WA road trip: Exmouth & Ningaloo Reef

Today’s tidbit: “At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides, and follow the sun.” ― Anonymous 

From Coral Bay the road trip continued to our last stop up north. Part of Australia’s Ningaloo Reef region, Exmouth is known for the rugged gorges of Cape Range National Park that give way to the pristine white beaches, clear blue waters and vibrant coral reefs of the Ningaloo Marine Park. From hiking, beaches, snorkeling (video at the end), a glass bottom boat tour and more spectacular sunsets it was easy to fall in love with this beautiful place.

Sneak peek image:

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Be sure to click below to read more and check out more pictures. Enjoy!


Along the drive.

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Once we made it to Exmouth, stopped in the town to wander around and get lunch. Mixed it up and enjoyed some Thai (and made a new dog friend).

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{Exmouth + Vlaming Head Lighthouse} A steep winding road led us here.

As the website states, “Vlaming Head Lighthouse, built in 1912 is significant for its aid in the development of marine navigation along the western coastline of Australia. It was built as a direct result of the wrecking of the SS Mildura in 1907 and contributes to the wider historical significance of the region. The lighthouse is significant for demonstrating a way of life in a very isolated area where supplies had to be landed on the beach and transported by tramway to the site. The lighthouse is paramount as a landmark feature in the region, prominent from the sea and the mainland.” Read more.

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View of the Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Resort from the lighthouse + LOOKOUT chalets, where we stayed (circled chalet).

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{Exmouth + Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Resort} LOOKOUT was an inside joke from South Africa and here in Exmouth decided we had to stay in the LOOKOUT chalets. Talk about a view… could not get enough.
Check them out.

As the website states, “Exmouth, Western Australia’s underwater playground. Ningaloo, the largest fringing reef in Australia, sits just a stone’s throw from Exmouth on WA’s Coral Coast, making it the must-see destination for keen divers and snorkelers. Located on the eastern side of WA’s North West Cape, in Australia’s Ningaloo Reef region, the charming coastal town of Exmouth is a two and a half hour flight or a 15-hour drive north of Perth. Here, the rugged gorges of Cape Range National Park give way to the pristine white beaches, clear blue waters and vibrant coral reefs of the Ningaloo Marine Park.”
Read more.

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Spotted Eddie the emu wandering around.

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{Day 2 + Cape Range National Park} Fueling up for a long day with a delicious breakfast on the balcony. From here we spent the afternoon exploring.

The trail we did was Mandu Mandu Gorge, which was rocky with some pretty steep parts but a great walk through the gorge. The highest point on the trail is at 68m above sea level. At the top you could enjoy the views of the ocean behind and the hill in front.

As the website states,”Situated on the west side of the North West Cape is Cape Range National Park, Western Australia, a spectacular place of rugged limestone ranges, breathtaking deep canyons and 50 kilometres of pristine beaches.” Read more.

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Made it it the top. Below along that rocky path/river is where we started.

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Coming back down and looking up, where we were. Picture to the right you can see 2 other people coming down and how steep it was.

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Spotted a roo. Sill guy should be snoozing like his friends in the middle of the afternoon.

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After that hike it was quite hot out, even for an Australia winter, so we stopped at another spot for some ocean breeze and a walk along the beach. Such clear turquoise water!

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Ended a wonderful day exploring with a sunset on the balcony, and that after sunset blue/pink glow. You can see the lighthouse, which from the balcony was to the left.

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{Day 3 + Ningaloo Ecology Cruises} Originally we had  planned to do this the day before but the water was too choppy, so the tour was rescheduled. Even here, the water was quite choppy for snorkeling… I drank plenty of salt water.

Taking a glass bottom boat tour we experienced the 2.5 Hour Coral Viewing, Snorkelling and Coastal Explorer EXTRAVAGANZA. Alek, the owner and tour guide, really was knowledgable, outgoing and funny. Great guide and tour!

As the website states, “Ningaloo Ecology Cruises is a family-owned and operated multi-award winning business offering daily glass bottom boat trips throughout the heart of the Ningaloo Reef. Spectacular marine fish, turtles, sting rays, corals and more – all come to life through our exciting Ningaloo Reef tours! Our friendly and passionate tour guide, Alek, will share with you the wonders of Exmouth and the World Heritage Ningaloo Reef. Alek is a finalist in the FACET Golden Guide Award, making him one of WA’s top tour guides. An outgoing person who loves surfing, diving and everything about the Ningaloo Reef, he will make your trip enjoyable and informative.

This eco-tour discovers the fire coral gardens, green sea turtle habitats, plenty of bommies, and a kaleidoscope of colourful fish. It also encompasses a snorkelling stop at one of our snorkelling locations. In addition to the above, we cruise to deeper waters to investigate 1000+ year old corals and larger fish habitat.” Read more.

He knew I really wanted to see a turtle so when it was time to snorkel directed where one normally is hiding. Tommy the turtle was being naughty that day so, I will have to go back and find him! Amazing coral and fish though.

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Video from snorkeling at the end.

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On the way back from the dock to our resort we stopped at the Jurabi Turtle Centre, where we learned about turtle history. Unfortunately, didn’t see any. Read more.

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Lunch on the balcony when we returned from a a great day on the boat.

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To the beach for the sunset!

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{Whalers} Headed to a new restaurant for dinner. It was a beautiful evening and the food was delicious!

“Located in the heart of the Exmouth Escape Resort, Whalers features stunning indoor and outdoor settings overlooking the beautiful swimming pools and lush gardens. It offers the perfect relaxed dining experience to complete your visit to Western Australia’s world famous Ningaloo Reef. Whalers prides itself on fresh, honest flavours and sources the finest local seafood, steaks and produce available.” Check them out.

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In Australia, appetizers are called entrees and what we in the states think of entrees are called mains. So, here for entrees we started with the best gluten free portobello mushroom fries with parmesan, herbs, truffle oil and chili jam + grilled zucchini pockets with goat cheese, toasted almonds and pesto.

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My main, which was a special… fresh grilled salmon in vanilla with roasted potatoes (and some amazing herbs, sauce and tomatoes), capers and broccoli. SO good.

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{Last day in Exmouth + the beach} Leaving after 3 wonderful nights, we headed to one of the beaches to spend the morning walking along the sand and taking in the salty air and wonderful ocean breeze. I had fun writing in the sand.

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Turtle holes and little footprints. Not the right season for them to be hatching, and hopefully they’re ok. Didn’t see any little guys making their way to the ocean (which would have been amazing!).

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Back on the road… this bridge is going over what should be a river which is totally dried up. It was winter here so most places had more water but since this was much further up north it was quite hot and dry still. Interesting contrast.

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>>> CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO on vimeo: Snorkeling in Exmouth

And from here we headed back to Perth. Along the way we stopped at 2 places we had already been and spent one night in Carnarvon and 2 nights in Kalbarri. Such an incredible road trip and so many adventures. Check back next week as I continue with WA and share Perth!

11 Responses to “WA road trip: Exmouth & Ningaloo Reef”

  1. Shannon says:

    What a way to end the road trip! It all looks INCREDIBLE

  2. Karen says:

    That water, food and those sunsets… ahhhhhh, bliss! Love the blue fish in the video too. Favorite picture is the wave washing LOOKOUT! from the sand – appropriate! Thanks for being such a great photographer and blogger so we can all travel there with you!

    • alyssa says:

      Yes, the whole trip really was that… BLISS. That cove was where the guide said the turtle normally is hiding but he wasn’t there. Loved all the coral and fish though. Oh, and yeah the LOOKOUT has taken on SO many meanings now… from South Africa to Australia to the USA. 🙂

  3. Eric says:

    Brilliant! What fun.

  4. Chris says:

    What an incredible adventure. “Turquoise Bay in Exmouth, Western Australia, came 20th in the travel website’s list thanks to exceptional snorkelling and opportunities for exploring the reef.

    Australia’s final entry in the top 25, also in WA, was Broome’s Cable Beach, which was described as “magical” and adored for offering camel rides and “unmissable” sunsets.” http://www.theaustralian.com.au/executive-living/tripadvisor-names-worlds-best-beaches-and-brazil-beats-australia/story-e6frg9zo-1226860020688?nk=42e0f6fc769b357647b615a997a842a8

    No wonder it was so nice! The plan is to do it all again making sure we include Yardie Creek http://www.visitningaloo.com.au/yardie-creek-gorge and Broome to ride the camels on the beach (unless you want to do it in Monkey Mia)!

    • alyssa says:

      So neat! Will have to check out some of those other beaches on the list too. And yes next time we will definitely have to swim with the turtles, and manta rays, and ride the camels on the beach (Monkey Mia or Broome). The real question is… when does this next trip start?!? 😉

  5. Allie says:

    Absolutely gorgeous views and photography! And that dinner made my mouth water, it looked so good!! Beautiful place!

  6. Robbie says:

    Exmouth, my home. As I said with your last post, if you’re ever back this way I’ll have to take you out and we can do the whale sharks and manta rays here. Glad you did this tour during your stay though. Hahah how funny is Alec? 🙂 Best tour guide and nicest bloke.

    • alyssa says:

      Exmouth was beautiful and the LOOKOUT chalets were amazing! Alec was awesome, so entertaining and knowledgable. Really great tour! Will have to come back and meet up with you and Alec!!

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