The park meets the Ningaloo Reef via pristine coastline, with pure white sands and sublime water clarity serving as an ideal introduction to the abundant ecosystem that exists offshore. Apart from offering visitors the opportunity to swim with whale sharks (one of the only places in the world to do so), the reef showcases biodiversity rarely seen on Earth, let alone during a single scuba diving or snorkelling experience.
Ningaloo’s accessibility is also what makes it so unique, as it resides less than 200m from the shoreline in some areas. For a near-perfect introduction to the reef it’s hard to go past Turquoise Bay, with its vibrancy of marine life and strong current to guide you making it a must-experience.
The eastern side of the park requires you to ditch the flippers and jump in the 4x4, and while it is not as iconic as the coastal side, it is equally unique. Dominating the scene are limestone ranges and gorges that are geometrically at-odds with conventional landscapes. Formed by a gradual uplifting of the sea floor, the undulating terrain of Cape Range has been slowly moulded and refined by wind and water erosion over many years to give it an almost unearthly topography. 4WD tracks wind through colourful valleys between the limestone peaks, the tracks that lead upwards toward them unearthing a humbling view of the coastline and reef to the west.
Caves abound within the sides of these ranges, gouged out over many years by the water that is so erosive to the park’s limestone terrain. Rare black-footed rock wallabies can be seen lazing outside cave entrances, effortlessly negotiating sheer rock faces as they explore their surroundings. The process that continues to create these caves is the same one that gradually produced Yardie Creek, a spectacular gorge with vertical cliff faces that wonderfully display multi-coloured layers of rock. Cruises are available through the gorge, which are worthwhile as it is the only gorge within the park to contain water.
Cape Range is a rare spot, its combination of uncorrupted coastline and ancient landscapes encapsulating the instinctive draw so many explorers have towards Western Australia. A visit to Cape Range is one that represents what is blissful about the state’s outdoors, while its proximity to Karijini National Park and the Pilbara region makes it an unforgettable sojourn along a bigger road trip.
LOCATION: 1100km north of Perth
ACCOMMODATION: Facilities available in Exmouth and Coral Bay (no fuel), while there are camps scattered regularly throughout the park.
MAPS: Mid West Western Australia
BOOKS: 4WD Adventures