Western Half Lap questions

Submitted: Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 21:02
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Hi,

We are a couple new to the world of caravanning (only had two weekend shakedown trips) and are heading off on a half lap of Oz in two weeks - just the 2 of us - no kids. Vehicle is a 2009 Holden Colorado LTR 4WD diesel auto - Caravan is a 2007 17.6" Jayco Sterling (twin axle with club lounge - comfy! - but no shower etc). Caravan \ Vehicle are setup with a Hayman Reese WDH and tows nicely - we have already towed in 50km/h winds and it was rock solid on the road - fuel economy took a hit though :)

We are leaving central Victoria and heading up the guts of SA & NT making all the obvious stops on the to Darwin and its surrounds. Then we are heading over to and down the west coast of WA before making our way back home over the Nullarbor.

We have 4 months for this trip leaving Monday July 1st and a rough itinerary for the trip (order of stops and is a guide only for planning \ budgeting etc) is:

VIC (couple of days)
Home - Central Vic
Mildura (one of the Big4s)

SA (1 week)
Port Pirie (maybe) - Port Pirie Beach Caravan Park
Woomera - Woomera Caravan Park
Coober Pedy - Stuart Range Caravan Park

NT (5 weeks)
Erldunda - Desert Oaks Resort
Yulara (Uluru & Olgas) - Ayers Rock Resort
Kings Canyon - Kings Canyon Resort
Alice Springs - McDonnell Range Holiday Park
Wauchope (Devil's Marbles) - Wauchope Hotel
Renner Springs - Renner Springs Caravan Park
Mataranka - Mataranka Homestead Caravan Park
Katherine - Katherine Holiday Park
Litchfield Park - Litchfield Tourist and Van Park
Darwin - Hidden Valley Resort & Holiday Park
Jabiru (Kakadu) - Kakadu Lodge
Katherine - as above
Big Horse Creek Campground (1st free camp)

WA (9 weeks)
Kununurra - Discovery Holiday Parks
El Questro, Home Valley stations and maybe onto Drysdale Station \ Mitchell plateau (road condition depending)*
* This leg is without caravan - camping only - leave van in storage somewhere in Kunuunrra
Bungle Bungles (again without caravan - leave at Bungle Bungle Caravan Park)
Mary River Campground (2nd free camp)
Fitzroy River - Check out Windjana Gorge & Tunnel Creek - Fitzroy River Lodge
Broome & maybe Derby - get on Horizontal Waterfalls trip - Cable Beach Caravan Park
Eighty Mile Beach - Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park
Port Headland - Cooke Point Holiday Park
Karratha - Pilbara Holiday Park
Exmouth - Exmouth Cape Holiday Park
Coral Bay - Peoples Park Caravan Village
Carnarvon - Plantation Caravan Park
Monkey Mia - Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort
Geraldton - Sunset Beach Holiday Park
Cervantes - Pinnacles Caravan Park
Perth - Discovery Holiday Parks
Margaret River - Margaret River Tourist Park
Albany - Middelton Beach Holiday Park
Esperance - Pink Lake Tourist Park
Fraser Range - Fraser Range Caravan Park
Eucla - Eucla Caravan Park

SA (2 weeks)
Ceduna - Ceduna Tourist Park
Port Lincoln - Port Lincoln Tourist Park
Port Augusta - Port Lincoln Tourist Park
Glenelg - Adelaide Shores Caravan Park
Robe - Discovery Holiday Parks

VIC
Home - Central Vic

Based on my rough itinerary we will hit VIC & SA winter school holidays all the way up to Kings Canyon & it will still be school hols for NT while we are in Alice Springs. We will encounter WA spring school holidays from Margaret River to Eucla. Intention is to try and avoid towing days over 400km - I still have about 6 on my itinerary though with 2 over 500. If time starts to get away from us we will drop the costal detours like Albany, Esperance, Port Lincoln etc towards the end

My questions to people who might have done a similar trip before is:

1) What places will I need to book caravan sites in advance (I know Broome is an issue - still confused as to whether I can even book there!). If I need to book places in advance - how much in advance does it need to be?

2) Any comments on itinerary? apart from the obvious responses of not enough time - I would love to have had 6+ months but this is what we have :)

3) How many kms did other people do in total on similar trips (eg anyone from Melbourne?) I am using Google Maps as a guide for total caravan kms but all the day trips with just the 4WD is a complete unknown to me. I have allowe dbaout an extra 50% for a grand total of 23,000 kms - however someone else who did the trip claims it is more like 35k

4) Longest towing legs are on the Nullarbor - Looks like free camping will be a necessity on the way over as the only caravan park between Fraser Range and Ceduna is at Eucla? Will we have to stop at something like the Baxter Rest area and free camp?
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Reply By: Member - Rod N (QLD) - Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 22:13

Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 22:13
"4) Longest towing legs are on the Nullarbor - Looks like free camping will be a necessity on the way over as the only caravan park between Fraser Range and Ceduna is at Eucla? Will we have to stop at something like the Baxter Rest area and free camp? "

It is a fairly easy but longish stint from Fraser Range to Eucla. We have done it a few times. There are a number of camp areas across the Nullarbor if you need to stop. All the road houses have some sort of 'van park'. Have a look at this site for recent discussion Caravaners Forum - Nullarbor Also have a look at Badgers reports because Eucla seems to be having power problem. http://home.vicnet.net.au/~badger04/parks_w6.htm#eucla Border Village is an alternative.
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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:12

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:12
Thanks - found the "badger04" site just the other day - excellent material and will contribute to it on my trip.

Driving the Nullarbor has always been a dream of mine - can't wait - going to be an eye opener.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:58

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:58
OzNjB - having been across a total of seven times, we have enjoyed every trip. Some people just put blinkers on and see very little as they see it as a road between point A and point B. Before we set out for our second double crossing, we were talking to the servo proprietor when re-fuelling in Esperance. He had family in NSW and had been across 48 times - and loved it each and every time. Stop at places like the Caiguna blow hole - it is right by the road, and you can hear and feel the air breathing. The Bunda Cliffs are always worth at least one stop, but don't go near the crumbling edge. I have a photo with a huge gap where people had been walking on an undercut section five years previous.

Mh
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Reply By: Teejay - Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 22:27

Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 22:27
Hi OzNjB,

I did this trip a couple of years ago. We didn't go to the Bungle Bungles and we went via the Flinders Ranges and Oodnadatta Track. We took 12 weeks which meant we did a few big days of driving but our kids travel well and we never felt rushed. I would have preferred a couple more weeks at least just so we could have stayed in a few places a little longer.

We did somewhere around 17,000 km's from the Latrobe Valley in Vic. With your side trips and longer to look around I reckon your 23,000 km estimate would go fairly close. Good luck with Broome. We took our chances and stopped at the first Caravan Park we came to and found a spot in their overflow area.

Camping along the Nullabor is easy. Heaps of spots along the way where you'll find others doing the same as you. The Camps Book has most of them listed.

The Lakeside Tourist Park in Robe is a small peaceful park that I have stayed at 3 times. I recommend it.


Have a great trip.


TJ.
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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:15

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:15
Thanks for confiming the kms - Broome is the one that sounds like a complete crapshoot as to what you can get into.

Have purchased the Camp s Australia book on the recommendation from a free camping addict at work
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Reply By: Motherhen - Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 22:30

Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 22:30
Hi OzNjB

The caravan park at Penong 73 kilometres west of Ceduna is very nice and a better option to Ceduna. Fuel is cheaper in Penong too.

Broome and Darwin may need booking, but most places don't particularly if you can arrive during the morning when people are pulling out or phone a day or two before to allow flexibility in your schedule. We have never had a problem just arriving - making sure it is not late in the day in really popular places in peak season.Port Hedland and Karratha are under pressure from mining accommodation so that may require forward planning.

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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:23

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:23
Thanks for the Penong tip.

As for arrival times - my aim is to leave by 9am on big days (400km+) to try and arrive by mid afternoon (say 3pm at the latest). I reckon 400km will take 6 hours with a couple of breaks if we average 90??

BTW - We will both be sharing the driving (which I get the impression might not be the norm in the caravan community where I have only seen the blokes driving) - hopefully this will make the long days easier & safer - the only problem is having to change the driving mirrors to suit both of us which has been very problematic so far

I think we will do much earlier starts when heading to the busy places.

Based on comments so far no one has warned about Uluru \ Ayers Rock in the school holidays - can I assume it will be ok? I have been told by workmates that it is a really big park and should not be an issue.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:18

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:18
From discussions on forums, it seems that about half the people drive 50/50 usually changing every couple of hours. The rest of us have designated roles. My husband is the driver and i am the navigator. Once when he had a headache and couldn't drive so i had to (not towing on this occasion), in the city which we are unaccustomed to driving in, it was very obvious why i am the navigator and he the driver.

When we purchased our caravan, we were on a very tight time frame and got up in the dark, left and first light and pulled off the road a dusk. We shared the driving and he had a catnap during my shift. It was high pressure and not the norm for us travelling, however we were covering 800 - 1,000 kilometres each day so know what can be done. 400 for days driving not sightseeing seems very reasonable.

We jagged school holidays in a lot of places, but not at Uluru. But we did spend three days there; one of them at Kata Tjuta where the 'many heads' are not only bigger and more impressive but the walk through the rocks is a more interesting one than around Uluru. We decided not to climb when we got to Uluru.

Mh
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Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 22:40

Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 22:40
1) A lot of parks up north WA will not take short term bookings, you just have to turn up early in the morning. A lot will however take reservations a few days ahead when they are sure of you arriving on time. That's the way I have done it, even for Broome.

2) 9 weeks in WA is a bit short. I would travel to Katherine quickly and give Darwin the flick. Spend the rest of the time in WA. NT including Darwin will be better included in a later eastern half lap. You will probably do several trips to the east.

You are talking about staying at Big Horse Campground, is that to look around Timber Creek and do a river cruise? If not then use Saddle Creek as the alternative, that will get you into Kunumurra for a better site (we don't book for Kununurra.) You say you are stopping at Mary Pool. From there you can park in the car park at Giekie Gorge, do your boat trip and then proceed to Ellendale for a second free night. Don't miss out on Derby and Horizontal Falls (the overnight option is excellent and is not available from Broome.) Windjana Gorge is an easy day from Derby.

3) We did a couple of trips to the west from near Newcastle. We travelled quickly to Katherine and back from Eucla. Each lap was 14 - 15,000 km for the van and nearly 24,000 for the tug. Yours will be a similar trip.

4) What's your problem with free camping. We welcome it for a night or two without facilities and not putting up the shower tent. There is not much problem for short periods washing out of a dish instead of showering. We do however look for spots with a dunny. There are dunnies at a couple of rest areas just before Fraser range (Fraser range is expensive, give it the flick unless you have a burning desire to go there.) There are 3 rest areas along the long straight with dunnies, all fairly new (as are the Fraser Range ones) The one at Moodini Bluf is old and well used.

The road through SA is devoid of dunnies at rest areas. If the whales are still in residence, get to Nullarbor Roadhouse early and drive to the Head of the Bight without your van. Your entrance ticket is for 24 hours so you can tow your van back down there as you head east.


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AnswerID: 488680

Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:36

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:36
Thanks for all your advice - I was hoping people would say a few days ahead for the busy places - that way I can plan & still have some flexibility.

Agree that time is short and we may have to sacrifice some places but we both are passionate about visiting Darwin & surrounds.

Big Horse Campground was just an option for a dabble at free camping and I heard osomewhere (this site I think) that it was not too bad. I'll look into Saddle Creek thanks.

As for free camping - my main "problem" is just that we are inexperienced. Its a confidence thing. I get the impression that the more people caravan the more confident they are are with the thought of free camping. Camping out under the stars in the middle of nowhere sounds special - just as long as there are some others around for safety. One of my workmates is a mad free camper and is saying how easy it is. I agree with the whole toilet comment (our porta potti is emergency use only!) and am fine with shower in a bucket or even shower in a can. We still haven't purchased the shower pump for the bucket or even the ensuite tent (can't find the tent at a cheap price in Central Vic - only need it for a few days so don't want to spend $100 or more).
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:26

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:26
If you can cope with camping away from being plugged into water and power all the time - now that is really camping. No confidence needed - just do it. Nothing beats getting out under the bright clear star show miles from anyone and the lights of towns. It is the most secure feeling with no-one to fear. We hate having to stay in towns, but to see some places you just have to.

We sponge bath in a tub more often than shower - and we have a small built in bathroom. When in a camper or a tent, the bowl was used inside - no shower tent. When camping out with the ute, it is a bath last thing at night under the stars in the cover of darkness.

Mh
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:30

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:30
I can assure yo that you will not be alone at any of the places I listed.

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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 23:10

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 23:10
Nothing to fear in camping alone - no-one to worry about - just perfect. We do socialise in group free camps, and find the people more outgoing and willing to chat than in caravan parks, but getting out on your own if you can is something really special.

Mh

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Reply By: HGMonaro - Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 23:41

Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 23:41
We did a similar trip in 2007... although bad weather had us high tailing it inland and we missed Esperance and Albany. You can take a peek here

We did about 20K.
AnswerID: 488682

Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:41

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:41
Thanks - I'll read your trip blog for sure - we are going to do the same thing for folks back home to laugh at our misadventures!
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Reply By: Danna - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 01:50

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 01:50
I would definitely try to get to Broome for Staircase to the Moon. You may look at web, when you need to be there, and same time take a flight and ride in speedboat on Horizontal Waterfall. It’s very expensive, but it's worth every penny. Once you go, you newer regret it. Broome have very good Pearl Luggers Museum, real eye opener.
Cape Leveque and Sacred Heart Church at Beagle Bay are gems as Catholic Church in Broome. There is so much to see only in that area…
Good luck with trip I know it is going to be good and you going to be hooked like on heroin…like most of us here….
HooRoo Danna
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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:44

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:44
Cheers thanks - Staircase to the Moon does sound wonderful. My carefully planned itinerary (which we all know will come apart on the first day) has us arriving in Broome just when the September event is scheduled to occur.

No matter what happens the whole trip will be an experience!
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 09:04

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 09:04
Thats a great trip........back home, you'll probably be planning to go back and do some, if not all of those places again. As for the itinerary - I've done the same in the past on detailed planning, seeing that we had to be home by a certain date and we wanted maximum 'places' for our time away. Once that is done though, fexibility in your thinking is the key - being able to easily alter your plans and expectations as you go makes a much better trip in my view - if you can't get a van site somewhere, you free camp or go elsewhere, resolving to come back at some later stage - extra water and fuel capacity, plus a portable loo and shower setup will see you right. As for popular and crowded locations - don't take gossip necessarily as fact - we've done quite a few such trips, without booking ahead and have always stayed in places that we wanted to see. If you haven't booked ahead, arrive mid morning at the latest, front reception and start talking - if they don't have something, they might know a place that does.
Case in point ? "Everyone" told us Karumba was chock-ablock last winter.... don't go there unless you book - wrong - heaps of sites in a very good caravan park. They were talking about the van parks out on the point (sardine chocka in fact - would never book out there - couldn't stand it) - the one in town was great and it was only a 10 minute drive out to that popular point area - big deal !
As for van parks overall.......my guess is in years to come you'll do less of that and more free camping - van parks are the go of course when you want to see the big centres comfortably, but there are a lot of roadside camps on the big highways (Stuart etc.) and plenty of people inhabit them every night.
AnswerID: 488696

Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:51

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:51
Thanks for your advice. I know I have to learn to "let go" and be flexible on this trip which is very much not in my nature (My parents once purchased me a t-shirt that had the slogan "I Have Issues").

One of the reasons for doing this trip (apart from hating my job and having to get away) is that we want to challenge ourselves and experience something new.

Even at my most "relaxed" I think I wil definitely book ahead to any place we suspect might be busy - even if it is just the day before. The thought of rocking up to a place without booking is still "scary".

I need to go buy the damn shower & ensuite tent this week!
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Reply By: Member - Bob C (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 15:59

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 15:59
We did similar last year and would advise you to book in advance for Darwin and Broome.We got a bit of messing round at Broome when we tried to book a week ahead,but secured sites for a week. PorHedland and Karratha were more of a problem as everything is taken up by the miners. usually if you ring the day before you will be ok Safe travelling Bob
AnswerID: 488728

Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:53

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:53
Darwin & Broome appears to be a theme with "busy". Myabe I'll try Darwin a few days in advance??

I get the impression with Port Headland mostly that it is not a destination but a waypoint you need to pass through???
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:07

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:07
A lot of travellers call Port Hedland a dump, but we like it. We have watched the trucks loading at the salt mine, and them off loading at the Port. From a parking area near the salt mine is the perfect opportunity to see the extra long iron ore trains coming into town - check tourist info for times. The train was delayed and did not come during the time we waited for the photo opportunity. It is a good opportunity to stock up the larder with good shopping centres in both Port Hedland and South Hedland. We have not stayed in town, and we overnight a Main Roads 24 hour rest areas along the way. However our daughter worked a couple of seasons with a fast food van attending events in the Pilbara and Cooke Point was her favourite CP. I understand it has now been significantly taken up by mining accommodation since then.

Motherhen
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Reply By: Member - Tricky Dicky (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 16:21

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 16:21
Hi
if you are going to Mildura forget the big4 parks and go across the boarder into NSW to the riverside caravan park at Buronga its only over the bridge much nicer park, cheaper, and there are sites right on the river.

Dick
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Follow Up By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 19:40

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 19:40
Have to agree. It is a very nice park and still fairly close to town. The Lady owner/manager was also very helpful.
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Follow Up By: Danna - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 20:31

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 20:31
That's right we stayed there too and it was much cheaper than Big4 and very good.
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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:55

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 21:55
Ok thanks guys - that reminds me that a workmate stayed there in the autumn school holidays and said it was good.

I have opted for Big4 as a starting point on my itinerary hoping that "on average" there will be some quality but I know that we will pick other places as we based on advice like yours.
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Reply By: steved58 - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 20:42

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 20:42
Great trip did it a couple of years ago Coral Bay may well need booking we could not get in and a trip to Karingini national park could be worth including time permitting
cheers Steve
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Follow Up By: OzNjB - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:00

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:00
Thanks - a family friend has strongly suggested we swing through Tom Price to check out Karijini National Park.

Which is the park in WA that has all the termite mounds in the sand dunes?? I don't think it is Karijini but something further south??

As for Coral Bay I hear it can be busy and the two parks might be hit & miss for quality - but we like to snorkel and will at least try to get in.
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Follow Up By: steved58 - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:38

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:38
The park with the termite mounds in the dunes is The pinincles in the nambourg national park near Jurian bay I think they are actually limestone mounds though
Yes I strongly reccomend Karinjini having lived in Tom price 3 years and visited since 3 times
You can camp out at Dales gorge camping area or travel further into the Park and camp at a professionally run eco resort I class this as the very best of the Pilbarra

If the Whale sharks are in coral bay/Exmouth a Swim with them snorkelling is majestic and a once in a liftime event

You will find so much to do that you will have to leave some for another trip I am getting excited and Iam not going all the best Steve
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:41

Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 22:41
You are thinking of The Pinnacles near Cevantes to the north of Perth - not termite mounds but uneroded pillars of sand.

Karijini NP is one of our favourites - a must see. The country around Tom Price is very scenic.

Coral Bay is beautiful - but has been 'loved to death'. Some years ago we drove in to find a bitumised road and masses of buildings and caravan parks - and drove straight out again. Probably still worth spending a night and perhaps taking the glass bottomed boat out across the coral.

The Ningaloo coastline is beautiful although the National Parks campsites can now be under pressure. You can snorkel at places such as the Oyster Stacks - like a pristine Great Barrier Reef just a few metres from the beach. Fantastic.

Mh
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