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  • Coastline Dune-backed beaches, reef-fringed sea
  • Coast Life Weighty whale shark watching

The tourist hordes may head for Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, but those in the know are talking up Ningaloo – a remote yet ravishing reef off the coast of WA where you can swim among rainbow fish and psychedelic coral just metres from shore.

No boat trips or long schleps are necessary here: just swim, snorkel or kayak out, and the madly beautiful underwater world is yours for the taking. The Ningaloo Marine Park stretches for 280 kilometres south along the North-West Cape, flanked by national park and edged by white-sand beaches and a dramatic desert hinterland of classically Aussie red crags and gorges. It couldn’t be more of a contrast with the vibrant aquatic life offshore. To top it all off, this is the best place on earth to see, and swim with, whale sharks, gentle giants which are the world’s largest fish.

Do go/Don’t go

It’s warm and sunny year-round, with slightly cooler temperatures from July to September (22–32ºC) and things hotting up from January to March (32–38ºC). The Indian Ocean here stays a peachy 24–26ºC. Visit in March and April to catch the coral spawning or between April and July to see the whale sharks.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Skywest Airlines (www.skywest.com.au) flies daily between Perth and Exmouth (1 hour 45 minutes) and weekly from Broome. Exmouth’s Learmonth Airport is 37 kilometres south of the town of Exmouth itself; Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef is 70 kilometres south of Exmouth (an hour’s drive). A regular shuttle bus runs between the airport and Exmouth, or you can arrange private transfers to meet flights.
  • Automobiles Driving the 1,270 kilometres from Perth to Exmouth will take about 16 hours, so most folk fly in. Hire a car from one of the car desks at Learmonth Airport, or in Exmouth itself from Avis (www.avis.com.au).
  • Taxis This ain’t NYC, so don’t expect to hail anything other than passing fish. Transport chez Ningaloo is on a BYO basis, so hire a car or contact Exmouth Visitor Centre (www.exmouthwa.com.au) to join a tour.