The drive from Exmouth to Coral Bay was only 150 km, but it gave us an opportunity to observe the dry landscape of Western Australia’s northern region. We noticed that the state is predominantly bare of trees and surrounded by emptiness, with only small shrubs visible from the road.
Coral Bay is a small town with a population of 200, which is greatly boosted during tourist season. Being located at the edge of the Ningaloo Reef, its main attraction is snorkeling. We were excited to explore the vibrant marine life that thrives in this area.
In addition to snorkeling, Coral Bay offers a variety of activities such as glass-bottom boat tours, diving tours, stingray snorkel tours, whale and shark watching tours, quad bike tours, and sailing tours.
The town’s clear turquoise waters are warm all year round, and the reef is located just 40 meters from the beach, making it easy to grab your snorkeling gear and jump right in.
We were blown away by the amazing snorkeling opportunities and the incredible marine life we encountered in the Ningaloo Reef.
Coral Bay – busy but beautiful
Upon arriving at the Ningaloo Coral Bay Resort, we were disappointed to learn that there were no available campsites. While the resort also offers villas, cabins, and houses, those options didn’t interest us, and we knew there was no free camping in Coral Bay.
Luckily, the staff was able to find us a small campsite for one night, but we had to check back in the office the next day to see if anything else had become available.
It was frustrating because if we had known, we would have called and booked in advance. It was a reminder that we still make rookie mistakes while traveling
Make an early booking if you know your next destination is a popular spot, especially in a tourist season (May – October in Northern Australia).
The next morning at 7 am, we rushed to the reception desk, begging for more days. Thankfully, some people had left, and we were able to extend our stay. It would have been a huge disappointment if we hadn’t been able to explore all that Coral Bay has to offer.
Prior to our arrival in Coral Bay, we heard from many people that Exmouth has better beaches and a reef, while Coral Bay is more suitable for families. However, in my opinion, Coral Bay is simply stunning with its breathtaking beauty, relaxed atmosphere, and small size that keeps it from being overly crowded
Huge snappers rubbing our feet and invisible stingrays
We decided to explore the beach for a brief moment and were immediately blown away by the sight of the crystal-clear azure water, pristine white sand, and huge snappers swimming around our legs as we waded in the shallow water.
Additionally, we were thrilled to spot small stingrays resting on the sand, prompting us to be cautious with every step we took. It was an incredible experience that we will never forget.
Mauds Landing Beach
In the afternoon, we ventured a little further north of town to Mauds Landing Beach. Our main activity for the day was fishing, and even I got a fishing rod. Marius was determined to grill some fish for dinner.
To our surprise, I caught a big fish almost immediately after casting my line. Marius was ready to reel it in, but unfortunately, I lost it just two meters from the shore.
Later on, I caught a small longtom that measured around 40 centimeters, but we decided to release it back into the water.
My husband was feeling a little frustrated that he hadn’t caught anything. We both knew that catching giants like they do in Derby wasn’t an everyday occurrence, but it was still a little disappointing. Nonetheless, we didn’t let that discourage us. We had spent four wonderful hours on the beautiful beach, and time had flown by so quickly.
When we got back, we noticed that Nell had accumulated quite a bit of sand on her from doing flips on the beach. We couldn’t help but smile at her pure joy and exhaustion, even though it meant dealing with kilograms of sand later on
Our Coral Bay snorkelling experience
Later on, we headed back to the beach to cool off and relax in the water. The day was scorching hot, and we were surprised yet again to find small rays hiding in the sand just beneath our feet in the shallow water. We had to tread carefully to avoid stepping on them and getting hurt.
While Marius kept an eye on Nell playing in the shallows, I decided to go snorkeling. The water felt a bit chilly to me since I prefer anything above 30 degrees Celsius.
The sheer number and vibrant hues of the reef fish were mind-boggling. Their colors looked almost too unreal and the texture of their skin was almost rubber-like, which made me want to check for a “made in China” sticker under their tail. It was as if we had stumbled upon an underwater paradise.
I could easily adapt to this simple, laid-back lifestyle. Our mornings usually start off leisurely as we make our way to the beach.
While Marius keeps an eye on Nell playing in the shallows, I immerse myself in the underwater wonderland with my snorkel gear. It’s amazing how calming and rejuvenating it feels to be surrounded by the beauty of nature.
There’s a particular spot on the beach where giant snappers swarm you as soon as you arrive. It’s a popular feeding spot, and every afternoon, people gather around to watch these magnificent creatures in action. The snappers are so comfortable around humans that you can even reach out and touch them.
After I was done with my snorkeling, we decided to check out this feeding spot. As expected, the moment we arrived, we were surrounded by these majestic fish. They were so beautiful up close.
Coral Bay another fishing attempt
In the evening, we returned to Mauds Landing Beach, and as usual, Marius started grumbling about the lack of interest from the fish. The water was crystal clear, and schools of fish were leaping happily around us, which only seemed to frustrate him more.
I took a more relaxed approach to the situation, thinking that if I caught something, great, and if not, no big deal. Eventually, Marius had a bite, and to his delight, he reeled in a … plump blowfish. I immediately grew suspicious about its toxicity and consulted with other anglers nearby, who confirmed it.
Coral Bay Summary
During our week-long stay in Coral Bay, our daily routine mostly involved swimming and snorkeling in the mornings and fishing in the afternoons. We were free from any responsibilities and could simply focus on relaxing, staying safe, and enjoying the moment.
I highly recommend Coral Bay to anyone looking for a perfect spot to unwind and recharge.
On our last day, we took one final walk on the beach with a sense of nostalgia. We all agreed that we would love to come back here in the future.
After experiencing the paradise of Coral Bay, our next destination was Carnarvon, known for its famous heritage jetty that stretches over a mile long. We were curious to see what kind of fishing opportunities awaited us there.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Unfortunately, there is no free Coral Bay camping. The only other camping that is relatively close to Coral Bay is Warroora Station located 60 km south. They offer villas, rooms and camping grounds for a relatively small fee.
Other free camping can only be found off the highway.
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4WD Equipment Checklist
Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)
UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency
Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road
High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks
Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking
Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places