Gnaraloo station is a working pastoral station north of Carnarvon. It is located along some of the most incredible coastline in WA. The station has been set up for camping right near the coast, and is located right on Ningaloo Reef. If you have been to Coral Bay, you would know how incredible the reef is, and Gnaraloo is even more isolated, meaning you have more of it to yourself!
Where is Gnaraloo Station
Gnaraloo Station is located in between Coral bay and Carnarvon. It is just north of Quobba and Red Bluff, also well known stations that you can stay at.
Getting to Gnaraloo Station
In the past, Gnaraloo station could be accessed from the north (via Warroora Station) and from the south (via Quobba and Red Bluff). However, at present, you are only able to access the station from the south (turning onto the road just north of Carnarvon). This is quite a pain, especially if you are coming from the north (like Coral Bay) as you have to drive 200km down to Carnarvon, and then back up another 160km. Nonetheless, to get there, turn off at Blowholes road, which will take you to the 'King waves kill sign'. Turn right, and follow the track as far up as you can go.
Gnaraloo Station road conditions
The road into Quobba itself is bitumen, but from there, it goes to gravel road. This road has received a lot of attention in the past, primarily due to the nasty corrugations and even puddles at certain times of the year. When we visited in August 2013, the roads were very good, and were being graded the whole time we were there. In saying this, I wouldn't recommend towing a caravan into Gnaraloo unless you were very confident in its design or the roads are in top condition.
We found the closer you got to Gnaraloo the worse the road conditions got, and it pays to check in advance because the road changes very quickly. When its wet up there, the roads often have big potholes and even little water crossings, so come prepared! We saw a leaf spring fail only a couple of km from 3 Mile camp at Gnaraloo, and it stayed there overnight whilst parts were sourced.
What can you do there?
Gnaraloo is extremely isolated, and located on some of the best beaches and reef in WA. Fishing, surfing, snorkeling, wind surfing, spearfishing, ballooning, kayaking, boating, trawling and general sight seeing are very popular.
Places around Gnaraloo Station
If you are looking for places similar to Gnaraloo, check out Warroora station (pronounced Warra Station), Red Bluff and Quobba. Warroora is very similar to Gnaraloo, but is set up to house a lot more campers. Red bluff is a much smaller location (albeit incredible) that is popular mainly with those looking to surf. Quobba has the best reputation for balloon fishing off the cliffs. All of these places are incredible and well worth a look.
Gnaraloo station fishing
In terms of beach fishing, there are a couple of places accessible from Gnaraloo Station. There are also a number of places that you can fish off the cliffs or rocks, but some of these require a decent walk to get to, as the tracks around the station are very prohibitive. If you intend on fishing off the coast, be sure to pay attention to the marine zones. There are a number of zones where fishing is prohibited. If you have a boat though, you are usually outside of these zones anyway.
Gnaraloo station snorkeling
Coral Bay has incredible snorkeling, but because of the overwhelming popularity and ease of access, the reef has taken a substantial amount of damage over the last 10 years. Inevitably a portion of those who snorkel will occasionally damage the corals, and this has happened slowly over many years.
However, Gnaraloo Station is considerably more remote, and thus has a lot less visitors. The main bay, and the lagoon in front of 3 mile camp came highly recommended. We dived both, and enjoyed both dives, but found much better locations inside of the breaks where people were less inclined to dive. As long as its calm and accessible, you will find some incredible places to dive with more fish and coral than you can poke a stick at!
Gnaraloo Station accommodation
Gnaraloo has two places you can stay - the homestead, or 3 mile camp. These are separated by an unsealed road, that takes about 15 minutes to drive along. 3 Mile camp is set up purely for camping, as well as a partially enclosed building (the Hilton). 3 Mile has access to toilets and showers (which are good enough for a wash, but nothing spectacular. If you head to the homestead, you can stay in new and old cabins, fishing lodges, shearing quarters, the old homestead, shearing shed and swaggers camps. Well behaved dogs are permitted here, but keep them under control!
Gnaraloo surfing, kite surfing and wind surfing surfing
Most of the people staying at 3 mile were there for surfing. Obviously, a few were keen on fishing too, but I was blown away by the number of surfers in the area. Gnaraloo and Red Bluff attract some of the pro surfers who want to train in peace, and get away from it all. The breaks are truly world class, and very easy to access.
I saw a heap of kite surfers and wind surfers there too, but you really want to know what you are doing! These guys were out far, well outside of the breaks, and often jumping and surfing the waves!
Working at Gnaraloo
A large majority of the station is run by 'visitors' who want a break from the everyday grind, or are keen to stay in an awesome place without paying fees. Your accommodation and food is included, as a trade off for the various chores that need to be done around the station. We saw a number of people doing this, and the length of stay vary's considerably.
When is the best time to visit?
Peak season at Gnaraloo is between April and October. This is when the weather is best, but try to pick the time when the wind is going to be as least as possible.
Boating at Gnaraloo
Boats are very popular at Gnaraloo. There are two places you can launch; 3 mile camp and at Gnaraloo Bay. 3 Mile camp is only really suited for tinnies and jetskies, as you have to push the trailer down the beach (you aren't allowed a vehicle below the high tide mark) and winch the boat/jetski back up. Gnaraloo Bay is a big beach that you can launch bigger boats off. We saw a big boat on triaxles sink down and get stuck, so expect the sand to be soft. We went over to offer assistance, but they were rude and obnoxious, so we left them to struggle on their own. If you are launching a boat bigger than 4 metres there, I'd be suggesting 10 PSI maximum on the trailer tyres and car tyres. There are a number of metal tracks lying on the beach which should be used to guide your boat into the water; it will stop your trailer and vehicle from sinking into the sand!
If you launch at 3 mile, you have to work your way out in between the coast and reef, until you are outside the waves. It isn't too difficult. Gnaraloo bay on the other hand just has one big reef which you need to go around. Trawling outside of the reef yields plenty of mackeral and other pelagics. If you are bottom fishing, expect to have a lot of fun; these area's are much less hammered than Coral Bay and Exmouth, of which both still have great fishing.
My overall opinion
Our 6 nights at Gnaraloo were a lot of fun, but the wind was a real downer. It blew and blew relentlessly the whole time we were there, making it unpleasant to sleep, fish and snorkel. In saying this, the whole area is a part of some of the best coastline in the world, and I loved every minute in the water. The marine zones and tracks around the station were a pain, and made it difficult to access spots for land fishing. I wasn't too impressed with the showers or toilets for what you pay to camp there, but I suppose you are paying for the location, which is nothing short of breathtaking.
I would highly recommend this to visit for a few days, but if you plan on doing a lot of fishing, take a boat! Quobba and Red Bluff are great too, but are a little more restricted to what you can do. I'd also highly recommend Warroora Station (just north of Gnaraloo). If you have stayed at any of these, I'd love to hear your experiences. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below!