The Ningaloo Reef - Shark Bay shoreline is one of the few spots on the planet where you can explore two World Heritage-listed gems in one short self-drive excursion. From Perth to Monkey Mia, Coral Bay, and Exmouth, this route showcases the natural wonders that have put the region on the UNESCO global map, including the world's largest fringing reef, the world's largest and oldest living fossils, and breathtaking crystal clear waters and white sand beaches.
Day 1: Perth to the Pinnacles and Kalbarri
Join the Indian Ocean Drive north of Perth to begin your journey to the start of your adventure. It begins at Lancelin's beachfront playground and leads to thePinnacles Desert of Nambung National Park, one of the world's most spectacular landscapes. Picnic at the Pinnacles or have lunch in Cervantes, a fishing community. The final length of the Indian Ocean Drive takes you to Geraldton, the world's windsurfing capital. Kalbarri National Park, the ultimate outback seaside playground, is only one hour and 45 minutes away from here. Choose from a wide range of lodging alternatives and stay for a night or two.
Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park WA, Australia
Day 2: Kalbarri National Park
On a deep sea fishing trip, adventurers can spend a full day kayaking, hiking, climbing, or abseiling in Kalbarri's 400-million-year-old river gorges, or hunting the greatest local catch.
Alternatively, you may take a more leisurely approach to this 183,000-hectare national park, boating the Murchison River and exploring the trails to take in the region's remarkable grandeur, spring wildflowers, and rock formations, such as the famed Nature's Window.
Z Bend, Kalbarri National Park WA, Australia
Day 3: Kalbarri to Shark Bay and Monkey Mia
Pick up a picnic lunch in Kalbarri town and start driving north for two and a half hours to reach Shark Bay World Heritage Area. After just 30 minutes on the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive, you'll arrive to Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, your first stop. As you gaze in awe at the stromatolites - the planet's largest and oldest living fossils – you can get a peek of life on Earth over 3,500 million years ago. Shell Beach is one of the few places in the world where you can see a beach made entirely of billions of tiny shells, creating a dramatic coastal landscape. Another hour along Denham-Hamelin Road will take you to Shell Beach, one of the few places in the world where you can see a beach made entirely of billions of tiny shells, creating a dramatic coastal landscape.
Shell Beach, Francois Peron National Park WA,...
On the last leg to Denham and Monkey Mia, take a short detour to Eagle Bluff for spectacular ocean vistas and birds-eye views of the marine life below, or Peron Homestead for some insights into pastoral life on a working station in the early 1900s.
Monkey Mia WA, Australia
Stay in Denham or Monkey Mia.
Day 4: Monkey Mia
Since the early 1960s, wild dolphins have visited this shoreline almost every day, making it one of the best places in the world to see dolphins. Get up early and spend the morning withMonkey Mia's famous bottlenose dolphins. Before lunch, visit the Dolphin Information Centre or relax on the lovely white sand beach overlooking the sea. On a wildlife cruise or kayaking tour, spend your afternoon learning more about Shark Bay's marine biodiversity, including the world's largest colony of dugongs. On an Indigenous cultural tour or a 4WD tour of Francois Peron National Park, you can encounter some of the region's 100 species of reptiles and amphibians, as well as 240 different bird species. A sunset sail is a fantastic way to round out your Monkey Mia experience.
Monkey Mia WA, Australia
Day 5: Monkey Mia to Carnarvon
Carnarvon, Australia's tropical food bowl, is the southern gateway to the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef, the world's largest and most accessible fringing reef. Stop in for a lunchtime feast of seasonal seafood and tropical fruit flavors straight from Carnarvon's farms and plantations. Visit the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre and the Carnarvon Heritage Precinct to learn about the region's history and heritage.
Carnarvon WA, Australia
Stay overnight in Carnarvon.
Day 6: Carnarvon to South Ningaloo
(Optional 1 or 2 day detour)
Take a four-wheel-drive diversion to some of the most remote areas along the Ningaloo coast, where you can walk right off the beaches into the clearest water and snorkel with some of the reef's 500 species of fish and 300 sorts of coral. Before embarking on this journey, drivers should verify road conditions and fill up on water, food, and petrol at the Carnarvon Tourist Centre. Take Blowholes Route to the Blowholes and stop to see the strong force of the ocean swell before continuing on the unsealed road to South Ningaloo. Experience some of Ningaloo’s top snorkel trails, swimming beaches, fishing spots and surf breaks at Bluff Barrel, the Tombstones, Three Mile Camp and Gnaraloo Bay.
Stay a night or two at Quobba Station, Red Bluff, Three Mile Camp or Gnaraloo. Options range from camping and basic cabins to glamping in luxury eco tents.
Red Bluff, Australia
Day 7: Carnarvon to Coral Bay
Travel three hours from Carnarvon to the laid-back beach village of Coral Bay, which is the only spot in Western Australia with direct access to Ningaloo Reef. If you're coming from South Ningaloo and returning to Blowholes Road to access the North West Coastal Highway, allow extra time. You're only a short snorkel or glass-bottom boat ride away from Ningaloo's coral gardens, which are all part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, from here in the quiet, sheltered waters of the bay. Stay an additional night to get up close and personal with the ocean's largest fish, the whale shark. Every year between March and July, they visit Ningaloo Reef. On a sea kayak, dive charter, or snorkel excursion of the outer reef, you'll see humpback whales, turtles, and manta rays. Coral Bay is one of the only spots on the planet where you may snorkel with beautiful manta rays all year, as well as swim with Humpback Whales (and the only place in Australia you can snorkel with them in July). Coral Bay has it all, with the beach just yards from your front door and offering highly safe swimming and snorkeling locations for all ages and abilities. On a deep-sea fishing trip, you can catch your own dinner, or choose from a small variety of cafes and restaurants.
Coral Bay WA, Australia
Day 8: Coral Bay to Exmouth
Exmouth, on the northern edge of the Ningaloo Reef, is another excellent location for swimming with whale sharks. Pick up maps and learn about the various guided excursions offered at the Exmouth Visitor Centre. A trip to the outer reef by glass-bottom boat, snorkeling, or diving will also take you to the year-round playgrounds of dolphins, turtles, dugongs, and manta rays. Navy Pier, one of Australia's top 10 dive locations, and an overnight cruise to the Murion Islands are two must-dos for divers. There are also major drawcards for surfers at Surfers Beach's reef break, as well as world-class big-game chasing thrills for fishermen. Choose from a good variety of accommodation options in Exmouth and on the cape and stay a couple of nights.
Exmouth WA, Australia
Day 9: Exmouth to Cape Range National Park return
Join a guided trip, or bring a picnic and leave early to explore Ningaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park at your leisure. Take your pick from a line of gorgeous lagoons, white-sand beaches, and snorkel routes, including Turquoise Bay, while keeping an eye out for kangaroos, emus, and lizards. Take a wildlife boat (seasonal) or a self-guided bushwalk along Yardie Creek's steep red canyon for a startling contrast. Before returning to Exmouth, enjoy an Indian Ocean sunset and a chance to see humpback whales (June and November) at Vlamingh Head Lighthouse.
Vlamingh Head Lighthouse
Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, Yardie Creek Road, ...
Day 10: Exmouth to Perth
If you park your rental car at Learmonth Airport* near Exmouth, you can get a one-and-a-half-hour direct flight back to Perth. Alternatively, retrace your steps back to Perth by car, stopping at Carnarvon, Kalbarri, or Geraldton to break up the 14-hour journey.