If you are looking for somewhere with adventure, snorkelling, pristine beaches, family friendly and backpacker vibes, then Coral Bay is for you! There are a large range of activities to suit any traveller, it’s only an hour out of Exmouth which means day trips are an option and everything in the town is in walking distance.
Coral Bay has a special place in my heart, as it’s where I spent every Easter Holidays as a kid till I was about 14 years old (then I became a grumpy teenager that didn’t want to travel away from my friends). As heaps of families travel here during the holidays, it’s very easy for your kids to make friends. My brother and myself spent our whole time playing 440 home and spotlight with all the kids from the campgrounds and accommodation. It become a nightly thing! I won’t lie I think the parents loved this too, as it gave them a bit of time to themselves.
After venturing back here on my solo travellers, it has given me even more appreciation for this beautiful town in WA. The best part about Coral Bay is it is great for families and backpackers. The town has a very chilled vibe and is very safe for any type of traveller. It has a great backpacker scene during the peak months. There are usually pool parties at the backpackers or gatherings at the local pub. So if you are a solo traveller like myself, it’s very easy to make friends.
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Where is Coral Bay?
Coral Bay is located on the Coral Coast of Western Australia, roughly 12 hrs or 1122 km from Perth. It is a small holiday town, with plenty of activities for any type of traveller. There are three way you can get here; driving, flying or bus.
Follow Indian Ocean Drive up the coast of West Australia, until it joins with Brand Highway. At Geraldton, join the Northwest Coast Highway, continue past Carnarvon until you reach the Minilya-Exmouth Rd. Continue up this road until you see the signs for the turn off to Coral Bay or Coral Bay Rd. These directions are all on google maps.
You can fly from Perth to Learmonth Airport and catch a shuttle bus to Coral Bay. Flights will cost you roughly $150-200 AUD one way and the shuttle bus will cost you roughly $70 AUD. The shuttle is run by Integrity Coaches and you can find the timetable here. Quantas is the only company that offers flights to Learmonth.
Integrity Coaches offer transport from Perth to Coral bay. Buses leave Perth from the tourist bus stop (in front of the Perth train station) and will drop you off at the Ningaloo Backpackers in Coral Bay. The trip takes about 15.5 hrs and will cost $210 AUD for a one way transfer or $420 AUD return.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Coral Bay is from April to October. The weather is warm and pleasant, with the smallest chance of high winds. This makes it the best time for fishing, snorkelling and it is also Whale Shark season.
Note: Accomodation in Coral Bay books out extremely fast during peak periods and school holidays. Its best to book far in advance to avoid disappointment.
Offering a range of apartment and studio style rooms, for 2-6 people. You can expect to pay between $288 to $388 per night, dependant on what type of accommodation you choose. Features and facilities of this accommodation include an ATM, bar, cafe, swimming pool, wifi and guest laundry.
Bayview Coral Bay is one of the more popular resorts in Coral Bay. Accommodation includes cabins, villas, lodges, houses and camping. Facilities include, laundry, camp kitchen, playground and pool. Estimated prices for each type of accommodation are below.
- Villas: from $260 AUD per night
- Cabins: from $140 AUD per night
- Lodge: from $215 AUD per night
- Houses: from $330 AUD per night
- Camping: unpowered campsites $45 AUD per night and powered $49 AUD per night. Dogs are permitted on campsites.
This is the best accomodation for backpackers or budget travellers. The backpackers include a pool, pool table, bar, kitchen and laundry facilities.
- Dorm Rooms (4-10): $35 AUD per night
- Twin rooms (2 beds): $120 AUD per night
- Double rooms (1 double bed): $120 AUD per night
- Double Ensuite rooms: $150 AUD per night
- Family room (up to 5 people): $130 AUD per night (for 1 – 2 people, $25 for each extra person)
Accommodation options include, camping, villas, cabins and penthouses. Facilities include BBQ’s, camp kitchen and laundry facilities. There are shops located outside the caravan park.
- Penthouse: $409 AUD per night
- Cabins: from $245 AUD per night
- Villas: from $395 AUD per night
- Camping: from $60 AUD per night
There are a few houses which are available to rent in Coral Bay, this is the better option for multiple families or long stays. There are usually waiting lists for these houses as they are very popular, especially during peak times.
What to do
As I mentioned before, Coral bay is an adventure lovers paradise. There are a range of activities to suit families, couples or solo travellers. There are a lot of activities that are free, but a lot that area a bit costly.
A quick note; there is only a small grocery store in Coral Bay (and it’s very costly), you are better off buying your groceries in Carnarvon, before coming to Coral Bay. There is also only one self serve fuel station near the boat ramp.
Coral Bay has some of the most beautiful beaches and snorkelling opportunities on West Australia’s coastline. While snorkelling you can expect to see multiple fish species, stingrays, turtles, manta rays and dolphins. Tops beaches to visit:
- Bills Bay/Coral Bay Beach: The towns main beach, easily accessible via walking. Great for snorkelling, pretty much dip your head under off the sandbar and you are guaranteed to see fish and coral.
- Shark Sanctuary: A 15 min walk from Coral Bay Beach. Turn right (North) and head towards the headland, you will see a sign once you’ve reached the sanctuary. Here you will find heaps of baby sharks which come close into the shallow waters, yes you can swim with them but do so at your own risk (remember they are wild animals). However, they are only babies and I’ve never heard of them attacking anyone, they are more scared of you then you are of them! This is also a great place to fly the drone.
- Paradise Beach: This beach is around the corner from Bills Bay, maybe a 5-10 in walk. Offers some great snorkelling and shallow waters.
- Coral Bay Boat Ramp: Offers a nice beach to the left of the boat ramp and some snorkelling opportunities. Remember this is a boat launching area so don’t get in the way or swim where the boats are being launched.
- Five Fingers Reef: Located about 4.5km from Coral Bay, and only accessible via a 4WD (or a reasonable walk). It gets its name as there are 5 reefs that run parallel 200m from the beach. Offers protected waters, snorkelling and fishing (from a boat only).
There are plenty of places to fish in Coral Bay and to take the boat out! Ask your accommodation or fellow travellers for the best GPS spots for snorkelling and fishing. Just beware when snorkelling a bit further out from shore as tiger sharks are known in the area. What can I you catch off Coral Bay?
- Dolphin Fish
- Red Emperor, Spangled Emperor, Blue Line emperor and others
- Spanish Mackerel
- Sailfish and Marlin
- Multiple species of Cod
- Tuna (seasonal)
- GT’s and other forms of trevally
4 wheel driving and lookouts
There are a few 4WDíng tracks located in and near Coral Bay, essentially you can drive from Coral Bay all the way to Exmouth via 4WD tracks. This includes inland and beach tracks, eventually crossing Yardie Creek which becomes impassable in some conditions. Always check with the ranger before embarking on a 4WD trip to check for track conditions and closures.
Coral Bay is known for its multiple wildlife encounters and tours, including manta rays, whalesharks, dolphins, turtle and whales. These are a bit costly but are well worth it in my opinion! There are multiple tour companies that run in Coral Bay, so do some research to find the ones that fit into your style or budget. Below are some tour company suggestions for different wildlife encounters:
- Whale Sharks: Ningaloo Reef and Dive or Coral Bay Eco Tours. Offering a full day trip from Coral Bay (roughly 9 hrs), including equipment, snacks, transport (to and from the jetty) and a onboard photographer (extra price for photos). This tour also offers a voucher up to 3 years if you don’t see any Whale sharks, cost $420 AUD per adult. If you would like to know more about this tour , you can read my full guide here .
- Manta Rays: Ningaloo Reef and Dive. Offering full or half day tours, ranging from $160 to $195 AUD. This is the tour I went with on my manta ray snorkelling in 2020, I loved it! We got to snorkel at some beautiful reef before swimming with some manta rays.
- Dolphins/Turtles or others: Ningaloo Reef and Dive or Coral Bay Eco tours offer a range of different tours for multiple wildlife interactions. Check out each company and compare to find the best one for you.
If you don’t have a boat and still want to experience the fishing in Coral Bay you can choose to go on a charter. There are two companies that run tours, Mahi Mahi Fishing Charters and Seaforce Coral Bay. These tours will cost you about $300 AUD for a full day tour.
Glass Bottom Tours
This is a great way to see the beautiful coral of Coral Bay without getting wet, great if you are not a fan of the water. This is also a great tour for families. Coral Bay Eco Tours and Ningaloo Coral Bay offer 1 or 2 hour glass bottom snorkelling tours. These will cost you roughly $50 AUD per adult.
Quad Bike Tours
If you are a bit of an adventure seeking, then this tour is for you! You can either go on a normal self drive quad bike tour (for 1 or to people), a snorkelling quad bike tour or a sunset tour. The best company to go with is Coastal Adventure Tours . These tours will cost you anywhere between $140-$155 AUD per person.
Although there are a few companies that have sailing tours in Coral Bay my favourite is the Coral Bay breeze sail by Coastal Adventure Tours. The boat is very spacious and offers a net where you can sit while sailing. They also offer snorkelling tours and the boat is eco friendly.
Cafes and Bars
- Fins Cafes: A range of different cruines, a nice outdoor seating area and has takeaway options.
- Bill’s Bar: The main bar in Coral Bay, great food, great atmosphere and sometimes holds small events.
- Shades Cafe and Bar: Pub food and coffee. Open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Reef Cafe: Italian, Pizza, pasta and schnitzel. You must try the seafood platter for two!
- Bakery: If you are looking for some of the best pies in WA (in my opinion) and baked goods, this is for you. This is very popular with the locals and tourists, and once you try you will know why. My recommendations are the reef and beef pie and the custard/cream donut.
In conclusion Coral Bay is a great place for families and backpackers, and should definitely be a stop on your West Australian Road trip or Big Lap. If you are looking for a Coral Coast itinerary you can check out my Perth to Exmouth- 3 week itinerary here.
You can check out my Coral Bay Vlog below!
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