Cape Range National Park
Cape Range National Park is located 36km south of Exmouth. The park boasts 50km of stunning coastline on the western side along the Ningaloo Marine Park and spectacular rugged limestone ranges and canyons on the eastern side.
The western section
of the park can be accessed via sealed road at the northern entrance south of Exmouth or by the coastal access road 10km out of Coral Bay
(suitable for four-wheel drive only).
Exploring Cape Range National Park from the south, there are plenty of beautiful spots to pull into along the coast to camp, swim, snorkel and fish. Note that fishing is restricted to certain areas as the Ningaloo Marine Park has many Sanctuary Zones. These zones prohibit both recreational and commercial fishing and ultimately protect all marine life. These areas are well sign posted in regard to these regulations, so take note and we recommend picking up an informative brochure at the entry station to Cape Range National Park.
Cape Range National Park begins just south of Yardie Creek where there are two designated camping areas with toilets, being 1km Camp and Boat Harbour. We found our own stretch of beach further south and it was absolutely stunning. The sparkling blue green bay is protected, the water is calm and the snorkelling is magnificent if you get out amongst the reef.
Yardie Creek must be crossed by four-wheel drive to continue exploring Cape Range National Park. The creek bed opens to the ocean and water levels fluctuate on a daily and seasonal basis. Only experienced four-wheel drivers should attempt to cross the creek and only during low tides. The creek bed can become extremely boggy so caution should be taken and conditions investigated before attempting to cross. The crossing was dry during our visit so it was done with ease.
A camp ground with beach access, shady picnic area and toilets are located on the northern side of Yardie Creek. The bitumen road begins here although many of the coastal access tracks are unsealed, however are suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles.
Yardie Creek Gorge is fed by the creek and is the only gorge in Cape Range National Park to be permanently full of water. This positively scenic gorge can be viewed by boat cruise, canoe or walking trail. The Yardie Nature Walk is 1.2km return and winds along the creek edge providing views of the gorge, creek mouth and Ningaloo Reef. The Yardie Gorge Trail is 750m return and climbs above the creek with views over the Ningaloo Reef.
Osprey Bay is beautiful and protected with crystal clear water and a swimming beach to the north. There are large designated camp sites here and a pit toilet is provided.
Sandy Bay has the utmost clear water and the bay is breathtaking. This is a Sanctuary Zone so boat fishing and spearing are prohibited. Beach fishing is allowed and swimming and snorkelling are a must. Camping is not permitted here, however there is a pit toilet.
Pilgramunna is a small protected beach between rocky outcrops and a good spot for kids. The beach is visible from the camp ground and the water is shallow and calm. There are a restricted number of camp sites in this small camp ground. Pit toilets and bins are provided.
Kurrajong has a large camp ground with wide sites suitable for caravans. The beach isn’t appropriate for swimming as it is all rock. It’s suitable for the keen fisherman wanting to drop a line in. Being a Sanctuary Zone only beach fishing is permitted. Pit toilets and bins provided here.
Bloodwood Creek has a viewing platform overlooking the creek bed, ranges in the distance and the Indian Ocean. It’s not the most scenic spot during dry periods as the creek bed is dry. Camping is not permitted here and there are no facilities.
South Mandu is a day use area permitting sightseeing, swimming and snorkelling only. Fishing is prohibited. The beach is totally covered in smooth pebbles and you have to walk a few hundred metres to reach the sand. No camping or facilities here.
North Mandu is 500m up from South Mandu and the Ningaloo Reef is closer to shore here. The camping area is very small and suitable for tents only . A pit toilet is located here.
Mandu-Mandu Gorge has a 3km return walk winding through the rocky creek bed and deep into the gorge. The track ascends to the gorge rim offering views of the Ningaloo Reef and surrounding countryside. The walk is moderately difficult and encounters uneven and rocky surfaces. The suggested time to allow is 2 hours.
Oyster Stacks is a popular snorkelling spot where there is a variety of different coloured coral and many species of fish congregating around the rock “bombies”. The water is shallow so be careful not to stand on the coral and damage it.
Torquiose Bay sounds pretty but camper trailers and caravans are prohibited from entering so that counted us out. Speaking to locals we discovered it is indeed a pretty beach and the snorkelling and diving is fantastic. Note the currents can be strong here, particularly around the sandbar at the southern end, so strong swimming ability is required. Camping is not permitted here however a pit toilet is provided.
Tulki Beach is another good one for the fishing fanatics. Small boats can be launched from the yellow sandy beach and a camp ground and pit toilet are located here.
Trealla Beach is very rocky and more suitable for fishing than swimming or sightseeing. No camping or facilites here.
Mesa Camp has a gorgeous bay area to the north, rocky outcrop for fishing in the centre and long stretch of coastline to the south. The camping area is quite large with shaded areas and pit toilets. One of the better camp grounds here.
Ned’s Camp is a small camp ground by a sandy yellow beach where fishing is permitted. Caravans are alllowed here but with limited space. Pit toilet provided.
Mangrove Bay is a bird watching area with a viewing area overlooking a lagoon. This is a Sanctuary Zone so fishing is prohibited. There are no facilities here and camping is not permitted.
All the aforementioned coastal features and camps comprise the western section of the Cape Range National Park. The eastern section constitutes inland ranges and canyons and is accessible via points off Minilya Exmouth Road.
Shothole Canyon Road is 14km south of Exmouth. The unsealed road, suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles, takes you through Cape Range National Park along the base of the canyon for 12km. The scenic rock formations covered with spinifex grass and small trees are very easy on the eye and the drive is well worth it. Pit toilet is located at the end of the drive.
About 21km south of town, just past the Big Prawn, is the entrance to Charles Knife Canyon. Take the unsealed Charles Knife Rd (suitable for two-wheel drives) through the Cape Ranges and you’ll like what you see. The views are breathtakingly beautiful with the colourful contrasting ranges, canyons and ocean views in the background on the return drive.
Thomas Carter Lookout is also accessed via Charles Knife Rd, about 1km in on a rocky track. The views are of surrounding bush land and the Indian Ocean in the distance. The moderately difficult 8km Badjirrajirra Walk leaves from here and loops through the Cape Range offering views of Shothole Canyon and Exmouth Gulf. Note temperatures in the gorge can reach high extremities so be prepared with plenty of water and sun protection if you intend to attempt this walk.
The end of Charles Knife Road has an old oil exploration well dating back to 1955. After drilling 4692m nothing was discovered and the well was plugged and abandoned. Australia’s first flowing oil well was drilled southeast of here in 1953.
The east and west sections of Cape Range National Park vary dramatically and are both stunning in their own way. The coastal delights bordering the Ningaloo Marine Park with its 260km Ningaloo Reef, and the rugged limestone Cape Range with its gorges and canyons, combine perfectly in a national park well worth exploring.
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Destinations in Western Australia
Cape Le Grand
Cape Range National Park
Eighty Mile Beach
Fitzgerald River National Park
Gibb River Road
Kalbarri National Park
Kennedy Range National Park
Porongurup National Park
Port Denison Dongara
Torndirrup National Park
Wellington National Park
William Bay National Park
Return from Cape Range National Park to Western Australia