Cape Range National Park Mesa Camp Beach, Cape Range Marine Park – Image courtesy of parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au

Cape Range National Park

Cape Range National Park offers a spectacular panorama of jagged limestone peaks, heavily incised deep gorges and 50km (30mi) of wind-blown coastal dunes and pristine beaches that give access to the clear turquoise waters of Ningaloo Marine Park.

Located on the west side of the North West Cape, Cape Range National Park covers around 510km² (197mi²) and supports an abundance of wildlife including emus, echidnas, the rare black-flanked rock wallaby, five types of bat and more than 160 species of bird.

Here you can explore gorges and peer inside caves that provide a haven for wildlife as well as rare and unusual flora. There are more than 630 species of flowering plants on the West Cape peninsula and within the Cape Range National Park.

Many species of animals and plants are endemic to the North West Cape of Western Australia, such as the white centred variety of the Sturt's Desert Pea.


Overlooking Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park

What to do and see in Cape Range National Park

Roam the park on foot, quad bike or by 4WD vehicle to explore the rugged ochre-coloured ranges that are home to vertical cliffs, vast canyons and peaceful white-sand beaches.

Cape Range National Park boasts several scenic walking trails, many of which offer spectacular views over the ranges as well as to Ningaloo Reef and the Exmouth Gulf.

Choose from a network of scenic bushwalking trails including the Mandu Mandu Gorge, Yardie Creek and Lightfoot Heritage trails. Another choice is the popular Thomas Carter trail, a 5km (3mi) walk that links the Shothole and Charles Knife canyons.

Hike through colourful wildflowers from July to November and peer into small caves and tunnels hidden in cliff faces to see unique cave-dwelling animals.

Spot rare black-footed rock wallabies, red kangaroos, hill wallaroos and countless species of birds at Yardie Creek, where water trapped by a sand bar offers perfect swimming conditions.

Here, you can stroll trails above vertical red-rock canyon walls or enjoy a relaxing cruise along the creek.

Sunbathe at Turquoise Bay and enjoy excellent snorkelling just off Bundegi Beach. Pack a picnic and enjoy the dramatic scenery from various lookouts.

Cape Range National Park is just a half-hour drive from Exmouth.


Highlights of Cape Range National Park, include…

Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, Exmouth

Vlamingh Head Lighthouse

Built as a result of the wreck of the SS Mildura in 1907, the lighthouse was first lit in 1912 and relit, for the first time in 34 years, on 14 July, 2001 utilizing the original kerosene and counterweight system.

From the lookout at the base of Vlamingh Head Lighthouse enjoy one of the best panoramic ocean viewpoints on the coast, including the tip of North West Cape, the Harold E Holt Communications Station VLF towers, Muiron Islands, offshore oil-rigs, Ningaloo Reef and the township of Exmouth.

Vlamingh Head is also a popular locale to watch ocean sunsets and spot humpback whales during their annual migration from June to November.

Vlamingh Head Lighthouse is located just off the Yardie Creek Road, about 17km (10mi) north of Exmouth.


turtle hatchlings at Jurabi Turtle Centre, Cape Range National Park

Jurabi Turtle Centre

Take a walk through the interpretive displays at this unattended open-air centre, and discover more about marine turtles, including loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles found in the shallow waters of the Ningaloo Marine Park.

Learn about their life-cycle, the threats they face and how to view mating and nesting turtles and turtle hatchlings in the natural environment.

Join a guided evening tour to observe female nesting turtles. Turtle observation tours are run from the centre between November and March.

Viewing nesting female turtles and hatchlings with a guide minimises the possibility of disturbing the turtles and will increase the chance of female turtles successfully laying eggs.

Towards the end of the season you may enjoy a chance encounter with turtle hatchlings as they emerge from their nest, making their way to the ocean to start their long journey to adulthood.

The best times to view the turtles are between October and January, usually under the cover of darkness, when female turtles visit the beach to lay their eggs.

At night, from January to April, you may see new hatchlings making their dash for the sea.

Jurabi Turtle Centre is open year round and is located near the tip of the peninsula on the Yardie Creek Road, about 20km (12mi) north-west of Exmouth.


Milyering Discovery Centre

Cape Range National Parks' visitor centre contains interpretive displays, audio-visual facilities and information on both the National and Marine Parks.

Park rangers are on site to assist with enquiries. It is open seven days a week from 9.00am to 3.45pm. The centre is located 52km (32mi) from Exmouth.


Turquoise Bay, Cape Range National Park

Turquoise Bay

Make your own footprints in the silky soft white sand of one of Australia’s best beaches, known for its clear waters and lack of crowds – there's hardly ever many people here.

This long and uninterrupted stretch of white sand separates the iconic red rock landscape of Cape Range National Park from the emerald lagoons of Ningaloo Marine Park, one of the largest fringing reefs in the world.

Turquoise Bay Beach is ideal for snorkelling and swimming, with the Ningaloo Reef only a few metres from shore. Unwind and sunbathe on the powder-white sand, scuba dive the reef or wade into the lagoon and snorkel above brilliant coral gardens teeming with colourful tropical fish only metres from the shoreline.

Other beach-side activities include catamaran cruising, sea kayaking, fishing and glass bottom boat excursions to the outer reef.

Swim alongside the world's largest fish – the whale shark – at Ningaloo Reef and look out for more than 500 species of fish including manta rays, dugong and dolphins.

See coral spawning from March to April, watch whale sharks from April to July and observe humpback whales from June to October.

Join an eco-tour to spy green and loggerhead turtles nesting from November to January and see turtles hatching from late January to March.

Inland, the rugged gorges and diverse landscape of Cape Range National Park offer a smorgasbord of hiking and four-wheel drive adventures.

One of the unusual qualities of the bay is the strong northerly current, which can be dangerous but, equally, can be used by snorkellers: enter the water at one end of the beach and allow the current to sweep you along the beach while watching the corals and colourful fish pass by below.

Turquoise Bay is located 62km (38mi) south of Exmouth and can be accessed off Yardie Creek Road.


Mangrove Bay, Cape Range National Park

Mangrove Bay

From the bird hide you can watch a variety of birds roost and feed on small fish and other marine life in the shallow waters of the lagoon.

Try to spot mangrove fantails, mangrove whistlers, pelicans and yellow white eyes as well as ospreys and brahminy kites soaring above the coastline.

Mangrove Bay is located about 46km (28mi) from Exmouth along Yardie Creek Road. The Bird Hide is a short walk from the car park.


Walking the Mandu Mandu Gorge Trail, Cape Range National Park

Mandu Mandu Gorge

Explore Mandu Mandu Gorge on the 3km (1.8mi) return trail that tracks the northern ridge of the gorge, with panoramic views of Ningaloo Reef before descending a steep path into the rocky creek bed, and looping back to the car park.

The trail is defined by white marker posts; you can also take this moderately difficult walking trail in reverse. Along the way, look for native wildlife including black-flanked rock wallabies and birds of prey.

The trail is quite rough and requires walkers to possess a moderate to high level of fitness.


Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park

Yardie Creek

Centuries of erosion have formed this spectacular multi-coloured gorge that cuts deep into the limestone of the Cape Range.

Yardie is the only gorge in Cape Range National Park permanently filled with water; sea water from the ocean is trapped by a coastal sand bar. Mangroves in the ecosystem provides roosting sites for many bird species.

You can view the creek from walking trails along the top of the northern wall of the gorge or join a guided hour-long boat tour into the water-filled gorge. 

Along the way, try to spot the colony of rare black-footed rock wallabies resting on ledges along the gorge walls.

Yardie Nature Trail – This nature trail follows an easy to walk and well-defined 1.25km (0.7mi) long path that overlooks Yardie Creek, offering views of the creek down to the Ningaloo Reef.

Yardie Creek Gorge Trail – The 750m (0.5mi) long Yardie Gorge Trail continues on from the end of the Yardie Nature Trail and takes walkers high above Yardie Creek with views overlooking the gorge and Ningaloo Reef.

The Gorge Trail is rough and requires walkers to possess a moderate to high level of fitness.

Yardie Creek is located at the end of Yardie Creek Road, around 85km (52mi) from Exmouth.


Shothole Canyon, Cape Range National Park

Shothole Canyon

A rough gravel road meanders along the gorge floor over dry creek beds and provides the opportunity to examine the colourful, fossil laden rock layers of the sheer canyon walls.

The 15km (9mi) long track ends in a picnic area and a 5km (3mi) walking trail that links Shothole Canyon Road to the Charles Knife Road.

Shothole Canyon was named after the shot holes left by seismographic charge explosions during oil searches in the Cape Range during the 1950s.

The road into Shothole Canyon is suitable for 4WD vehicles only, and is accessed by turning off the Minilya-Exmouth Road, 14km (18.6mi) south of Exmouth.


Charles Knife Canyon, Cape Range National Park

Charles Knife Canyon

This mainly gravel road follows the razor-backed ridges of the range and provides breathtaking views overlooking the sheer, canyon walls and stark, multicoloured gorges.

Along the way, the Charles Knife Lookout offers an impressive vista overlooking the rugged, desert landscape, while other lookouts provide panoramic views across the Indian Ocean; a marked walking trail leads to and from Thomas Carter Lookout.

Charles Knife Canyon is accessible via Charles Knife Road; the scenic drive turns west off the Minilya-Exmouth Road, around 21km (13mi) south of Exmouth.


Badjirrajirra Loop Trail, Cape Range National Park

Badjirrajirra Loop Trail

Enjoy spectacular views of Shothole Canyon and Exmouth Gulf on the Badjirrajirra Loop Trail, a scenic walk which winds through rocky gullies, small gorges and open spinifex bushland.

The 8km (5mi) long trail begins at the Thomas Carter Lookout is rough and requires walkers to possess a moderate to high level of fitness.

You can expect steep ascents and descents, with constructed steps and stairs in some places and signs at trail junctions.


Note: Caution should be taken when bushwalking in the canyon areas as the rock walls are steep and can be dangerous due to loose surfaces.

Caves are generally considered unsafe and for your own safety it's best to remain on existing walking trails. 

Always carry plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Don’t go on your own – always let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

Avoid walking in the middle of the day and always carry water. Between December and March, days of extreme temperature exceeding 40°C (104°F) are common.

Parks & Wildlife Exmouth provide a walking trail guide for the Cape Range National Park.

Wildlife abounds in the park so special care is required when driving, especially at dawn, dusk and at night when local wildlife is most active.


Dunes Surf Beach, Exmouth, WA

Exmouth

Known as the gateway to Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Reef Marine Park, Exmouth is surrounded by the stunning and unspoilt beaches of the North West Cape.

Here you can snorkel, surf, stand up paddle-board, kayak, fish or simply relax on a choice of white-sand beaches that line the cape.

Exmouth is the centre for numerous outback adventure tours, eco safari trips, game fishing charters, snorkelling or guided glass-bottom boat tours as well as year-round scenic flights over Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Reef.

The town offers a good range of accommodation options from lodges, resorts and hotels, to chalets, backpackers and camp sites, with dining options to suit every taste and budget.

More about Exmouth


Ningaloo Reef Marine Park

Ningaloo Marine Park

Encompassing an area of 5000km² (1930mi²), the Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing coral reef in Australia and the only large reef in the world found close to a continental land mass, making it an easy snorkel from shore – in places it's only 100m offshore.

Less developed than the Great Barrier Reef but much closer to the shoreline, the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Marine Park stretches for 300km (186mi) along the coast of Western Australia, from the Muiron Islands in the north and Bundegi on the eastern tip of the North West Cape to Red Bluff on Quobba Station far to the south.

The Ningaloo Marine Park is home to a huge array of marine life including sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, turtles, dugongs, dolphins as well as 500 species of fish and 220 species of corals.

During the winter months, Ningaloo is part of the migratory route for dolphins, dugongs, manta rays, humpback whales and whale sharks, which feed there during April to July.

Beaches along the Ningaloo Coast are an important breeding ground of loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles that depend on the reef for nesting and food.

The northern area of the Ningaloo Coast is dominated by the rugged Cape Range that extends down the coast and lies adjacent to the sheltered waters of Ningaloo Marine Park.

Here, the crystal clear waters are perfect for a variety of marine based activities including swimming, snorkelling, fishing and watching marine life, including whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and fish. 

Scuba dive the outer reef to see dugongs, mantas, huge cod, dolphins, giant whale sharks and humpback whales in season.

More about Ningaloo Reef Marine Park


Where to stay in Cape Range National Park

Discover a selection of the best accommodation options in Cape Range National Park and Exmouth, the closest town…

Sal Salis Ningaloo ReefSal Salis Ningaloo Reef
Location: Cape Range National Park
Rating: 4.5-star
Prices: from AUD1500 per eco-tent
Description: Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef is an exclusive safari camp, hidden in the white sand dunes of Western Australia’s Cape Range National Park. Sal Salis features 9 spacious wilderness tents which are just metres from the water’s edge, home to one of the world’s greatest fringing coastal coral reef. Each tent features an en suite natural composting bathroom. Native herb soaps and ecologically sound shampoos are provided. The chef at Sal Salis prepares contemporary cuisine comprised of local ingredients, served in the outdoor dining area with clear views of the Indian Ocean sunset. In the evening kangaroos and wallaroos appear from the bush for their evening graze. The camp’s expert staff offers insight to one of Australia’s best kept natural secrets, Ningaloo Reef. Sal Salis’s ecological principles ensure that guests have a minimal impact on the natural surroundings. Guests can enjoy many unique nature activities, including sea kayaking, wildlife viewing, gorge walks, fishing, and star gazing. The Exmouth Airport is less than a 2-hour drive and the Exmouth town centre it is about one-hour away. Shuttle service is available.

Novotel Ningaloo ResortMantarays Novotel Ningaloo Resort
Location: Exmouth
Rating: 4.5-star
Prices: from AUD465 per room
Description: Boasting ocean or marina views from your private balcony, Mantarays Novotel Ningaloo Resort overlooks Exmouth's stunning Sunrise Beach and offers an infinity pool, restaurant and bar. Guests have direct access to Ningaloo Reef. All accommodation features high ceilings, contemporary furnishings and satellite TV. Each has a private en suite bathroom with a shower and a hairdryer. All apartments and villas offer a 2-person spa bath. Guests can workout at the fitness centre and explore the beach and reef. Ningaloo Resort offers a tour desk which books fishing charters, diving and scenic flights. Mantaray's Restaurant serves a delicious buffet breakfast which includes your choice of fruits, pastries or bacon and eggs. The lunch and dinner menu features fresh local seafood, steak and desserts. Mantarays Ningaloo Resort is located just 5 minutes' drive from Exmouth Golf Club and 10 minutes' drive from Cape Range National Park.

Ningaloo Reef ResortNingaloo Reef Resort
Location: 1 Robinson Street, Coral Bay
Rating: 3.5-star
Prices: from AUD242 per night
Description: The Resort offers absolute beachfront accommodation with a range of self-contained accommodation from units to apartments. Rooms include air-conditioning, kitchenette and free in-house movies. The resort has an outdoor swimming pool, casual dining at Shades and the occasional live entertainment at the bar. Features include a tour desk, free WiFi, restaurant, bar / lounge, cafe, onsite free parking, BBQ facilities and guest laundry.

Find the best deal, compare prices and read what other travellers have to say about these and more resorts in Turquoise Bay, Exmouth at TripAdvisor.


Best time to visit Cape Range National Park

The best time to visit Cape Range National Park is during winter, from April to October when the days are sunny and warm.

Cape Range National Park and the surrounding region, including the nearby town of Exmouth, experience a hot sub-tropical climate with sunny, clear blue skies.

Winters are mild and pleasant with daytime temperatures around 25°C (77°F); temperatures rise to 40°C (104°F) in summer.

There is no specific wet and dry season in Exmouth: August to December is usually dry, rain is more likely to fall between January and July, usually with some monsoonal showers from January to April.

March sees the most rainfall of around 50mm (2in) on average.

Exmouth enjoys an average annual temperature of 24°C (75°F). On average, the warmest month is February, with an average temperature of 28°C (82°F), and the coolest month is July, with an average temperature of 18°C (65°F).

More about Cape Range National Park weather


Getting there

Cape Range National Park, Turquoise Bay and Ningaloo Reef are located on the west coast of the North West Cape in Western Australia.

The closest town is Exmouth, located 63km (39mi) north of Turquoise Bay on the east coast of the cape, and about 1270km (789mi) north of the state capital Perth.

The most convenient route to Cape Range National Park, from overseas and interstate, is by air to Perth Airport (PER) followed by a connecting flight to Learmonth Airport (LEA) and then shuttle bus or taxi to Exmouth.

Learmonth Airport (LEA) is located about 36km (22mi) south of Exmouth, about 25 minutes by shuttle bus or taxi.

More about how to get to Cape Range National Park, Turquoise Bay and Exmouth


Latest update: Cape Range National Park: 28 September, 2020


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