Header photo by Alex Pantazis.
Exmouth is located about 13 hours north of Perth on the tip of the North West Cape; and from the incredible Ningaloo reef to the gorges and canyons of the Cape Range National Park, it’s a stunning adventurer’s playground. With the help of NW correspondent Alex Pantazis, here’s all the best things to see and do in Exmouth:
SEE & DO
Ningaloo Reef is the only place in the world where whale sharks regularly appear close to land and also in large numbers. These gentle, slow moving sharks can grow up to 18 metres long and are safe to swim with. The whale sharks usually arrive around March and stay until August each year and tours are available daily from Exmouth. There is also an annual Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival, which this year will be held May 24-26, and features a number of events and activities including concerts, art exhibitions, cooking demos and live bands.
Bundegi Beach is the key to seas of the northwest, with a boat ramp to launch from, but it’s also just a beautiful place to play around. Canoeing, kayaking and SUPing are all part of the fun, plus you’re allowed to recreationally fish from the shore. Bundegi reef is also a stellar spot for a bit of snorkelling.
Turquoise Bay is located 50 minutes from Exmouth in the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area. Turquoise Bay is not only famous for its pristine sandy shoreline, but also for the fact that you can swim out to the reef from the beach. One of the great things to do here is drift snorkel; walk over to the southern side of the beach, swim out about a hundred metres then let the current drift you back to where you started from over the colourful coral reef teeming with fish and other marine life. Be mindful of strong currents if you’re an inexperienced swimmer and watch for the signs indicating where to get out of the water before the rip. Check our full guide HERE.
Charles Knife Canyon
Located south of Exmouth in Cape Range National Park, the partially sealed road (the last section is a gravel track) takes you along the ridges of the range and allows for great views into the colourful gorges and towards the ocean. There are several lookouts along the way as well as a marked walking trail from the Thomas Carter lookout.
Vlamingh Head Lighthouse
The lookout at Vlamingh Head lighthouse offers fantastic views over the tip of the North West Cape and it’s a great place to watch the sun set over Ningaloo Reef as well as spotting humpback whales during their annual migration. Also visible from here are the Harold Holt Naval Communication Station transmission towers which are some of the tallest manmade structures in the southern hemisphere.
Exmouth Navy Pier Dive
The Exmouth Navy pier has one of the top 10 dive sites in Australia, and one of the world’s top shore dives, so underwater explorers must put it on the list! It’s a 300m long pier just over 10kms from Exmouth, however it is still an active Navy Pier. Therefore you have to go through Dive Ningaloo for a tour – head to their WEBSITE for all the relevant info.
Turtle Hatching/Nesting Tour
The Jurabi Turtle Centre is one of Australia’s major breeding areas for sea turtles and it’s a fantastic place to learn more about these animals as well as the Turtle Watchers Code of Conduct on how to safety observe them nesting and hatching. Nesting season runs November to March, with nesting beginning in November and hatching typically beginning in February. Guided tours run by the Department of Parks & Wildlife from Jurabi Turtle Centre during nesting season are a great way to observe this incredible experience without disturbing the turtles. Tours can also be booked through the Ningaloo Visitor Centre in Exmouth.
An estimated 30, 000 humpback whales migrate annually along the west coast from Antarctica to their breeding and birthing grounds off the Kimberley coast between June and November. They can be seen along the Ningaloo coast during this time and can be commonly found in Exmouth Gulf while resting up before their return journey south. While you can watch them from the shore and the Vlamingh Head lookout, whale watching tours are also available.
This 12km 4WD-only track south of Exmouth takes you through the bottom of the canyon across dry creek beds with great views of the canyon walls and their colourful layers of rock. The drive takes you past interesting rock formations, and ends with a picnic area and a walking trail. Wildflower season is typically August to October and the canyon is home to over 600 different types of flowers, including many that are unique to the area. This track is prone to flash flooding.
At the end of the Cape Range National Park is the picturesque Yardie Creek Gorge with its red limestone cliffs and deep blue water. There is a walking trail that can be accessed via the car park but one of the best ways to explore the gorge is by water and it’s a great place to SUP, kayak or join the guided boat cruise that runs twice-daily on selected days. Keep an eye out for the rare black-footed rock wallaby on the southern cliff face as well as nesting osprey.
Ya gotta stop by the Exmouth’s world famous giant prawn for a happy snap, he’s just received a fresh lick of paint so it’d be rude not to!
EAT & DRINK
Amba Falafel‘s cute van is serving up some of the best dinners in Exmouth. Enjoy some of their crispy, oh-so fluffy falafels under the Town Beach palm trees, accompanied by some of their next-level hummus, of course. Make sure you leave room for a vegan donut or two – they are sure to knock your socks off.
Froth Craft Brewery
One of Exmouth’s most popular watering holes, there’s always something going on at the Froth Craft Brewery. The award winning brewery swings its doors open at 11am and good times ensue from that point on. The microbrewery won’t leave you short on choice, usually rotating more than 10 taps at any given time, plus the food menu is excellent and there’s live music on the reg. You’ll be frothing for a tipple in that northwest heat.
For some of the most scenic meals in Exmouth, Mantarays‘ relaxed restaurant is hard to go past as you chill on the alfresco area, cocktail in hand, fresh seafood plate on table. You can literally watch the Exmouth fishermen depart for the high seas and catch tomorrow’s meals. It’s a little on the exxier side, but when you’re dining right on the beach with seafood as fresh as this, you’re not complaining either.
Slinging breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, you can find Whalers in the belly of the Exmouth Escape Resort with beaut views of resort swimming pools and gardens. They’ve regularly got chill acoustic acts to keep you company while you enjoy fresh local seafood and succulent steaks. The Exmouth Tiger Prawn Gnocchi is hard to beat.
The Social Society
All that adventuring and exploring (or on the flip side, indulging in the tropical holiday lifestyle) requires are healthy boost – enter The Social Society. A heap of super healthy vego and vegan options to choose from, and rumour has it they might just pump out the best coffees in town.
Whalebone Brewing Company
Another ripper little brewery (this town is obviously big enough for the both of ’em), Whalebone is run by two local families and you feel that warm vibe at every step of the way. From the refreshing, laidback style of the ales on offer to the yummy pizzas and great kids play area on site, it’s a popular spot for a good reason.
Sometimes you need to keep it simple, and Ningaloo Bakehouse has had the pies, breads, sausage rolls and sweet treats of Exmouth covered since way back in the 60s! You don’t last that long without a smile, and even when it’s real busy the staff are incredibly welcoming and friendly. Being a small country town sometimes it’s hard to find a good bite at weird parts of the day, but the Bakehouse will always have you covered.
Look, in a town like Exmouth there’s going to be plenty of competition for the best seafood in town (and you’re definitely spoilt for choice), but if it’s good old fashioned takeaway fish’n’chips you’re after, you could do a lot worse than Blue Lips. And please don’t mistake that for faint praise – the not-so-secret winner here though is their boogie board-sized fish burgers, delish!
The BBQ Father
You might think Exmouth is so hot it wouldn’t need a barbecue joint, but one trip to the BBQ Father will change your mind. A pleasing mix of classic Italian fare and juicy grill options, as they say: “Nothing curated, foraged or deconstructed – just slathers of juicy smoked meats so tender they fall apart on your fork, rustic Italian style woodfired pizzas that could feed a small town, bowl-lickingly pasta dishes and generous scoops of homemade gelato to savour after a long day by the bay.” Sold.
The Potshot Hotel has a very up north hotel feel to it, one that features an epic bar and restaurant with an area to suit all occasions. The Poolside Bar will keep you cool during the day, the Vance Bar & Beer Garden have your sports needs covered, and Brad’s Bar turns into a good old fashioned boogie joint on Friday nights.
It may shock you to learn that Cadillac’s Bar & Grill is Exmouth’s only country music bar, but that is indeed the case! For a rollicking good time and a bit of fun all served up with a smile, a little boot scoot down to Cadillac’s is always a great night out. At the time of publishing (January 2021) they were closed for rennos (re-opening Feb), but you can always pop into the bottleshop next door.
Obviously Exmouth has a thing for a van, with some of their best coffee being served out of Coffee Cartel‘s roving trailer. Beans are the award-winning Killer Bee from Blacklist, lending a bold and complex flavour – complemented, of course, by some silky smooth milk action. That’ll get you out of bed!
We can hardly decide… the ice cream, the toasties, or the coffee? Such is the dilemma at Mutts, given that they do all three so well. This pup-friendly cafe is serving up some ice creams that are truly tantalising, alongside delish Karvan coffee and some oozy, mouth-watering toasties… I guess we’ll just have to get all three.
1 Pellew Street, Exmouth
What’s the use of enjoying the spectacular Ningaloo coastline, if you’ve just got to turn around and go back to Perth? Keep the coastal vibes going by taking some art home with you! Ningaloo Inspired stocks art made by Exmouth and WA locals – you guessed it, inspired by Ningaloo. Works range from hand-woven baskets, original paintings and prints, jewellery, ceramics and more.
Mrs Mac’s Op Shop
We are always – we mean, always – down for a bit of op shopping. A visit to Exmouth is a perfect excuse to have a peruse, and Mrs Mac’s is the perfect place to do it.