In my last post, I gave a few tips on winter camping. Being able to camp down south in the winter means fewer people so you can enjoy access to beautiful areas normally packed out in summer. However, the more popular option with most campers in WA is to head north during the colder months to enjoy warm days in beautiful locations.
And why not? The harsh landscape of the north offers up a trip like no other with access to locations featuring calm, crystal clear bays and towering rock formations. The beauty and warmth makes it an alluring attraction for all types of campers. We visited during peak season in July. There are many options along the coast from Kalbarri to Broome and beyond to enjoy any type of camping experience, whether it’s caravan park, station stays, national parks or bush camping. As long as you are prepared and have the right set up, you can choose your own adventure.
We stayed in the popular town of Exmouth, with its breathtaking landscapes and range of activities promising a different adventure every day. Situated on the peninsula, Exmouth is wedged between Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Marine Park. Sunny days are spent fishing, swimming and exploring the beautiful surrounds on land and sea. When it’s pouring with rain in Perth, accompanied by an icy wind, who wouldn’t want to escape to a campers paradise?
The drive from Perth to Exmouth is just under 13 hours and that’s without stopping for a rest. I know some like to leave early and hammer their way through but we have found taking a little longer can make the trip more interesting and enjoyable. Stopping along the way gives the opportunity to enjoy new places and putting up a tent at the end of a long drive is neither fun nor contributes to relationship harmony. We left home early, took it easy with a couple of stops along the way and rolled into Carnarvon in the afternoon.
We stayed at the Coral Coast Tourist Park and left the tent packed in the car since pulling it out for a single overnight stay was not worth the effort. The park had basic but comfortable and affordable overnight accommodation for two people. The service was friendly and helpful and it’s easy to get into town for a meal and a wine. The stopover was great for a rest and we had a little time to look around Carnarvon in the morning before we headed off.
On our way home, we stopped at the Billabong Motel. The rooms were simple but clean and the restaurant is nextdoor, offering cheap drinks and big meals. It has everything necessary for an overnight stay on the way home. I love camping but part of the enjoyment is a hot shower and a big feed after leaving camp.
There are many options available for camping in the area, which can accommodate everything from 2WDs to enormous fifth wheelers. Caravan parks in town allow you the comforts of being located within town, but there are some out of town options too, including Ningaloo and Gnarloo stations for the self-sufficient.
Your setup will dictate where you can go. The DPAW sites in Cape Range National Park allow access to the beach and stunning locations. However, the areas can be barren with little protection from sun and wind and the ground looked hard for tents. These sites are best for caravans and camper trailers to protect from the elements.
Our tent set up made it unsuitable for the harsh and unpredictable conditions in Cape Range so we opted for a caravan park. We passed on the sites in town and opted for the Ningaloo Lighthouse Caravan Park as it was close to both National Park, town and beaches. It has good facilities and our tent site was a generous size and in a great position with some shade and water available (sorry, didn’t take photos).
There is plenty to do and we never grew tired of simply wandering to the beach to fish or explore. Depending on your budget, you can take tours out to the reef for snorkelling or simply viewing. Camp was always full of stories at the end of the day of fishing adventures and whale watching excitement.
Keeping it simple, we found places for fishing. I caught my first fish (ever) at Wapot Creek at high tide but there were plenty to be found off the beach as well. We also took a half day fishing charter with plenty of success as well. As Ningaloo is a marine reserve, fishing is permitted only in certain areas.
4wding is also popular and you’ll notice the many rigs parked around town. With such harsh surrounds, a 4wd is essential for getting to a lot of the out of the way places. There are plenty of unsealed roads as well as locations only accessible by 4wd. We took Landy down to Wapot Creek for a drive, some fishing and exploring the fascinating coastline when the tide was out.
Cape Range National Park
You can enter the park from either side of the peninsula. From the eastern side, you are treated to views across to the inlet from Thomas Carter Lookout. The lookout is the start and finish point of the Badjirrijirra Trail. We weren’t prepared for an 8km walk but it would offer a spectacular slice of national park bush and views.
The western side is where the action happens, with access to multiple beaches featuring white sand, harsh rocks and crystal clear waters. Popular spot Turquoise Bay is situated in the park and is the premier spot for snorkelling. We didn’t have any snorkelling gear with us but watched long enough on some of the coral outcrops to see tropical fish emerge out of hiding.
Yardie Creek is the last stop on the road through Cape Range on the western side. It’s quite a drive from town but worth the visit. The boat tours taking you through the gorge departs here and if that’s not your thing, you can still take a short walk along the gorge to view the river.
Daily entrance and camping fees apply to visit Cape Range, with different types of passes available.
Like any country town, Exmouth is small but has everything you need to stock up with supplies. There’s a shopping mall precinct with a couple of cafes, IGA, bakery and, the essential, camping and fishing store. I’m sure they exceeded their average monthly revenue when we were there. The helpful visitors centre will also help you with everything you need to know and can assist you with booking any tours.
When to go
The best time of year are the winter months. Summer becomes too hot and the coast becomes windy. Winter temperatures are mild in the mid 20s and being a sub-tropical location, the humidity can be high. Plan you trip in advance if you are planning to stay in one of the caravan parks as they can fill up during the on season and especially during the school holidays.
We were a little unlucky with the weather, experiencing a couple of days of rain. It was a good test of the fly for the OzTent, which we had bought for the trip in case it was too hot.
Exmouth is amazing and although we were there for ten days, it still didn’t feel like enough time to experience it all. There is a location and experience for all types of campers, from caravanners to single person tents. Plan in advance to make sure you get a spot and you will be spending your winter down the beach, witnessing spectacular sunsets and loving life.