Ningaloo Reef Adventure

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesCoral Bay
FinishExmouth
DifficultyDifficulty 3/5
Suitable For4WD 
Distance228.64 km
Minimum Days2
Average Speed55.67 km/hr
Travel Time4 hrs 6 mins
Page Updated: 15 Sep 2020

Description

Although Coral Bay to Exmouth can be driven in under 2 hours along the bitume, 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 (Exmouth).

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 over the years the area changes due to the effects of cyclones. Some seasons, there is a permanent dry sandbar which makes crossing the creek possible at any time. At other times, it can be 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 so you'll see sheep, goats and "gleep" - a hybrid cross that happened by accident but resulted in a prized and hardy species.

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. South Lefroy Bay, Point Billie, North Lefroy Bay and Winderabandi Point are the approved camping areas and definately worth a stay - be warned however that locals and regulars fill up spots in holiday periods for extended stays 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.

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TIP

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Environment

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 occurred over the decades since 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 was then subject to a Supreme Court injunction and was eventually resolved with Dept of Parks & Wildlife taking control of visitation since 2017. There are 3 managed areas - the Cape Range National Park, the Ningaloo Coast, and the Warroora Coast. To visit or book your stay, you will need to use the Park Stay WA website.

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. The 11 campgrounds along this coast are in very high demand from April to October. 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 such as at Winderabandi Point, Sandy Bay, and Lefroy Bay where you can also launch a boat from the beach and fishing is permitted.

If you have a 4WD then take a trip over Yardie Creek and continue driving south along the coast on the inland side of the dunes to Coral Bay. This is called the Coastal Track. 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 the Ningaloo Coastal Reserve which is now jointly managed by the DBCA and the Gnulli Native Title holders. Access to the beach throughout the Ningaloo Station area is permissible for day trippers however camping fees apply and is often booked out well in advance. Bookings are managed on the Parks Stays website.

Yardie Creek

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. ***2020 update - sandbar is currently permanent and crossings can be made at any time, without waiting for the low tide. This may change after the next cyclone (not expected until summer 2021).

TrekID: 154

Preparation

MUST READ: You are strongly encouraged to read the following articles prepared by the knowledge experts at ExplorOz for your safety and preparation before undertaking any published ExplorOz Trek - Outback Safety, Outback Driving Tips, Outback Communications, and Vehicle Setup for the Outback.

Over recent years, Yardie Creek has been subject to the effects of weather and is currently separated by a permanent sandbar at the crossing which means you can cross the Creek at all times without waiting for a low tide however the sand is very soft and there is a steep drop off on the northern side from the bitumen to the sand. This is a 4WD crossing only and once on the southern side the track is all 4WD only on soft sandy tracks.

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 Department of Parks & Wildlife WA for the Ningaloo Coast. Whilst this area is not a National Park, it is a coastal reserve jointly managed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and the Gnulli Native Title owners. Bookings must be made on the Park Stay WA website.

Permits

The WA Parks Pass is required to enter the Cape Range NP - additional camping fees apply on a daily basis per person. To camp on any location between Yardie Creek and Coral Bay you must have a booking with the Department of Parks & Wildlife.

Fuel Usage

DieselULPLPG
4cyl 32 litres4cyl 37 litres4cyl 46 litres
6cyl 35 litres6cyl 41 litres6cyl 40 litres
8cyl 35 litres8cyl 38 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

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

Learmonth Airport
Distance from Trek Mid Point 36.74km NE
 JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Mean Max. °C37.937.536.433.228.624.924.226.329.332.634.536.8
Mean Min. °C23.024.122.920.416.213.111.412.213.816.318.420.8
Mean Rain mm32.442.938.515.440.842.522.312.52.01.72.06.6
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended

Map

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Directions

Coral Bay to Purdy Point
Driving: 0.89 km
Heading: 260°
Avg Speed: 17.43 km/hr
EST Time: 03:03
Purdy Point to Coral Bay Rd & Mauds Landing Access
Driving: 1.29 km
Heading: 83°
Avg Speed: 38.68 km/hr
EST Time: 02:00
Coral Bay Rd & Mauds Landing Access to Coral Bay Rd & Cardabia Station Access
Driving: 4.45 km
Heading: 52°
Avg Speed: 99.27 km/hr
EST Time: 02:41
Coral Bay Rd & Cardabia Station Access to Coral Bay Rd & Cardabia Ningaloo Rd
Driving: 3.55 km
Heading: 70°
Avg Speed: 103.39 km/hr
EST Time: 02:03
Coral Bay Rd & Cardabia Ningaloo Rd to The Lagoon
Driving: 7.68 km
Heading: 343°
Avg Speed: 47.18 km/hr
EST Time: 09:46
The Lagoon to Doublet Hill
Driving: 9.49 km
Heading:
Avg Speed: 43.44 km/hr
EST Time: 13:06
Doublet Hill to Bruboodjoo Point Campground
Driving: 1.05 km
Heading:
Avg Speed: 52.38 km/hr
EST Time: 01:12
Bruboodjoo Point Campground to Ningaloo Rd & Cardabia Ningaloo Rd
Driving: 32.64 km
Heading: 344°
Avg Speed: 48.22 km/hr
EST Time: 40:36
Ningaloo Rd & Cardabia Ningaloo Rd to Old Point Cloates Lighthouse (Ruins)
Driving: 10.34 km
Heading: 268°
Avg Speed: 46.07 km/hr
EST Time: 13:27
Old Point Cloates Lighthouse (Ruins) to Whaling Station (Ruins)
Driving: 15.06 km
Heading: 356°
Avg Speed: 30.51 km/hr
EST Time: 29:36
Whaling Station (Ruins) to Point Edgar
Driving: 2 km
Heading: 307°
Avg Speed: 27.47 km/hr
EST Time: 04:22
Point Edgar to Point Billie
Driving: 3.85 km
Heading: 16°
Avg Speed: 29.77 km/hr
EST Time: 07:45
Point Billie to Yardie Creek
Driving: 43.46 km
Heading: 31°
Avg Speed: 38.68 km/hr
EST Time: 01:07:24
Yardie Creek to Yardie Creek Campground
Driving: 0.68 km
Heading: 37°
Avg Speed: 21.96 km/hr
EST Time: 01:51
Yardie Creek Campground to Yardie Creek Rd & Turquoise Bay Access
Driving: 26.27 km
Heading: 19°
Avg Speed: 81.33 km/hr
EST Time: 19:22
Yardie Creek Rd & Turquoise Bay Access to Turquoise Bay
Driving: 1.18 km
Heading: 336°
Avg Speed: 50.21 km/hr
EST Time: 01:24
Turquoise Bay to Yardie Creek Rd & Turquoise Bay Access
Driving: 1.18 km
Heading: 156°
Avg Speed: 50.21 km/hr
EST Time: 01:24
Yardie Creek Rd & Turquoise Bay Access to Yardie Creek Rd & Mangrove Bay Access
Driving: 16.99 km
Heading: 22°
Avg Speed: 79.45 km/hr
EST Time: 12:49
Yardie Creek Rd & Mangrove Bay Access to Mangrove Bay
Driving: 1.28 km
Heading: 299°
Avg Speed: 59.22 km/hr
EST Time: 01:17
Mangrove Bay to Yardie Creek Rd & Mangrove Bay Access
Driving: 1.28 km
Heading: 119°
Avg Speed: 59.22 km/hr
EST Time: 01:17
Yardie Creek Rd & Mangrove Bay Access to Tantabiddi (Boat Ramp)
Driving: 6.96 km
Heading: 22°
Avg Speed: 87.25 km/hr
EST Time: 04:47
Tantabiddi (Boat Ramp) to Vlaming Head
Driving: 18.31 km
Heading: 48°
Avg Speed: 93.7 km/hr
EST Time: 11:43
Vlaming Head to Exmouth
Driving: 18.76 km
Heading: 174°
Avg Speed: 75.39 km/hr
EST Time: 14:55
Distance is based on the travel mode shown (Driving, Straight, Cycling, Walking etc), Direction is straight line from start to end, Avg Speed & EST Time is calculated from GPS data.

What to See

Facilities

Where to Stay

Services & Supplies

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Wildflowers

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