Although Coral Bay
can be driven in under 2 hours along the bitumen (see our Trek Note Minilya Exmouth Road
), travellers with 4WDs are more likely to want to experience the true Ningaloo
Reef, which you'll experience by following this route. However, before you set out on the northbound journey described here be warned to check local conditions regarding the Yardie Creek
. Yardie Creek
is a tidal, river crossing and whilst at times it is a dry sandbar, it is often open to the sea and cannot be crossed other than at low tide - and then only with extreme care and by 4WD.
To start this journey north from Coral Bay
look for the dirt track called Cardabia Ningaloo
Road (signed 4WD only). The track condition varies considerably but is generally not difficult for 4WD, although some soft sand drifts, corrugated section, and slow bumpy ridges will ensure its never a dull ride. This is a two-way track but is often single-lane so please beware of oncoming traffic. Interestingly enough, this track connects a few pastoral operations, including Cardabia
Station and Ningaloo
Station, both of which offer designated places
for idealyic camping and boating access.
Point Cloates (around 60kms north of Coral Bay
) and Norwegian Bay (further north) are worth stopping at, with many ruins to explore and some excellent sand driving thrills for four wheel drivers. The old Point Cloates lighthouse and the whaling station ruins show a fascinating insight into these early settlements. The Cardabia Ningaloo
Road intersects with the Ningaloo
Road near the Ningaloo
Homestead and signage will direct travellers to great camping opportunities within the station property (fees and conditions of camping apply). South Lefroy Bay, Point Billie
, North Lefroy Bay and Winderabandi Point are the approved camping areas and definatley worth a stay - be warned however that locals and regulars fill up spots in holiday periods for extended stops so space may be limited.
North of the Ningaloo
Station boundary, you soon come to the tidal, and notorious Yardie Creek
. At this point you enter the Cape Range National Park
and hit the sealed section of this track. All camping into to the north of Yardie Creek
through to Exmouth
requires advance bookings with CALM and campsites are designated and sectioned with bollards. The Yardie Creek
Road provides plenty to see and do. Probably the most popular of sites within the Cape Range National Park
is Turquoise Bay that features safe snorkelling and a rich diversity of coral and fish. Another beautiful spot
is Mangrove Bay, which provides the sightseer with an abundance of birdlife, including seabirds and waders. Cape Range National Park
is the only elevated limestone range on the north-western coast of WA and not only does the coastal area bring great visual enjoyment, so too does the range provide excellent hiking opportunities.
How to Use this Trek Note
In this trek note, we provide Place to Place distances (see Directions tab), a downloadable plot file, and POI files to enable you to use this as your driving itinerary, or as a base guide to add other side trips. As with all ExplorOz Trek Notes, you can reverse the order of the direction notes by clicking the arrow alongside the words Start/Finish at the very top of the information on this page.
To see the route, click on the Map tab. Then use the Moving Map Control to take a virtual tour of the route. You can also click on the "What to See & Do" & "Where to Stay" tabs to see more about each Place that the route follows. Click each listed item to open a separate page (and download) for each Place for further information to enrich your understanding of the area.
If you use the Print button at the top of the page the text from all sections will be reformatted into one easy to read document (except for detailed Place information – do these separately). If you are an ExplorOz Member, you'll also be able to download any individually selected Places
(or all in one batch download) as POI/waypoint files to use in your GPS (all popular formats available).
Reef is the largest fringing coral reef in Australia
and is the only large reef in the world that lies so close to the mainland. The reef runs about 280kms along the coastline from Coral Bay
and lies as close as a hundred metres to up to 7kms from the shore. Many sections are accessible for safe snorkelling or diving from the shore, where one can view one of 500 fish species
such as clownfish bathing in anemone, lionfish or predatory moray eels living within over 250 species of coral. Recreational and conservation are wisely balanced on the reef. There are many sanctuary zones in place to protect the young
, but that said, the popular sport of fishing is permitted within 65% of the marine park (please check with the Fisheries Department on the latest bag and size limits). Other recreational activities include camping, boating, whale and bird watching.
area was declared a Marine Park in 1987 in an attempt to protect and to control public access to this large living reef. Much debate and controversy has continued with the Save Ningaloo
Campaign fighting to seek a balance between ecological values and human visitation; an extension to the Marine Park in 2004 seeing an increase in sanctuary "look but don't touch" zones; a rejection of the proposal for a resort marina to be built at Mauds Landing; and pastoralists in the area campaigning to keep their leases after the 2015 expiry date.
Cape Range National Park
The Cape Range National Park
runs right along the western coast from Exmouth
to Yardie Creek
and is accessible to 2WD vehicles via a sealed road. Generally, visitors to the Cape Range NP spend a few nights camping at one of the many excellent beach camp sites before doubling back to Exmouth
. If you have a 4WD however then you can take a trip over Yardie Creek
and continue driving south along the coast on the inland side of the dunes to Coral Bay
. On the way you'll see a maze of tracks leading off towards the beach - almost all lead to excellent lookouts and campsites. Please note, that south of Yardie Creek
, the track traverses a number of privately owned coastal stations and fees apply to camp on their land. Signage is good, but there are no facilities. Campfires are NOT permitted.
Good information for the sealed section within the Cape Range National Park
is obtainable from the local CALM office, or the Exmouth
Visitor's Centre. The track through the Cape Range NP runs North - South with over 10 designated camping areas and it is very straightforward. Advance bookings during the peak season are becoming mandatory to avoid disappointment - you will be allocated a site according to vacancy.
The area has recently been upgraded and each camping area has designated camping bays cordoned off by bollards. Most sites are on limestone, not sand and provide ideal camping for motorhomes, campervans and camper trailers. The sites are a little disappointing to tent and swag campers who might prefer to camp south of the National Park boundary on sandy sites on private property such as at Winderabandi Point, Sandy Bay, and Lefroy Bay.
Yardie CreekYardie Creek
is the main point of difficulty in this trek and travellers MUST ensure that they check local conditions before embarking on the drive. The creek can open to the sea at this crossing depending on seasonal conditions and if that is the case, then the crossing is treacherous and can only be navigated by 4WD on the low tide - so timing your trip is important or you'll have a long hot wait to get across. It is also possible however for the Yardie Creek crossing
to be a dry sandbar for months on end, making travel at any time possible (for 4WD). If you intend crossing from either the north or south side please ensure you have an air compressor and be wary of some beach access points south of Yardie are very soft sand.
before you set out on the journey described here be warned to check local conditions regarding the crossing of Yardie Creek
. Yardie Creek
is a tidal, river crossing and whilst at times it is a dry sandbar, it is often open to the sea and cannot be crossed other than at low tide - and then only with extreme care and by 4WD. When you check conditions, you'll learn if you need to time your crossing with the low tide - otherwise you could be waiting a long time to get to the other side!
Preparation for this route should be for mild remote 4WDriving, including carrying sufficient fuel, water, food, supplies, communications gear, safety equipment and first aid
, along with emergency backup supplies. Although there is a good chance you will eventually see other vehicles, it is wise to carry a GPS and HF radio
. We advise that you refer to the latest information and advice about outback communications in the Communications Topic. If you are plan to do some beach driving, deflate your tyres at the correct pressure for beach sand and carry adequate recovery gear. Travellers should read the 4WDriving Topic for related articles and checklists for vehicle setup and driver awareness.
If you plan to camp at any of the sites south of Yardie Creek
you must adhere to the conditions of camping as set out by the property managers. At the 5 designated sites offered to campers within the Ningaloo
Station, you'll be required to show proof that you have your own eco-toilet - people with advance bookings may be able to "hire" such units subject to availability.
The WA Parks Pass is required to enter the Cape Range NP - additional camping fees apply on a daily basis per person. To visit Old Point Cloates Lighthouse (Ruins), permission MUST be obtained from the property owners. To camp on any location between Yardie Creek
and Coral Bay
you must have obtained permission from station owners - a small fee and certain conditions (such as byo eco-toilet) apply.
Fuel Supplies & Usage
|Coral Bay, Exmouth
||Diesel||4cyl 32 litres
||ULP||4cyl 37 litres
||LPG||4cyl 46 litres|
|6cyl 35 litres||6cyl 41 litres||6cyl 40 litres|
|8cyl 35 litres||8cyl 38 litres|
Best Time To Visit
Summer in the tropics can get very hot, so best time to visit would be between March and November. Also, try to avoid school holidays for the best camping spots.
Closest Climatic Station
Distance from Trek Mid Point 36.74km NE
|Mean Max. °C
|Mean Min. °C
|Mean Rain mm
Best time to travel Ok time to travel Travel NOT recommended
Services & Supplies
The following locations have various services and supplies: Coral Bay