Western AustraliaExmouth and The Coral CoastDive into one of the largest fringing reefs in the world, Ningaloo, and experience the magic of swimming with the gentle whale shark. You'll meet Monkey Mia's resident dolphins up-close and witness one of the world's biggest wildflower shows.
The only region in Australia where you can take a sunny beach holiday at pretty much any time of year, the Coral Coast experience begins among the mysterious formations of the Pinnacles formed over millions of years near Cervantes. Beyond lie two of Australia's UNESCO World Heritage-listed attractions, spectacular Shark Bay and the largest fringing reef on Earth, Ningaloo Reef - home to some of the most extraordinary marine life you'll encounter anywhere in the world. Follow the Indian Ocean Drive north of Perth and you'll find yourself in Australia's Coral Coast in just over two hours. Its proximity means a variety of leisurely and adventurous day trips or extended itineraries are regularly on offer. And with local airlines regularly flying to Learmonth (servicing Exmouth and Coral Bay), Geraldton, Kalbarri, Monkey Mia and Carnarvon, there are plenty of options to design your own escape. Year-round world-class snorkelling, diving and fishing are the biggest hooks that lure thousands of visitors to this region. It's where you'll meet the famous dolphins of Monkey Mia and encounter the world's largest population of dugongs. It's also one of the few places on Earth where you can swim with the largest fish in the ocean - the gentle whale shark. There is just as much adventure to be found on land. Let one of the oldest surviving cultures share their stories and insights of the Coral Coast on an authentic Indigenous cultural tour. In the coastal playground of Kalbarri, where 400 million-year-old river gorges meet the Indian Ocean, over 183,000 hectares of spectacular landscapes are yours to explore. And after the winter rains, the whole region is carpeted in the colours of over 1,100 varieties of Western Australian wildflowers.
Geraldton is up there with the top must-see surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, diving, snorkelling, boating and fishing destinations in Australia. It's also ideally situated for exploring one of the greatest displays of spring wildflowers on Earth, with some intriguing Indigenous, maritime and Spanish missionary history to discover along the way. Located on the beautiful Batavia Coast, 419 kilometres north of Perth, a road trip to Geraldton will take you just five hours. A coach will get you there in six hours, or you can fly direct from Perth in just an hour. And during the summer months, you also have the option to arrive in style by cruise ship. All year round, Geraldton's consistent wind and swell make it the perfect playground to indulge in water sports. Just 60 kilometres from the shoreline, the coral-fringed Abrolhos Islands lure you to hop on board fishing, diving or snorkelling charter, or take it all in from the air on a scenic flight. You can even combine your Abrolhos-by-air adventure with a flight over the marine-life rich Shark Bay World Heritage Area or the spectacular gorges of Kalbarri National Park. From July to October, all eyes turn to the outback as Geraldton becomes the gateway to wildflower country, where everlastings and hundreds of vivid blooming varieties stretch as far as the eye can see. Cultural enlightenment can also be found if you take time to immerse yourself in Geraldton's rich heritage. Learn about the ancient Yamaji culture. Step inside the Western Australian Museum - Geraldton to see the tragic stories revealed by relics of shipwrecks. Have a moment's silence at the magnificent HMAS Sydney II memorial to remember the 645 crew members lost in 1941. Or be transported to the Spanish missionary era by the awe-inspiring architectural work of Monsignor John Hawes at St Francis Xavier Cathedral. Besides a buzzing modern foreshore that offers shopping, dining and live entertainment, you'll also get to choose from an array of hotels, motels and self-contained houses and apartments through to caravan parks and bed and breakfast accommodation.
Coral Bay is as idyllic as the name suggests. There, on white-sand beaches, you're just a few steps from the world's largest fringing reef - the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. Dive, snorkel or fish in clear turquoise waters and immerse yourself in marine life encounters. This tiny seaside town is blessed with beach weather for most of the year, and you can get there in half a day from Perth. A two and a half hour flight gets you to Learmonth Airport, then it's just a one and a half-hour drive to Coral Bay. Taking it a little slower, you can drive there in two days or join an extended guided tour from Perth. At the southern end of Ningaloo's 5,000 square kilometres of diverse reef habitats, laid-back Coral Bay lets you explore its wonders at your own pace. You can even stay dry and view the coral gardens from a glass-bottom boat, or just laze on the beach with a book. But there's plenty of adventure to be found. It's one of few places on Earth where you can come face-to-fin with the biggest fish in the ocean - the whale shark. These gentle filter-feeding giants can be found off the coast there from March to July every year. Next on the visitor list are migrating humpback whales, with whale watching tours giving you a front-row seat from June to November. Other close encounters of the marine kind can be enjoyed year-round, including spotting or swimming with graceful manta rays, dugongs and turtles. Or take to the skies on a scenic flight and drink in the spectacle from above. Ningaloo also boasts the title of Western Australia's premier game fishing destination, and Coral Bay's fishing charters will put you within striking distance of your dream catch. Emperor, cod, Spanish mackerel and bream are regularly hooked, not to mention hard-fighting tuna, marlin, mahi-mahi and sailfish. Just a sandy-footed stroll from the beach, the town itself offers a good choice of accommodation, cafes, shops and restaurants. Book early during the peak season to secure your piece of paradise.
Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Monkey Mia
Wild dolphins have been visiting the shoreline at Monkey Mia virtually every day for over 40 years, making this spot in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area one of the best and most reliable places for dolphin interaction in the world. A 30-minute drive from Denham will bring you to Monkey Mia for a magical face-to-bottlenose encounter with these gentle creatures. Denham is a 2-hour flight from Perth or a day's drive or perhaps join an extended guided tour. The story of the Monkey Mia dolphins begins in the early 1960s when wild dolphins started making a regular appearance in the clear waters of the bay to interact with humans - delighting visitors with their intelligence, playfulness and grace. As the dolphins are wild, numbers and the time of their visits can vary from day to day, but they usually come to the shore several times a day and more frequently in the mornings. Today, the dolphin interactions are regulated by rangers, with a few lucky visitors selected to hand-feed the dolphins a small amount of fish. When the dolphins are fishing or playing offshore, drop into the Dolphin Information Centre and get to know your new-found friends a little better. Interpretive displays share insights into dolphin biology, behaviour, as well as the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Swimming with and touching the dolphins is prohibited by law. Venture beyond the beach and you'll discover a huge variety of animal and birdlife nearby. One of the best ways to discover this unique environment is through the eyes of one of the oldest surviving cultures on Earth by joining an Indigenous cultural tour. A visitor fee is charged for entry to Monkey Mia Reserve. And if you choose to stay overnight at Monkey Mia and breakfast with the dolphins, you'll find a wide variety of accommodation options, facilities and activities. Some visitors opt to base themselves in nearby Denham, where the calm blue waters of the sweeping bay provide ideal conditions for swimming, fishing, boating and water skiing.
122 islands surrounded by coral communities teeming with marine life, the Abrolhos Islands are one of Western Australia's unique marine environments - snorkelling, windsurfing and bird watching paradise that's also ranked among the world's top fishing spots. Formerly known as Houtman Abrolhos, these Indian Ocean jewels sit just 60 kilometres west of Geraldton, making them an easily accessible must-do day trip. Scoot across the water by charter boat, fishing or eco-tour from Geraldton or Kalbarri. Or hop aboard a scenic flight from Dongara, Kalbarri or Geraldton. Three main clusters of islands stretch from north to south across 100 kilometres of ocean, including the Wallabi Group, Easter Group and Pelsaert Group. All fed by the warm southward-flowing Leeuwin Current, they are a meeting ground for all kinds of tropical and temperate sea life. Keep a keen eye and a pair of binoculars handy and you're likely to spot some of the 90 plus seabird species that have been recorded here. Gaze in awe at huge breeding colonies feeding on schools of pelagic baitfish, and majestic white-breasted sea eagles cruising the skies to prey on smaller seabirds. If you're adding the Abrolhos Islands to your itinerary, you'll need to base yourself in Geraldton, Kalbarri or Dongara, all of which offer a good range of budget to mid-range accommodation options. To finish your Abrolhos Island experience in style, be sure to dine on the delicious local delicacy, fresh crayfish.
Take a scenic flight
Discover the picturesque Abrolhos Islands, spectacular coastal cliffs and river gorges of Kalbarri, amazing Pink Lake at Hutt Lagoon, feed dolphins at Monkey Mia and more with Kalbarri Scenic Flights. Since much of the Kalbarri Coastal region’s most pleasing scenery is inaccessible by road, their flights offer you the opportunity to witness the wonders of the Mid West at first hand from the best possible vantage point - the air! Travel in comfort with an experienced pilot who offers very informative commentary.
Visit World-Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo is home to the world's largest fringing reef and can be reached by just a short swim in many places. Nowhere else on the planet can you access a large coral reef so easily. What's more, it's made the UNESCO World Heritage list for its incredible biodiversity and the 'bucket list' as one of the few places in the world where you can swim with the largest fish in the ocean, the gentle whale shark. For your Ningaloo escape, head for Coral Bay or Exmouth. Flights from Perth get you to nearby Learmonth airport in 2.5 hours. Alternatively, you can make the 2-day drive from Perth or join an extended tour. Reaching nearly 20 kilometres seaward and covering 5,000 square kilometres of ocean, Ningaloo Reef brings you face-to-fin with some 500 species of fish, graceful manta rays and turtles, as you glide over 300 varieties of coral. Or, if you'd prefer to stay dry, glass-bottom boat tours offer a window to this underwater wonderland. For real adventure-lovers, nothing compares to the exhilaration of swimming with the world's largest fish - the whale shark - which visits Ningaloo between late March and mid-July and can grow up to 16 metres long. Between June and November, Ningaloo welcomes another mammoth visitor, as humpback whales make their annual migration. Whale watching tours operate from Coral Bay and Exmouth, but if you miss the boat, you might catch the turtle nesting and hatching season when tours run from late January to February. For a different perspective, explore the rugged red canyons of Cape Range National Park in a four-wheel-drive or on foot. Take a guided walk up Mandu Mandu gorge, stopping to spot native wildlife, and be sure to stop at Vlaming Head Lighthouse on the way back to take in a Ningaloo sunset. To add to the adventure, go camping or 'glamping' in Cape Range National Park. Alternatively, make Coral Bay or Exmouth your base - both offer options to cater for all budgets, from backpackers, caravan parks and chalets to motels, lodges and resorts.
The lunar-like Pinnacles form one of Australia's most unique and fascinating natural landscapes. Formed over millions of years, thousands of tall limestone spires rise eerily out of the yellow desert sands of Nambung National Park, just outside the coastal town of Cervantes. In under 3 hours from Perth, following the Indian Ocean Drive, you can transport yourself to another world, venturing into the Pinnacles along the scenic drive or walk trail. Or, you can let someone else take the wheel and join a coach or four-wheel drive tour from Perth or Cervantes. Stand at the lookout and ponder the natural forces of water and wind that shaped the Pinnacles from seashells over millions of years. Better still, visit the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre and see the Pinnacles' story revealed in interpretive displays, as well as some insights into the plants and animals that have made their home here. Tourists are advised to check for alerts and road/park closures before commencing their travel on www.emergency.wa.gov.au and https://alerts.dbca.wa.gov.au
Kalbarri National Park
The Kalbarri National Park is located 590 kilometres north of Perth and 160 kilometres north of Geraldton. The park covers 186,096 hectares and offers some of the most spectacular scenery in Western Australia. Few areas in the State boast more species of native flora and during July and October, the park's landscape is ablaze with colour. The Murchison River Gorges, including The Loop*, Z Bend*, Hawkes Head Lookout and Ross Graham Lookout, slash abruptly through Sand Plain for 150 kilometres from the Highway to Kalbarri town. It is estimated that these tumblagooda sandstone walls were created 400 million years ago on the tidal flats of an ancient sea. Fossil tracks and sea fossils can be found in many places along the river. The Coastal Gorges including Red Bluff, Pot Alley Gorge, Rainbow Valley, Eagle Gorge, Shell House, Mushroom Rock, and the most spectacular of the lot, Island Rock and the Natural Arch, provide spectacular views of this rugged piece of coastline. The ocean here has carved out massive chunks of soft limestone coast and created towering cliff formations approximately 100 metres high, strange rocky shapes, secluded beaches and colourful layered sands and silts compacted and layered in stone. The coastal gorges are easily accessed by a sealed road, short unsealed sections to the parking areas, and then a short walk to the gorge lookouts. The park hosts an array of flora, including magnificent wildflowers from July to October, Banksia and Eucalypt thickets, River Gums and fauna, including Red and Grey Kangaroo, Euros, small Marsupials, Echidna, Feral Goats and Pigs, many Birds. Special policy rules apply to hiking, camping, walking trails, canoeing and rock-climbing and must be abided by.
Discover more in Western Australia
- Broome & North West
- Cape Keraudren Nature Reserve
- Cape Leveque
- Coral Bay
- Eco Beach
- Eighty Mile Beach
- El Questro Station
- Exmouth and The Coral Coast
- Gibb River Road
- Karijini National Park
- Kennedy Range National Park
- Lake Ballard
- Margaret River
- Mitchell River National Park
- Ningaloo Marine Park
- Perth & Surrounds
- Pilbara Region
- Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles)
- Rottnest Island
- Shark Bay World-Heritage Area
- The Golden Outback
- The Pinnacles