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