At first glance, it may appear like a sleepy fishing village but there are many varied things to do in Exmouth. This coastal town is located 1200km north of Perth in West Australia. Some like to explore by driving up the coast. Others who are time poor, can take a 2 hour flight.
I recently visited Exmouth for a long awaited holiday, specifically to swim with the famous whale sharks. But while I was up there, I soon discovered that there are many other breath-taking and interesting things to do.
So while Ningaloo Reef is the main attraction, take a read below of what else you can do. You’ll be glad to extend your 2 night stay into one week! This is what I jammed pack in 5 days.
Swim with the whale sharks
The number one activity you must do in Exmouth. There’s only a handful of places around the world where there is easy access to swim with the whale sharks. And Exmouth offers daily opportunities from end of March to end of August every year.
It should feel scary to jump into the water with a creature that looks like a shark. But somehow its white spots makes it appear non-threatening. Also, knowing that it’s wide boxed shaped mouth is a filter feeder, you know it’s not going to attack you.
I can’t explain the feeling of swimming alongside these majestic animals, They glide through the water so effortlessly with its tail swimming side from side. But us humans have to kick our flippers at double speed just to keep up.
You can find out the best whale shark swim tours in Exmouth in my previous blog.
Take a hike
Explore the beauty of the red gorges by walking through them. Basically there are 4 main hiking trails. Two accessed from the coastal road and two from the main highway that leads to the airport.
The Cape Range National Park pass enables you to hike the gorges in the morning and cool off snorkelling in Ningaloo Reef in the afternoon.
Mandu Mandu Gorge
The technical details
Signs say allow 2 hours. Took us 1 hour.
You start by walking along the top of the rocky gorge for a short while. Then step down and follow the dry creek bed on the way back. Sometimes you’ll be lucky and see Rock Wallabys.
Afterwards, drive 4km down the coastal road to the Turquoise Bay turnoff to cool off in the refreshing waters.
YARDIE CREEK GORGE TRAIL
The technical details
Yardie Nature walk
1.2km return. Allow 40min
Yardie Gorge Trail:
750m return. Allow 1 hour.
The signs say allow 2 hours to do both walks, but I did it in 1.5 hour including many photo stops.
The first section of the walk, Nature Walk, is on a paved walkway to a small lookout. Very easy, level walk.
The next section, Yardie Gorge Trail, traverses over 3 small but rocky ridges. A little care is needed to step down into each gully. But once on top of each ridge are majestic views of the gorge below and the river flowing into the ocean in the distance.
The next two trails, from the main highway, require a 4WD to access them.
The technical details
Allow 15 minutes.
It’s a 12km gravel road suitable for 4WD only. This is more a path to a lookout, rather than an actual hike.
Charles Knife Canyon – Badjirrajirra Trail
The technical details
Allow 3 hours. Most people hiked it in 2 hours
It’s an 11km drive from the main highway to the start of the trail at Thomas Carter Lookout. After the first 2km or so, it turns into a degraded gravel road. Some travel guides say you can drive there with a 2WD but I would say a 4WD is preferable. Especially after the day of rain we had. It’s a picturesque hike through small gullies and some views of Shothole Canyon in the distance.
However, if you don’t have a 4WD, I would recommend parking at the lookout situated at the end of the bitumen road. You do get a view of one canyon. But if you can walk 100m up the gravel road (a little steep) to the next carpark, you’ll see the best views of Charles Knife Canyon that you wont see on the hike. Trust me, I stopped at all the lookouts along this gravel road.
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Look for rock wallabies
‘Shhh, I’m hunting rock wallabies’
When hiking in any of the gorges in Cape Range National Park, stay very, very quiet. You just might see a rock wallaby. Any noise scares them away.
These photos are from a secret gorge we stumbled upon.
If you don’t fancy paying for a boat tour, you can do snorkelling right from the beach.
There are two main and popular snorkelling spots along the Ningaloo Coast.
Park your car in the ‘Drift Loop’ carpark. Walk down the path to the beach and turn left. Walk along the narrow beach area for about 100m or more. Then when you jump into the water to snorkel, you can let the current drift you slowly northwards while viewing the coral and fish below. Just remember to hop out before you reach Sandy Point to avoid the strong currents.
And yes, the water is truly turquoise in colour.
Just a little further down the road is Oyster Stack. Be mindful you can only snorkel here during high tide, otherwise the coral will cut you.
The difference here is that you have to tread carefully over a rocky ledge to get into the water. The reef begins immediately.
Here, I would recommend you start your snorkel from the right side and let the current drift you southwards. Then you won’t get so tired swimming against the current.
TG Tip: If you don’t have snorkel gear with you, you can hire for the day (return by 3pm) or overnight at the Mylering Visitor Centre. It’s only 9km up the road.
Drink and dine at a micro brewery
Actually, this small coastal town hasTWO excellent micro breweries.
The Froth Craft Brewery currently offers 14 beers on tap. During their happy hours, they offer a small selection of 5 craft beers at middy prices for a pint glass. Plus it seems to have live music every week.
It’s also the place to go for a feed of the famous Exmouth prawns. Called the Kailis-Ten Up, you get a basket of unpeeled chilled prawns that you can dunk into their homemade cocktail sauce. It’s complimented nicely with a portion of their crispy fries.
The Whalebone Brewery is located a couple of blocks away from the town centre. But its rustic charm makes it worth the visit.
It’s wooden bar literally sits inside a shed offering about 9 crafted beers and a couple of ciders. The staff were kind enough to allow us a couple of samples to help us make the decision on our purchase.
Next door is their own pizza barn, where you can order the most interesting and most delicious pizza’s in WA. They have many unique topping combinations to choose from. Never had a pizza with taco’s on it before. And yes, you can have Exmouth prawns on your pizza.
The table and chairs are set up outside which is perfect for a balmy north western night. They also occasionally have live entertainment too. On the night we went, local singer Miss Max dazzled us with her own songs as well as covers.
The casual setting was a great place to unwind and celebrate our swim with the shale sharks.
US Memorabilia - Little America
The township of Exmouth sprung up 22 years after the establishment of the US Army base during WWII. It was mainly to provide housing for the families of the US navy personnel and support for the communications tower. Over the decades it has grown into a major tourism hub for WA.
The US base is now under the control of the AFP (Australian Federal Police). But the old buildings built by the Americans are still there.
When driving from Exmouth to Ningaloo coast, you will pass the old military base on your left. Turn into the first road after you pass all the buildings. This road will lead you down memory lane. The signs are still up for Base Bar & Grill, Ten Pin Bowling, swimming centre and a diving shop arcade. They certainly made a home away from home.
Word of warning, don’t walk around the buildings. Just view from the front. The police don’t like it, as we found out when they politely escorted us back to our car.
For a quiet evening drink to end the day, visit The Beach Shack in Bundegi Beach.
The shack faces the gulf, so remember to look behind you for the magical sky at sunset.
To end a wonderful day of exploring on land or by sea, buy a couple of takeaway drinks, head to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, find a car spot and watch the glorious sunset.
What would be your favourite things to do in Exmouth from this list?