Turquoise Bay - Cape Range National Park

Top 9 Towns along the Coral Coast

The Coral Coast of Western Australia spans all the way from Cervantes in the south to Exmouth in the north and covers about 1,100km of coastline.  Within the area is Kalbarri National Park, World Heritage areas Shark Bay Marine Park and Ningaloo Marine Park, as well as beautiful sandy beaches, rugged limestone cliffs and bizzare rock formations.

 

Lancelin does fall a bit short of being part of the Coral Coast, but for the purpose of this post, we will dub this great little town an honorary member…

 

Lancelin – 127km north of Perth

This relaxed coastal town is known as the WA base for wind and kite surfers.  Water sports are the main thing to do around here, unless you like 4WDing or dirt bike riding.  Head north out of town to find some wicked sand dunes to drive or ride over.

 

The town boasts a few cafés, as well as a bakery, surf shop, pharmacy, pizza shop and supermarket.  There are a few pubs in town, including the Endeavour Tavern, which has a kick-ass beer garden.  If you’re looking for some accommodation in the area, check out the Lancelin Lodge YHA.

 

 

Cervantes – 147km north of Perth

This town was established in 1962 as a cray fishing town and got its name from the American whaling ship that was wrecked off the coast in 1844.  It’s another coastal town that offers a variety of water activies, but it’s also super close to the Pinnacles.

 

One of the main attractions in town is the Lobster Shack, a family owned seafood processing operation where you can tour the factory, have a seafood lunch or buy some fresh lobster.  Just out of town is Lake Thetis, a lake that is home to stromatolites and thrombolites and is twice as salty as the ocean.

 

Dongara-Denison – 350km north of Perth

These two sister towns are separated by the Irwin River and boast great fishing, great beaches and the historic Priory Hotel, which was constructed in 1881 as a hotel before being converted into a school that was run by the Domical Sisters for 70 years.

After we checked out Fisherman’s Lookout and the Obelisk in Denison, we drove across the river into Dongara.  Big Moreton Bay Fig trees line the streets, and everyone was really friendly, including the chick who owns the Stomp Music shop.

 

 

Geraldton – 415km north of Perth

Geraldton is a city, not a town, but it’s a fantastic place to visit.  Also known as the Sun City, it has everything from supermarkets, theatres and an aquatic centre, to pubs, restaurants and cafes. Plus, it’s a short drive from Greenough’s leaning trees and Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park.  Check out our post on Geraldton.

 

Kalbarri – 589km north of Perth

This little town sits right on the mouth of the Murchison River and is surrounded by the Kalbarri National Park.  Explore the coastal gorges and rock formations just south of town or drive inland to check out Nature’s Window and deep river gorges.

 

There are two pubs and two supermarkets in town, as well as a really cheap café called Angie’s Café, but if you prefer to catch your own dinner, head to Chinaman Rock with your rod.  There are heaps of accommodation options, from expensive resorts to caravan parks.  Kalbarri Backpackers YHA is a brilliant choice if you’re looking for something relaxed and social and within walking distance to everything.

 

 

Denham – 834km north of Perth

The hub of Shark Bay, this little town is the home to Australia’s westernmost pub, The Shark Bay Hotel.  It is also a short drive to Ocean Park, Monkey Mia and Francois Peron National Park, and further down the coast is Shell Beach and the stromatolites of Hamelin Pool.

 

If you’re a keen 4WDer and fisherman, head to Steep Point.  Once you’ve conquered the sand dunes, see the ranger about a camp spot before dropping a line into the turquoise coloured bay.

 

 

Carnarvon – 905km north of Perth

We thought Carnarvon would be much busier but it’s totally chilled out.  It has a thriving tropical fruit industry and the town is surrounded by plantations that produce papaya, bananas and mangoes.  We also scored some cheap vegetables before doing a spot of tasting at Bumbak’s Preserves & Ice creams Outlet.

 

 

The OTC Dish is a massive landmark that can be seen from town.  It was opened in 1966 as a communications satellite dish and was closed after helping to locate Halley’s Comet in 1987.  It also participated in the Space Race and helped put man on the moon in 1969, and was also the sender of Australia first satellite TV broadcast.

 

Coral Bay – 1132km north of Perth

People were constantly recommending this location and when we got there, we realised why.  Coral Bay is such a beautiful place.  The town survives purely on tourism and is made up of a supermarket, bottle shop and a few caravan parks.

 

Juz went snorkelling by the reef, which is only a few meters from the shore, but other activities include quad biking and fishing.

 

 

Exmouth – 1260km north of Perth

We expected a little more from Exmouth – the layout of the town was a little strange and it felt like more of an inland town than a coastal town.  It was named after the Exmouth Gulf, which was surveyed by Captain Phillip Parker King in 1818.  The surrounding coastline is quite treacherous and is responsible for the Wreck of the Mildura in 1907, and its rusty skeleton can be seen from the beach.  Two lighthouses have been erected to make the coastline a little safer – the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse and the Point Cloates Lighthouse.

 

 

The area was the location of a secret base during World War II and was code named Operation Potshot, which is why the pub in town is called the Potshot Hotel.  We couldn’t afford to pay $30 for a chicken parma at the pub so we feasted on souvlakia from Planet Burgers before crashing at the Excape Backpackers YHA next door.  In the morning, we drove over the cape to the western side of the peninsula and visited the Jurabi Turtle Centre.  We learnt about the different turtles that live in the surrounding waters and the need to minimise the impact of humans on turtles coming to the area to nest.

 

Further along is Cape Range National Park, which is part of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage area. The park covers over 50,000 hectares and is made up of white beaches, limestone ranges and rocky gorges.  We would have loved to go snorkelling over the reef but Juz was way too hungover from the previous evening so we went for a hike in Mandu Mandu Gorge instead.

 

 

BIG4 Holiday Parks on the Coral Coast

Dongara Denison Beach Holiday Park, Dongara

Sunset Beach Holiday Park, Geraldton

BIG4 Plantation Caravan Park, Carnarvon

Exmouth Cape Holiday Park, Exmouth 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There's a variety of accommodation available

BIG4 Ceduna Tourist Park

Located at the doorway to the Nullarbor, BIG4 Ceduna Tourist Park is a great place to stop and rest.  It is only 300m from the centre of town, putting it within walking distance to the beach and jetty, two supermarkets, bakeries and the pub.  The relaxing and quiet atmosphere within the park makes it a perfect holiday destination full of fishing, walking, boating and culture.

 

 

Facilities

Accommodation ranges from self-contained cabins and budget cabins to humble powered sites. The amenities are spotless with plenty of hooks in the showers, and the laundry is stocked with both washers ($3 per load) and dryers ($1 per cycle).  The water from the rainwater tanks are potable and there is even a payphone onsite, just in case your mobile has run out of battery or gone AWOL.

 

 

If you’ve spent a few hours fishing on the jetty, prepare your fresh catch at the fish and crab cleaning facility before cooking up a wicked dinner in Kelly’s Kitchen, a fully loaded camp kitchen with free gas BBQs, stove and fridge, as well as a TV room.

 

 

BIG4 Ceduna Tourist Park

29 McKenzie Street, Ceduna

08 8625 2150

www.cedunatouristpark.com

http://ceduna-tourist-park.sa.big4.com.au/

The Blue Lake

City Profile : Mount Gambier

The Blue Lake

 

Our intent was to stay a while in Mount Gambier.  It is the first major city along the Limestone Coast and we were looking forward to rest and recuperation while checking out the attractions, including the famous Blue Lake.  Of course, our first stop was the Lady Nelson Visitor and Discovery Centre to get some maps and brochures, and they also offer a tour to learn about the history and geology of the area for $10.

 

Mount Gambier was first sighted in 1800 by Lieutenant James Grant of HMS Lady Nelson, but it was officially discovered in 1839 by a guy from Portland.  The first pub was located on the same site as Jen’s Hotel, but the oldest remaining pub is the South Australian, which was built in 1860.

 

After we settled in at Blue Lake Holiday Park, located snugly between the two crater lakes, we went for a stroll into town for a mini pub crawl, which ended up being quite a big night.  We were putrid in the morning but still dragged ourselves out of the tent to go for a looooong walk/hike around the Valley Lake crater, and spent the day in the library, researching and writing at the air-conditioned library!

 

 

We loved Mount Gambier, its sinkholes and lakes, its friendly locals and health conscious community.  We were happy to hear that they are starting a campaign to promote local and organic produce by starting up a farmers market every Saturday morning.  To launch the campaign, the Main Corner was screening Food Matters, a documentary about how the quality of our food can either help us or hinder us.

 

PLACES OF INTEREST

The Lady Nelson Information Centre

This landmark should be the first stop for anyone passing through Mount Gambier.  Collect a map of the town, information about local attractions and a few souvenirs after checking out the full size replica of HMS Lady Nelson, the first ship to sail eastward through Bass Strait.  It was upon the Lady Nelson that Lieutenant James Grant sighted two mountains and named one Mount Schanck and the other Mount Gambier.

 

The Crater Lakes

What a sight!  The beautiful lakes of Mount Gambier were formed by volcanic activity which left craters rimmed with ash and basalt.

 

Blue Lake provides the drinking water for the entire town and has a great walking trail around the rim that is 3.6km long.  Each year in early November, the lake changes colour from dark blue to deep turqoiuse, which remains until February.

 

Next door is Valley Lake, which is guarded by the Centenary Tower – a monument that was built in 1900 to commemorate 100 years since the first sighting of Mount Gambier.  It also has a walking trail that is a bit more challenging, but there were so many butterflies and cicadas around that we were too busy admiring our surroundings to notice the workout.

 

 

Main Corner

This great building at the corner of Commercial Road and Bay Road is a multipurpose space that provides documentary screenings and insight into the history of the area. It is the home of the Riddoch Art Gallery and there are spaces available for concerts, lectures and private functions.

 

 

Cave Gardens

Right in the centre of town, between the Main Corner and the Library is the Cave Gardens, a beautifully landscaped area surrounding a sinkhole.  There are multiple viewing platforms and a nearby rose garden.  The sinkhole used to be the original water source for the town.

 

 

The Library

We have nothing but praise for the Mount Gambier Library.  It was awarded the best small city public library in the world and is a vibrant space that was built 3 years ago.  It offers free internet via wifi and 18 public access computers, TV and video game access, and private room bookings, and has an onsite café.  It also hosts craft markets seasonally on Sundays from 11am.

 

We spent a lot of time here, not only to escape the midday sun, but also to research the history of the area and write about our past adventures.  The staff were super friendly, very accommodating and went above and beyond to show us around and ensure we were comfortable.

 

Umpherston Sinkhole

Another landscaped sinkhole to the east of town.  The hole is filled with hydrangeas, with bees building their hives in the cavities and holes of the surrounding limestone. There was a very friendly possum that wasn’t afraid to come up to us for a sniff, and they even had an electric BBQ and picnic area at the bottom of the sinkhole, shaded by overhanging rock.

 

 

Caroline Sinkhole & Hells Hole

Just south of Mount Gambier is a pine forest that conceals two sinkholes – Caroline Sinkhole and Hells Hole.

 

Caroline Sinkhole was easy to find and after a quick walk from the car park, we were confronted with a breathtaking view.  The sinkhole was formed by water erosion.  Acidic rain water dissolved the limestone along weakness points, eventually developing vertical and horizontal caves that increased in size over time.  The caves got bigger and bigger until the surrounding limestone collapses, leaving a sinkhole.  The Bunganditj people of the region once used the sinkhole for shelter, and the European settlers used to pump water from the bottom for farming.

 

Hells Hole was a little more ominous.  A locked fence prohibited us from driving closer so we parked at the edge of the pine forest and walked in.  There was a clearing about 100 meters that featured a tiny forest.  An overgrown walking path led us to the hole, which was full of dark, stagnant water.  There was a gated platform for people who wanted to dive in, which we immediately thought was a silly idea.

 

 

One of the information plaques along the walk had a really great quote on it:

 

“Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.”

 

FOOD & ACCOMMODATION

Metro Bakery & Cafe

We were keen on second breakfast so we checked out Metro Bakery & Cafe.  It was spacious and clean inside so we ordered a continental omelette with greek sausage, fetta and pumpkin, and eggs benedict.

 

Our food and coffee came out quickly.  The eggs benedict was a little different than usual – it had bacon instead of ham.  Dave got a little excited and inhaled it.  The omelette was tasty but needed something refreshing in it like spring onion or spinach.

 

Overall, it was pretty good and we walked away will full bellies.

 

 

Blue Lake Holiday Park

Bay Road – 08 8725 9856

 

This place was awesome.  Only 2km from the center of town and right between Valley Lake and the beautiful Blue Lake, this BIG4 holiday park was the perfect place to spend our nights in Mount Gambier.

 

Camping at BIG4 Blue Lake Holiday Park

 

Check out our post on this great BIG4 Holiday Park.

 

 
 

 

BIG4 Playground & Jumping Pillow

BIG4 : Blue Lake Holiday Park

Our accommodation of choice while staying at Mount Gambier was the BIG4 Blue Lake Holiday Park.  Located only 2km from the city centre, it sits snugly between the famous Blue Lake and Valley Lake.


The staff were absolutely lovely, willing to chat and have a laugh.  From the moment we walked in, we got a great vibe.  We had a feeling that we were going to be comfortable and have an enjoyable time.

 

 

Facilities include toilets, hot showers and laundries, as well as a kiosk, tennis court, games room, swimming pool, playground with jumping pillow.  You have the option of cabins, powered or unpowered sites, and dog-friendly sites.

 

We chose an unpowered site at the back of the park with close access to BBQ and camp kitchen facilities, toilets and showers, a coin-operated laundry with clothes lines and a tap. All the amenities were functional and clean, and the park was covered with thick, soft grass.

 

 

We’d like to say a big thank you to the lovely ladies at reception for letting us borrow a power point overnight so that we could charge our new jump-start kit, and for letting us stay a few hours after checkout time so that we could work on getting the truck started after a wiring issue.

 

Dave fixing a wiring issue in the Troopy

 

30 Days of Packing Accommodation Holiday Guides

Day 25 : Accommodation Guides

We love camping but when we are in cities and towns, it will be good to know where we can rest up for the night.  An accommodation guide is a great planning tool because it contains locations, contact numbers and the facilities available.

 

When you sign up for a BIG4 Holiday Park membership, you receive a holiday guide that lists where all of their 180 parks are.  With that many locations – BIG4 has got Australia covered.