeling at Bill's Bay or Snorkeling at Purdy Point to see underwater photos and get more of an idea for what snorkeling at Coral Bay WA is like.
In deeper water, and in particular on the outer reef, the coral is far more colourful and you're more likely to see bigger and more exiting marine life (eg. reef sharks and turtles), but you'll need to head out in a boat to get to most of these snorkeling sites.
Coral Bay Wildlife Encounters
I can think of nowhere else I've ever been to where you can experience such prolific wildlife in its natural environment like you can at Coral Bay.
Giant lizards roam the sandy streets and dunes of town, red kangaroos bound through the desert grassland and down onto the beaches, and birds of prey circle overhead.
The beautiful sheltered beach in the southern corner of Bill's Bay is a two-minute walk or less from any point in town. Even in knee-depth water you see lots of large fish gliding by. 50 - 100 metres from the beach, the water deepens and the coral gardens begin. While the coral near the town beach is dull in colour and damaged in areas, the fish life is absolutely amazing. Swimming out further, the condition of the coral improves considerably.
But wading and snorkeling in the shallows at the town beach is just the start of a Coral Bay adventure...
The Ningaloo Reef Marine Park is home to three of the most wonderous creatures of the ocean: whale sharks, manta rays and whales. There are a number of excellent tours that take you out into the ocean ocean where you can watch the whales frolicking - or swim with the whale sharks and manta rays.
These are the most expensive of all the tours available at Coral Bay, but they are also the most unique, amazing and memorable.
If you can't afford one of these tours, you still have a good chance of encountering some of Coral Bay's biggest and most impressive wildlife. Manta rays, sea turtles and reef sharks are very common at Coral Bay, in some cases even in shallow water just off the beaches.
Walking about 15-20 minutes from town along the shoreline of the bay, you'll get to Skeleton Beach. Every spring, the shallow water off this beach provides a sheltered nursery for a huge school of baby reef sharks. (Don't worry - they're inquisitive, but not aggressive!)
Sea Turtles at Coral Bay Western Australia:
Summer is the turtle nesting season. This is the best time of year to see turtles while snorkeling, and you might even be lucky enough to see one laying eggs up on the beach, or later in the season, baby turtles hatching and making their way down to the sea. Bateman Beach is the best place close to Coral Bay to find turtle nests.
Wildlife Comes and Goes With the Seasons:
Coral Bay wildlife is seasonal, so check out the Wildlife calendar for Coral Bay and Exmouth to find the best time of year to visit Coral Bay Western Australia depending on what wildlife you most want to see.
The fishing at Coral Bay is like a dream come true, with waters absolutely teeming with a huge variety of fish. However, fishing isn't allowed in most of the Maud Sanctuary Zone which protects the beaches and lagoon close to town, so getting to the really good fishing spots is difficult without a boat or 4WD.
If you just want to catch yourself some lunch or dinner, then beach fishing at Maud's Landing, Paradise Beach or off the jetties at Monk's Head should do the trick. You can quite easily catch a feed of spangled emporer, trevally, and other good eating fish.
Boat fishing offshore, you can catch a bigger variety with greater success than from the beaches.
It's behind beyond the reef where the fishing gets really exiting, with catches of big game fish like marlin, mahi-mahi and wahoo. Trolling the depths for pelagics and bottom-dwellers yeilds a huge variety of species.
See my Coral Bay fishing page for more info on the ins and outs of the sanctuary zones, species to catch and beach fishing spots to try.
Explore Coral Bay Independently
- Cheap Coral Bay: Tips for Backpackers on a Budget
- 4WDing the Ningaloo Coast from Coral Bay
- Best Shore-based Snorkelling at Coral Bay
- Coral Bay Boating Guide
Getting to Coral Bay
Coral Bay is a looooong drive from Perth. It takes 11 - 13 hours, or more if you're towing a boat up with you. The route to take is pretty straight forward: just head up either the Indian Ocean or Brand Highway then continue along the West Coast Highway. North of Carnarvon, you turn onto the Minilya-Exmouth Road, from which you turn left onto Mauds Landing Road - the Coral Bay turn-off.
North of Geraldton, the scenery is flat and monotonous with no sign of civilisation for hours and hours. It certainly gives you a good idea of the vastness of Australia!
We do the drive in one day, but if you're travelling alone or with kids it's a good idea to stay overnight somewhere on the way up, Geraldton being the most obvious choice.
And of course you can combine a trip up to Coral Bay with a road trip visiting other West Coast Australia destinations, such as The Pinnacles and Shark Bay, which makes the long drive seem a lot more doable!
The Coral Bay general store and supermarket has a good range of food and groceries, but it's expensive and the vegies are well past their prime. I strongly recommend stocking up on any last-minute shopping you need to do in Carnarvon.
The other way to get to Coral Bay is to fly up to Learmonth Airport, which is on eastern side of the North West Cape about half way between Coral Bay and Exmouth. Skywest and Qantas Link both have regular flights to Learmonth. Unless you hire a car from the airport, getting to Coral Bay can be tricky. You'll need to make arrangements in advance with the Coral Bay Visitor Centre for a shuttle bus to pick you up and drive you the hour and a half or so into town, which costs $80.
Leave a Comment
Have you been to Coral Bay?
Did you love it as much as I do? Or maybe you went there and found it boring? Either way, you can share memories of your Coral Bay adventures, favourite photos and tips for other travellers here.
Also feel free to ask me and other readers a question about travelling to Coral Bay.
Coral Bay Pages
About Coral Bay
Things to Do
- Coral Bay Boating Guide
- Monks Head and Merv