Exmouth in Western Australia – Gateway to Ningaloo Reef

Exmouth in Western Australia – Gateway to Ningaloo Reef

Exmouth, a small town of 2500 people situated 1270 km north of Perth, is the “Gateway to Ningaloo Reef”, the largest fringing reef system in the world. It is 300km long, famous for its coral formations and marine life, boasting some 200 species of fish and over 500 species of coral within meters of the beach. Exmouth offers fantastic snorkelling from the beach or scuba diving on the outer reef and is renowned for its Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, Humpback Whales and Sea Turtles. Cape Range National Park has picturesque views over the stark limestone ranges, gorges, sparkling blue ocean and white sand.

Yet, its historical beginning lays in the development of the H.E. Holt Naval Communication Station in the late 60th. The US Navy build a VLF ( Very Low Frequency ) Transmitter and as it fits Australia, the biggest in the world, too! The Base was established and a support town for it’s officers and their families to live in houses away from the single men in the Base. The now known Sea Breeze Resort was the last accommodation building, build in 1972 as Chief Petty Officers Quarters. The US navy did their homework and found extreme flooding due to Tsunamis, Cyclones and massive rain depressions. So they build the town (wisely) away from the beach. They also chose to build it on the East Coast of the Peninsula. Unfortunately it is a bit hotter in the summer with the sea breeze pushing hot air over the Cape Range, heating it even more up. But in Winter……, yes you got it, it is just beautiful! So don’t get into Exmouth and expect it to be located right on the beach like Esperance, Cottesloe, Cervantes or Kalbarri! Exmouth is different in all aspects!

Qantas fly from Perth into Learmonth Airport (LEA). The airport is located 37 km from Exmouth. We offer a free shuttle service for our guests. (Must be pre-booked) A shuttle bus also meets each flight and for a fee you can catch a ride to town. Coach companies service Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef. Smaller operators like Easy Rider, Red Back and Red Earth Safari offering a “hop on – hop off” service along the WA Coast!

Most people are initially disappointed, when they drive into Exmouth. It is away from the ocean, the marina development looks like an aborted building site and the main road looks a bit odd. A rough outback town at the end of a long trip! Yet the town centre has been recently undergone a nice rebuild with pleasant shade and seated areas.  The “CBD” has 2 supermarkets, a bakery, a pharmacy, a couple of surf /sport shops, a liquor store,  a newsagent and few specialised shops. A couple of restaurants and cafes offering lunch and dinner. Mechanical services are available and a few tackle shops for your daily needs of fishing equipment. 3 petrol stations with the most expensive one on the main road. Just tucked one street back is Exmouth fuel supplies off Nimitz Street, they are usually a bit cheaper than the others and very friendly too!

Whale Sharks are the big thing from mid March to early August and some dive shops as well as specialised Whale Shark Tour operators offer snorkelling with the largest fish in the ocean! Visitor activities range from the amazing Microlight Flight, Glass Bottom Boat Tours, to Sailing and staying overnight on the reef! Just be aware that during the summer and cyclone season some services may not be available.

Main industries in Exmouth are commercial prawning and fishing, defence activities at Learmonth Airport (RAAF) and Exmouth at the H.E. Holt Communication Station ( RAN ). Oil and gas mining is increasing dramatically as well as limestone mining and heavy support industry to the mining activities.

Tourism is the other lifeline for most of Exmouth residents and the balance between Eco Tourism and mining is at a tipping point. With most tourism operation being seasonal and historically only one airline flying into Exmouth at extremely high cost,  Exmouth has never reached it’s full potential. Most people think it is too hot an humid in Exmouth, but we actually have a very dry summer climate with hot temperatures during the peak time of the day, but beautiful for the rest of the day/night. Water temperatures in summer increase to 35 degrees Celsius in the lagoons over unspoiled coral reef. In our opinion Exmouth is an all year round destination and offers everything in regards to Eco Tourism for the worlds travellers. BUT if you are looking for the raging night life, parties, cocktail functions on the beach and tropical palm trees hanging over the beach then you are mistaken! Exmouth climate is desert like  – a very dry and harsh environment, unable to support trees! Sparse vegetation mainly bushland and Spinifex grass are building the main landscape. Mixed in are lime stone rocks, deep red dirt, white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons covered by the deep blue of the Indian Ocean!

Around 24 islands are mainly closer to the eastern side of the Exmouth Gulf which is the most important nursing place for Humpback Whales on their annual migration from June to December. Approx 30,000, yes 30,000 Humpbacks are hanging around Exmouth at its peak in September and October!

So if you are after the real deal in tourism and want to visit a place where mother nature is unspoiled, vast, rough and natural then Exmouth is your destination! But be aware, you may fall in love with it and it will be very hard to leave…….so plan enough time and give it the attention it deserves as it’s real treasures are hidden and need discovering rather than being “ticked off” a list.

I hope these information are helpful and will insure that you get the best out of your visit! See Ya!

Vlamingh Head Lighthouse during the approach of a cyclone.