Cape Range National Park ranks high on my list of best places to visit in Western Australia. Its landscape is pretty spectacular. The rugged, arid canyons contrast with white, sparkling beaches, and clear, turquoise water. Sounds good? There’s something even better. Ningaloo Reef which is Australia’s largest fringing coral reef. Over 200 coral and 500 fish in deep sea habitats, positioned not farther than 100 metres from the shore. You must see it! Snorkelling on Ningaloo Reef is a truly exceptional experience. In this blog post, I’m going to share with you all you need to know about Cape Range National Park. Let’s give it a go!
HOW FAR IS CAPE RANGE FROM PERTH?
Cape Range National Park stretches along North West Cape in Western Australia, over 1200 km from Perth. Exmouth is a touristic town located in close proximity to the national park, and your gateway to hiking and snorkelling experience. Here you can do some grocery shopping, have dinner, and fill up the tank before setting off on an adventure. Internet in Exmouth works well too. Once you’re in the town, keep your eyes peeled for emus strolling around the city (quite unusual!), and cheeky parrots hanging out near the bakery.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?
Australia’s summer is quite hot in Cape Range National Park. Temperatures in December, January and February often exceed 40°C during a day. Winter is mild and more enjoyable. From June to August, you can expect here temperatures around 20 – 30°C through the day. Additionally, tropical cyclones are occasionally experienced in this region of Western Australia between November and April. It’s wise to check weather alerts and cyclone warnings regularly if you’re travelling to Cape Range National Park around that time.
IS THERE AN ENTRY FEE?
Park visitor fees apply in Cape Range National Park. A day entry fee is AUD 15 for a vehicle and needs to be paid at the entrance stations. If you want to avoid paying entry fees for accessing national parks in Western Australia, a purchase of periodic pass is a smart choice. It will help you save some money if there are other national parks on your itinerary. Make sure to print the pass and keep it displayed on your dashboard at all times. It’s worth to say that separate fees apply for camping in national parks regardless of having this pass.
WHERE TO SEEK INFORMATION?
Milyering Discovery Centre is a place where you can seek information about Cape Range National Park and snorkelling on Ningaloo Reef. It’s located near Lakeside, not too far from the national park entrance. The Visitors Centre is open daily from 9:00 am to 3:45 pm. You can get here a detailed map of the national park and informative booklets too. Drinks, souvenirs, and snorkel hire are available at the shop. If you aim to stay at a national park campground, and you didn’t book your stay beforehand, you can do this here too.
WHERE TO STAY OVERNIGHT?
If you are planning to stay overnight in Exmouth, you shouldn’t have problems with finding suitable accommodation. There are standard options such as hotels, B&B and caravan parks too. If you are a nature lover, you may consider spending a night under the stars, surrounded by the bush, nearby the pristine beach. Cape Range National Park offers several campgrounds situated in a beautiful scenery. All of them have basic toilets only. The camping fee is AUD 11 per night for an adult. Online booking is required.
WHAT ARE THE BEST THINGS TO DO?
Cape Range National Park offers several walking tracks that run through rugged, limestone terrain. The proximity of Ningaloo Reef gives you a unique opportunity to view diverse marine habitats with rare, endemic species. What’s more, every year the Ningaloo Coast is visited by whale sharks and humpback whales. Manta rays can be seen here all year round. Most places in the national park are accessible for 2WD vehicles, so a 4WD car is not a must. It’s difficult to say how many days is enough to explore Cape Range National Park. A few days would be fine, as well as a week. It’s all about your personal preferences.
Badjirrajirra Walk starts at Thomas Carter Lookout, around 30 km south of Exmouth. The road is partly unsealed, generally accessible for 2WD vehicles. The last stretch (1 km) is suitable for 4WD cars only. If you don’t have such a vehicle, you will have to park your car before the Thomas Carter Lookout turn-off and cover this distance on foot. Good news is that you will see some mind-blowing views way before starting the trek. Make sure to stop at a viewpoint on the Charles Knife Gorge Road. Once you start the actual hike, you will make your way to Shothole Lookout that offers another amazing view. I’m not sure which one is better!
Thomas Carter Lookout – Shothole Lookout – Thomas Carter Lookout
Hiking trail: 6,8 km, 2,5 hours (loop)
Trail class: 4
Trail access: 2WD (partly unsealed road), the last km only for 4WD
YARDIE GORGE TRAIL
Yardie Gorge is the only gorge in Cape Range National Park to be permanently full of water. It’s also an excellent place to spot black-flanked rock-wallabies, a threatened species native to this region. These furry marsupials are very shy and timid. Don’t attempt to make any sudden movements around them. Otherwise, they will be gone in a second! If you want to raise your chances to spot the wallabies, look out for them in shady places. They shelter in cracks and crevices along the gorge to avoid the heat and predators.
Yardie Gorge Carpark – Yardie Gorge – Yardie Gorge Carpark
Hiking trail: 2 km, 1 hour (return)
Trail class: 1, 4
Trail access: 2WD (sealed road)
MANDU MANDU WALK
Mandu Mandu Walk is an enjoyable and relatively easy trail that winds its way along the rocky creek bed, deep into the gorge, and then goes back to the carpark. This time I wasn’t lucky enough to spot black-flanked rock-wallabies. However, I saw some kangaroos. Two species, the euro and red kangaroo, can be found all over Cape Range National Park. I’m sure you will see some! Especially, at dusk or during the night. Be cautious when driving after sunset as kangaroos are crazy and can appear on the road out of the blue.
Mandu Mandu Gorge Carpark – Mandu Mandu Gorge – Mandu Mandu Gorge Carpark
Hiking trail: 3 km, 1,5 hours (loop)
Trail class: 4
Trail access: 2WD (sealed road)
JURABI TURTLE CENTRE
Marine turtles can be spotted in Cape Range National Park between December and March, mating in the shallows, and coming ashore to lay eggs. In the following months, after hatching, young turtles dig their way to the surface, and start their life journey. Jurabi Turtle Centre provides guided tours that increase your chance to view nesting turtles and turtle hatchlings in their natural environment. Although this is not necessary to spot the turtles, booking a tour minimises a risk of disturbing them. There are many beaches along the Ningaloo Coast where you can observe those reptiles. I was lucky to spot them at Jurabi Point.
Ningaloo Reef is Australia’s largest fringing coral reef and one of the most accessible coral reefs in the world. It’s positioned not farther than 100 metres from the shore and stretches more than 300 km along the North West Cape in Western Australia. This marine world is at your fingertips! More information about the best snorkel locations within Ningaloo Coast, and other activities such as swimming with manta rays, whale sharks and humpback whales is included in a separate blog post about snorkelling on Ningaloo Reef.
- Mangrove Bay Bird Walk – 100 m, 10 minutes (return), class 1, trail access for 2WD cars (sealed road)
- Shothole Canyon Walk – 100 m, 15 minutes (return), class 4, trail access for 4WD cars
- Vlamingh Head Lighthouse
- Muiron Island
This is all you need to know about Cape Range National Park. Are you keen to swim with manta rays? Let me know by leaving a comment below!