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Shothole Canyon, Exmouth (WA): A 4WD Adventure With Jaw-Dropping Views

Shothole Canyon (Exmouth) is probably the most picturesque ravine in the entire Cape Range National Park.

You’ll get here after a stunning 12km drive (4WD only) through the bottom of the gorge, which takes you deep inside Shothole Canyon.

When you reach the car park, it’s only a short walk to the canyon lookout. It’s a class-4 hike, but the spectacular views will make every step worth it!

Breathtaking view of Shot Hole Canyon, Exmouth, with its unique rock formations and arid landscape, Western Australia.

When is the best time to visit Shothole Canyon?

The dry season (May to October) is the best time to visit Shothole Canyon, hands down. And preferably, early in the day.

First, the weather is top-notch. Temperatures are cool and the chance of rain is very low, which is perfect for hiking.

These months also tie in perfectly to see whale sharks or humpback whales in Exmouth, depending on the month of your visit.

And if you visit in early spring, you’ll be blown away by the incredible wildflowers adorning Cape Range National Park.

As for visiting during the wet season, these months are warmer and, well, wet. Rains in Exmouth mean a higher chance of flooding, so it’s better to avoid Shothole Canyon this time of year.

The canyon can get pretty hot even during the dry season, so bring plenty of water and sun protection.

S&C Travel Tip

How to get to Shothole Canyon from Exmouth?

Once in Exmouth, you’ll get to Shothole Canyon after a 30-minute drive south. It’s in Cape Range National Park, so entry fees apply.

It’s 4WD-only, but all-wheel-drive cars should do fine too. You’ll want to allocate an hour or two for this trip, including the drive back and forth, and the hike.

There’s a picnic area and toilets, too. No camping or overnight parking is allowed.

If you don’t have an appropriate vehicle, you could hike to Shothole Canyon from Thomas Carter Lookout. near Charles Knife Canyon, which you can get to with a 2WD.

It’s a moderate 7km hiking loop, it has no shade and rocky surfaces that be loose. It’s definitely for seasoned hikers.

Adventure seekers exploring Shot Hole Canyon, a popular tourist attraction in Exmouth, Western Australia, with its dramatic landscapes.

4WD at Shothole Canyon, Exmouth

The drive is 12km long, with dry creek crossings along the way.

Even though it gets graded early in the season, it can be very rough at some points. There’s also a steep section towards the end, which can be challenging for non-seasoned drivers.

The scenery is absolutely stunning and the landscape is truly unique. It has cave-like formations on the sides (the shotholes!), and fossils on the rugged limestone walls leading to the lookout.

Shothole Canyon walking trail

Shothole Canyon walk is a 100m, class-4 hike that takes you to the lookout after climbing a few steps.

It’s a short track, but some of the steps can be steep and the gravel surface is a bit slippery – take care and wear quality hiking shoes.

Once on the lookout, there are breathtaking views of the Exmouth Gulf. It feels like you’re the only person in the world, it’s incredible. Spend time walking around, because true beauty will be found when you go off the beaten track.

Try getting here early in the morning – we saw eagles flying around and it was a beautiful scene with the backdrop of the sunrise!

S&C Travel Tip

Other things to do in Cape Range National Park

Cape Range National Park has everything – spectacular hikes, top-notch snorkelling, and unique native wildlife. That’s why we’d recommend taking two or three days of your itinerary to do at least some of these:

  • Enjoying (and snorkelling) the breathtaking beaches, like Turquoise Bay, Osprey Bay, and Lakeside Beach.
  • Hiking the Yardie Nature Trail, the Yardie Gorge Trail, the Mandu Mandu track…
  • Driving your 2WD through Charles Knife Canyon.

Keep reading: 12 things to do in Cape Range National Park.

Top Tips

Most tracks in Shothole Canyon have little to no shade, so carry plenty of water and wear sun protection.

The environment, wildlife and Aboriginal culture of Cape Range National Park are unique. Please respect these by “taking only photos and leaving only footprints”.

Did you know?

It’s called Shothole Canyon because of the explosive charges set for seismic studies during oil exploration work, back in the early 1950s. The shot holes left in the terrain give the canyon its distinctive name.

And for the nature lovers out there – here, you can find the beautiful green bird flower.

As the name implies, this plant looks as if a green bird is feeding off of it. Researchers aren’t sure if this characteristic shape is by chance, or if the plant developed it due to natural selection – to ward off predators and/or attract pollinators.

FAQs

Is Shothole Canyon open?

Shothole Canyon is open and accessible, but always check road conditions before your visit. Give a call to the Milyering Discovery Centre for specific information on this.

Is the Ningaloo Reef near Shothole Canyon?

Yes, the Ningaloo Reef is geographically near Shothole Canyon, but the access roads are on opposing sides of the North West Cape. To get from one to the other, you’ll have to drive around 1 hour.

Do you need a 4wd for Shothole Canyon?

Yes, you need a 4WD for Shothole Canyon (Exmouth, Western Australia). An all-wheel-drive vehicle should do fine as well, but double-check road conditions first.

The bottom line

In Shothole Canyon, you’ll drive between vibrant rock walls along a creek bed, carved by nature into an impressive landscape of untouched natural bushland.

This canyon adventure is very near Exmouth – just a 30-minute drive from the town. Bring water, be sun smart, and get ready for an intense 4WD experience surrounded by stunning views.

Set your inner geologist free and be amazed at the vibrant colours and patterns within the sheer canyon walls!

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