Tour two wonders that put Ningaloo and Shark Bay on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The Ningaloo Reef-Shark Bay coast is one of few places on Earth where you can visit two World Heritage listed treasures in one short self-drive adventure. This trail from Perth to Monkey Mia, Coral Bay and Exmouth reveals the natural wonders that put the region on the UNESCO world map – from the biggest fringing reef, to the largest and oldest living fossils on the planet.
Best time: March to November
Morning: Perth to the Pinnacles
Make your journey to the beginning of your adventure by joining the Indian Ocean Drive north of Perth.
Starting in the coastal playground of Lancelin, it leads you to one of the most unique landscapes on Earth, the Pinnacles Desert of Nambung National Park.
Afternoon: Cervantes to Kalbarri
Picnic at the Pinnacles or grab lunch at the fishing village of Cervantes.
The last stretch of the Indian Ocean Drive leads you to the windsurfing capital of Geraldton.
From here, you’re just one hour and 45 minutes away from the ultimate outback coast playground in Kalbarri National Park.
Take your pick from a wide variety of accommodation options and stay a night or two.
Nature's Window, Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park
Adventurers can spend a full day kayaking, hiking, climbing or abseiling in Kalbarri’s 400-million-year-old river gorges, or chasing the best local catch on a deep sea fishing charter.
Or you can choose to explore this 183,000-hectare national park at a slower pace, cruising the Murchison River and walking the trails to take in the region’s extraordinary beauty, spring wildflowers and rock formations, including the iconic Nature’s Window.
Morning: Kalbarri to Shark Bay
Pick up a picnic lunch in Kalbarri town and begin the two and a half hours’ drive north to enter Shark Bay World Heritage Area.
Just 30 minutes into the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive, you’ll reach your first stop at Hamelin Pool Stromatolites.
Here, you can get a glimpse of life on Earth over 3,500 million years ago as you gaze in awe at the stromatolites – the largest and oldest living fossils on the planet.
Another hour along Denham-Hamelin Road brings you to Shell Beach – one of the few places in the world where you’ll see a beach made entirely of billions of tiny shells, creating a dramatic coastal landscape.
Afternoon: Denham/Monkey Mia
On the last leg to Denham and Monkey Mia, take a short detour to Eagle Bluff for spectacular ocean vistas and birds-eye views of the marine life below, or Peron Homestead for some insights into pastoral life on a working station in the early 1900s.
Stay in Denham or Monkey Mia.
Dolphins at Monkey Mia
Morning: Monkey Mia
Wild dolphins have visited this shoreline virtually every day since the early 1960s, making it one of the world’s top spots for dolphin encounters.
Rise early and enjoy a magical morning meeting Monkey Mia’s famous bottlenose dolphins. Check out the Dolphin Information Centre, or enjoy the pristine white sand beach before lunch overlooking the bay.
Afternoon: Monkey Mia
Spend your afternoon meeting more of Shark Bay’s marine life – including the world’s largest population of dugongs – on a wildlife cruise or kayaking tour.
Or stay on dry land and meet some of the region’s 100 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 240 varieties of birds on an Indigenous cultural tour, or a 4WD tour of Francois Peron National Park.
A sunset cruise is a great way to complete your Monkey Mia mini adventure.
One Mile Jetty, Carnarvon
Morning: Shark Bay to Carnarvon
The tropical food bowl of Carnarvon is the southern gateway to World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef – the largest and one of the most accessible fringing reefs on Earth.
Stop for a lunch-time feast of seasonal seafood and tropical fruit flavours fresh from Carnarvon’s plantations and farms.
Explore the region’s history and heritage with a visit to the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre and Carnarvon Heritage Precinct.
Take a sunset stroll along One Mile Jetty and ride the coffee pot train.
Stay overnight in Carnarvon.
Red Bluff, Quobba Station
Day 6 (optional 1 or 2 day detour):
Morning: Carnarvon to South Ningaloo
Take a detour by 4WD to some of the most secluded spots on the Ningaloo coast, where you can step straight off the beaches into the bluest ocean and snorkel with some of the 500 species of fish and 300 varieties of coral that call the reef home.
Drivers are advised to contact Carnarvon Tourist Centre to check road conditions and stock up on water, food and fuel before making this journey.
Take Blowholes Road and stop to witness the powerful force of the ocean swell at the Blowholes, before following the unsealed road to South Ningaloo.
Afternoon: South Ningaloo
Experience some of Ningaloo’s top snorkel trails, swimming beaches, fishing spots and surf breaks at Bluff Barrel, the Tombstones, Three Mile Camp and Gnaraloo Bay.
Stay a night or two at Quobba Station, Red Bluff, Three Mile Camp or Gnaraloo. Options range from camping and basic cabins to glamping in luxury eco tents.
Snorkelling at Ningaloo Reef
Day 6 (SEALED ROAD TO CORAL BAY):
Morning: Carnarvon to Coral Bay
The journey from Carnarvon to the chilled-out seaside town of Coral Bay takes approximately three hours.
Allow more time if you’re heading from South Ningaloo and travelling back to Blowholes Road to reach the North West Coastal Highway.
Afternoon: Coral Bay
Here, in the calm, sheltered waters of the bay, you’re just a short snorkel or glass-bottom boat ride from Ningaloo’s coral gardens.
Stay an extra night and you’ll also get to explore the outer reef on a sea kayak, dive charter or snorkel tour for a swim with the turtles and graceful manta rays.
Whale watching tours also operate between March and July.
Try catching your own dinner on a deep-sea fishing charter, or choose from a small selection of cafes and restaurants.
Swimming with whale sharks
Coral Bay to Exmouth
At the northern tip of the Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth is one of the best places in the world for a thrilling swim with the largest fish in the ocean – the whale shark. They visit Ningaloo Reef every year between March and July.
Stop by the Exmouth Visitor Centre to pick up maps and check out the full array of guided tours available.
A glass-bottom boat, snorkel or dive tour to the outer reef will also bring you to the year-round playgrounds of dolphins, turtles, dugongs and manta rays.
Two must-dos for divers include Navy Pier – one of Australia’s top 10 dive sites – and an overnight trip to the Murion Islands.
There are also big drawcards here for surfers at the reef break on Surfers Beach, and world-class big-game chasing thrills for anglers too.
Choose from a good variety of accommodation options in Exmouth and on the cape and stay a couple of nights.
Morning: Exmouth to Ningaloo Marine Park
Join a guided tour, or pack a picnic and head off early to explore Ningaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park at your own pace.
Drive carefully, watching out for kangaroos, emus and lizards, and take your pick from a string of stunning lagoons, white-sand beaches and snorkel trails, including Turquoise Bay.
Afternoon: Cape Range National Park to Exmouth
For a striking contrast, take a wildlife cruise (seasonal) or self-guided bushwalk up the rugged red canyon of Yardie Creek.
Finish your day on the cape with an Indian Ocean sunset and humpback whale spotting (June and November) at Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, before returning to Exmouth.
Coastline at Kalbarri National Park
Day 9:Exmouth to Perth
If you made arrangements to leave your hire car at Learmonth Airport*, near Exmouth, you can hop on a direct flight that will get you back to Perth in one and a half hours. Alternatively, retrace your tracks back to Perth by road, breaking the 14-hour drive with a stay in Carnarvon, Kalbarri or Geraldton.
* Note, additional fees may apply.
Important Travel Information
Sightings and interactions with whale sharks, manta rays, whales, turtles, dolphins or other marine life are not 100% guaranteed. See the tour operators’ terms and conditions for details.
Surf and marine conditions can vary significantly, so always read safety signs and swim between the red and yellow lifesaving flags. Get more tips from the Beachsafe website.
All tours must be pre-booked via the tour operator or local visitor centre. Tours by boat are subject to weather conditions.
| Perth|| 9-11 days|| The Coral Coast|
Perth to Kalbarri
Kalbarri to Denham
Denham to Monkey Mia
24 km (one way)
Denham to Carnarvon
Carnarvon to South Ningaloo
140 km (one way)
Carnarvon to Coral Bay
South Ningaloo to Coral Bay
Coral Bay to Exmouth
Exmouth to Yardie Creek
85 km (one way)
Exmouth to Perth
Find out more about
THE CORAL COAST
Visit the Coral Coast website for more itineraries and further information on things to see and do. Find Out More
Make the local Visitor Centre your first port of call as you travel around Western Australia.