The Coral Coast of WA extends from Cervantes in the south to Exmouth in the north and includes the famous attractions of Shark Bay, Monkey Mia, The Pinnacles, Coral Bay, Ningaloo Reef and swimming with whale sharks. It is an area of white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, coral, migrating humpback whales – and wind! Here are a couple of great sites that tell you all about it.
Getting around the Coral Coast
Australia’s Coral Coast
This part of my journey is from Carnarvon to Exmouth, the northern part the Coral Coast of Western Australia.
With my van fully stocked I headed out of Carnarvon to 14 Mile Beach at Warroora Station. Having experienced the rough corrugated road to Red Bluff I wasn’t put off by the road in to 14 Mile and knew all I had to do was change into 4 wheel drive and I would sail across the top of the deep ruts – well …. almost! Believe me, the rough road was worth it, and with Brutus in 4WD I was able to camp right on the beach.
It took me a couple of attempts at setting up before I got it right and I had reasonable protection from the wind under my awning, which flapped and banged all day and night – but didn’t blow away! The cost to camp here was a very reasonable $10 a night or $50 for the week. There were no facilities or fresh water but you could get Telstra coverage if you climbed the sand dune behind the camp.
It wasn’t long before I was joined by some of the Willie Wagtails I had met. Les and Wilma arrived first, and then Jose and Jean turned up too. After a couple of days in my beach camp the wind drove me back behind the dunes to join the others on the ridge.
Here’s a couple of beach photos I took. You can see why it was hard to leave….
I had a lovely relaxing week here walking along the beach, swimming in warm aqua water and watching the humpback whales heading north just outside the reef. But it was time to catch up with Jose and Jean who had already left for Coral Bay so I packed up, said farewell to Les and Wilma, and headed north again.
There is no freedom camping at Coral Bay so we were booked in to the Caravan Park at the exorbitant cost of $46 a night for an unpowered site! What a rip off!! It was a very expensive shower, which for me is one of the only advantages of staying in a park. As fresh water is so scarce in this part of the world we couldn’t even top up our water tanks.
But …… the beach was lovely, the water warm, two dolphins shared my swim with me, I went snorkelling for the first time for years ….. and I can say I’ve been to Coral Bay.
What a contrast our next camp was! We left white sandy beaches for the red dust of Bullara Station.
It was dry and dusty but the camp at Bullara was relaxed and friendly, with wonderful hot open air showers, a camp kitchen and happy hour campfire. And it was only $14 a night! Jose, Jean and I had only planned to stay one night but ended up spending a second night there before we headed to Cape Range National Park near Exmouth. At Bullara, I loved the showers and toilet built around the trees – and called the Lava Tree….clever!
The other showers were under the tank stand, and once again open to the sky. What a wonderful way to enjoy a lovely hot shower.
Before we left I had a Zebra Finch fly into my van! There were hundreds of them in the trees and bushes around our camp but I felt very privileged that one chose me to visit!
The Cape Range National Park is accessed via Exmouth and has several different camping areas, but most of them have limited sites available so it is a matter of lining up at the gate and waiting to see who comes out to find out if there’s a space for you to go in to. As I had purchased an annual National Park Pass it was only $6.60 a night for me to stay here. The only facilities provided were long drop toilets and the camp sites were fairly dusty and open without any shelter to speak of, but the beaches were lovely and made it all worth while.
Jean and Jose went in on Wednesday and I followed them on Thursday, leaving the Vlamingh Head Caravan Park at 5.30am to make sure I was near the front of the queue for available camping.
When I arrived at the gate there were already 3 vans in front of me so I just settled back, made my breakfast and waited until 8am when the gates were opened. Whew! I got a spot in Mesa Camp. Jean and Jose were next door at Ned’s camp, but Richard, who we’d caught up with in Exmouth, was at Mesa camp too.
Walk across the dunes to this! What a life!
We gave Brutus, and me, a couple of lessons in towing a boat while I was there, as being 4WD we were able to launch Richard’s boat from the sandy boat ramps. Our first boating day was spent cruising along inside the reef where the water was so clear that you could easily see brightly coloured fish darting amongst the coral.
The next time we took the boat to Yardie Creek and used the electric motor to quietly travel up the gorge and cast a line. The cliffs that lined the creek were alive with corellas, ospreys, herons and rock wallabies, and the creek yielded up 4 estuary cod, who all made their way back home to the creek and not onto our plates for dinner. What a magic day, though.
After 6 lovely days here it was time to move on yet again, so I packed up, said farewell to Richard and set out for Karratha where I was catching up with a friend I had worked with on the Gold Coast. But more about that in my next blog.