The Exmouth Hit List: What to do and where to go on a three or five day stay

From whale sharks to craft breweries: let this be your go-to guide to Exmouth

Photograph: Tourism Western Australia

The sleepy coastal town of Exmouth is adjacent to the Cape Range National Park and 300 kilometre Ningaloo Reef – a region that is drop dead gorgeous and a brimming with vitality. Located about 1,270 kilometres north of Perth – around a 15-hour drive or two-hour flight to nearby Learmouth, it’s a nature lover’s playground with one of the longest fringing reefs on the planet, meaning in many places the coral comes right up to the beach. It’s no surprise visitors from all over the world are flocking to the Coral Coast where adventure and fresh seafood dominate the local menus.

Eat: Mantaray's

While the menu boasting fresh, daily caught seafood is great, the magic of Mantaray’s is in the view. Settle in early to watch the prawn trawlers head out to work, then wait for the moon to rise out of the ocean in the evening. Between August to November expect to see humpback whales chilling out in the Exmouth Gulf. Calves are also spotted regularly from the dining room as they practice launching themselves from the water. But back to the food: line-caught Exmouth Spanish mackerel is a crowd favourite especially when teamed with a side of rosemary and garlic fries.

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Eat: SeeSalt

Casual coasting dining at its finest, SeeSalt is open every day from 6.30am for coffee until dinner service. Most dishes are dairy-, gluten- and wheat-free and offer the best of local produce. It’s the perfect place to call into before heading out for the day of touring, swimming, hiking and snorkelling offering the best big breakfast this side of the Nullarbor. Eggs however you like ’em with maple smoked bacon, chorizo and homemade beans washed down with a coconut milk latte will give you enough fuel till dinner time. Had a big day in the sun and surf and want to dine in? Home/hotel deliveries are available.

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Stay: Sal Salis

To really get away from it all, make like Pippa Middleton and other celebrities and head off the beaten track to Sal Salis which is located in the Cape Range National Park on the shore of the Australia’s largest fringing reef, where coral sometimes comes right up to the beach. Gourmet food hampers are all provided and a welcoming committee of kangaroos and emus will show you to your “wilderness tents” that overlook the ocean. Expert guides are on hand, so no matter what your experience level, you’ll be escorted on hikes, snorkelling trips to take in Ningaloo Reef in all its glory, and even allowed to swim with whale sharks.

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Stay: Mantarays Ningaloo Resort

Located on the white sands of Sunrise Beach and five kilometres from the heart of Exmouth, the hotel is one of the best for those seeking the creature comforts of resort accommodation. A great combination of luxury and relaxed charm, the rooms are large and the in-house pool is a must-try. Twenty-four-hour room service is a saving grace, especially when tours or day trips to surrounding areas take a little longer than expected.

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Stay: Sail Ningaloo Shore Thing charters

Exmouth is Ningaloo Reef’s biggest access point so make the most of your trip by staying on the water in a sail catamaran. Shore Thing charters allow you to sail, swim, snorkel and dive Ningaloo the minute you wake up. With a focus on maintaining minimum impact and an environmentally sustainable business, your guides will offer interpretive and educational tips while on the waters of one of the world’s last remaining pristine coral reef systems. Choose from a three-night, five-night, seven-night or nine-night package to get the full Ningaloo experience complete with shipwrecks and the odd whale shark sighting.

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Play: Guided walk through Mandu Mandu Gorge

Play: Guided walk through Mandu Mandu Gorge

Extract yourself from your Sal Salis tent and join a guided walking tour through the Mandu Mandu Gorge. It’s a short stroll, just two kilometres from camp, and provides some great context to the area that has been inhabited by humans for about 30,000 years. It’ll also allow you to bear witness to the changes it is making to the natural, fossil encrusted environment. According to guides, records have found three possible Aboriginal groups have occupied the Ningaloo Coast over time.

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Play: Swim with whale sharks

Play: Swim with whale sharks

The world’s biggest fish converge on Exmouth every year from March to August. These are known as whale sharks – harmless, filter feeders who can grow up to 18 metres in length. There are daily tours to swim with these gentle giants that leave regularly from both Exmouth and Coral Bay. The only prerequisite is that you’re a confident swimmer. These are full day tours that work in tandem with spotter planes which look out for the best positioning for your group to swim with the sharks. Also be on the alert for Exmouth’s other visitors like humpback whales (July to November), giant manta rays, dugongs and spinner dolphins who drop by all year round.

Play: Spot a Black-Footed Rock Wallaby at Yardie Creek Gorge

Play: Spot a Black-Footed Rock Wallaby at Yardie Creek Gorge

The Cape Range National Park ends at Yardie Creek. This colourful gorge is home to a huge variety of bird species, marine creatures and the mysterious black-footed rock wallaby. Either walk the hiking trails on the northern wall, which will take about an hour, kayak around the waters or jump on a tour boat to learn more about the local wildlife and history.

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Play: Jump on a glass-bottom boat tour of Ningaloo Reef

Play: Jump on a glass-bottom boat tour of Ningaloo Reef

Not in the mood to swim? Jump aboard a glass-bottom boat and experience Ningaloo Reef from the dry comfort of a sturdy ship. Choose between (or choose both) of the coral garden tours or whale watching. Trips vary from one to about three hours, just be sure to pack sunscreen, a hat and camera. All tours are commentated so you won’t miss a thing below deck.

Eat: Whalers

If friendly staff and hearty meals are what you’re chasing, Whalers is where it’s at. At one of Exmouth’s best restaurants, seafood is undoubtedly king. Decision making will be tough though especially between dishes like seafood spag bol, reef’n’beef and seafood gumbo. So ensure you pack an appetite for a visit, stretchy pants are recommended. All the seafood used by the kitchen is fresh and locally sourced from the Exmouth Gulf, the beer is cold and the entertainment is live.

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Eat: Mantaray's

While the menu boasting fresh, daily caught seafood is great, the magic of Mantaray’s is in the view. Settle in early to watch the prawn trawlers head out to work, then wait for the moon to rise out of the ocean in the evening. Between August to November expect to see humpback whales chilling out in the Exmouth Gulf. Calves are also spotted regularly from the dining room as they practice launching themselves from the water. But back to the food: line-caught Exmouth Spanish mackerel is a crowd favourite especially when teamed with a side of rosemary and garlic fries.

Read more
Advertising

Eat: SeeSalt

Casual coasting dining at its finest, SeeSalt is open every day from 6.30am for coffee until dinner service. Most dishes are dairy-, gluten- and wheat-free and offer the best of local produce. It’s the perfect place to call into before heading out for the day of touring, swimming, hiking and snorkelling offering the best big breakfast this side of the Nullarbor. Eggs however you like ’em with maple smoked bacon, chorizo and homemade beans washed down with a coconut milk latte will give you enough fuel till dinner time. Had a big day in the sun and surf and want to dine in? Home/hotel deliveries are available.

Read more

Drink: Froth Craft

Those who love barley and hops have all the more reason to head to Exmouth, especially as Froth is the first and only craft brewery and restaurant along the Ningaloo Coast. Six tonnes of jarrah wood was shipped up from Margaret River for the restaurant fitout. All Froth Craft beers are served on tap through a piece of driftwood suspended above the bar, called ‘draughtwood’. The menu is modern Australian and all dishes are designed to be paired with beers.

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Stay: Sal Salis

To really get away from it all, make like Pippa Middleton and other celebrities and head off the beaten track to Sal Salis which is located in the Cape Range National Park on the shore of the Australia’s largest fringing reef, where coral sometimes comes right up to the beach. Gourmet food hampers are all provided and a welcoming committee of kangaroos and emus will show you to your “wilderness tents” that overlook the ocean. Expert guides are on hand, so no matter what your experience level, you’ll be escorted on hikes, snorkelling trips to take in Ningaloo Reef in all its glory, and even allowed to swim with whale sharks.

Read more

Stay: Mantarays Ningaloo Resort

Located on the white sands of Sunrise Beach and five kilometres from the heart of Exmouth, the hotel is one of the best for those seeking the creature comforts of resort accommodation. A great combination of luxury and relaxed charm, the rooms are large and the in-house pool is a must-try. Twenty-four-hour room service is a saving grace, especially when tours or day trips to surrounding areas take a little longer than expected.

Read more
Advertising

Stay: Sail Ningaloo Shore Thing charters

Exmouth is Ningaloo Reef’s biggest access point so make the most of your trip by staying on the water in a sail catamaran. Shore Thing charters allow you to sail, swim, snorkel and dive Ningaloo the minute you wake up. With a focus on maintaining minimum impact and an environmentally sustainable business, your guides will offer interpretive and educational tips while on the waters of one of the world’s last remaining pristine coral reef systems. Choose from a three-night, five-night, seven-night or nine-night package to get the full Ningaloo experience complete with shipwrecks and the odd whale shark sighting.

Read more
Play: Snorkel Turquoise Bay

Play: Snorkel Turquoise Bay

Just a 30-minute drive from the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse – one of the few places in Australia where you can watch the sun rise and set in the same place – is Turquoise Bay. It does what is says on the tin. The turquoise waters make it one of WA’s best beaches and it is the perfect spot for a low-key afternoon spent swimming and relaxing. Drift snorkelling is popular here. Head out to the reef at the southern end of the beach and then let the current do the work as it washes you back to shore. At last count authorities said there are more than 500 fish species swimming around the inlet and love the (eyes-only) attention from tourists.

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Play: Kayak out to Blue Lagoon

Play: Kayak out to Blue Lagoon

If you’re a guest of Sal Salis join the snorkelling crew and prepare to bath in the clearest water you’ve ever seen. Blue Lagoon is about 400 metres off shore and a guided snorkelling session should be a bucket list item. Prepare to be overwhelmed by a colourful array of fish and creatures that inhabit this little pocket of the 260-kilometre Ningaloo Reef.

Play: Guided walk through Mandu Mandu Gorge

Play: Guided walk through Mandu Mandu Gorge

Extract yourself from your Sal Salis tent and join a guided walking tour through the Mandu Mandu Gorge. It’s a short stroll, just two kilometres from camp, and provides some great context to the area that has been inhabited by humans for about 30,000 years. It’ll also allow you to bear witness to the changes it is making to the natural, fossil encrusted environment. According to guides, records have found three possible Aboriginal groups have occupied the Ningaloo Coast over time.

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