The Long Weekender Guide to the Ningaloo

The long weekend is a sacred time for many. It’s the breath of fresh air we all need and deserve – a chance to break away from the 9-5 and let loose to explore some of Western Australia’s most stunning natural wonders. 

Today we’ll be looking at the Ningaloo-Exmouth region – complete with rolling hills, canyons, pristine waters and Australia’s largest fringing reef home to around 500 species of fish and an abundance of marine life, including whale sharks, turtles, dolphins, humpback whales, dugongs, manta rays, humpback whales and orcas. Even the weather in this part of the world is unfailingly special. 

Here’s how to spend your next long weekend on the road. 

Getting there

Ningaloo is 1,250 kilometres or 13 hours drive from Perth. It sounds like a lot – but breaking up the trip and staying halfway at Geraldton, Kalbarri or Monkey Mia allows you to explore some other stunning locations on the way.

Follow the highway north and admire the spectacular views of the Indian Ocean as you creep closer to your destination. 

It’s always a good idea to book accommodation in advance – even if you’re camping make sure you call ahead to make sure there’s room. The good news is – it’s very rare to find a place fully booked.

Snorkel at Turquoise Bay

Snorkelling at Turquoise Bay is an absolute must. Even if you’re not an avid snorkeler, make sure you dive into the pristine waters to refresh after a long day’s drive. The beach itself is great to set up camp for the day and enjoy the abundance of sea life that can be found even close to the shore. 

Snorkelling is done differently at this beach. You can actually walk up one end and swim out to catch the current taking you along – basically, the ocean does the swimming part for you. Just be careful not to drift too far out. 

Explore Mandu Mandu Gorge

While the weather up Ningaloo way is usually pretty fantastic, if you get a cooler than average day, it’s totally worth going on a hike. The Cape Range National Park is one of Western Australia’s best kept secrets for hikers, bird watchers, and wildlife enthusiasts alike. 

The Mandu Mandu gorge is located on the western side of the park – about a 50-minute drive from Exmouth town – and offers an incredible 3km hiking trail that takes you up and along the picturesque gorge that opens up into the coastal plain. 

An evening hike will give up unforgettable views of the sunset over the ocean – just be careful driving home during the twilight – this is when the kangaroos come out to play. 

Get lost in Shothole Canyon

Ok, maybe don’t actually get lost. You know what we mean. 

Shothole Canyon is named after the explosive tests they carried out in the early 1950s in search of oil. But this historic site won’t give you any hint that anyone was ever there before you. Only a short 20-minute drive south from Exmouth town, this canyon is one of Cape Range National Park’s most spectacular natural landmarks. 

If you love to hike, take the 4.1km loop trail and get up close and personal with the wildlife that inhabits these parts. You can spend the day wandering the beautiful trails and marvel at some of Western Australia’s most unique flora. 

This one’s a recommended 4×4 track only – so make sure you’re prepared. 

Go fishing 

Got an afternoon off? Why not go fishing at one of Exmouth’s excellent fishing locations. Either go close to town at the Bundegi Flats or settle in for some beach fishing around Sandy Bay in the south of Cape Range National Park. 

With plenty of fishing shops in town – there’s no shortage of good bait, tackle and other supplies. Just make sure you’re not fishing in a protected area – this can land you in some trouble, not to mention a hefty fine. There are 16 Sanctuary Areas located around the peninsula – just remember to do your homework before dropping a line. 

Swim with whale sharks 

Arguably the most exciting thing to do in Ningaloo, a swim with whale sharks Exmouth style is quickly becoming a must-see for anyone visiting the area. 

With one of the best protected marine zones in the world, the warm waters of Ningaloo Reef are home to many whale sharks during the season. These friendly giants are not only docile enough to swim with, they’re also incredible to behold. Up to 18 metres long they come near to shore to feed on krill and plankton – a perfect time to join them in the water as they glide around. 

Booking in with a whale shark tour company in Exmouth is easy – make sure you book in advance and put aside a day for the adventure – it’s worth every minute.