Quobba and Gnarlaroo are farming ranges on the coast of Gascoyne Region in Western Australia. The coast has a series of attractive natural features and camping areas, with Red Bluff roughly midway between the two homesteads. There's great surfing, snorkelling and fishing but very few visitor amenities - you need to be self-sufficient.
The coast at Gnarlaroo is part of Ningaloo Marine Park; the rest is not within a designated park but is protected by government and by the landowners.
There's no public transport and the distances are too long and hot for cycling. You need your own vehicle: 2WD drive suffices for much of the area, and caravans and camper vans can get in (and more importantly, subsequently get out again) but 4WD is better.
From Hwy 1 ten km north of Carnarvon, branch west on Blowholes Road, which is a good tarmac road. (From town, Bibbawarra Road looks like a shortcut but is a rough dirt track.) You meet Gnarlaroo Road on the coast at Point Quobba, 83 km from Carnarvon. Gnarlaroo Road is unsealed but is regularly graded, so it's reasonably smooth going. The problem is the side roads to access the northern beaches and campsites: these are rough dirt tracks with gradients, so you're safer with 4WD.
1 Lake Macleod airstrip is sometimes used by private airtours.
As above, you need a vehicle and preferably 4WD.
- 1 Point Quobba would be the main settlement here, if there was a settlement here. The lighthouse by the T-junction is an 18 m tower built in 1950 and still active, no tours. The blowholes just south are where the Pacific swell forces water jets up through the cliffs. They're at their best, spouting as high as the lighthouse, when the tide is rising - at the top of the tide their entry vents are submerged.
- Aquarium is a snorkelling area 1 km south of the junction near the campsite, and sheltered by a chain of islets. Lots of tropical fish and coral, but at low tide it's too shallow to snorkel.
- 2 Lake Macleod is a saline lagoon 100 km long and 20 km broad. It lies just below sea-level and is mostly dry - the Blowholes Road crosses its southern tip. Its northern reaches are hypersaline, with commercial extraction of salt and gypsum. Once every few years, the Lyndon and Miniliya river catchments get rainfall and the lake floods again. So it's a complex salt-wetland eco-system with rare bird life. Multiple access points, seek local advice on the likeliest bird sightings.
- 3 HMAS Sydney Memorial Cairn commemorates this wartime battle loss. HMAS Sydney was a Leander-class light cruiser launched in 1934. She was in action in the East Med in 1940 then returned to Australia for escort and patrol duties. On 19 Nov 1941 she was heading home to Freemantle and saw a merchant vessel, which turned and bolted. This was supposedly the Dutch Straat Malakka but it couldn't give the friendly code, and turned out to be the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran. The ensuing gun battle sank both ships: all 645 on Sydney were lost, while 318 of the 399 Kormoran crew came ashore by lifeboat near Quobba. Later there was disbelief that the small German vessel had sunk the better-armed Australian, and all sorts of dingbat theories were invented to salve national pride. But that was indeed what happened - Sydney gave the other vessel the benefit of the doubt for too long, and came in too close. In 2008 both wrecks were located in deep water 300 km west of Carnarvon.
- Quobba homestead is 1 km north of the cairn.
- 4 Cape Cuvier is a small cove with beach access. Its jetty is used for shipping out salt and gypsum - this is off limits to the public. Just east is the scattered wreck of MV Korean Star, which in May 1988 was anchored awaiting a cargo but was driven ashore and broken up by storms. It's just 56 m offshore and can be done as a shore dive: follow the track helpfully called "Korean Star Road".
- 5 Red Bluff has a camping area and a beach with surf, for skilled surfers only. Although it's called a "bluff" it's not cliffs, but a steep descent to the beach.
- 6 Gnarlaroo Turtle Beach, usually just called "Turtles", is reached by the same turn-off, with the fork for Red Bluff turning back south to hug the shore. Turtles likewise has surfing for the experienced and a camping area.
- 7 Three Mile Camp is the last accessible wilderness spot going north. After another 5 km the public road ends at the gate of Gnarlaroo Homestead.
- Wild life close inshore includes dolphins, turtles, and reef sharks. June to Sept the humpback whales are migrating south. On land are wallaroo (a distinct species, they're not a wallaby-kangaroo hybrid), echidnas, bungarras (giant monitors or sand goannas) and the occasional droll goat.
- Night skies are impressive, as there's no light pollution.
- Snorkelling lets you enjoy most of the underwater scenery. It's hardly worth lugging dive kit all this way.
- Surfing at Red Bluff and Gnarlaroo is renowned, but not for beginners.
- Doing sweet nothing is a more rewarding pastime here than just about anywhere else in the world.
Bring everything you need for your stay, including water. Quobba Station shop has a few bits and bobs but isn't a grocery store.
A good WA beer or wine at sunset is mandatory, but BYO.
Quobba Station manage the campsites at Point Quobba, the station itself and Red Bluff. They also have chalets, cabins and tents, or pitch your own. There's no booking for camping but May-Sept ring ahead on ☏ to confirm availability.
Gnarlaroo Station manage Three Mile Camp, Turtles and their own station.
Remember camping, surfing and fishing etiquette, and everyone stays happy.
Dogs are welcome in most outdoor areas but must be kept on the lead. Let loose, they'll harry livestock or gobble up the rat poison.
Given the distances between places it's a good idea to let someone know if you're heading off for the day or longer.
As of 2022, there is no mobile signal once you turn off Highway 1.
There's no road north to Exmouth so you have to return to the junction with Hwy 1 near Carnarvon.