The Ningaloo region is famous for its coral reef, marine life, and rugged ranges. There are just so many land and water-based adventures to be had, here’s your guide to exploring this unforgettable coastline.


We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Country on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants, for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area is situated on the Coral Coast region of Western Australia. It encompasses Ningaloo Reef and Cape Range on the North West Cape. It’s a wild place with many adventures to be had and areas to explore.

About Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

You’ve heard of the Great Barrier Reef but what about Ningaloo Reef? Surprisingly, Ningaloo is the longest fringing reef in the world. A fringing reef forms near or attached to a shoreline while a barrier reef is much further out to sea.

Ningaloo Coast was designated as a World Heritage Area in 2011 and stretches 300km along the Western Australian coast. It starts at Bundegi Coastal Park, includes Muiron Islands, and stretches as far south as Red Bluff on Quobba Station. Today, some of the areas are also protected by Ningaloo Marine Park, Cape Range National Park, Nyinggulara National Park, and Nyinggulu Coastal Reserves. Exmouth and Exmouth Gulf are not included in the World Heritage area.

Read more: The Best Things to Do in Exmouth (According to a West Aussie)


Ningaloo Station Beach

Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area History

Ningaloo means ‘deep water’ in the local Indigenous languages. Significant historical sites including burial grounds, middens, and fish traps are found in the region where the West Thalanyji people lived for over 30,000 years. A string of beads found in one of the gorges was dated at 32,000 years old.

Pastoral leases were issued for cattle stations from 1876 such as Exmouth Gulf Station, Ningaloo Station, Yardie Creek Station, Warroora Station, and Gnaraloo Station. Many of these stations have been taken over by the Department of Parks and Wildlife in recent years.

During World War II, Exmouth Gulf became a submarine base known as Operation Potshot. The Potshot Airfield later became Learmonth Airport. In 1967, Exmouth Gulf became an American Navy Base named after Australia’s Prime Minister, Harold Holt. The US presence ended in 1993 and the based is managed by the Australian Department of Defence.

The town of Exmouth was built in 1964 to support the base and today is the gateway to the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area. Coral Bay, the other settlement in the region, was called Mauds Landing until Coral Bay Hotel was built in 1968.

Read more: Coral Bay on Ningaloo Reef – A Snorkeller’s Guide


The area boast more than incredible marine life. You may also spot Australian bustards (yes, really), which are large ground-dwelling birds

How to Get to Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

By Car

Exmouth is 1,200km north of Perth via the North West Coastal Highway. It’s almost a 13 hour drive.

By Air

Fly from Perth or Melbourne to Exmouth (Learmonth Airport).

Where to Stay in Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area


There are some amazing places to camp in Exmouth and near Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area, including Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Resort in Exmouth itself, and Winderabandi Campground and North Lefroy Campground in Nyinggulara (Ningaloo) National Park.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Exmouth and Surrounds


Most non-camping options are in the town of Exmouth and Coral Bay.


In town there are hotel, motel, and backpacker rooms at the Potshot Hotel Resort. If self-contained accommodation is your choice, there are a myriad of options from villas to Airbnb. For a full resort experience, you can’t go past the Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort.

Coral Bay 

As well as the two caravan parks there are Airbnb houses to stay in plus Ningaloo Reef Resort.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

Where to Eat in Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

Unless you’re catching fish off the beach or from a boat, there aren’t any food options within the World Heritage area itself, so you’ll have to head to Exmouth or Coral Bay.

Exmouth has two supermarkets, a bakery, a fish and chip shop, a fresh seafood outlet, The BBQ Father pizza shop, as well as Froth Craft Brewery and Whalebone Brewery Co. The Potshot Hotel has pub meals, plus there are other cafes and restaurants.

Things to do in Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

Here are some of the adventures on offer in the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area!


Yardie Gorge Trail is a 2km hike from the beach up the escarpment and onto the cliffs above Yardie Creek. Look out for the cute Black-footed rock wallaby on the rock walls.

Similarly Mandu Mandu Gorge is a 3km trail that follows the dry river bed until climbing up onto the escarpment for expansive views.

Badjirrajirra loop trail in Charles Knife Canyon is an 8km loop in the centre of the spectacularly rugged Cape Range.


Mandu Mandu Gorge


The most popular snorkelling spots in Ningaloo Marine Park are Turquoise Bay and Oyster Stacks. Turquoise Bay is a drift snorkel, so walk up the beach to the left, jump in and go for a ride. You’ll be spit out at the other end, but a pair of fins are handy to help get back to the beach. Look out for the resident Blacktip reef shark. They may look scary but don’t pose a real threat to humans. Although they’re used to people, they’re still wild creatures so shouldn’t be approached.

Coral Bay is another popular spot for snorkelling. There are some easily accessible coral reefs and bommies from the shoreline, including Bills Bay and Paradise Beach for more confident swimmers.

Gnaraloo Bay is on the southern end of Ningaloo Reef, about 10km north of the main 3 Mile Camp on a sandy track. With lots of colourful fish and coral on a white secluded beach, the snorkelling here is sublime.



Scuba diving allows you to see and experience so much more of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area.

The Navy Pier is one of the top jetty dives in Australia and is located at an operational jetty, so you have to go with an Exmouth dive company to experience it. Underwater Explorers can mingle with a huge variety of sea life, including Giant gropers, Trevally, Angelfish, Lionfish and Clownfish. The pylons are thickly encrusted with soft and hard corals.

For the deeper ocean dives, there are a good choice of local dive companies that can take you to the outer reef. This is where deep water meets the reef which encourages much more spectacular coral growth and marine life than inner shore areas.

If you want to learn to dive, Padi Scuba Diving courses are available in Exmouth.



Many areas of Ningaloo Marine Park are fish sanctuaries, so there are certain places where fishing isn’t allowed. Maps of these areas and their fishing regulations are available from the Ningaloo Visitor Centre.

Fishing off the beach is permitted in some areas, but if you want the really prized deepwater fish, book a fishing charter from Exmouth or Coral Bay.


Casting a line at Warroora


Sunset Spots

The high vantage point of Vlamingh Lighthouse between Exmouth and the Ningaloo Coast is a popular place to end the day. Of course, anywhere along the Ningaloo Coast is a special place to watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean.

Personally, I think one of the best spots on the Ningaloo Coast for sunsets is Yardie Creek.


Vlamingh Lighthouse

Boat Trips

There are boat trips for all levels of adventure in Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area.

The Yardie Creek cruise winds its way up Yardie Creek past the cliffs where the rock wallabies live and the cockatoos roost.


Yardie Creek


For those who don’t snorkel or dive, trips on a glass-bottom boat are available to view the coral and underwater life.

Bigger boats go out beyond the reef for whale watching, swimming with whale sharks, and charter fishing.



Imagine peacefully paddling along the calm aqua water while sea turtles pop up for a breath. It’s possible in Ningaloo Marine Park.

Hire a kayak and paddle your way along one of the many kayak trails.




In between the calm white beaches of the Ningaloo Coast, there are gaps in the reef where the surf rolls in. Local surfies have known about these spots for years, well before tourists began visiting.

Some of the most famous breaks include Red Bluff on Quobba Station, Tombstones and Turtles at Gnaraloo Station, Stevens at Warroora Station, and Dunes Surf Beach around 20km north-west of Exmouth.

If you’re keen on a more secluded break, both Lagoon and Sandy Point surf breaks require boat access.

Read more: Quobba Coast: A Guide to WA’s Best Surfing Destination for Non-Surfers


Red Bluff

Essential Gear for Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

  • Mask, snorkel, and fins
  • Swimmers and rash shirt
  • Reef safe sunscreen (this one’s important, read our guide to sunscreen that protects coral)
  • Water (there isn’t any water available on the reef side of Ningaloo)
  • Hiking boots
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • National Park Pass
  • Insect repellent
  • Dive ticket (if you plan on diving)

What it’s Like to Visit Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef is located close to the mainland, making it easily accessible to visitors without a boat. Another difference between the two is that Ningaloo Reef is situated off an arid desert-like landscape, while the Great Barrier Reef gets far more rain and is closer to tropical rainforest and farms.

Along its 260km length are many places to experience the magic of Ningaloo Reef. On all of our journeys in the region we’ve based ourselves at both the Exmouth and Coral Bay ends of the reef, with accommodation ranging from luxury comfort to self-sufficient camping surrounded by nature.


Our Experience at Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

I never realised how fast a Whale shark can swim. It seemed to be hardly moving but its subtle tail movement meant I had to kick hard to keep up. I was more prepared for the second encounter and swam faster earlier. Imagine swimming next to the biggest fish in the world. The water was so deep, so blue, and so clear, it was hard to conceptualise depth.



In contrast, I took a deep breath through my snorkel and dived lower to sit next to a coral bombie, right off the beach in Ningaloo Marine Park. Clown fish swam in and out of their anemones, while the Blue Green Chromis fish hover close to the coral for potential protection. Underwater, I can hear a parrotfish crunching on coral.

Our camping spot is about 50 metres from coral outcrops. Michael and I drift off to sleep listening to the gentle waves washing up and back over well-worn pebbles and shells.

On top of the water this time, we kayak along the inner reef with warm sunshine on our backs. A turtle pops its head up for a breath and is surprised by our sea kayak. It quickly swims away. At any given moment, rays and schools of trevally magically appear. The water is so clear it’s like kayaking on air.

The next day, we drive over 200km south to experience yet another wonderful aspect of life along WA’s pristine Ningaloo coastline. We set up camp at Red Bluff on Quobba Station. A vivid red peninsula juts out into the blue ocean as rolling waves barrel past. It’s a rugged remote location, frequented by surfers chasing pristine waves. Completely different is nearby Gnaraloo Bay, with its tranquil waters, white beaches, and coastal hugging coral reefs. 

Tips For Visiting Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area is a remote location. It’s a long drive from Perth, so be prepared for that long journey by planning stops and refreshing the drivers.

Bring your snorkelling gear because you can snorkel on coral right off the beach. If you’re not a confident swimmer, there are glass-bottomed boat tours out of Exmouth and Coral Bay.

Exmouth is at least 50km from the main reef area of Ningaloo, so it’s handy to have a car full of fuel to access the best spots of Ningaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park. Coral Bay is a small village and is easy enough to walk around. The coastal stations have corrugated rough roads so a 4WD is recommended.


The roads of Ningaloo Station

FAQs Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

Where is Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area located?

Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area is located on North West Cape, Western Australian. The town of Exmouth is 1200km north of Perth.

How do you get to the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area?

The most common way of getting to the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area is by car. Some of the station stays like Warroora require a 4WD and the roads into some stations, like Ningaloo, are rough and corrugated.

Alternatively, you can fly to Exmouth (Learmonth Airport) from Perth and Melbourne.

When is Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area open?

Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area is open all year round. The busy tourist season is from March to August.

Do I need to book my visit to Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area?

Absolutely book ahead in the busy season, especially school holidays. The national park campground can be booked 180 days in advance.

When is the best time of year to visit Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area?

The best time of year to go to Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area is between April/May and August. September and October can be very windy, while November to March is extremely hot, regularly over 40°C.

How many days should I spend at Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area?

There are lots of things to do in the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area, so I recommend staying at least one or two weeks.

What to do in Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area when it rains?

If it rains (rare) while in the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area, there are visitor centres such as the Ningaloo Aquarium and Discovery Centre and the Milyering Discovery Centre.

Can you swim at Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area?


Do you need a 4WD to get to Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area?

A 4WD is needed to get to the coastal stations such as Quobba, Gnaraloo, Warroora, and Ningaloo. However Coral Bay, Exmouth Cape Range National Park, and Ningaloo Marine Park are accessible by 2WD drive.

Is Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area free?

There’s no free camping in Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area and there are national park fees to access Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Marine Park. Entry fee is $15.00 per car and $11.00 for a two person campsite.