What to do in Coral Bay, Ningaloo Reef turtle

Coral Bay: What To Do, Where To Eat & Where To Stay

bySally Hall
Share This Page

About halfway between Carnarvon and Exmouth – and a whopping 1200km from Perth – you’ll find Coral Bay. Both rugged and pristine, it’s the southern gateway to the breathtaking Ningaloo Reef – a World Heritage listed site and biodiversity hotspot. Here’s how to make the most of your visit to Payungu country.

Snorkel The Spectacular Ningaloo

The world’s largest fringing reef, Ningaloo has been a World Heritage listed site since 2011. An integral part of our marine biodiversity, it’s home to an impressive array of wildlife – from the spectacular coral blooms, abundant reef fish, dugongs, turtles and sharks. One of the most strikingly beautiful spots to explore is the Lavender Patch, so named because of its amazing purple coral bloom. Head south of the popular Bill’s Bay, then once you’ve swum about 50m from shore, the current should take you the rest of the way, allowing you to gently drift over the reef.

Five Fingers Reef is another favourite – only accessible by 4WD, it’s about 4.5 km south of Coral Bay itself. The Five Fingers in its name reference the five finger-like reef protrusions that extend from the coast, and are teeming with wildlife. Oyster Bridge – 30 minutes’ north of Coral Bay, also only accessible by 4WD – is a similarly spectacular rock formation. In between the shore and the rocks is a sheltered lagoon perfect for beginner snorkellers, while the outside is deeper and home to larger fish.

Swim With Whale Sharks

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 June, during the annual (and spectacular) coral spawning – but that’s followed almost immediately by the humpback whale season, which runs from July to November as they seek out the warm northern waters.

Or With Majestic Manta Rays

As well as the gentle giant whale sharks, the spectacular migration of the humpback whales, you can also get up close and personal to the majestic, floating manta rays. Elegantly gliding through the water, these don’t have the defensive barbs of other rays – so you can safely watch them in their natural habitat. You may even catch one breaching!

…Or Even Some Tranquil Turtles

Another highlight of the region’s stunning aquatic wildlife are the sea turtles that frolic around the reef. One of the most endangered sea turtles, loggerhead turtles (as well as green, hawksbill and flatback turtles) use the Ningaloo Reef – as well as other reefs along the Coral Coast – as a major breeding site. If you do visit, particularly during hatching season, make sure to follow the turtle-watchers code of conduct to ensure you don’t disrupt them in any way.

Float Through The Turquoise Waters

Protected by the reef, the shores of Coral Bay are perfect for leisurely swims – as well as other calm water activities like stand up paddle boarding and kayaking. While the coast is littered with beautiful spots to take a dip, Coral Bay and its neighbouring Bill’s Bay are popular spots that are accessible by 2WD.

Catch Your Dinner

As we’ve mentioned, Ningaloo Reef is a protected area, so any fishing must be done within regulations – you can check out an interactive map HERE to check which zone type you’re in. Closer to the reef, you can hope to catch sweetlip, charlie court cod, trevally, spangled emperor and squid – but further out you’ll hopefully be able to hook a prized red emperor, wahoo or sailfish.

Explore The Dunes On Four Wheels

With all that sand, comes plenty of opportunities to explore on four wheels. Plenty of beaches are accessible only via 4WD, but you can also zoom through the dunes and beaches on a buggy tour – you’ll be able to see spectacular sunsets, turtles feeding and more magnificent sights.

What to do in Coral Bay, Coral Coast Tours dune buggies

Photo by Coral Coast Tours

Where To Eat

Given its small size you’re pretty light on for snorkelling snacks around Coral Bay, but that doesn’t mean you’ll go starving! Fin’s Cafe is your go-to for getting the day started, with a pretty stacked brekky and lunch menu (and that’s not just the pancakes!), while local and visitor fave Reef Cafe is your go-to after a long day on the water, serving up hefty pizzas, seafood platters and even a cheeky smashed burger! Bill’s Bar has a great little country pub vibe – expect huge servings and even a cheeky little cocktail or two. Nearby Coral Resort Bakery is great to load up on pastry snacks for a day at the beach.

Fins Coral Bay

Where To Stay

Similar to the food sich, accommodation options around Coral Bay are light on but high quality. If you’re looking a little bit of resort-style living Ningaloo Reef Resort is the one for you, with an on-site pool to go with a six minute walk to the beach, and simple rooms and Shades Cafe serving up great food. Peoples Park also has great self-contained units, while there are a couple of excellent station stays on offer in Warroora Station and Bullara Station (pictured below).

Bullara Station

Header image: Shutterstock