Adventure seekers, nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and travellers who love stunning coastlines, balmy weather and getting up and close with the cutest animal friends, Australia’s Coral Coast in Western Australia should be on your travel list. The Coral Coast stretches from Perth to Exmouth, where you can see crazy landscapes, ancient gorges, swim with the chilled out whale sharks and be surrounded by wildflowers. I’ve not come across a coastline with so much diversity. We spent 8 days exploring the coast, wishing we had at least another week (or 6 months). Our itinerary was full everyday and we still didn’t manage to see everything we planned.
Day 1 – Drive Perth to Billabong Roadhouse (770 km)
Day one, we picked up our Apollo Hightop Camper from just outside of Perth. It was only $35 AUD per day with unlimited Km’s, which is awesome in a state so big like Western Australia. Our plan was to drive all the way to Carnarvon, however we had left too late from Perth and ended up camping the night at the Billabong Roadhouse. I’d not recommend driving from Perth to Carnarvon in one day, as it’s a huge drive and you really cannot take in the sites and surrounds. We left Perth at 10am and arrived at the Billabong by around 8.30pm, just in time to grab dinner and a key for the amenities building. We didn’t want to risk driving at night, given our camper bond was $5000 PER INCIDENT and it’s not nice to accidentally kill an animal. The Billabong allows campers to stay the night for free, which is extremely generous. They have excellent customer service and delicious food and I love supporting local businesses. We didn’t do any sightseeing on day one, as our aim was to get to Coral Bay quickly and then make our way slowly back to Perth.
Day 2 – Drive Billabong Roadhouse to Coral Bay (475 km)
Day two was another long drive ahead. We left by 8am and arrived at Coral Bay by 2.30pm. Long stretches of road made the trip feel like we weren’t getting anywhere and it was certainly very different to the roads I’m used to driving on in Tasmania. The shift from agricultural land to desert was interesting and I couldn’t believe cows were wandering around in this type of environment. Wild goats were roaming freely (a little too close to the road for my liking) and the majestic wedge-tailed eagles were becoming a common occurrence, soaring through the sky and landing where there was fresh road kill. Our road trip was quite surreal and my camera was again getting full of new images of arid landscapes and the local desert wildlife. The scenery took a change when we became closer to Coral Bay. Soon the outback was replaced with ocean and sand. The township of Coral Bay is right on the beach and the spot we parked our camper in The Bayview Coral Bay, was less than a minute’s walk to to the beach. It was paradise and I’m not making this up! In less than a minute you can be in the water, snorkelling and swimming with marine life without a wetsuit! Sunsets are magical here too. Get out your camera, glass of bubbles, some cheese and crackers and head to the beach to watch the sunset. There are a few tables and chairs already placed in the best sunset viewing spots but get early as they get snavelled up quickly.
Day 3 – Coral Bay
Day three was a rest day, as the driving was tiring over the last two days. We slept in a little, then I took a run along Bill’s Bay to the first point. It did take me a little longer than usual, as I was stopping every couple of minutes to take images of the beach and ocean. The colours of the ocean and sand melted into each other and it was beautiful. I came up with an idea to combine running and photography adventures – not sure how well they’d take off. The afternoon was spent snorkelling and taking in the view. We only wore bathers, as the water was warm enough to get in for about half an hour without a wetsuit. The visibility of the ocean was fantastic and we saw so many tropical fish in such a small area. Another day past and we again watched the sunset from our campervan and cooked up a tasty meal in the van. I love being a nomad and could definitely get used to vanlife on a permanent basis.
Day 4 – Coral Bay
Our final day at Coral Bay was action packed! We were going on a Whale Shark tour! For $380 AUD each, we embarked on a full day out on the boat, in search of the elusive megafauna. It was a bucket list adventure for me and I was super excited about being in the water with a whale shark. Our tour started at 7.30am, where we were fitted with our gear and then we boarded our boat which would be home for the day. We were on the boat for only a couple of hours before spotting humpback whales. We saw them breach and frolic in the ocean and then our Captain was notified by our spotter plane whale sharks had been spotted.
Full steam ahead and we all got ready for our first whale shark encounter. We were split into two groups and were advised how to form around the shark once we were in the water. We were to keep 3 metres from the sharks at all times, and keep on either side of the shark or behind its tail. For those who wanted their experienced captured, we had a photographer who would take us to the front of the shark and snap a pic, so we could of course share it on social media (along with remembering this magical experience!). When it was time to jump into the water, I was a little nervous but mostly excited. For the first snorkel I was at the front of the shark and I didn’t realise how slow it swam. It was very relaxed and didn’t seem to mind us at all hanging about. It was a wonderful moment and I felt very humbled to be in the presence of such a big animal. I cannot believe these animals are hunted for food and as a result they are becoming endangered. When we were out of the water from the first snorkel, it was big smiles all round! What a moment! Seriously, if you love animals and love being in the water, you must get yourself to Western Australia and make your way to Coral Bay to swim with the whale sharks. I guarantee you will absolutely love it. Feeling blessed to have been in the water with one whale shark, our day was super special as were swam with a total of four whale sharks. In addition to seeing the humpback whales, the whale sharks, turtles, we also saw two tiger sharks (but we were out of the water). And it only gets better – we were treated to yummy snacks and lunch throughout the day by our amazing crew.
And I promise I’m not getting any kickbacks from writing about our experience, it was honestly one of the best day tours I’ve ever done. The tour company was Ningaloo Reef Dive and Snorkel and I highly recommend them. At the end of the tour, you can choose to purchase the images taken by Migration Media from the day, which we did. Then it was back to the campervan and straight to bed, as we were both exhausted from our exhilarating day.
Day 5 – Drive Coral Bay to Denham (557 km)
Still buzzing from our whale shark encounter, we hit the road again, making our way slowly back towards Perth. Our first stop was Denham, which is a great place to base yourself to explore the Shark Bay region. We left Coral Bay around 8.30am and arrived at Denham by 4.30pm. We stopped for lunch along the way and had a couple of close encounters on the road with cows and goats. Even in the day, you need to be completed alert of animals hanging out on the road side. We checked into our campsite at the Blue Dolphin Caravan Park and had an early night. It was a very clean park and great facilities. The staff also had excellent service and very friendly. Another high recommendation.
Day 6 – Monkey Mia
Ah Monkey Mia! What a dreamy place and once I could stay in for a long time! Monkey Mia is a short drive from Denham and is where you can feed the dolphins. This world famous tradition has been happening since the early 1980’s and is a wonderful way to interact with the local dolphins. There are three feeding sessions, starting at 7.30am daily. I’d recommend getting to the 7.30am session and hanging around for the other two feeding sessions. As a guide, the feeding sessions are up until to noon, however the dolphins on our day had finished all three feeding sessions by 9.30am. You may even get picked, like I did, to feed one of the dolphins. It was a wonderful experience.
Aside from the dolphin feeding, Monkey Mia is a gorgeous place to explore. It has a stunning coastline, with magical beaches and we explored the area by hiring a kayak for the day. We had 8 hours out in the sun, paddling to the beaches and getting off to take a walk around. The red rock coast and reddish sand beaches coupled with the turquoise coloured ocean was picture perfect. I could not believe it was high season and we had the beaches and ocean to ourselves. When we were paddling back, we were lucky to see the dolphins hunting for their evening meal and they were circling schools of fish and jumping out of the water so gracefully – we felt like they were putting on a show just for us.
You can stay at Monkey Mia, either in the resort or campgrounds. However it books out months in advance, which is why we didn’t stay there. If you can plan out extremely far in advance, it would be a wonderful experience to stay in the area.
Day 7 Drive Denham to Kalbarri (377km)
I woke up on day 7 thinking what could possibly top the trip so far. We’d swam with whale sharks, fed dolphins, had pristine beaches to ourselves and enjoyed colourful sunsets. Yet, the Coral Coast continued to show us how beautiful this part of Western Australia is with a visit to Kalbarri. Kalbarri is a small seaside town where you can enjoy many adventures. My motivator to visit was to explore the Kalbarri National Park and specifically the inland gorges. Upon arrival to Kalbarri we set off straight away to visit the gorges and do a couple of little hikes before sunset. With the rocks in these areas as old as 400 million years old, the formations were spectacular and it was great to be surrounded by such ancient landscape. Since hiking the Larapinta Trail last year, I have come to appreciate how old Australia is and how special it is to hike these areas.
Day 8 Drive Kalbarri to Perth via The Pinnacles (585km)
Our final day exploring Australia’s Coral Coast and our final stop was to check out the Pinnacles. Only around 150 km’s north of Perth, visiting these rock formations should be on your itinerary. It was raining when we visited, so it was very eerie and the scenery and landscape was even more surreal. You can drive your car through the National Park and around the 4 km loop. You can also get out and take a walk around and there are endless photographic moments to be captured here.
Once back to Perth, we spent time exploring the city and a trip to Rottnest Island – which will be another blog post!