North West Cape was named in 1818 by Captain Phillip Parker King. It was deemed unsuitable for development, and the first settler only arrived in 1899.
Arid limestone landscape with plateaus up to around 300 m. There are canyons on the east side of the park and deep, rocky gorges. The west side of the park is a long series of beaches that give access to the Ningaloo Marine Park.
Flora and fauna
White-bellied sea eagles, Rock Wallabies, Emus, Kangaroos and Echidnas are common and easily seen.
The Ningaloo Marine Park has hundreds of species of fishes and corals. Turtles, octopus, sting rays, manta rays, whale sharks, tiger sharks, reef sharks can all be found in the inner or outer (manta, whale sharks) parts of the reef.
Climate is very hot and dry almost all year round with temperatures going daily over 40°C during summer, and over 30°C the rest of the time. The vegetation is arid without trees, so no shade and no fresh water. Be prepared and have sufficient water (5 L/person per day is recommended).
Drive or tour from Exmouth. There is no public transport for hundreds of kilometres around.
Fees and permits
$11 per car per calendar day. Holiday permits for $40. Camping fees per night per person.
The main road along the coast of the Cape Range is sealed, and easily accessible to all vehicles. Some roads are 4wd only, in particular going along the coast past Yardie Creek - the sand crossing across the head of the lagoon is 4wd only, and can be inaccessible in certain tidal or flood conditions.
The east of the park is accessed by the road south of Exmouth, while to access the west side of the park (and the reef), you need to drive past Exmouth and all around the cape.
- Sandy Beach. Idyllic sandy beach. Some small reef out the back. Usually free from the currents that exist on the reef beaches.
- Turquoise Bay. Good snorkelling at any tide.
- Oyster Stacks. Good snorkelling at high tide only. Check the tides in the visitors centre.
- Pebble Beach. Named appropriately.
- Yardie Creek Gorge
- Charlie Knife Canyon Impressive canyon, take the Charlie Knife Rd on the left on the road going to Exmouth to drive on the ridges on the canyon and stop for awesome views.
- Shothole Canyon Take the Shothole Canyon Rd on the left on the road going to Exmouth (a few kilometers after Charlie Knife Rd) to drive at the bottom of the canyon and stop for a short but steep walk and beautiful views.
- Boat cruises. There is a boat trip up Yardie Creek Gorge everyday at 11AM. During the peak season make sure you book one or two days before with the Visitors Centre. If you miss the boat, you can do the walk over the top of the gorge. It is around 2 km return, and takes in spectacular views over the gorge. Some climbing over the dry creek beds is required, and watch children near the cliff edge.
- Snorkeling The Ningaloo Reef is very close to the land, the water is warm and there is no swell, which give perfect conditions for snorkeling and discover the different tropical fishes and corals.
- Fishing Beach fishing is permitted (spear fishing is not).
- Bushwalking There are several walks in the park:
- Shothole Canyon walk (250m, 1 hour)
- Mandu Mandu Gorge trail (3 km, 2 hours)
- Yardie Creek Gorge (2 km, 1 hour)
There is a gift and souvenir shop in the same complex as the visitors centre. It hires snorkels and fins. It is open until 3:30PM daily (and hire items must be returned by then). There is nothing else to buy inside the park.
Bring your own food. The gift shop at the Visitors Centre sells microwaved pies, sausage rolls and pasties (until 3:30PM) if you are desperate.
Bring your own. Water can only be found at the visitor center and at a turn point off Yardie Creek Rd a few kilometers north of the visitor center. There are always emus, kangaroos and wallabies waiting near the 'waterhole' to benefit from the spills when tourists take water making it a nice stop before dusk.
There are several established campsites - the largest probably being at Yardie Creek Gorge. There are no amenities except for toilets. There is almost no shade and there is no water in any campsite.
- Try to avoid driving in the park at dusk and at night. Wallabies, kangaroo and emu will slow your pace to a crawl.
- Be mindful of the heat. Drink plenty of water.
Back to Exmouth - not too many other options - single road in and out.