Quick Guide To The Ningaloo Reef: Best Time To Visit, Worst Time, Things To Do, And More
You can visit Ningaloo Reef all year round, but some months are better than others. This entirely depends on what you want to do.
But if we had to pick the best time to visit, it would be during the winter months. In the Ningaloo reef, winter means heaps of marine life, incredible temperatures for outdoor activities, and wildflower season on the North West Cape – it’s spectacular!
But, this also means no turtles nesting or hatching. The winds may not be as strong for water sports compared to other months, either. We discuss this and more below:
- 3 reasons to visit in winter
- When to see turtles?
- Worst time to visit the Ningaloo Reef
- Top Tips
- Did you know?
3 reasons why the best time to visit the Ningaloo Reef is during winter – June, July, and August
1) You can swim with whale sharks, humpback whales, and manta rays.
Whale shark season is between March and August. If you want to swim with them, make sure to book a whale shark tour. Most operators have a spotter plane to quickly find these fascinating creatures.
As for humpback whale swimming, these gentle giants migrate through this area from July through October. Some tours will take you to them, too!
Graceful manta rays are resident on the reef all year round. But their numbers increase between May and September.
2) It’s also wildflower season
The landscape of the North West Cape explodes into colour thanks to the wildflowers, which blossom between July to October.
You’ll see fields of these flowers along the Ningaloo Reef, all the way to Coral Bay. But the best views are arguably from Charles Knife Gorge and Shothole Canyon, in the Cape Range National Park.
3) The temperature is ideal for water and outdoor activities.
During the winter, the daytime temperature is around 25ºC, while the nighttime temperature’s around 15ºC.
These temperatures equal sunny days with cool winds. It’s the best time to go beachside camping and even hiking.
During autumn, the temperatures creep up into the high twenties, surpassing the thirties during summer. This doesn’t mean these seasons aren’t good for visiting the Ningaloo Reef, but you may not feel as comfortable during your stay.
When is the best time to see turtles in the Ningaloo Reef?
Well, this depends on which part of the turtle season you want to witness – the nesting process or the baby turtles’ hatching:
- Nesting season is from November through March. During these months, female turtles come to these beaches to lay their eggs.
- The hatchlings make their way into the waters of the Ningaloo reef 60 days later, usually between February and March,
But as exciting as this is, these are very stressful times for the turtles. To learn how to disturb them the least, head up to the Jurabi Turtle Centre.
You’ll learn everything about the turtle species that come visit and the Code of Conduct you should have around them.
Is there a “worst” time to visit the Ningaloo reef?
There really isn’t a “worst time” to visit this place. But the best time for you will be the one when you can tick off the most activities from your bucket list while enjoying your stay.
For example, the summer months are very hot but the winds are great for water sports.
But this means that summer is the best time if you want to do surf, kitesurf, or SUP.
However, it can get crowdy, mostly in January. Tonnes of tourists come here because of the school holidays. And due to the heat, it’s not the best time for hiking.
Also, there’s a small chance of bad weather. But that won’t be an issue if you’re staying in Exmouth, as there are many things to do there if it rains.
Make sure to plan ahead! Book all the tours and accommodations you can in advance, as well as vehicle rental. If there’s a specific restaurant you’d like to dine in, save your spot as well.
January, April, and July school holidays are very busy times – don’t risk missing out on any activity you want to do.
Now, if you want to save as much as you can without missing anything, the first half of May is a good time to go. Whale sharks are in the area and the weather is also great.
But the cheapest month accommodation-wise is November. This is great news for those wanting to witness the turtle nesting season.
Related: How to plan a one-week visit to Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef.
Did you know?
Corals are not rocks or plants, they are animals! Once a year, just after the full moon in March/April, they reproduce simultaneously in a colourful cloud of red and pink known as coral spawning.
This event is the “magnet” that draws not just the incredible whale sharks to the reef, but a host of other species equally as fascinating.
How to get to the Ningaloo Reef?
You can get to the Ningaloo reef by driving around 12 hours from Perth to Coral Bay. Add one more hour to the trip to get to Exmouth.
Alternatively, you can get there by flying from Perth to Learmonth airport. It services the area from Coral Bay to Exmouth, with regular flights from Perth.
How many days do you need at Ningaloo Reef?
We recommend at least 5 days to enjoy the Ningaloo reef without rushing. But the sweet spot is 7 days, as this allows you to explore the surroundings as well – Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, and Coral Bay.
What is the best time to visit Exmouth?
The best time to visit Exmouth is also during winter. Being right to the Ningaloo reef, this little town also shares the great weather of the area. Also, many tours and activities to the reef get started from here.
Learn more: Best (and worst) time to visit Exmouth.
The bottom line
The Ningaloo reef is truly a destination for all seasons. Whenever you decide to go, it will be the experience of a lifetime.
But, the Ningaloo Marine Park becomes the shining jewel of Western Australia during winter. Between the marine life and the wildflower season, it’ll be hard for you to leave!