After spending a week at Karijini National Park, we headed west to what is called the Coral Coast, for another week camping at Coral Bay. Coral Bay has been on our Aussie wish list for quite a while, and now that we have our van, and international travel is not on due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are taking the opportunity to explore more of our home state.
The big attraction of Coral Bay is of course snorkelling the Ningaloo coral reef, which in this area is accessible only meters from the shore. We thought this would be an easy introduction to snorkelling for our young boys.
There are two caravan parks to choose from in Coral Bay. At this time of year, July holidays, you don’t always have a choice as it is super busy. We were lucky to get a site at Bayview, which appears to be a better option for families as it has a pool and jumping pillow, though both caravan parks have easy access to the beach and that is really why you are here. As we booked late, we were placed in the overflow area on an unpowered site. It was a bit further away from the main caravan park facilities, but it seemed quieter and the sites are bigger than across the road, so we did not mind.
Feeding the family in Coral Bay was pretty easy. On the way we stocked up our supplies in the town of Tom Price, as we’d heard that prices were high and the quality of the groceries was poor in Coral Bay. In the end we did not need to buy many groceries while in Coral Bay but the small supermarket had most things if needed and it wasn’t as bad as we were led to believe.
For lunches you can’t miss a visit to the fabulous but always busy bakery. For evening meals there are a few choices. The pub meals come very well recommended, though the two cafes in town give them a run for their money. We had a great meal at Fin’s Café, but it was a hard choice between them and the Ningaloo Reef Café, which we ended up visiting the next night for pizza, which we took across the road to the park, and watched the sunset from a picnic table looking out over the bay.
Coral Bay itself is a perfect beach for young families. The long crescent-shaped beach has a very shallow gradual entrance to the water, ideal for beginner snorkelers. There are better snorkelling spots, further out in the bay at the Ayers Rock formation, and further south around the point at the lavender garden. Ask at the tourist information about how to find these places. As the tide goes out there is a large expanse of sand perfect for running about, playing cricket and making sandcastles.
There are ranger talks every few days during the school holidays. We went on a cold morning and were the only ones there, so we got a personalised talk from the ranger about sea life.
We took a walk along the bay to the reef shark sanctuary, but check when the baby sharks are around as we did not see any. At sunset you should also walk up to the lookout, to get an overview of the town and across the water.
Another thing to do on a clear and non-windy day would be to hire a sea kayak. If that isn’t your thing, other tours available were dune buggy adventures, manta ray diving, deep-sea fishing, swimming with whale sharks, and glass-bottom boat tours, plenty of options to spend a few more dollars.
We had a good time in Coral Bay, but not great. Mainly because we were victims of high expectations, and fairly average weather while we were there. Certainly not like the brochure pictures of sunny blue skies. The boys not taking to snorkelling was disappointing too. Even though the beach is beautiful, the view of coral in the bay was only OK, and we heard of better spots that we could not access. Next time we will go to Cape Range National Park a little further north, and also visit Exmouth, for a different experience of the Ningaloo Reef.