Updated: 10/16/20 | October 16th, 2020
We all have our own version of The Beach — that spot in the world where all is perfect and all is paradise. I found my version back in 2007. It’s a small town in Western Australia called Coral Bay (population 207). It’s a one-road town with one bar, one supermarket, three restaurants, and three hotels. This is a small town.
There’s not much to do.
And that’s why I love it.
Coral Bay is my paradise. From the first time I visited, I fell in love with this idyllic little beach town in the middle of nowhere. On one side, it’s barren, arid cattle country, where sheep roam and truckers dodge kangaroos. On the other, it’s turquoise blue water, white sandy beaches, and the Ningaloo Reef with its abundance of marine life.
And, in between those environmental extremes, is a little town that’s home to one hotel, an RV site, a bunch of backpackers, and some beach bums enjoy the tropical beauty at the end of the world.
Everything in this town revolves around one giant white sand beach with turquoise blue water that stretches out endlessly into the horizon and a reef system so close to the land, you can swim to it from the beach. When I was there in 2007, I woke up every day, swam with turtles, relaxed on the beach, and worked on my tan. At night, the setting sun would light up the sky in fiery tones of red and orange while I cooled off with a cold beer and good friends.
Life in Coral Bay is idyllic perfection. I could have stayed for weeks and I longed to go back and visit because a quiet beach town is all I want in life. Now, eight years later, I got to return thanks to a partnership with Tourism Australia. (They’d invited out to visit Broome and I made visit Coral Bay a condition of saying yes.)
Tourism in Western Australia has grown in recent years and I wondered if this sleepy town had been spoiled. Would I return to my one-road paradise just to find multiple roads, more hotels, and more restaurants? After years away, I was glad to see the town was still quiet and peaceful.
Whatever Coral Bay looked like now, I planned on doing more this visit than just sitting on the beach. To begin with, it was off to explore the outback that surrounds Coral Bay. While I was in the countryside, kangaroos jumped all around, eagles and other birds flew above, and there was wildlife everywhere.
Then we went down to the beach and spotted parrotfish jumping in the shallows and reef sharks circling for food. Snorkeling and swimming around the reef for a second time, I realized this is the best reef in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef gets all the attention, but the Ningaloo Reef is much better. There’s brighter coral and more wildlife, including whale sharks, turtles, and dolphins. It hasn’t been spoiled by overdevelopment or overfishing. While the Great Barrier Reef looks amazing from the air, it’s what we see underwater that matters, and I see far more underwater action here than I do on the Great Barrier Reef.
During March and April, whale sharks migrate up the coast, and large manta rays can be found around the reef. It being off-season, I had to settle for the manta rays. I took a half-day snorkeling trip around the reef; about an hour outside of Coral Bay, we spotted some large manta rays.
These creatures were huge! It was amazing to swim with them and watch them glide effortlessly through the water. I never realized how big these creatures were. In my mind, they were as big as a person. In real life, they’re as big as three!
This isn’t your standard Aussie tourist destination. It’s that very isolation that keeps most tourists away, leaving the place so peaceful and detached from the rest of the world. This is a spot for mostly Australians and people driving around in campervans. There are no hordes of people ruining the beaches or wildlife. It’s a world away from the busy East Coast.
If you ask me, there’s nothing in eastern Australia that equals the beauty of Coral Bay. Forget Cairns, Noosa, Magnetic Island, or Bondi Beach. If you want to experience the beaches you see in ads for Australia, come to Coral Bay.
While part of me wants you to go there, part of me wants it all to myself. Paradises are all eventually lost but I want to hold onto mine just a bit longer.
If you make it there, you’ll see what I mean.
How to Visit Coral Bay
Coral Bay isn’t an easy place to get to. It’s located in the middle of the western coast, making it far off the beaten trail. The closest airport is located a couple of hours away in Learmonth. Shuttle buses are available from Coral Bay Airport Transfers for 95 AUD per person (one way). They run round-trip service with a flexible schedule based around the arrival and departure of flights.
Integrity Coach Lines also have service from Learmonth to Coral Bay, though they only operate a few days a week in the area. One-way tickets are 50 AUD per person.
If you plan to drive from Perth, expect the journey to take at least 12 hours each way. If you’re coming from the other direction, the trip is a solid 14-hour drive from Broome.
As for accommodation, there are a couple of hotels in the area as well as a hostel to stay at. If you’re driving, you’ll find some RV parks too.
Book Your Trip to Australia: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
- Ningaloo Club
- Ningaloo Reef Resort
- Ningaloo Coral Bay
If you’re looking for more places to stay, here are my favorite hostels in Australia!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Australia?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Australia for even more planning tips!
Photo credit: 1 – Chris Fithall