Exmouth is a small town in Western Australia, situated on to North East corner of the North West Cape. The town came into existence in 1964 to service the US Navy Communications centre, and as such it doesn’t have a particularly long Australian heritage.
Today though its main earner is tourism, and there are few places in the world that match the range of fabulous activities on offer. The main reason for its fame is the Ningaloo Reef, situated to on the western edge of the cape and running for a few hundred kilometers from the tip, right down to Gnaraloo, a famous surf spot North of Carnarvon.
The Ningaloo Reef
The reef is a fringing reef, and as such it hugs the WA coastline making it incredibly accessible for snorkelers and beach lovers who can simply step into the water and be amongst the shimmering array of corals, fish, dolphins, turtles and sharks. Because of its isolation, 1200kms north of Perth, it’s seldom busy so you get a really fulfilling experience without having to pay for boat trips, or battling with 100’s of other tourists.
One incredible aspect of the Ningaloo is the yearly influx of Whale Sharks to the area. Every year almost to the day Whale Sharks arrive in good numbers from across the globe to feed. What they feed on is the coral spawn, which usually occurs around the end of March or early April and lasts for several months.
To get a chance to see these amazing creatures, you can hop on one of many tours operating out of Exmouth. They use spotter planes to find the sharks, and if you’re in peak season you’re virtually guaranteed to be able to snorkel with one. The cost of the trip isn’t cheap, but it’s a small price to pay for what is one of the most incredible things the average tourist can do.
Exmouth itself is a short drive from the Reef, and has plenty of things to do in its own right. There are good restaurants, cafes and eateries, a golf course, swimming pool, and other usual town facilities. On an evening the balmy atmosphere leads you to feel you could be in a quiet Mediterranean town, especially as the local seafood is something to behold.
Accommodation is generally widely available and varied, with much more choice and range than the town of Coral Bay towards the Southern tip of the reef. There are 2 caravan parks in Exmouth (Exmouth Cape Holiday Park & Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Resort) as well as another one around 15kms out of town at the top of the reef. (Ningaloo Lighthouse Caravan Park). There are also numerous hotels, backpackers and apartments to be rented, prices range from around $30 a night for a campsite up to the flashy four star Novotel in the new marina development.
Exmouth Tours & Activities
Exmouth may not be on the reef itself, but the waters around the town are jammed full of marine life. All through the Australian winter, humpback whales make this their breeding and resting grounds and numerous tour boats operate to take you to see these incredible creatures.
Aside from the usual reef and whale shark trips, other tours go out to inaccessible reef islands at the head of the bay, and if you love diving then there are numerous world class dive sites for all ranges of ability. The Navy Pier dive just north of town is reckoned to be amongst the worlds best dives and is great for all abilities.
South of Exmouth and standing between the Eastern side and the West is Cape Range National Park. It’s stretches some 100 or so kilometers along the peninsula, and it contains incredible wildlife and spectacular geology. There are a few easily accessible drives in amongst the canyons just south of town and are not to be missed, or you can join a tour to really explore the place.
Exmouth is mostly HOT. In summer it regularly peaks above 40 degrees for days on end and has very little rainfall. That said there is often a wind that takes the edge of the heat somewhat. April through to September is generally the best time to go as it’s still warm, but without the spectacular heat of the summer, however for Exmouth this is peak season so book early.
Overall Exmouth and its surrounding attractions should be right up there on the Australian must see list. Exmouth is a very useful base that is developing as a town. It still has some way to go to be able to rival some of it’s older more established eastern state resort towns (Port Douglas springs to mind), but in terms of access to incredible adventures and experiences there are few to match it anywhere in Australia.