With thanks to guest blogger Sharon Smith
Exmouth exists because in the 1960s the USA chose it as a site for a military base. Thirteen low frequency radio towers sit on the edge of town. These used to be used to send signals to submarines as far away as San Francisco. Exmouth used to be like a little USA, with imported left hand drive cars, baseball diamond, bowling alley and various other American entertainments. This was all shut down as a result of September 11.
But Exmouth has survived the US abandonment for one main reason; it is literally the gateway to the brilliant Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. The biodiversity of the park is amazing, considering its size. It is also the only place in the world you are practically guaranteed to see the wonderfully mysterious whale sharks from March to July.
Even from the beginning of our trip, we knew Exmouth was going to be a highlight. Ningaloo Reef is one of the biggest fringing coral reefs in the world. The Great Barrier Reef may be great, but it takes at least an hour by boat to get there. Here you can get to the reef just by swimming off the shore of the mainland, and there are plenty of great snorkelling spots.
With this in mind, we arrived at Exmouth Cape Holiday Park with great anticipation. Peak season was just about to start, as humpback whales were starting to arrive, and the whale sharks were still about in large numbers. The area is famous for whales calving here. Luckily we booked our campsite early and got a great spot for our stay.
The park is located just on the outskirts of town, which is easily accessible by road, cycling or even just walking to the main shopping centre. It is also close to the beach on the Gulf of Exmouth, which is pretty calm and safe to swim. Exmouth itself is not a big town, but it does cater very well for tourists.
Like all the BIG4 parks we have stayed at, the facilities are of the quality you would expect. The sites are large and with some shade, and the ablution block is clean and tidy. The pool is lovely, landscaped with a waterfall, palm trees and a rockery.
As the park caters for tour groups, they have gone to a great effort to ensure the camp kitchen is large, airy and with enough facilities for all their guests. This is one of the first caravan parks in WA we have been to that actually has a proper oven. Every night we treated ourselves to an oven cooked meal, including a full roast dinner on the last night, with roast chicken, baked potatoes and all the trimmings.
During peak season, there is an open air cinema that shows family friendly films a few nights per week. You can picnic under the stars just as the sun goes down, and relax while watching a film.
The site is also home to Blue Reef Backpackers, perfect budget accommodation for the young and independent travelers. It has dorm, twin and double onsite homes.
From the front office you can book your Ningaloo Reef tours, including a day trip to see the whale sharks. Out of season there is other marine spotting and swimming options including manta rays, dugongs, dolphins, turtles, reef sharks, minke and humpback whales. Not to mention the year-round coral viewing, diving, snorkeling and fishing.
Exmouth is also very accessible to Cape Range National Park, famous for its wonderful bays, gorge walks and snorkeling spots. Visiting the park is a very popular daytrip from Exmouth. If you are really into your snorkelling, be sure not to miss the drift snorkel at Turquoise Bay, or Oyster Stacks at high tide. At Mangrove Bay, you may even be lucky enough to spot a dugong or two.
So after several days whale sharking, coral viewing and snorkeling, we had to leave Exmouth. But we enjoyed the Coral Coast so much; I feel that one day we will be back.