The Best Coral Bay Travel Guide 2024

Why Visit Coral Bay

Coral Bay is a laid-back small settlement that makes you feel relaxed as soon as you arrive and is one of my favourite places in WA. The one-road town has a population of about 200 people, but because there are many attractions, Coral Bay welcomes approximately 110,000 visitors yearly. These are mainly Western Australian families looking to escape the city, de-stress, and enjoy the ocean life.

Coral Bay is much quieter than Exmouth, which attracts more of a backpacker/van-life crowd.

Ningaloo Reef is touted as the best reef in Australia, despite the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland getting all the attention.

Is Coral Bay or Exmouth better?

Coral Bay is better for families, while Exmouth is better for hikers and backpackers. There is more to do in Exmouth, whereas Coral Bay is a beach-lovers paradise for people who want to get away from it all.

How far is Coral Bay from Perth?

Coral Bay is 1122 km from Perth, which is about 12 hours driving time.

How to get to Coral Bay from Perth

To get to Coral Bay from Perth, you can either take Brand Highway or State Route 60, which meets up with Brand Highway before Port Denison/Dongara. You will stay on this road for 1027 km before turning onto Minilya-Exmouth Road. Coral Bay Road is on the left after about 90 km.

Qantas flies into Exmouth’s Learmonth airport, about 90 minutes from Coral Bay. The flight time is two hours. You can hire a car from the airport, but it must be pre-booked, or arrange a transfer with Coral Bay Airport Transfers.

Integrity Coach Lines run a service between Perth and Coral Bay, taking about 15 hours. This is a hop-on/hop-off type service and doesn’t travel non-stop to Coral Bay.

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.

Where to stop from Perth to Coral Bay

view of murchison gorge from above at kalbarri sky walk
Kalbarri

Kalbarri is about halfway between Perth and Coral Bay, making it an ideal place to break up the journey. However, there is a detour of over an hour to get to Kalbarri from the main road.

Other alternatives are Northampton, just before Kalbarri, or Carnarvon, just over nine and a half hours from Perth.

You can also choose to take your time and make a road trip out of it, stopping in Geraldton, Kalbarri, Shark Bay, and Carnarvon.

See this Perth to Exmouth road trip itinerary for ideas on where to stop on the way to Coral Bay.

Coral Bay Weather & Best Time To Go

a shallow rocky beach with clear water
Monck Head Walk Trail

Coral Bay is a year-round destination, but it does depend on what you want to do in Coral bay as to when the best time to visit is.

Whale sharks visit from March to June, and the best chance of seeing humpback whales is from July to October. Turtle nesting is from December to February, while hatching is from January to March.

The hottest time is December through March, with average highs of 36°C-38°C.

To miss the rain, try to avoid the wettest months of June, May, March, and February when the average monthly rainfall is between 39mm and 43mm.

The driest months are September, October, and November. Coral Bay is windier from October to February.

You can view the 7-day forecast for Coral Bay on the Bureau of Meteorology site.

Sea temperature ranges from 26°C from February to May to 22°C from August to October. The remaining months will be something in-between.

The busiest time of year in Coral Bay is December and January (summer WA school holidays), followed by September. It is quietest in June and November.

How long to stay in Coral Bay

a road next to a camp site and shops
The main road in Coral Bay

I recommend staying in Coral Bay for at least three nights, but five nights allows you to experience most of the activities it has to offer.

We visited Coral Bay for two nights on our way up to Exmouth, and it wasn’t long enough, so we will return.

Coral Bay Accommodation & Camping

Coral Bay accommodation is limited due to the town’s size. Therefore, most people book over a year in advance as the holiday homes and caravan parks fill up quickly, especially in peak season.

People’s Park Coral Bay is right opposite Bills Bay and offers accommodation for all budgets. Choose from cabins, hilltop villas, and the oceanview penthouse.

Ningaloo Coral Bay Bayview has various accommodation options, including cabins, villas, houses, and Bay Lodge. Most can be booked for an overnight stay, although minimum nights usually apply for peak periods. You can find good deals on booking.com with free cancellation, depending on when you want to go. Check Booking.Com prices here.

Ningaloo Reef Resort features self–contained one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and studio rooms, all overlooking the tropical gardens and pool. The resort is the closest property to the Ningaloo Reef and would be my choice when we next visit Coral Bay. If you’re a RACWA member, you’ll receive a discount by booking directly. If not, check here on Booking.com for low prices.

Ningaloo Coral Bay Backpackers not only offer backpacker dorms but rooms for couples and families. Check rooms with free cancellation here.

view with grass and palm trees and accommodation
View over Ningaloo Reef Resort

We camped at Ningaloo Coral Bay Bayview, across the road from Bill’s Bar. The amenities were kept clean, and the camp kitchen was adequate. In addition, the campsite has tennis courts for hire, a heated swimming pool with a toddler pool, two playgrounds, and a jumping pillow.

You can also camp at People’s Park Coral Bay.

Eating and drinking in Coral Bay

Bill’s Bar is a fun night out with live music in their alfresco dining area, where shade sails keep you cool in summer and fires and heaters keep you warm in winter. The food was delicious, and the menu had a variety of dishes to choose from. The seafood linguine was one of the best I’ve had. Unfortunately, they only take bookings for six or more people, so you may need to arrive early in peak times.

Fins Café is known for the best breakfast in town, and you can BYO (Bring Your Own wine) if you visit for lunch or dinner.

Reef Café was advertising a seafood platter, which sounded amazing, but we didn’t have time to try it out.

The bakery serves scrumptious sausage rolls, pies, pastries, and smoothies. The sausage rolls, beef pie, and jam doughnuts were all excellent.

Coral Bay Travel Tips

  • Collecting flora and fauna (including shells and corals) is not permitted anywhere in the marine park, including Coral Bay beaches.
  • Be careful of the coral when diving or snorkelling. Living coral is delicate; once damaged, it often takes years to grow back, so do not stand on it.
  • Mobile phone reception is good in town but may drop out elsewhere.
  • The Coral Bay Nursing Post provides healthcare services to both residents and visitors.
  • If you’re visiting in winter, bring a sharkskin top or wetsuit to keep you warm in the water.
snorkeling is one of the best things to do in coral bay to see this large gray and blue fish
Snorkeling off the beach in Coral Bay

Coral Bay History

Archaeologists discovered evidence to indicate that Indigenous people have been present in the Ningaloo region for over 32,000 years. The world’s oldest beaded necklace was found in the Mandu Mandu Creek rock shelter.

The first recorded European movement in the Coral Bay area was at Mauds Landing, used to ship wool, sheep, and cattle from 1884 to 1946. However, Mauds Landing was closed in 1947 due to funding shortages. The surrounding area became Cardabia Station, owned by Charles French. This land included Bills Bay, named after Charles’ wife Ruby, or Auntie Billie as she was known.

Jack McKenna constructed the first building in 1933 as a holiday spot, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s that Bills Bay became a township. Part of the Cardabia Station was sold to Ken Ryan, who built a caravan park, hotel, and service station. It is thought the town was named after Ryan’s Coral Bay Hotel.

In 1973, Bill and Alison Brogan visited Coral Bay. They realised it had great potential as a tourist destination, so they bought a four-room portable building, a charter yacht, and a glass-bottomed boat and founded Bayview Coral Bay. However, there were a few drawbacks: poor road access, water shortages, and no reliable electricity or sewage system. Nevertheless, this investment has become one of the most popular Western Australian holiday destinations.

Generators now provide electricity for the community, bores supply the water, and a sewerage system is in place. A shopping arcade has been built, along with housing, and the Brogans continue to improve facilities with The Bayview, Backpackers, their boats, and Bill’s Bar.

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