a beach made up entirely of cockle shells

The Best of Australia’s Coral Coast 2023 Guide

Australia’s Coral Coast is one of the most unique and colourful coastlines in the world. The colours of the sea and the sand juxtaposed with the different shades of blue, green, brown, and yellow make stunning views. Travellers can snorkel or dive these waters or explore caves and canyons that line the shore. Hike through gorges and take in the spectacular scenery as you travel through this natural wonderland.

As you head out of Perth and along Indian Ocean Drive, the distance between towns becomes longer and longer. Some of the places along the way are remote and sparsely populated; you may even have the beach to yourselves in some parts of the coast.

Stars shine bright where there is little to no light pollution, and meeting fauna along the way is part of the fantastic experience of travelling along Australia’s Coral Coast.

Without a doubt, Ningaloo Reef, the world’s largest fringing reef, attracts the most visitors. However, you’ll miss out on a lot of incredible sights if you fly straight to Exmouth or drive there in one go.

This post may contain affiliate links (of companies I book through). This means I may receive a small commission if you book through them. You can read the disclaimer for more information.

close up of a wild dolphin
Wild dolphin at Monkey Mia

How to get to Australia’s Coral Coast

International and domestic visitors will fly into Perth Airport. Find details about visas, prohibited items, currency, and safety in this Australia Travel Guide and tips on arriving into WA and other essential travel information in this Western Australia Travel Guide.

Coral Coast Drive

Australia’s Coral Coast starts in Cervantes, just over two hours from Perth along Indian Ocean Drive. From there, you can head all the way up the coast to Exmouth (read on for road trip ideas and itineraries).

There are car hire booths at Perth Airport, but it’s best to pre-book your car rental.

To compare Australian car hire prices, Discover Cars is an award-winning car rental comparison website. They offer competitive pricing in over 10,000 locations worldwide and are highly rated.

DriveNow is a good resource to compare campervan hire in Western Australia. It includes all the large companies like Britz, Maui, & Jucy as well as smaller ones.

Compare Rental Cars Here.

Flying to the Coral Coast

Qantas and REX Airlines fly to destinations along the Coral Coast but you will need to arrange transfers and car hire/tours in most places.

Geraldton

Qantas flies to Geraldton where you’ll need to hire a car, take a taxi/rideshare, or arrange a private transfer into the city.

The car rental companies in Geraldton Airport are:

Try comparing prices with Discover Cars.

Monkey Mia/Denham

REX flies into Monkey Mia – Shark Bay Taxi offers airport transfers to Denham and the RAC Monkey Mia Resort provides transfers for their guests arriving at the airport.

Carnarvon

REX Airlines fly to Carnarvon which is just a two-minute drive from the centre. Taxis and car hire options are available (Avis and Budget).

Exmouth

Qantas fly from Perth to Learmonth (Exmouth) where you can hire a car from Hertz, Avis, Europcar, and Budget.

Airport transfers from Learmonth to Exmouth are available from Exmouth Bus Charter and to Coral Bay by Coral Bay Airport Transfers.

Coral Coast by Bus

Trans WA run a service from Perth to Geraldton, taking around six hours. A one-way adult fare is approximately A$70.

Integrity Tours operate a hop on/off service from Perth to Exmouth. There are various fares, but as an indication, an adult fare from Perth to Exmouth is around A$247.

red rocks in a canyon with views to the ocean
Shotknife Canyon Exmouth

Places to visit in Australia’s Coral Coast region

Western Australia’s Coral Coast region incorporates six sub-regions: Indian Ocean Drive, Geraldton, Kalbarri, Shark Bay, Ningaloo, and Wildflower Country. Each place offers something different to experience along with changing landscapes.

Indian Ocean Drive

Indian Ocean Drive meanders along Western Australia’s coast from Yanchep to Geraldton, taking in several small towns. Each place has its own charms, from the dessert geological formations of the Pinnacles to the fishing port of Port Denison-Dongara. There’s plenty to do along the way, whether you’re into fishing, swimming, hiking, or simply taking in the views.

white sand beach with calm turquoise sea

Indian Ocean Drive Itinerary

This Indian Ocean Drive Itinerary includes all the best places to stop along the way, including Lancelin, the Pinnacles, Cervantes, Jurien Bay, Port Denison, and Geraldton.

Geraldton

This vibrant coastal city has a laid back vibe with cafes around every corner. The city’s rich history combined with its relaxed atmosphere makes it an ideal place to stay while exploring Western Australia’s Coral Coast and Wildflower Country.

yachts in a marina

Things to do in Geraldton

This Geraldton travel guide includes all the best places to see, when to visit, how to get there, and where to stay.

Kalbarri

Kalbarri is a popular destination for locals and tourists looking to escape Perth for some fun, adventure, and natural beauty. You won’t be stuck for things to do with the Murchison River, Indian Ocean, and National Park all close by.

view of the gorge and kalbarri skywalk jutting out

Things to do in Kalbarri

This Kalbarri travel guide includes all the best places to see, when to visit, how to get there, where to eat and travel tips.

For places to stay, see this guide on the best accommodation in Kalbarri.

Shark Bay Region

Most people know of Shark Bay due to the famous Monkey Mia Dolphins, which attract visitors worldwide. However, there’s plenty of other things to do in the region, including Denham and Monkey Mia.

The region is a haven for nature lovers with Shark Bay having Australia’s largest bay with over 1,000 km of stunning beaches and is renowned for its marine life. It is home to one of the largest populations of dugongs in the world.

a beach made up entirely of cockle shells

Things to do in Shark Bay (including Monkey Mia & Denham)

This Shark Bay travel guide includes all the best places to see, when to visit, how to get there, where to eat, where to stay and travel tips.

Ningaloo

Australia’s Coral Coast Ningaloo region includes the towns of CarnarvonCoral Bay, and Exmouth.

Carnarvon is a great place to experience natural wonders, learn about local history, and enjoy delicious fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood.

a river with buildings in the background

Carnarvon Travel Guide

For information on what to do, when to visit, where to stay and other tips in this guide on things to do in Carnarvon.

people snorkeling in the ocean at coral bay wa

Coral Bay Travel Guide

This guide on things to do in Coral Bay is full of information on what to do, where to eat, places to stay, and travel tips.

a creek laeding out to the ocean surrounded by red rocks and scrub

Exmouth Travel Guide

Find out all that Exmouth has to offer, including tips on where to eat, where to stay, and where to visit in this guide on things to do in Exmouth.

Wildflower Country

Wildflower Country consists of several inland towns in Australia’s Coral Coast region, including Carnamah, Coorow, Dalwallinu, Mullewa, Moora, Morowa, Mingenew, Perenjori, and Three Springs. Visit this region from mid-July to October and you will be rewarded with spectacular carpets of wildflowers and may see the rare wreath flower.

a flower resembling a wreath with green leaves in the middle and pink flowers around it in a circle
The rare wreath flower found in Western Australia’s Wildflower Country

What is the best time to visit Australia’s Coral Coast?

The best time to visit Australia’s Coast is between March and October if you want to experience all the best attractions in the region.

For wildflowers, the best months are August and September but you will find some around from July through to October.

Tropical cyclones usually affect the north west coast from November to April but can occur outside these months. On average, there are five cyclones every season with one or two becoming severe. The most cyclone-prone region in Australia is along the coast between Exmouth and Broome.

To experience the incredible wildlife along the Coral Coast, visit at these times:

  • Whale Sharks: March to July
  • Humpback Whales: July to October
  • Turtles (nesting): December to February
  • Turtles (hatching): January to March

The islands and Ningaloo Reef are best visited:

  • Abrolhos Islands: March to October
  • Dirk Hartog Island: March to September
  • Mackerel Islands: April to September
  • Ningaloo Reef: March to October

Getting around Australia’s Coral Coast

The best way to get around Australia’s Coral Coast is by road. If you don’t have your own vehicle, consider hiring a car, 4wd camper, or campervan upon arrival. We use Rentalcars to compare car rental companies. Be aware, though, that some roads are unsealed and some attractions are 4wd access only. Plan your route with the help of our guides and be sure to check the conditions with the hire companies when booking.

Another way is take a tour like the following ones that depart from Perth:

a silver tropical fish with yellow stripes and yellow fins and orange band found on australia's coral coast

Road Trips

Australia’s Coral Coast has some of the best road trips in Western Australia, including the epic Coral Coast Road Trip which takes you from Perth all the way up the coast to Exmouth. If the 1250 km one-way is too much, or you don’t have enough time, try the shorter road trips to Jurien Bay or Kalbarri (although you will miss out on the best part in my opinion).

These are some of the best road trips in the Coral Coast region:

Perth to Jurien Bay Road Trip

Perth to Kalbarri Road Trip

Perth to Exmouth (Coral Coast road trip)

Mobile Phone Coverage

It is best to have a Telstra SIM as the network covers more of the Coral Coast region than Vodafone. There will be places when reception will drop out, especially between towns.

Coral Coast Tips

  • Distances are long so stop regularly and try to share the driving.
  • The open road speed limit is 110 km per hour and 50 km per hour in built up areas. However, pay attention to the signs as they often change.
  • It is illegal to touch your mobile phone while driving and all passengers must wear a seatbelt.
  • Be prepared. Carry plenty of water and food in case of breakdown.
  • Ensure you have enough fuel as service stations are 100 – 300 km apart and some may be out of fuel. Also keep in mind that most of them do not open 24 hours.
  • If you get bogged on a 4wd track, stay with your vehicle so it will be easier to find you.
  • Sealed roads can be closed due to flooding and unsealed roads are unreliable in wet weather. Keep up to date with Main Roads or the local visitor centre.
  • Road trains (large trucks with up to four carriages) can be as long as 60m so extreme care must be taken if overtaking. Most of the Coral Coast is single lane only with a few overtaking lanes.
  • The Coral coast can be affected by cyclones, particularly between December to March. Keep up to date with emergency advice on the WA Emergency site. You can keep informed of bush fire advice there too.
  • Save money with a National Park holiday or annual pass, which can be purchased online or at various outlets like visitor centres. RAC WA offer a 50% discount for members.
  • If you plan on flying a drone, check with Parks and Wildlife as regulations are in place to protect areas of Aboriginal significance and wildlife and flora.
  • Pop into the local visitor centres as they often have free maps and up to date information on the area, including where the wildflowers are blooming.
  • Watch out for wildlife when driving, especially around dawn and dusk.

Useful Guides

Save Money Planning Your Trip

Click on the links, which will take you directly to the website.

Flights ✈️

We fly Virgin Australia domestically due to their competitive prices and fantastic customer service, and fly with Qatar Airways to Europe.

Accommodation 🏩

We mainly use Booking.com for accommodation as they consistently have the lowest rates with free cancellation on most properties.

For pet sitting in Western Australia and worldwide, we are members of Trusted Housesitters. Free accommodation for pet and house sitting.

Car Rental 🚘

To compare rental car company prices, we use Discover Cars, an award-winning car rental comparison website. They offer competitive pricing in over 10,000 locations worldwide and are highly rated.

Campervan/RV Rental 🚐

DriveNow is a good resource to compare campervan hire in Western Australia as it includes all the large companies like Britz, Maui, and Jucy as well as smaller ones.

Travel Insurance 🌏

Cover-More and Travel Insurance Direct are our preferred travel insurance companies for domestic and international travel.

See this Travel Insurance for Australia guide for more information.

FAQ

Which places can I not miss when visiting Australia’s Coral Coast?

The places not to miss when visiting Australia’s Coral Coast are:
Exmouth
Coral Bay
Shark Bay region
Kalbarri

What are the main attractions on Australia’s Coral Coast?

The main attractions on Australia’s Coral Coast are:
Swimming with Whale Sharks
Whale Watching or swimming with Humpback Whales
Seeing dugongs on an eco-tour from Monkey Mia
Muiron Islands Snorkeling
Scuba Diving Ningaloo Reef
Turtle Tour on the Ningaloo Reef
Seeing turtles nesting or hatching – Dirk Hartog Island, Ningaloo & Mackerel Islands
Swimming with Manta Rays
Hiking through Kalbarri National Park Inland Gorges or Coastal trails
Walking amongst the Pinnacles
Exploring Cape Range National Park
Learning about Indigenous culture and history at Gwoonwardu Mia
Visiting the Abrolhos Islands
Witnessing Western Australia’s Wildflowers in bloom