With the current world events and travel restrictions, more and more people are taking the opportunity to explore their own backyard and if you’re in Western Australia, ‘wander out yonder’.
With winter in full swing in the southern half of the state, many people are venturing north in search of an adventure and sunshine. Exmouth is the perfect place to do just that!
Exmouth is a town situated on the North West Cape in Western Australia approx 1300kms (13 hour drive) north of Perth. It is the perfect base to explore the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Coast that stretches more than 300km along the WA coast.
Exmouth was established back in 1967 to support the United States Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt. The town was built at the same time as the Communication Station to provide support to the base and provide housing for families of the US Navy personnel working at/on the station.
The Communication Station is still present in Exmouth today and it’s thirteen towers all over 300 metres tall each can be observed as you drive into town. Today, the Communication Station and base is maintained by the Australia Federal Police and Australian Border Force.
These days, Exmouth relies more on tourism than the station for it’s existence and economy. Recent records show the local population is approximately 2500, however during the tourist season, the population can rise to 6000 or more.
Exmouth has a tropical climate meaning temperatures are warm year round. It does not have a ‘wet season’ like in the northern parts of Australia. Rainfall occurs over the whole year with the most likely months for rain being between January and July. August to December is usually dry. Temperatures often reach over 45 degrees celsius in the warmer months (December to February), however the winter months (June to August) are more mild with daytime temperatures around 25 degrees celsius.
It is important to note that tropical cyclones can occur in this region between December and April.
Exmouth Town Centre is relatively small however has all of the essentials you would need for a stay including petrol stations, an IGA, a pharmacy, hospital, police station, doctors, banking, a post office, mechanics and plenty of cafes and restaurants.
Where to Eat and Shop
The Social Society is a completely vegetarian and vegan café that is open for breakfast and lunch. They also have a small shop filled with ethical products and clothing attached to the dining area. They support sustainability and enforce waste minimisation by:
- reusing and recycling containers
- composting food waste or using it as chicken food
- using stainless steel straws for smoothies and juices
- offering discounts for people who bring their own cups
- composting coffee grinds
- powering their shop mostly on solar energy
Ningaloo Bulk Foods is a zero waste store that sells dried foods, snacks, spices, legumes, nuts, seeds, toiletries and cleaning products, just to name a few. They encourage customers to reduce waste by bringing their own jars and containers. I found some really cool organic plastic free hair ties and some earrings that are made from recycled plastic.
I did a lot of cooking in my accommodation in Exmouth so didn’t visit any other eateries however I spoke to a local vegan lady who recommended:
- Earlybird Cafe – breakfast
- Adrift Cafe – vegan dahl
- Whalebone Brewing Company – vegan burger
- Whalers Restaurant – more fine dining
Where to Stay
Most people who visit Exmouth tend to use it as a base for exploring the Cape Range National Park which is located approximately 50km from the Exmouth Town Centre. Depending on your needs and plans for your trip, this will depend on where you choose to stay.
Exmouth Town Centre is a good option if you would like to be close to the amenities in town and venture out to the National Park to explore when you would like.
Another option, if you have a caravan/camper trailer or plan to camp is to stay inside the Cape Range National Park at one of the eleven sites within the Park. It is important to note that all sites are non-powered and there is no mains water. Dogs are also NOT permitted in any part of the National Park.
A midway point between the Exmouth Town Centre and the entrance to the Cape Range National Park is the Ningaloo Lighthouse Holiday Park. This accommodation has cabins, powered and non-powered sites. This is the location I chose to stay at, initially due to there being NO availability anywhere else however I am so glad it worked out this way because it was absolutely perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing. From memory, to hire a non-powered campsite was $45 per night. I opted for a ‘glamping’ experience and hired a caravan through Air BnB which was at an additional cost.
What to Do
With the Ningaloo Reef right on Exmouth’s doorstep and warm weather year round, there is no shortage of outdoor activities and things to do see and do.
Swim with the Whale Sharks
If you’ve ever wanted to swim with whale sharks then Exmouth is most definitely the place to do it – HELLO BUCKET LIST! It is normally a full day tour so I would allocate a whole day for this activity. You can read about my experience here.
Cape Range National Park
The Cape Range National Park is where you’ll find incredible bays and beaches as well as gorges and canyons. All along the coast are fantastic spots for swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and in some parts windsurfing and kite surfing.
Fees apply to enter the National Park. Prices start at $15 for a single vehicle to enter for 1 day. Note: A 4WD is not needed to access most of the Cape Range National Park.
The National Park is overflowing with life both on the land and in the water. When driving, it is important to keep your eyes out for dingoes and kangaroos. I saw dingoes wandering along the roadside whilst driving through the National Park.
Sandy Bay is great spot to swim and snorkel – I saw a turtle, octopus and lots of fish. Others snorkelling at the same time as me also saw stingrays. I suggest taking a packed lunch and water with you as there is no where at the bay to buy food or water.
Turquoise Bay is another great place to swim and snorkel. This is the bay where you can do the famous drift snorkel along the bay. The water is bursting with marine life and is home to some beautiful coral. Please ensure you read the signs on the beach regarding the strong currents that can occur prior to entering the water. The snorkel areas are clearly marked. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset.
Yardie Creek is home to native animals including the threatened black-flanked rock wallaby. You can opt to walk along the top of the gorge along a trail or you can kayak or SUP through the gorge. Boats are not permitted in the gorge apart from tour operators.You could also do a boat tour of the gorge however it is important to pre-book this. Kayaks can be hired from Exmouth Adventure Co in Exmouth Town Centre. They also hire out soft roof racks to suit all vehicle types so a 4WD is not required. I think I paid $70 total to hire a double kayak for 1 day + soft roof racks.
On the other side of Exmouth town, approximately 30kms out of town towards Learmonth (but still within the Cape Range National Park) is Charles Knife Canyon. If hiking is your thing, you can hike through the gorge or alternatively, you can drive to the lookout point which provides amazing views of the canyon. Note: you do NOT need a 4WD to access this gorge (although you will need to take it easy in a 2WD).
Vlaming Head Lighthouse
Vlaming Head Lighthouse is located 17kms from Exmouth town and is literally right next door to the Ningaloo Lighthouse Holiday Park (which is where I stayed). The viewing area at the top of the lighthouse is arguably the best spot in Exmouth to watch the sunset. It offers 360 degree views and is one of the few places in Australia where you can watch both the sunrise and sunset over the ocean.
I spent a total of three and a half days in Exmouth and although I definitely got to see and do a lot, there is still so much I want to see and do. These are the things I want to do the next time I visit Exmouth:
- Visit Osprey Bay
- Snorkel at Oyster Stacks (this can only be done on a high tide)
- Visit Mandu Mandu Gorge
- Book a full day snorkelling tour with Exmouth Adventure Co
- Hire a boat for the day and explore the Ningaloo Reef
- Book a microflite over the Ningaloo Reef
- Hire a stand up paddle board and explore the Town Beach area
I hope you enjoy your time in this very special part of the world as much as I did! 🙂