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 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juz getting up close and personal with a dolphin in Whyalla

Wildlife : Bottlenose Dolphin

Name: Bottlenose Dolphin

Scientific Classification: tursiops truncatus

Location: warmer, tropical oceans all over the world.  Bottlenose dolphins that live further out to sea are larger and darker with shorter fins.

 

A dolphin followed fishermen into the marina 

Fast Facts:

  • Dolphins are not fish – they’re mammals – and are related to porpoises and whales.
  • Adults are approximately 2-4 metres long and can weigh up to 650kg.
  • Dolphins eat about 15kg of food a day, which consists of eels, fish, crustaceans and squid.  They can hunt in groups to round up fish or use echolocation – similar to sonar – to find their lunch.  They don’t chew their food, but swallow it whole.
  • They are very social animals and live in pods of around 15, but some groups can be as large as 100 dolphins.
  • Their main predators are killer whales, tiger sharks and great white sharks.  They are also affected by pollution, getting entangled in fishing equipment or run over by boats, or illegal killing for the meat market.
  • They do a thing called spy-hopping, which basically means bobbing with their head out of the water so they can look at their surroundings.
  • Dolphins can live up to 40 years old.
  • They have a bigger brain than humans and various intelligence tests have included mimicry, the use of artificial language and self-recognition.

 

Cuteness Rating: They’re pretty cute – especially when they have a baby tagging along.

Danger Rating: They are strong and they have 104 teeth in their cute face.  You do not want to get whacked with their tail or bitten.  Don’t underestimate the power of a dolphin…

 

Our Encounter

We first saw dolphins in Whyalla.  A mother and her babe followed a fishing boat into the marina and they lingered around the jetty for a few fish and a rub on the nose.

 

As we travelled across the Nullarbor, we saw dolphins swimming in the waters below, and we got to meet the friendly dolphins at Monkey Mia too.

 

 

A dolphin followed fishermen into the marina

City Profile : Australia Day in Whyalla

About 100km southwest of Port Augusta is Whyalla, a great city filled with friendly people, clean parks and a welcoming atmosphere. With a population of 22,500 people, it’s a growing city with a building boom in recent years and lots of new development, making it the third most populous city in South Australia.

 

 

The area was explored in 1840 by Edward John Eyre, who reported the presence of iron stone 50km west of Whyalla.  The city started as a small camp atop Hummock Hill in 1901 and gradually expanded until it was officially proclaimed a town in 1914.  With BHP extending its arm into Whyalla and building shipping yards and a blast furnace, the town grew to a city in 1961.

 

It was here that we celebrated Australia Day, and we couldn’t have hoped for a better day.  The city had planned a whole afternoon of festivities that kicked off at 4pm – sandcastle making, thong throwing, and the Great Australia Day Dummy Spitting Championships.  There was also a great live band, heaps of food stalls and free flags and tattoos so everyone could show their Aussie pride.

 

 

We participated in the thong throwing contest and Dave won second place by only a few centimetres behind the reigning champion!  Dave was awarded a silver plated blue thong at the presentation ceremony later in the day. GO DAVE!

 

 

After the presentations, we left the dry zone of the city and found a nice park in the centre of town to finish off our cask of Banrock Station White Shiraz.  We were supposed to go back into town at 9pm for the fireworks but we met a great couple who invited us into their home for drinks, nibbles and a great chat.  A pair of Grey Nomads, Chris and Tina gave us a ton of advice, like how to stop the dust from accumulating in the truck and which towns to watch out for up north.

 

Chris and Tina, we had a wonderful night and thank you so much for your generous conversation and hospitality.  Your stories and tips were fantastic to listen to and we hope to cross paths again in the future.

 

PLACES OF INTEREST

Ada Ryan Park

This green and shaded park is the most popular park in the city, offering soft, lush lawns, free electric BBQs, toilets, tennis courts and a playground.  There is also a large aviary with talking parrots, budgies, cockatiels and a pied peacock.  The birds provided a great soundtrack as we had lunch in the park, with the occasional “Hello Cocky!” echoing through the trees.

 

Whyalla Marina & Jetty

We had a stroll along the jetty and watched fishermen drop a line or crab net, and on the way back to the car, we noticed a boat coming into the marina, trailed by two dolphins.  These playful creatures usually follow the fishermen into the marina and if you’re there, you can get close enough to pat them on the nose.

 

 

Flinders & Freycinet Lookout

This lookout overlooks Spencer Gulf and has two sculptures, one of Matthew Flinders and the other of Louis-Claude de Freycinet.  Flinders was the first to explore the coastline of this area in 1802 aboard HMS Investigator, while Freycinet charted the area in 1803 for the Baudin expedition.

 

The sculptures were installed in 2002, and the spot was renamed the Flinders & Freycinet Lookout, which gives a nice view of the Spencer Gulf.

 

 

Hummock Hill Lookout

The place where Whyalla started – this lookout provides panoramic views of the town, the OneStell operations, the foreshore, marina and Spencer Gulf, with various lookout platforms to choose from.  It was developed by BHP as a gift to the city to commemorate the company’s centenary year.

 

The Loaded Dog

Outside of the Whyalla Veterinary Clinic is a metal sculpture of a large dog holding a stick of dynamite.  The sculpture was unveiled in 2008 and is based on Henry Lawson’s story, ‘The Loaded Dog’, about a cheeky retriever that drags dynamite through a campfire, causing the fuse to ignite with mayhem and hilarity to ensue.

 

Sempre Italian Market & Cafe

This great little café in the Civic Centre offers great coffee and Italian goodies.  The business won Outstanding Business of the Month in December 2012, and the reason for this was evident in the quality of their food and customer service.

Dave’s strong latte came out as a skinny latte, and even though the manager offered to remake it, Dave still drank it and it was delicious.

 

 

Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Whyalla. The people were all friendly, there was a real community spirit which was vibrant and united, and we felt right at home amongst it all. We will definitely visit Whyalla again when we have the opportunity – maybe for Australia Day so Dave can challenge the thong throwing champ again!

 

The Loaded Dog