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Overview: Coral Coast, Western Australia

Image: Steve Collins

A long stretch of coastline measuring about 1,100kms north of Perth, the Coral Coast extends from the town of Cervantes as far north as Exmouth and slightly inland.

The Pinnacles, which form part of Nambung National Park, consists of hundreds of peculiar pinnacles which can be up to 5 metres in height.  They were formed from 25,000 to 30,000 years ago from piles of seashells that were left standing after the waters receded.

The closest town to The Pinnacles is the fishing village of Cervantes where you will also be able to see stromatolites, the world’s oldest known living organisms in Lake Thetis which you can visit just before you enter the town.

Further north is Jurien Bay, another fishing town, but one which is larger than Cervantes and also more of a tourist town.  Much of the coastline here has been preserved as part of the Jurien Bay Marine Park.

About 20 kilometres north of Jurien is Green Head, a tiny place that has some safe beaches, good fishing and is wonderful in spring when the wildflowers come out in Lesueur National Park.

If you head inland towards the town of Coorow you pass the Alexander Morrison National Park, which is another fine place to view the wildflowers.

Coorow is a small farming community whose major crop is sheep.

Badgingarra is another small town on the Brand Highway, just 205kms north of Perth.  Just north of the town is the halfway point between Perth and Geraldton.  Although you pass mostly farmland, the area bursts into colour during wildflower season.

Further inland, and slightly south, is Dandaragan which was one of the first towns in the area to be settled.  It offers an alternative inland route north to the busy Brand Highway.

Back on the coast is the fishing village if Leeman.  Just off the coast on Beagle Island is the largest Australian Sea Lion colony in Western Australia.

Image: Steve Collins

Carnamah is the name of both a town and the local shire.  The town itself is a small rural community and there are some interesting historic buildings within the town.

The next towns north of Leeman are the twin towns of Port Dennison and Dongara which are separated by the Irwin River.  There’s good fishing here with Port Dennison being home to one of Western Australia’s largest rock lobster fleets.

Between Dongara and Geraldton is the town of Greenough where you can visit an historic town that has been converted into a Pioneer Museum, and which gives you a great insight into how the early pioneers lived.

Geraldton is a large port city, and is the biggest town north of Perth.  It has great beaches and a busy port and marina, and great views can be seen from the HMAS Sydney II Memorial which is perched on the top of a hill.

Inland from Geraldton is the beautiful Chapman Valley which is a great place for a scenic drive and to sample some of the locally-produced wines.

Further inland, and accessible via the Chapman Valley, is the town of Mullewa which is home to a superb church built from local stone and is highly regarded for its carpets of wildflowers.

About 30 minutes north of Geraldton is the historic town of Northampton, which has been classified by the National Trust of Australia.   It does have some magnificent buildings and is also home to, what is purportedly, Western Australia’s most haunted house.

Turn off the highway at Northampton and head west to Horrocks where the Bowes River enters the Indian Ocean.  There is safe swimming at the beach and good fishing.

Port Gregory is a little further up the coast; it too is a popular place for a simple holiday, with the nearby Pink Lake, or Hutt Lagoon as it is also known, being an interesting place to visit.

Heading north you pass some impressive cliffs just before you enter the town of Kalbarri.  Located at the mouth of the Murchison River, it is very popular with holidaymakers who indulge in many water activities and explore the nearby gorges.

Shark Bay is a world class natural attraction, with most of it being included in the Shark Bay Heritage Area.  The bay boasts incredible beaches, stromatolites in Hamelin’s Pool, spectacular cliffs and one of Western Australia’s best known attractions the Monkey Mia dolphins who negotiate the shallow waters to be fed by hand several times a day.

Steep Point, at the entrance to Shark Bay, is the westernmost place on mainland Australia.

Carnarvon, which is 900 kilometres north of Perth, is a major agricultural area thanks to the Gascoyne River, which mostly flows underground but which can flood during heavy rains.  The heart of WA’s banana industry whale watching, fishing and surfing are popular pastimes here.

450kms east of Carnarvon is Mount Augustus National Park, and the site of the world’s largest monocline, or rock.  There are some strenuous walk trails to the top of the rock and many ancient aboriginal rock paintings.

The northernmost part of the Coral Coast is the Ningaloo area which begins at Coral Bay where you can snorkel amongst the coral just a few metres from the beach.  This is part of the Ningaloo Marine Park which stretches along the coast for 300kms. 

Located on the eastern side of North West Cape is the town of Exmouth where one of the unique attractions is the ability to swim with whale sharks, the world’s largest fish.    

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