If you are exploring Western Australia, then Exmouth needs to be on your route. Exmouth is nothing special, but it has access to one of the better National Parks in Australia.
We fell in love with the Cape Range National Park. You can spend unlimited time exploring deserted beaches, snorkel with turtles and enjoy perfect turquoise waters. Spoiler: yes, there is a place called Turquoise Bay, one more way how you can look forward even more.
And forget the Great Barrier Reef (just for now) Ningaloo Reef, very often neglected, is thriving with marine life and corals, and this is a perfect place for an unforgettable swim with manta rays.
In this post, we will share all you need to know about Exmouth, where to camp, and most importantly the best things to do in Exmouth in Western Australia.
ABOUT EXMOUTH, WA
Exmouth lies in Western Australia and is a perfect gateway to Cape Range National Park and the Ningaloo Marine Park. Exmouth is a little town with less than 2.500 residents. Other than that you might meet some wandering emus, shy “roos” (kangaroos) and loud cockatoos.
If you are coming down from the north, it is around 700km from Karinjini National Park, which is a place you need to visit for sure.
Exmouth lacks any vibe, but it’s a great place where you can get fuel, to not end up stuck on some dirt road in Western Australia (no fun at all). And in Exmouth, you can prepare for your time in Cape Range Nationalpark and Ningaloo.
SHOPS IN EXMOUTH
There is only one grocery shop (an IGA) that is really overpriced and has not much on offer. So if you are thinking to stock up here, rather try to find a Coles/Woolworth’s on the way to Exmouth.
Trust us, your wallet will thank you for sure.
CAMPING TIP: If you are coming from the north you can find a Coles in Karratha. From the south your last chance is Carnvaron. Keep in mind that those places are still a long distance away. So the best thing is to accept that prices are up and supplies not as diverse as in Perth.
The brand-new visitor center is good to get some info and has an aquarium which is a whopping AU$19 per person. We find it sad to have an aquarium next to a marine park and it shouldn’t be there in the first place, but hey, someone gotta make a buck.
THINGS TO DO IN & AROUND EXMOUTH
Aside from visiting Cape Range National Park, there are a few other sights you might consider to see and do in Exmouth.
We spent in total of 5 days in Exmouth and it was definitely one of our highlights exploring the western coast of Australia.
A short walk from the “city center” of Exmouth you can spend time on Town Beach. Nothing spectacular, but you can make use of the barbies and picnic tables here.
One of the best things to do is going to Bundegi Beach which is located 13km north of Exmouth and is a sheltered beach that is great for swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, etc..
SUNSET AT VLAMINGH HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
A great place to enjoy the view on the ocean during sunset. Besides, you have a good chance to spot whales from up here. Naturally, it can get busy up here so get ready to share the spot with others for sunset watching.
Although it is a marine park there are designated areas where you can fish. You can’t just fish any fish but follow the instructions which fish are not off-limits . You can check in the visitor center in Exmouth where the boat entries are located and where you can fish. Also, almost every campsite has a spot where you can clean your fish.
SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS
From April to July whale sharks migrate up and down the coast of Western Australia. In Exmouth, you have the chance to join tours operated by Ningaloo Discovery Whale Shark Tours to take a closer look at these magnificent fish.
EXTRA TIP: It is advisable to only join snorkeling tours at the Coral Coast if you are a good swimmer and an experienced snorkeler. Otherwise, the whole thing might be a big disappointment and subsequently waste of money.
EXMOUTH SCUBA DIVING
Due to time and financial constraints we did not get the chance to scuba dive out of Exmouth (we did in Coral Bay). Nevertheless, we know that there is quite a famous dive spot near Murat Point under the Navy Pier.
If you are interested you’ll have to contact Dive Ningaloo. They are the only ones with a license to operate scuba dives here, as the pier is still used for military purposes.
PRICES: Single Dive – AU$150; Two Dives – AU$220 (for certified scuba divers)
Not yet certified, but unsure where to get your scuba dive certificate, without breaking the bank? Then dive into this article to find all the answers!
WHERE TO CAMP IN EXMOUTH
If you head to Exmouth during high season (which is Winter) and in general in Western Australia, you might run into trouble in regards to finding a place to crash or let’s say park your car or camper.
There are simply not enough campsites. When we arrived in Exmouth in the early afternoon we called and checked in person every single campsite in Exmouth and the few ones right in front of Cape Range National Park. Nothing available. There are only two campsites in Exmouth that are super overpriced (AU$40 for an unpowered site) but we were ready to pay. Otherwise, you can drive out or better call and try Lighthouse Holiday Park (right beneath Vlamingh Head Lighthouse) or Yardie Creek Homestay. Both were fully booked as well.
TIP: Make sure to download the Wikicamps app to find the closest campsites offline.
It was really upsetting because we were told that the local council decided to close down the overflow. What a shortsighted decision if you do it in the middle of high season. So make sure to call campsites before or you end up driving there for nothing and then backpaddling 60km to a “wonderful” free camp spot called termite nest without any facilities or any shelter. Which is your only “legal” option if you are in a similar situation we were in. That there is no patch of dirt to park for the night any closer to Exmouth is a disgrace. Especially since there is so much space and land available.
But everyone who comes to Exmouth is ready to discover the breathtaking Ningaloo Reef, swim with manta rays, sharks, whales, explore Cape Range National Park and walk on white sand beaches and hike canyons and gorges and probably is ready to bear the struggle.
YARDIE CREEK HOMESTAY
After we spend a night in the “termite nest dust bowl parking lot”, we managed to get an unpowered site at Yardie Creek Homestay and paid AU$32 for an unpowered and AU$36 for a powered site which is really affordable considering the location right in front of the entrace to Cape Range NP.
On Wednesday there is a burger night for AU$15. You’ll get a beef burger that is super tasty and probably the cheapest you get on the entire Coral Coast. Yardie also has a pool and camp kitchen with a fridge and freezer. Only the laundry sucks, AU$5 for load and your clothes are still dirty. But anyway, make sure you check on your clothes, Nico’s swimwear went missing…
HOTELS IN EXMOUTH
If you have more budget to spend then you can definitely check our hotels in Exmouth.
CHECK ALL THE HOTELS IN EXMOUTH
HOW TO GET TO EXMOUTH?
Exmouth is a 15 hours drive north of Perth. So even if you have your own ride it’s difficult or let’s say time-consuming to get here. But, hey, this is how it is in Australia and part of the magic. You need to include it in your Western Australia visit.
READ MORE: If you need help buying a car in Australia, check out our blog post for detailed advice (even if you have no clue about cars).
Nearby Coral Bay is worth a visit as well. The ride from Exmouth takes around 90 minutes.
Quantas flies from Perth to Learmonth Airport that is located 36km south of Exmouth in WA. We reckon that prices are expensive. Considering that you would need to get a rental car as well to get around as there is no public transport. Welcome to Western Australia.
Spending time in Perth? Then, under no circumstances, should you miss a visit to Rottnest Island.
OTHER AWESOME THIGNS TO DO AROUND EXMOUTH
The biggest highlight nearby Exmouth is Cape Range National Park. If we would pick the top 3 national parks in Australia, Cape Range would have a shot to be included in our list. We are not joking, here you can find some of the best beaches that you can pretty much enjoy on your own.
And if you ever hear from other travelers, that Western Australia is beautiful, then here you will find out what they mean.
CAPE RANGE NATIONAL & NINGALOO MARINE PARKS
Cape Range National Park (and Exmouth) is home to some of the best beaches in Western Australia. And we definitely recommend you to spend here at least 3 days. You won’t regret it.
Many Australians love it here so much that they come here for a whole month. There are many spots where you can find secluded places, tranquility, and Cape Range is great place for relaxing and admiring nature.
Have a look at the best things to do in Cape Range NP.
NINGALOO MARINE PARK
If you are already in Exmouth then you need to explore another Western Australia hidden gem!
Ningaloo Marine Park is out on the water as the name suggests. It stretches from Red Bluff on Quobba Station in the South up to Bundegi north of Exmouth running along Cape Range NP.
It’s World Heritage-listed, 300km long and packed with all types of marine life. Surprisingly, it is very accessible. At times its only 100 meters away from the shoreline. In any case, make sure to check out Milyering Discovery Centre for all kinds of info in regards to the Ningaloo Marine Park. Remember it’s “Straya” (slang for Australia), so you might want to get a heads up if some poisonous jellyfish hang around.
The single entry pass is AU$12 per person and if you are exploring more parks than we recommend you to get the Western Australia National Park Holiday Pass. If you already have one you are good to go. Check for the passes here.
Turquoise Bay is the most famous bay in Cape Range National Park and no question the hype is absolutely justified.
The waters of the Ningaloo Marine Park are incredible turquoise and the drift you find here makes snorkeling really an experience. However, it is not our favorite beach in Cape Range National Park simply because it’s so popular and crowded.
In Turquoise Bay we saw a lot of tropical fish such as pufferfish, angelfish, and blue-spotted sting-rays.
SNORKELING AT TURQUOISE BAY
There are two areas where you can snorkel. The Bay Snorkel Area is perfect for beginners and experienced snorkelers alike. Here you find corals and all kinds of fish.
The Drift Area is only suitable for stronger swimmers. And you need to be careful where you snorkel here. Follow the instructions where to enter and especially where to exit the water. Don’t swim/float further as there is a strong current that will pull you out to the open ocean. So be careful and snorkel only in the designated areas.
EXTRA TIP: The water in winter is also a bit colder so if you own a wet suit, bring it with you. You will thank us later. We didn’t have wet suits, and it was really cold after some time in the water.
Sandy Bay takes the title of our favorite beach in Cape Range National Park.
We would even say that Sandy Bay is even more beautiful than Turquoise Bay as it is less busy. During our visit most people would just come to Sandy Bay, look and leave quickly again. Obviously to nearby Turquoise Bay.
Snorkeling is also pretty good, although there is not as much coral as in Tourquise Bay. Nevertheless, only here we snorkeled with turtles.
And this one wasn’t shy at all. She posed for us so cutely and wasn’t disturbed by us. She was eating and just hanging on the bottom. Please never touch marine life and give animals space.
Oyster Stacks is another great spot for snorkeling aficionados. Here, you will find submerged offshore reefs just a few meters away from the beach. Be aware that you should only visit during high tide otherwise it will be rocky and dangerous to swim.
EXTRA TIP: Walk to the end of the walking trail and enter the water here. Then, snorkel either north or south. If you need a brake look for a sandy patch on the bottom to protect the corals and your feet.
Trealla Beach is the first beach right after you enter the park and we really liked the view. There were literally no people, just us. It’s a bit rocky which makes it hard to swim and snorkel here.
If you have time, check out South & North Mandu Beach and Tulki Beach.
If you brought a bit more time or if you are into hiking you shouldn’t miss Yardie Creek Gorge and Charles Knife Canyon. Yardie Creek Gorge lies 50km south of the park entrance and at the end of the sealed part of, I’m sure you guessed it, Yardie Creek Road.
There are several walks at Yardie Creek Gorge. The 1-hour return Yardie Gorge Trail leads you along a path that offers great views.
CHARLES KNIFE CANYON
Charles Knife Canyon lies in the very east of Cape Range National Park. That means it’s not reachable from within the park but from the Minilya-Exmouth Road leading up to Exmouth. Thus, you either go there before or after your visit to Cape Range NP. It’s an 11km-drive with beautiful views. The street is unsealed but 2WD should be able to get you there.
At the Thomas Carter lookout starts the Badjirradjirra loop trail that takes you 8km through typical Australian landscapes with lots of spinifexes. If you know us a bit you probably know that we never tackled this trail. Meaning we only heard about it. So decide for yourself if you want to invest time in this endeavor. In any case, take lots of water and maybe don’t go during summer. Otherwise, you might have hiked your last hike.
CAMPING IN CAPE RANGE NATIONAL PARK
In order to camp in Cape Range National Park, you NEED TO BOOK ONLINE. How crazy is that if you consider how spotty the network is in huge Australia? There is no possibility to just show up and get a spot upon arrival. And of course, when you travel in the high season everything is more or less booked out.
There only a certain amount of people a day that you camp at the Cape Range NP in order to protect nature, which is absolutely understandable. However, it’s really crappy for campers who simply have a flexible schedule. So if you know exactly when you are going to be in Cape Range National Park (or in any national park in Western Australia) BOOK IN ADVANCE.
CAMP SITES IN CAPE RANGE NP
There are only 6 campsites in Cape Range National Park you can go to and they have all limited spots. They are all unpowered and have only compost toilets with no showers.
And if you wander how can you take a shower, then you should have something like this with you.
If you don’t have any access to the Internet, you can go to the visitor center inside Cape Range National Park. Here you will find a cool iPad booking station and a printer to print out your booking confirmation. We were shocked and nicely surprised. Every campsite was booked out as we checked the day before on our phone.
I am not sure what got into me and I just went there to play around and see if these iPads really work. They did work and you won’t believe it, I found 1 available spot for us. We felt so fortunate and lucky. We couldn’t believe it, we just felt so special. We paid and printed our golden booking information.
Long story short we found one available spot in Kurrajong campsite.
PRICE: 1 CAMPING SPOT FOR 2 people AU$22.
And let me say this is a beautiful camping spot next to the beach. The only downside during our time of visit: wind. Wherever you end up make sure to walk atop the dunes and look out for breaching whales in the distance.
HOW MANY DAYS CAN YOU CAMP AT CAPE RANGE NP?
You cannot spend more than 28 days camping in the National Park. Grey nomads, especially from Victoria and New South Wales, come here often in winter and spend a full month here for their holidays. They also book in advance, so there is no surprise that it’s hard at times to get a camp spot upon arrival.
HOW TO GET TO CAPE RANGE NP?
There is only one street leading to Cape Range NP and you will have to pass through Exmouth. There are no short cuts to avoid going almost all the way up to the tip of the peninsular.
It takes around 30 minutes from Exmouth to the pay station. Head to Yardie Creek Road turn into it and follow it to the entrance of the park. Drive further along to get to all the beaches. Until Yardie Creek, the street is paved and you won’t need a 4WD. If you plan on going any further better do it with a capable 4WD.
WHEN TO VISIT EXMOUTH?
The best time to visit Exmouth and in general the Western coast of Australia is the peak season that lasts from April to October. Whale sharks swim by between April and July. So if you are keen on swimming with those gentle giants this is the time for a visit. Humpback whale tours go out from August to October. For Manta Rays it’s best to head to Coral Bay.
READ MORE: If you are curious where to swim with whale sharks in the Philippines, check our article here.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Of course, if you are already up here you have to also visit Coral Bay as well and take a different angle on magnificent Ningaloo Reef.
A bit further down south you should not miss out on Shark Bay and it’s beautiful sights.
We hope that are going to have a great time exploring Exmouth and splendid Western Australia.
If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments or message us on Instagram.
Don’t forget to pin the article to save up EXMOUTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA GUIDE for later.
DISCLAIMER: Please note, that some of the links mentioned above are affiliate links and we will earn a little percentage of the sale if you purchase through our links at no extra cost to you. This helps us to keep our website running. We highly appreciate your support.