Finally the water is warming up and we have the guts to go swimming without our wetsuits. The last time we swam without them was in NSW so we were looking forward to not having to squeeze on another thick layer. One stop just south of coral bay was Waroora station camp, we had been recommended to spend some time here from a few travellers so made the effort to check it out. It is paid, but not too much at $11/p/night, which we will have to get use to in this next part of our trip (being popular locations). We arrive, head to the caretakers quarters, book in for 2 nights for now and see how we go. Warroora station again is very large with a range of beachside camps, we choose one not too far south called Sandy Point, to save a long bumpy trip with the van. We set up camp right along the water, but my pet hate has ruined this one, seaweed! After our 1st night’s sleep we do a day trip south to check out some other beaches for fishing and tanning. We speed through mud puddles to try and wash a little sand off from under the troopy, stop in at a few sites for a fish and relax then make our way back to camp.
Camp Location: Sandy Point, Waroora Station
Cost = FREE
Travelled From: Quobba Point
Distance Travelled: 246 kilometres
Originally we were thinking of possibly staying at waroora and doing day trips to coral bay, but when we realised it was 45minutes away we thought it would be best to stay closer, pay the extra $$ and save on fuel. With no plans, we head into coral bay and choose a caravan park that had good wiki reviews called People Park, luckily you can’t pre-book unpowered sites here and there were a few left. We had been given 4 options of where to stay, and 1 of them is the best on the whole site, so we snap that up quick. Right at the front, left corner overlooking the main beach Bills Bay, we have our own little area, making our very 1st caravan park experience a great one. We set up, with room to put up our hammock, still gobsmacked at how lucky we are to score this spot.
Time to explore coral bay which is the main suburb for snorkelling along the Ningaloo reef which is Australia’s only fringing reef. We are staying right across the road to the main beach where the largest beach access coral reef lies, and it is stunning! Masses amounts of coral, so many different types of fish, and if you were lucky you got to see stringrays, turtles, cuttlefish and more. From this point if you swim out to one of the boys about 100m out, then head 50m south you also find what they have named ‘Ayers Rock’, a massive coral cylinder about 9m round, home to many fish and a cleaning station. A cleaning station is where large fish line up to be cleaned by little fish, a very cool sight to see.
We then explore some of the sandy 4wd tracks south of Bill’s Bay. It’s great fun driving through sand dunes and on beaches so this place ticks another box for us. Each time we head out to the water we are surprised with another stunning beach, we stop at one that is meant to be ok for fishing but soon realise that this whole coastline probably won’t be good for that as a lot of the area is a sanctuary zone. Impressed with our 1st day we decide we have to stay another night.
As soon as we roll into camp we notice there is music coming from somewhere nearby, we drive around to our camp spot and realise there is a live band right next door. With awesome old school Aussie songs all afternoon and night, we have the most perfect view from our camp and are now thinking that this is too good to be true. We met 2 German travellers leaving Waroora, and they were also camped here, so we invited them over, cracked out our rooftop troopy Sunday sesh and were loving life.
The next day we have a day trip sorted with our new German friends Phil and Tim, in the morning we have a snorkel at Five Fingers reef, 14km south of camp. Again we loved our snorkel, seeing such variety in corals and fishes, but to top it off Phil spots a Turtle! We all scram to him to get a good view and we end up swimming with this turtle for about 15minutes. It swims along so relaxed with no care in the world; we are following in amazement and in awe.
We then head back to the main beach to show Phil and Tim Ayers rocks.
A hungry bunch by now after 2 snorkels, so lunch and beer at camp before we head to our 3rd snorkelling spot for the day. We check out Oyster Bridge, another local snorkelling spot 14km north of camp. Getting here was sketchy as we took the beach road, and as the tide can come up so high; our drive on low tide left us making our own tracks around fall outs in the sand, and sending it through soft sand. The name itself, Oyster bridge, explains this spot perfectly, there is a massive row of rocks and oysters clustered together that goes from the beach into the water about 25m, like a break wall.
There are then some corals that have formed on the ocean floor around it, but my favourite part about this location are all the caves and hidey holes to explore. Tim and Phil spot a large stingray sitting on the bottom of the edge of the oyster bridge, they are good value spotting all the cool sealife.
After 3 snorkels we are stuffed, but we have also been thinking all day whether or not we were going to decide on going for a scuba dive. A block away from camp is the dive shop so we stop in there just before the shop closes and end up booking in 2 dives and a snorkel with a mantaray the next day, a great package price we can’t turn down.
We meet at the dive shop the next morning at 8am to get our bcd’s and prep for the dive, we have a lot of our own gear now which is great so we don’t have to borrow crappy goggles or fins and I now have my new reversible wetsuit, so I am set. We are in a group of about 16, half snorkelers, half divers, but for the Mantarays everyone snorkels. We head out to our first dive site which is only a 10 minute boat ride, suit up and get in. It was great to scuba again, it had been a while, the last one being at south west rocks, just a couple of weeks in to our trip. We found the coral and animal life to be similar to what we saw snorkelling the previous day, especially as we were only diving around 3-8 metres, however we were obviously just a little closer and didn’t have to hold our breath. I think we were spoilt a little with such great snorkelling that our 1st dive wasn’t a stand out for us but still a great experience.
The boat then moved not too far away to the next spot where the Mantarays hang around, they spot one so we are all snorkel ready waiting to quickly and quietly get in the water. A massive black Mantaray right below us, with such a large wing span it glides effortlessly through the water. Zac and I so want to dive down closer but were instructed not to as it may scare the Manta away, this was the only annoying part to this experience but understand these are wild animals so were content with just being able to swim so close to one.
On our way to the 2nd dive site the skipper spotted some dugongs right in front of our boat. We ended up watching a mother and her calf swim around for about 15 minutes and then another mum and calf joined them. 4 dugongs right in front of us, how amazing, we are so lucky to witness this amazing creature, it is very rare to spot them at this location, so this was the highlight of our day for sure.
Our second dive improved, seeing another cleaning station this time it was for sharks.
Another massive day done, time to rest up and move on in the morning to Exmouth. We absolutely LOVED Coral Bay, it is now the highlight from our whole trip, definitely a place we would spend time at again.
Camp Location: Peoples Park, Coral Bay
Cost = $50/night
Travelled From: Sandy Bay, Waroora Station
Distance Travelled: 39 kilometres
A 151km drive north and we reach the town of Exmouth, a slightly larger town so we stock up on food, with a treat for lunch from the local bakery, yum. When we first heard of Coral Bay, Ningaloo and Exmouth they all sounded amazing in their own right, after going to coral bay we realised there wasn’t too much in the suburb Ningaloo, it’s the whole reef around this large peninsula that’s called Ningaloo reef. And Exmouth, there isn’t much in town at all, no snorkelling, no good beaches, it’s main area is the National Park about 40 minutes away, Cape Range. In the National park you can stay at many places along the beach, but these book out weeks and sometimes months in advance so we missed out. We ended up staying at a Homestead Caravan Park, only just north of the National Park.
The next morning we start our day exploring the National Park, we were told to check out a few snorkelling spots like Oyster Stacks, Turquoise Bay and Lakeside. We head furthest south to start and work our way up north. As soon as we check out our first snorkelling spot, it is not as amazing as coral bay, everything is similar just on a lot smaller scale. However we are still loving being able to swim without wetsuits and feel we won’t need them now until we get back home, yay. The day starts to become overcast, and I’m not in the mood to do much else so I have a siesta on the beach while Zac gives beach fishing a crack.
Camp Location: Yardie Homestead Caravan Park
Cost = $32/night
Travelled From: Peoples Park, Coral Bay
Distance Travelled: 186 kilometres
The next day we leave the caravan park and get back in touch with nature and go on a hike, we have been hanging to do some more hikes, the last one we did was in Tassy so it has been a while. The hike was in the National park and was called Mandu Mandu Gorge, only a 3km return hike but with some rocky and steep climbs. We were delighted to walk through the bottom of the gorge, with amazing orange rock formations towering around us, then up to the top to catch the view from above and of the whole Cape Range Coastline.
A quick snorkel to cool off followed by a little nap on the beach at Turquoise Bay.
We feel we have experienced Exmouth now, so we head out of town, stopping in at a pull over stop for the night before making the big trip to Karinjini National Park.
Camp Location: Pull Over Stop (Bit Sneaky)
Cost = FREE
Travelled From: Yardie Homestead Caravan Park
Distance Travelled: 76 kilometres