It's the New Year, and if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, there is a good chance, it's not beach weather. As you don your umbrella, dig out from copious amounts of snow, and layer up to sway off shivering to death, your thoughts may be of endless white sand beaches and Bombay Gin - blue, warm, water, lapping at your toes. True, there are heaps of locations in the Southern Hemisphere which may be of interest, but none as magical as Western Australia's Coral Coast. English speaking (well, kinda anyway), safe, easy to travel, clean, and eco conscious, unlike many other locations around the globe, this one does tick off all the boxes. Cheap, it is not; comparable to Los Angeles or Singapore, the price you pay for infrastructure and security; unlike some places in the Philippines or Brazil which give you aqua marine waters, but also kidnappings, oceans filled with debris, massive poverty and having to constantly be wary of pick pocketing or theft. Australia is a win. The Coral Coast is a win - win, because unlike its east coast counter part, you can have endless miles of perfect beaches, all to yourself (it also lacks the majority of lethal slithering and marine creatures which the Gold Coast and the Great Barrier have in full force).
DAY ONE: If renting a vehicle, pick up your car (I recommend Bayswater, they are not at the airport, but have the best rates and are located within an easy Uber ride) and head North towards Cervantes. There are not a lot of roads in Western Australia, so this should be pretty straight forward. Stock up on water and munchies, as locations to get provisions are going to be few and far between for the next week and a half. Spend some time at the Pinnacles, these incredible rock formations are an instagrammers dream and a great way to spend a few hours. You will see Emus and Kangaroos playing hide and seek amongst the yellow sand, with immense blue skies and the Indian Ocean in the distance. It is surreal as you can get, and definitely worth some time. Afterwards, head into Cervantes and visit the Lobster Shack for some fresh caught crustaceans, super tasty, then continue heading North towards Geraldton. Drive time today is about 5.5 hours.
DAY TWO: After breakfast (or Brekkie to sound like a local) a short two hour drive will bring you to Kalbarri National Park. This is well worth a full day of discovery, between hiking amongst red rock canyons, swimming in the Murchison River, or taking selfies along the coastal cliffs. The day is sure to end with a pint of something cold and a smile on your face.
DAY THREE: Into the true Australian Outback you will head, taking a bit over 4 hours to reach Carnarvon. Be sure to stop in at the Billabong Road House for a cold beverage and a photo op as well as clean off all the bugs from your windscreen. By now you will have discovered "road trains" which may have kicked up quite a bit of dust onto your vehicle as well. Once in Carnarvon, check out the Space Museum and visit a farm. This area is known as the banana belt of WA, and has plenty of orchards to peruse at your leisure. For some adrenalin inspired views, a ride with Coral Coast Helicopters is certainly a great way to explore the region from above.
DAY FOUR: Three more hours of driving will bring you into the bucolic hamlet of Coral Bay, the only direct access to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Ningaloo Reef. Check into your accommodation and park your car, you won't need it for several days, as this community takes less than 10 minutes to walk across and is adjacent to one of the finest bodies of water in Australia - Bill's Bay. With a laid back, lost in time feel, this lazy town will be your home for the next 3 nights. Spend the afternoon following schools of fish, sink your toes into the sand, hire a kayak, bask in the year round sun; sitting just over the Tropic of Capricorn (be sure to get a photo when you drive by the sign), this region has over 330 sunny days a year and considered the desert, so none of those afternoon thunderstorms so common in tropical beach side locations.
DAYS FIVE & SIX: With the largest year round Manta Ray population on the planet, be sure to spend one of these two days on a tour swimming with these graceful creatures. With wing spans of up to 3 meters across, and many times traveling in groups or 2 or 3, these fantastic plankton eaters love the shallow waters in and around Coral Bay, which means the probability of you snorkeling with a few is pretty high. Coral Bay EcoTours is the longest running eco operator on the Ningaloo, and the best outfitter for all of your marine safari interactions. Depending on the time of year you decide to make your journey, you can swim with either Humpbacks or Whale Sharks too. AMAZING! No other location on the planet offers you such diversity. Though Whale Sharks are found in the waters of the Ningaloo year round, their season officially begins in March, however many times operators in Coral Bay encounter them in January and February as well. The season goes on until the end of June. July begins the largest migration of Humpback Whales on the planet, with over 30,000 traveling along the Ningaloo through October. With the waters warm and shallow and the reef, meters from shore, your Marine Safari interaction will be awe inspiring to say the least, and almost always within sight of those endless white sand beaches.
DAY SEVEN: Sadly, your time has come to an end here in Coral Bay along the longest fringing reef on the planet, and it is time to head South, the goal for the day is Shark Bay, another UNESCO World Heritage site and about 5.5 hours of drive time. Be sure to have plenty of water in the car and provisions from the Coral Bay Bakery before heading out. Retracing your steps towards Perth, the turn off for Shark Bay /Denham is clearly marked around 4 hours into your drive. Stopping in at Shell Beach and the ancient Stromatolites of Hamlin Pool (oldest living organism on earth!) are both must do's on your drive in. Though Monkey Mia offers the chance to see dolphins daily as they are fed by the local parks rangers every morning, I would skip this area and stay in Denham instead, it is a great base to explore the region and comes without a daily entrance fee.
DAY EIGHT: Hire a guided tour into Francois Peron National Park. This place is extraordinary and unless you have a confident 4 x 4 not recommended on your own. There are heaps of great tour guides, but if you can specifically get an indigenous guided tour, all the better. Spend a full day taking photos and wandering the red sand cliffs surrounded by white sand beaches, they will surely take your breath away. Alternately, a day spent on Dirk Hartog Island is pretty spectacular as well.
DAY NINE: Departing early for about a 6 hour drive to Jurien Bay, which will allow for photo ops along the way and the chance to spend the afternoon snorkeling from Dobbyn Park. You will be close to the Pinnacles again too, if you didn't get your fill on the drive North, as well as Hangover Bay, a popular spot to swim and have a bbq.
DAY TEN: First thing today is a seal lion encounter, departing at 9 am and back by noon, then you are off towards Perth, but with an afternoon break visiting Yanchep. This lovely park is filled with Kangaroos, caves and Koalas...and shouldn't be missed. You are only an hour outside of Perth at this point, so take your time while wandering the grassy woodlands of this lovely oasis. Arrive into Perth in time for dinner and to drop your vehicle if needed, plenty of time for a late flight back home or to spend a few more days exploring the city.
Please remember, this is a remote part of the world and often above 35 Celsius,
with endless miles of adventure, at times without seeing another human for hours on end.
Always bring food and water with you, always fill up with petrol when you see a station,
cell service is good, but be prepared for a break down with adequate gear.
This region is also very popular but with limited accommodation,
always book as early as possible, don't leave anything up to chance.
I have included a number of links in the paragraphs above to help you create the trip of a lifetime.
Alternately, if you would rather fly and spend more time lounging in Coral Bay along the Ningaloo,
flights on Rex are offered daily to Carnarvon, with car hire available.
Private charters can also be arranged from Perth flying directly into Coral Bay.
Ask me how: firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course I am always happy to help you with your itinerary and booking, just let me know HERE