Dive into the Coral Coast
Western Australia is big, beautiful and a billion years old. At close to the size of Western Europe, and at one-third of Australia, WA offers a diverse experience, from 20,000 kilometres of coastline, you will find glorious beaches, to tropical rain forests, to scorching red desert tracks, and a host of natural wonders. It is the State of Summer somewhere, with Mediterranean conditions in the south through to wet tropics in the north. And the Coral Coast in the middle greets the Indian Ocean and you’ll be spoiled in the evening with majestic sunsets.
Western Australia’s Coral Coast boasts amazing marine life, endless white sandy beaches, and the stunningly beautiful turquoise and warm waters of the Indian Ocean. This region is home to Ningaloo Reef and Shark Bay both World Heritage listed sites.
The Indian Ocean Drive skirts the towns of Cervantes, Jurien Bay, Leeman and Dongara, where you’ll find unexpected food and drink experiences; The Lobster Shack at Cervantes celebrating one of the state’s many premium food exports, while Illegal Tender Rum Co at Dongara adds to an ever-growing number of distilleries in the state.
The Pinnacles, 17 kilometres south of Cervantes within Nambung National
Park, is unforgettable and ethereal, with its thousands of limestone pillars pointing skyward. A traditional site of “women’s business” within Noongar culture, the pillars are said to be young men punished for straying into the sacred area, encased in sand and stone, their weapons pointing to the sky.
Inland regions draw wildflower hunters, both experienced and novice, in late winter and early spring. Western Australia is rich in flora with over 12,000 identified wildflower species.
Lesueur National Park, 20 kilometres from Jurien Bay, is a starting point for many. Geraldton, 420 kilometres from Perth, is a centre for cray (lobster) fishing, a rugged industry with an international reputation for quality, and one which can be experienced just offshore. Operators like Jay Cox of Eco Abrolhos run crayfish tours, guests boarding the cray boat for a few hours, pulling up pots laden with crays, with the 30-year veteran of the industry. It’s a hands-on experience that culminates on dry land, feasting on the days catch at local restaurant Skeetas (owned by Jay Cox’s brother, Colin Cox).
Snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef.
If you’re visiting Exmouth, Coral Bay or the ocean-side pastoral stations north of Carnarvon, this is an absolute must-do. The World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef is regarded as one of the last great ocean paradises on Earth, and you can access this watery wonderland by simply stepping off the beach and swimming a few metres to one of the world’s largest fringing reef.
Swimming with gentle giants.
Join a whale shark tour from Exmouth or Coral Bay for the ultimate wildlife encounter – swimming with the world’s largest fish. Whale sharks visit Ningaloo Reef from mid-March to the end of July; or swim with humpback whales from
July/August to November. Year round you can also swim with giant manta rays while keeping an eye out for sea turtles, dugongs and game fish.
Friendly dolphins at Monkey Mia.
One of the world’s most reliable places for wild dolphin encounters, Monkey Mia’s curious bottlenose dolphins have been swimming to shore to interact with humans for more than 40 years. While in the World Heritage-listed Shark Bay area, you can also spot sea turtles and dugongs, admire the world’s oldest and largest living fossils – Hamelin Pool’s stromatolites – and fish, snorkel, and dive. Don’t miss a trip into Francois Peron National Park, the colours are sure to impress.
Wildflowers and pink waters.
Head inland to explore some of WA’s most magnificent wildflower country, particularly between June and October when blooms are at their breath-taking best. While spotting some of WA’s 12,000 wildflower species, check out other amazing colours at Hutt Lagoon near Port Gregory, where waters could be red, bubblegum pink or lilac depending on the conditions. The lagoon, best viewed between April and October, is located between other Coral Coast highlights – the seaside city of Geraldton and its diving drawcard, the Abrolhos Islands; and Kalbarri, where soaring river gorges meet the sea.
Extraordinary rock formations.
Acres of incredible limestone spires rise eerily from the sand at the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park near the coastal town of Cervantes, a little over two hours north of Perth on the Indian Ocean Drive. Meanwhile in Kalbarri National Park, the much anticipated Kalbarri Skywalk officially opened in June 2020. Offering visitors breathtaking and uninterrupted views over Kalbarri National Park, the 100-metre high skywalk features two cantilevered viewing platforms that extend 25 and 17-metres beyond the rim of the Murchison River Gorge.
So, if you are heading to WA, make sure you stop at the Coral Coast for a while.
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Images: courtesy of Tourism Western Australia