Although Coral Bay to Exmouth 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 along a sandy and corrugated 4WD track that runs between Coral Bay to Cape Range National Park (Exmout). 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. **** YARDIE CREEK HAS BEEN IMPASSABLE FOR SOME TIME DUE TO FLOOD DAMAGE AND IS UNLIKELY TO CHANGE FOR THE REMAINDER OF 2015****
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
Click the "Map" tab below to see the route we've provided. Icons on the map are the POIs you'll need for navigation purposes. Be sure to check the list of Nearby Places
on each POI page.
If you'd like to save this information there are a couple of ways to go about it, depending on what you're actually after:-
- Ideal solution - download the ExplorOz Traveller App from Google Play or the App Store. The app enables you to carry the ExplorOz Places, Treks, & Maps data offline in your mobile device ready for your adventures. It is a complete mapping, navigation and tracking app. For more details, read our ExplorOz Traveller page.
- You can print a paper copy of the text using the print icon button shown above, near the social media buttons. For the best output it is advised to open each tab/section to load all images and artwork. You will still need to click open each Place page (listed in Where to Stay, What to See) to print off all available information.
- If you have a Hema Navigator or use Mapping Software such as OziExplorer, or TrackRanger AND you are an ExplorOz Member, then you can click the Download Trek button at the top of this page to obtain the raw data files (eg. GPX) for this Trek.
- If you're not a Member, or you'd like to batch download the entire Treks database you can obtain this by buying a product called EOTreks Route Files from our online shop.
The Ningaloo 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 to Exmouth 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.
The Ningaloo 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. The Government were granted takeover of Ningaloo Station on 30 June 2015 however is now subject to a Supreme
Court injunction which will finalise the matter in November 2015. Stay tuned for potential changes to travel/camping access south of Yardie Creek.
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 (currently impassable) 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. Access to the beach throughout the Ningaloo Station area is locked unless you have a booking and have been given a key. Contact Ningaloo Station Homestead for access.
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 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 for 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 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. ***YARDIE CREEK HAS BEEN IMPASSIBLE FOR ALL 2015 & UNLIKELY TO CHANGE FOR SOME TIME***