Day 1: Perth to Geraldon – 400km
The Coral Coast of Western Australia starts two hour’s drive north of Perth, and continues for more than 1,000 km’s until it reaches Exmouth. The stunning coastal scenery, isolated beaches, a coral reef you can snorkel by just stepping off the sand, aquatic biodiversity (from whale sharks to turtles and manta rays), golden sunsets and pristine starry skies, make this one of the world’s great road trips. I have wanted to do it forever and finally, this year I got the chance.
Jules and I flew to Perth, hired a High Top Campervan and headed north. Albeit a bit later than planned- the $300 food shop which Jules insisted we did to stock up on ‘essentials’ and the desperate search for a coffee plunger, meant than we didn’t leave Perth until 1pm vs the 10am I had originally hoped for (for those who do not know – if I am not caffeinated at certain times I turn into an angry beast!).
Technically the Coral Coast doesn’t start until Cervantes, 200km north of Perth, but the simplest way to begin our road trip was from Perth. We took the coastal road, Indian Ocean Drive. We had planned to go at a leisurely pace, but due to a late start, we just ploughed through, stopping for fuel and coffee as we went.
The plan was to stay at Coronation Beach Campsite, a popular beach side camp, but we arrived to late. We also forgot it was Easter Weekend and after calling 2-3 other campsites who were all full, ended up staying in Northampton. It did the job – but nothing to write home about. Lesson learned (get to camp before 6pm!).
Day 2: Geraldton to Quobba – 550km
Now I am an early riser and have so much energy from the get go – even without a brew. Jules on the other hand is a complete night owl and wasn’t to impressed when I suggested waking up at 6am so we can hit the road early.
From Geraldton to Quobba was the longest leg of our trip and there was nothing to look at but the endless road, red dirt and a couple of dead shrubs. The landscape vaguely reminded me of New Mexico; the road was reminiscent of South Dakota, where you crest one asphalt hill just to see another…
250kms in we made a pit stop at the Billabong Roadhouse (the only gas station between the two points aka – hillbilly central), had a coffee and then continued our journey, doing our best to keep the wild goats from joining the sheep and kangaroo carcasses that littered the roadsides.
Five hours after we departed we finally reached The Blowholes. And the drive was completely worth it. Located 75 km’s north of Carnarvon, this natural phenomenon is an awe-inspiring sight. Powerful ocean swells force water through sea caves and up out of narrow holes in the rocks, jets of water erupt into the air, sometimes up to a height of 20 metres. I developed some matrix like moves as I attempted to take photos whilst sheltering from salty water getting blasted in all directions due to the high wind.
Post Blowholes, we headed a few km’s south as we had heard about a calm coral-filled lagoon with fish and shells in abundance with a white sandy beach. Although the wide was out, we donned our snorkel gear and attempted to head into the ocean. Several coral cuts later, we admitted defeat and headed back to shore.
Our abode for the night was at Quobba Station, located on the southern tip of the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. The campsite was basically isolated, so to was the beach (heaven!). After a stroll, we pulled out the camp chairs, opened a cold beer and stat on the dunes watching the sunset. A perfect end to day 2.
Day 3: Quobba to Cape Range National Park – 400km’s
On the road by 7am (a new record). The scenery of today much the same as yesterday, think endless red-dust plains studded with saltbush and mulga, mobs of kangaroos, a couple of emus and a few goats. To make this drive slightly more unbearable, the iPhone cable broke, so we could no longer listen to Spotify and the radio had no signal. It was a very long drive.
When we finally arrived at Cape Range National Park (the most northern part of Nigaloo Reef, one of the biggest fringing reefs in the world and one of the most biologically diverse marine environments on the planet)all was forgotten. Think miles of soft, white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and snorkel-perfect reefs.
Our first stop in the park was Turquoise Bay, known as one of Australia’s best beaches. It’s no surprise of how ‘Turquoise’ Bay got its name. Its Coral Coast waters are among the calmest, cleanest and clearest in Western Australia.
As it was 42c, we didn’t spend to long on the beach. Instead we donned our snorkel gear and swam 100m of shore to snorkel The Drift. As its name describes, you simply swim out into the current that flows along the shoreline and let it float you northwards. we floated over turtles, baby blue spotted rays, small reef sharks, bombies and extensive gardens of staghorn coral and of course lots of fish.
Our abode for the night was a small campsite within the national park – Osprey Bay. As the camp has nothing but drop toilets, I got to try out my solar shower for the first time. Actually a very neat and useful piece of kit – Jules and I were both clean as a whistle!
That night we did the usual ritual of cooking and drinking vino under the canopy of stars.