Want to visit the incredible Coral Bay, but have a tight budget? Do not worry; there are plenty of free activities in Coral Bay to help you explore this lovely coastal village in Western Australia.
You’ll be able to explore the Ningaloo Reef and enjoy the pristine white sands of the beach, contrasting with the gorgeous blue waters of the ocean.
Visiting Coral Bay was one of the memorable highlights of a tour down the west coast of Australia because of the access to the incredible and awe-inspiring Ningaloo Reef. In this article, you’ll find our best tips on the following:
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10 Free activities to do in Coral Bay, Western Australia
You’ll love exploring Coral Bay, whether walking, 4wding, swimming, or snorkelling. There are plenty of free activities to enjoy in this most beautiful part of the world. Here are some of the activities that won’t cost you money.
1) Visit the Shark Nursery
About 1.5km from the main beach entry opposite the caravan parks, you’ll find the stunning bay called the Shark Nursery. Check the tides because you’ll want to visit as the tide starts to go out. At high tide, baby sharks and manta rays come into the shallow waters for safety from predators.
You can walk across the sands and clamour over some easy rocks to get to the Shark Nursery. Once there, you can walk right into the water and take photos of the baby sharks and manta rays you’ll find there. You can’t swim or snorkel here but standing in the water is acceptable. It’s between the knee and waist high.
You can also watch the sharks in the water from the cliff above the shark nursery.
2) Watch Turtles off Turtle Cliff
Turtle Cliff gets its name from the gorgeous creatures who swim in the reef just below the cliff area. Watching the turtles at sunset is a favourite free thing at Coral Bay.
You’ll need a four-wheel drive to get up to the cliff area as it is on soft sandy dunes. It’s an easy drive, though, and is sign-posted.
You’ll see the sea turtles swimming in the waves moving from the beach and reef into the sea. Depending on the day and the season, you’ll generally find some turtles in the area.
3) Drive on the Sand Dunes
There is a brilliant drive along the sandy dunes up to Five Finger Bay and Turtle Cliff. You will need a 4WD because the sand is exceptionally soft. The track is one way in many parts, with parking sections marked to stop and get the best views or photos. Sunset photos are trendy but driving over the sandy dunes track at any time is fun.
Tour guides use the same track for the buggy rides and the quad bikes, so you’ll be getting the same views for free as those who pay for the tours. You do need to be respectful of the times, though and follow the one-way signs and the track carefully. You cannot drive off the track as dune regeneration projects are happening in the area.
4) Snorkel Off the Beach
There are plenty of places you can snorkel off the beach at Coral Bay and explore the Ningaloo Reef. Follow the signs on the beach areas because some areas are off-limits to snorkellers, like the boat ramp. There are no lifeguards at the beach, so you need to take care, swim, and snorkel in a safe area. You’ll find calm waters perfect for snorkelling.
Ningaloo Reef is a protected site; you cannot fish or take coral or shells from the reef. You can explore coral-filled reef areas and see tropical fish living in and around the corals. You can swim with turtles near the beach close to Turtle Cliff.
5) Relax at Paradise Beach
Coral Bay has some gorgeous beach areas. With pristine white and soft sands, you’ll find a day at the beach an easy way to relax. You can swim off the beach and sunbake, eat, drink, and party on the beach. There are shady areas in one section of the beach, and you can also put up a sun shelter for the day. It’s such a beautiful area.
Keep Paradise Beach pristine for other visitors, use the rubbish bins in the area, or take your rubbish with you back to your camp. Stay for the sunset to enjoy the fantastic orange colours over the ocean as the sun goes down.
6) Drive to Exmouth for a Day Trip
Exmouth is only a 90-minute drive from Coral Bay, making this town perfect for a day trip when you are staying at Coral Bay. Exmouth has plenty to offer visitors.
You can learn more about the Ningaloo Reef at the Ningaloo Aquarium and Discovery Centre. You can also visit restaurants and shops and explore the world-famous beaches Exmouth has to offer.
You can see the Cape Range National Park, explore the lighthouse and the SS Mildura wreck, and see the second tallest building in the southern hemisphere – Tower Zero (one of 13 VFL towers).
7) Walks Around Coral Bay
You’ll enjoy some good hikes and lovely walks along kilometres of beaches around Coral Bay. You can walk along the coast for several kilometres, past the shark nursery and to Turtle Cliff. There are several tracks along the cliff areas to get to lookouts.
The village is tiny and is easy to walk around, with only local traffic. When you finish your walk, you can refresh with a snack from the bakery or a treat from Sweet, the local gelateria.
If you are walking in Cape Range National Park, take plenty of water and sun protection as there is little shade. There are walking tracks from Class 1 (people with reduced mobility) to Class 4 (rough tracks requiring a high fitness level).
8) Boating Around Coral Bay
Coral Bay is a popular destination for boating enthusiasts, due to its crystal clear waters and diverse array of marine life.
The town is home to a great boat ramp to the south of the town, making it easy to access the water.
Snorkeling/diving along the reef is an incredible experience, as the wildlife is so abundant. You can pretty much pull up at any reef and expect to see a wide variety of coral and fish species, including colourful parrotfish, turtles and reef fish.
The reef is also home to larger marine life such as manta rays, whale sharks, and dolphins, which can sometimes be spotted while out on the water.
9) Kayaking In Coral Bay
Bring your kayak or canoe and enjoy some great paddles around Coral Bay. The water is flat, with few large waves. You can canoe or kayak over the reef, seeing some awe-inspiring marine creatures below the surface.
If you do not have a kayak or a canoe, you can hire one for a reasonable rate or do a kayaking tour with a guide.
10) Fishing in Coral Bay
Fishing from boats is allowed past the protected reef areas. You can only fish in the designated areas, whether fishing from land or on a boat.
The fishing around Coral Bay is world-class and many boaters love to trawl for large fish on the west side of the reef. Here’s a great article if you are planning to fish from your boat in Coral Bay.
Check with the local information office to find where you can fish in Coral Bay. You will also need to know bag limits. Please make sure you only fish from the designated areas, as you can receive a fine for fishing from a sanctuary zone.
- If staying in either caravan park, note that the water is deemed ‘hard’ and unsuitable for washing or drinking, except for the specially labelled taps in the camp kitchen. We highly recommend filling your water tanks before coming to Coral Bay. You will pay extra to fill a water tank from the drinking water. It may be best to save clothes washing until you leave Coral Bay.
- Coral Bay is a tiny village with only a few shops, no department store, and no pharmacy. Stock up on groceries, medicines, and other essentials before you visit Coral Bay. Exmouth has all these facilities and is an hour and a half drive from Coral Bay.
- There are many awesome tours available in Coral Bay, including swimming with whale sharks and even driving a buggy through the beach!
Did you know?
Coral Bay is the end of the Ningaloo Reef, which begins near Exmouth. Ningaloo Reef is a fringe reef that fringes or abuts the shore. Being a fringe reef, Ningaloo offers an excellent opportunity to snorkel straight from the beach onto the reef area. Coral Bay is famous for providing close encounters with marine wildlife in the pristine waters.
You can’t buy a house to live in permanently in Coral Bay. The properties are only for holiday accommodation or holiday houses. Staff employed by tour activities, or the caravan parks, shops or restaurants, live in special staff accommodations in the village.
Is Coral Bay worth visiting?
Coral Bay is worth visiting, at least for a few days. You can drive for a day trip and stay at Exmouth or come to Coral Bay for the village experience for a couple of nights. Coral Bay is a great place to see the Ningaloo Reef and enjoy the incredible marine wildlife along the bay’s protected waters.
While Coral Bay is magnificent and mostly untouched, it is a tiny village. You will enjoy the produce from the local bakery. The local shops include souvenirs, local artworks, and beautiful Ningaloo Reef-inspired objects and products to treasure forever.
You can choose between a few restaurants, and there are plenty of ways to explore the area, including driving on the sandy dunes and snorkelling on Ningaloo Reef from the beach.
Why is Coral Bay Famous?
Coral Bay is the place to explore the Ningaloo Reef. You’ll love snorkelling, swimming off the beach, and seeing coral and marine wildlife like turtles and sharks. The shark nursery is famous for watching manta rays, sting rays, small fish, and baby sharks. You can swim with the whale sharks and see humpbacks and manta rays if you have a boat or book a boat tour.
Watching the sunset on the beach is a popular activity. Stunning white sands contrasting with brilliant blue-turquoise waters make Coral Bay an incredible place to visit. As there is no city here to detract from the view with lights, you’ll find that star gazing from the beach provides a remarkable and memorable experience.
Can you snorkel off the beach at Coral Bay?
Snorkelling off the beach is a popular activity at Coral Bay. You will need your snorkel gear, though, as the tour operators only provide equipment for the tourists who pay for a snorkelling tour. You’ll be able to explore the reef, as Ningaloo Reef is a fringe reef, so the coral starts close to the shore.
Swimming in some areas, such as the shark nursery, is restricted, although you can walk into the water there to take photos of the baby sharks. However, you will find plenty of areas where you can snorkel from the beach at Coral Bay
The bottom line
Coral Bay is a lovely spot to visit on the west coast of Western Australia. It has access to the Ningaloo Reef and the stunning white beaches, contrasted with the brilliant turquoise waters. The opportunity to swim with marine wildlife makes visiting Coral Bay memorable. It is a delightful tiny village, with friendly folk making sure your Coral Bay holiday is as wonderful as possible.
At just 130 km from Exmouth, Coral Bay is delightful to visit from that town, either as a day trip or to stay a few nights. You’ll find a top-notch bakery, delicious treats from a gelateria, and all the essential groceries at the mini-mart. There are a few restaurants and a pub to keep you entertained.
Coral Bay is a lovely place to relax and enjoy the sunset on the beach or to star gaze from a relatively unpopulated spot. You’ll love the relaxing feeling you get as soon as you drive into Coral Bay. It’s the perfect place to visit year-round.
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