When outlining our rough plans for being in Coral Bay we initially planned on perhaps making a day trip to Exmouth but as usually happens, we changed our plans, deciding instead to spend a couple of days there and are so glad that we did.
We drove the 142km North to Exmouth stopping just outside town at Exmouth Fish Co. to purchase some yummy, freshly caught & cooked tiger prawns before heading to the local Big 4 Caravan Park for a 2 night stay. It was such a great park to stay at, with a great pool, huge camp kitchen with internet kiosk, loads of fridges to store food, very friendly staff and beautifully clean ablution blocks. The kids were entertained by the cheeky corellas that would visit our site – just about coming into the caravan!
Here, we were able to catch up on some washing and have a general sort out. On our second day we took a drive up Charles Knife Road to check out some of the sights of Cape Range National Park. The road got higher and higher, as well as narrower and narrower with me chickening out of going all the way to the top, much to Paul’s annoyance. The views were breathtaking.
We then drove up Shothole Canyon Road which was much more to my liking as we stayed at ground level this time, driving through the canyon. This was just as impressive and I’m afraid the photos don’t do either of them justice. The colours were amazing.
We had heard about some great camping spots SW of Exmouth, within the National Park. I wanted to visit Turquoise Bay 63 km away and Paul was keen to check out Yardie Creek which was about 91km from Exmouth. We had also heard that these camping spots were extremely popular, with limited sites and that people line up at the ranger’s station from dawn trying to snag a site. We didn’t really want to drag the kids out of bed at sparrows just to end up missing out, so we resigned ourselves to having a day trip to see both these places. Then one of the lovely ladies at the Big 4 told us that it was possible to make an online booking to some of these sites, two days in advance of when you wanted to go there. Not being too optimistic, we decided to have a look and jumped online at http://www.dec.wa.gov.au/campgrounds/. We were stoked to be able to get the last available site at Yardie Creek for two nights. Apparently this online service is only a trial at present and how it works out will determine if it remains operating. I really hope it does. I know managing this area would be a monumental task, I just wish there were a fairer way to make sure everyone had the opportunity to stay there and think that maybe the 28 day maximum stay allowed should be reduced.
Before heading round to Yardie Creek we grabbed some diesel from Exmouth Fuel Supplies where we paid $1.758centsL (it was $1.828 at Caltex) after using our Big 4 membership to receive a 3c discount. This membership also gives us a 10% discount (up to $40) on caravan park fees and it wont be too long before it has more than payed for its initial cost of $50. We also dropped into the visitors centre where we made a booking to take a one hour cruise up Yardie Creek ($65 family pass).
The campground we stayed at was not dissimilar to Point Quobba. There was a short 20-30m walk to the beach which lots of lovely white sand to drop a towel on.
There were 8 sites at Yardie Creek in all, it was very well maintained and had the cleanest long drop toilet we have seen! The campground is located next to a car park for day visitors where an additional 4 toilets are located.
The first day was spent at the beach doing a bit of snorkeling and checking out hermit crabs and nudibranchs in some rock pools. For dinner we cooked up a huge piece of Spanish Mackerel that a man the kids
annoyed spoke to while he was filleting his catch for the day gave us. It was beautiful, hopefully the kids annoy speak to lots of other fishermen!
The second day we headed up the creek on our cruise. Yardie Creek Gorge is permanently full of water due to the water being trapped by a sandbar. We saw plenty of fish and Tori, our guide, told us that occasionally they spot turtles and have also on occasion seen dugongs! We weren’t so lucky, although we did see lots of birds, a huge nest that was first documented in 1890 and a few rare black-footed wallabies. Tori gave a great commentary about the gorge and its history, named lots of plants and spoke about how the sheer cliff faces were formed.
Adam and Pam, our camping neighbours – a lovely couple from the
East Coast-were heading out to swim with whale sharks the same day we were doing the cruise and kindly offered for us to use their kayak while they were away for the day. After some lunch we grabbed the kayak and headed back to the gorge. It was so much fun! At first we tried all five of us at one time, but the kayak was sitting VERY low in the water so Paul had a go with the boys and then Emma and I had a turn. I’m sure you can imagine how dizzying it was when Emma grabbed the paddle and took over!
There is a bush track that runs from Coral Bay to Yardie Creek and Paul had been longingly watching car after car crossing the sandbar. He was itching to have a go, so after returning the kayak we all bundled into the car and headed to the crossing. The kids weren’t so keen to start with but relaxed a little when they saw it was low tide. Paul loved it and is looking forward to doing a bit more bush bashing further when we head further North.
After a few goes across the sandbar we headed up to have a quick look at Turquoise Bay before it got dark. It was a nice beach where snorkeling is popular and the boys had a quick swim while we walked along the beach. After a bit of cajoling we dragged them out of the water to drive the 30km back to our campsite but had left our run a bit late. The roos were out and there were hundreds!! It was the first time the kids had seen so many by the road and couldn’t believe them jumping and stopping right in front of the car. We were literally crawling at one spot because there were so many. I can’t imagine what overseas visitors must make of this kind of sight!
If you find yourself in the Exmouth area and would like to spend some time checking out Cape Range National Park then there are a few options. Base yourselves in Exmouth and do a day trip down to Yardie Creek having a look at some of the bays etc on the way round, try to get yourself a campsite in the park which may involve lining up before dawn or booking online or, lastly, there are a couple of caravan parks closer to the national park entrance from where you could comfortably drive to various parts of the park.
The next morning, after farewelling Adam & Pam (who had a fabulous swim with three whale sharks as well as seeing a tiger shark and a dugong with its baby) we headed back to Exmouth for another shop and fuel stop before heading off again.
The next town we hit is Dampier, where I find myself all alone!
*we have met lots of lovely people on the road, including the Somers family who have been caravan park neighbours in Denham, Carnarvon & Coral Bay(so far!). Check out their trip from the link on our blogroll. There are also links to the blogs of the Gill & Smith Families, who we have only met online so far but whose paths we are bound to cross somewhere on the road*