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Stretching from Cervantes, two hours outside of Perth, to Exmouth, another 1100 kilometres north, Western Australia’s Coral Coast is almost alien to east coast travellers.
It’s a place of otherworldly landscapes, stunning bays and fascinating wildlife. From the incredible biodiversity of Ningaloo Reef to the Instagrammable sights of the Pinnacles and Hutt Lagoon, here are five must-dos when visiting one of Australia’s most striking regions.
Explore Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo Reef is perhaps best known as a Mecca for whale shark watching. But this 260-kilometre-long reef swarms with all sorts of sea life, from turtles and tropical fish, to manta rays and humpback whales. Pick a whale shark or humpback tour if you’re keen for one of life’s more breathtaking experiences (season depending, of course), but Ningaloo is also a great place to simply escape and tune out.
You can glamp it up in style in Sal Salis’s luxury tents in Cape Range National Park, or maybe decompress in a self-contained cottage on Bullara Station, but there are also plenty of other accommodation options in Exmouth and the smaller, more sedate Coral Bay.
Witness the Limestone Formations of the Pinnacles Desert
Just two hours from Perth, a visit to the Pinnacles feels more like a trip to another planet entirely. This ghostly landscape is peppered with enormous limestone formations, some rising as high as three and a half metres off the desert ground. A bunch of tour operators can take you to the area and maybe throw in a spot of sandboarding and further sightseeing for good measure. But it’s also easy enough to drive yourself, which allows you to take your time exploring the Nambung National Park and the southern reaches of the Coral Coast. If you can, stop for lunch in the small coastal town of Cervantes, known for its seafood and fresh rock lobster.
Visit the World Heritage-Listed Shark Bay
This Unesco world heritage-listed area is renowned for its enormous seagrass beds and stromatolites. But Shark Bay also has significant cultural value – its history dates back thousands of years for local Indigenous people, and European contact began in 1616 when Dirk Hartog landed on what’s now known as Dirk Hartog Island. These days, people come to Shark Bay to gawk at its natural beauty and diverse wildlife. The big ticket item is to interact with the wild dolphins at Monkey Mia Reserve, but the wider area is full of natural wonders. There’s Shell Beach, a 120-kilometre-long shoreline covered in tiny Fragum cockles; Little Lagoon, with its turquoise waters and barbequing areas; and Nanga Bay, a peaceful, secluded spot for swimming and fishing. There’s also a bunch of campsites scattered throughout the area, if you’re keen to pitch a tent and really soak up the natural beauty.
Experience Hutt Lagoon
An hour north of Geraldton is this extraordinary body of water, which changes colour – from lilac, to bubblegum pink, to a deep red – depending on both the season and the time of day. Locals will tell you it’s best to visit Hutt Lagoon either mid-morning or close to sunset, and there are a number of places to stop along Port Gregory Road to experience its peculiar beauty. Rent a chalet or a villa in beachside Port Gregory if you’re keen to stay a while, but the best way to witness Hutt Lagoon is from the air – book a scenic flight out of Geraldton and you’ll get once-in-a-lifetime views of the lagoon, the surrounding landscape and the Indian Ocean beyond.
Spy Murchison River Through Nature’s Window
Formed from layer upon layer of the Carnarvon and Perth basins’ Tumblagooda Sandstone, Nature’s Window is one of Western Australia’s most celebrated natural attractions. This rock arch perfectly frames a brilliant aspect of the winding Murchison River, but it’s also the start and end point for the Loop, a terrific (if challenging) 8-kilometre walking trail that has its own fabulous views of the Murchison River Gorge. Just be aware that temperatures can get pretty extreme in the summer, with the Loop closed after 7am from November to March inclusive.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Tourism Australia. Whether you’re seeking a quick getaway, lazy holiday or epic trek, Australia is a land of endless adventures. There’s never been a better – or more important – time to get out and explore. Take a Holiday Here This Year.