After towing a boat for 1,100 kilometres, it’s a relief to relax in the tropical oasis that is Coral Bay.
The hustle and bustle of Perth quickly becomes a distant memory as we soak up the region’s unspoilt beauty and total tranquility. There are no high rise hotels, the main road is buried under layers of sand, and the traffic consists of the odd quad bike going past. A visit here is a chance to truly relax and unwind. Here’s a guide to some of the top things to do in Coral Bay during your visit.
We abide by the dress code of thongs and sarongs and wander the entire town on foot. From the first holiday shack built in 1933, Coral Bay now boasts accommodation to suit every budget; including camping grounds, caravan parks, a backpacker lodge, chalets and an air-conditioned resort.
The atmosphere is warm and casual and we notice everyone wears one particular brand of clothing. Soon we meet Grant, aka ‘The Billabong Man’. Easily recognised by his gravelly voice, mahogany tan and West Coast Eagles scarf, he’s owned Coral Bay Shells since 1989, originally selling just silver jewellery and shells. Billabong has advised Grant that he’s now the largest retailer of their board shorts in Western Australia — and he’ll add — ‘the cheapest’.
Once our tour of the tiny town is complete, we scramble into swimwear and within 100 paces we’re on the beach. High tide in the morning means pop-up tents cram the shoreline. Silver snapper weave around our ankles as we wade through the shallows, snorkels and goggles at the ready.
A myriad of marine life inhabits Ningaloo Reef — Australia’s only ‘fringing reef’ — where the coral begins right at the water’s edge. With temperatures soaring to the high 30s, the glass-like water remains warm. We drift along with the current, admiring the neon blue fish, squid, cod, seahorses and occasional ‘Nemos’ that dart in and out of the 250 different species of coloured coral. Further out, a lone turtle munches on seaweed. I watch, fascinated, as he floats by me, oblivious to my presence.
Deep sea fishing and whale watching tours are available but we cruise inside the reef in our own boat, catching trevally and Spanish mackerel while trawling past Maud’s Landing and Oyster Bridge. Our attention is diverted from fishing by about 20 manta rays foraging for food. They barrel-roll, their white bellies stark against the sapphire sea as they tumble backwards, plunging deeper into the darkness before rising majestically from the depths of the ocean. We remain entranced before heading back, escorted by several dolphins, their skins glistening in the sun.
Low tide occurs in the early afternoon. At 3.30pm we join the group gathered on the shore to watch the fish feeding, then set up for beach cricket. Dinner is discussed. We could eat fresh seafood from Fin’s Café, sandwiches or pies from the bakery or devour fish and chips or a burger at Shades, whilst playing pool or watching sport on the large screen.
Instead, the kids are despatched to buy pizza from the new Ningaloo Reef Café while we remain on the beach with a glass of wine, smiling as our children’s antics are silhouetted against a sensational saffron sunset.
Do you have any tips for top things to do in Coral Bay? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Tania Connolly is a freelance writer living in Perth. She has travelled to Bali twice and the Gold Coast three times, once with friends, then for her honeymoon and more recently with her young children. The family regularly drives to beautiful Coral Bay twelve hours north of Perth – staying overnight in Kalbarri or at the Billabong roadhouse, with lunch stops in either Geraldton or Dongara. They have ventured into Exmouth and Yardie Creek for day trips. The family has also spent quite a bit of time south of Perth in Margaret River, Dunsborough, Busselton and Bunbury, visiting wineries and searching caves.