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Cape Range National Park; perfection on the Ningaloo Reef

If there was a place in WA that I’d be more than happy to be stuck in for a long time, it’d be Cape Range National Park. Located on the Exmouth Coast right next to the Ningaloo Marine Park with beach front camping options it really is a hard place to beat. 

Exmouth has become hugely popular over the last decade, and its no wonder; you can head there in the middle of winter from Perth and experience sunny, warm and calm conditions for days on end. The coastline is nothing short of world class, with insane fishing, snorkelling, diving and swimming.

Cape Range National Park is usually in the top 10 destinations that people rank when they’ve travelled around Australia, and that includes those who have done it extensively.

Osprey Bay Camp site

Could you ask for a nicer place?!

Where is Cape Range National Park?

You’ll find this amazing location on the Western Side of the Exmouth Gulf, running from just south of Tantabiddi Boat ramp near the northern tip down to beyond Yardie Creek, some 50 odd kilometres south. 

From Perth, its a 1250km drive, which takes about 14 hours without stopping. 

How do you get to Cape Range?

There are three ways that you can get to Cape Range National park:

Via the bitumen from Exmouth

The easiest, and most common way to get to Cape Range is just to drive through Exmouth, to take the turn off near the northern tip and drive around the tip and back south. This is quick, easy and painless.

Ningaloo Lighthouse

Cruise past the Ningaloo Lighthouse and now closed Lighthouse Holiday Park

Crossing Cape Range by 4WD

You can actually get into Cape Range directly from Exmouth, by heading on a 4WD track that crosses the red sand dunes, and pops out on Yardie Creek Road. This track is an adventure, requires a fairly well set up 4WD with clearance and is most certainly not a shortcut. 

You’ll have to lower your pressures considerably to get across the dunes with ease, and possibly pump them up a bit on the rocky descent down the range towards the Ningaloo Marine Park.

Exmouth 4WD Track

Crossing the range via the 4WD track

From Ningaloo Station

Yes, you can often cross Yardie Creek, and head into Cape Range National Park from the south. In actual fact, the National Park starts just south of Yardie Creek, and you can access it via Ningaloo Station.

It is possible to do this with camper trailers, and boats, and even Caravans, but you need to be prepared for a pretty average road and ensure you know what the conditions are. 

Yardie creek has caught a number of people out in the past, and crossing it can be extremely risky when the sand is soft. We’ve been there a number of times when its flowing (and crossed too) and also been across when it’s been completely dry, but don’t rely on it being passable without reputable local knowledge.

Yardie Creek Crossing

You can often drive across Yardie Creek

Yardie Creek Crossing

The creek crossing varies a lot in height

What are the fees?

Being a National Park, you have to pay to enter. This is always the case, unless you have yourself a National Park access pass. If you haven’t got one, you can get them for 4 weeks, or for a year for a vehicle and they pay for themselves very quickly.

Even better, if you are with RAC you can get them for half price, saving a fair chunk of money on an annual pass. If you don’t have a pass, its $15 per vehicle (or $8 if you are a concession) and $8 per motorbike.

What’s worth seeing near and in Cape Range National Park?

Honestly, what’s not worth seeing? There are so many amazing place in this national park that you really can’t go wrong. We absolutely loved Shothole Canyon and Charles Knife Gorge, Sandy Bay, a couple of unsigned destinations near the coast, and of course the many Exmouth 4WD tracks throughout the range itself. 

Shothole Canyon is spectacular

Shothole Canyon is quite spectacular

Exmouth Coast

You can’t go wrong with any of the coastline

Cape Range National Park Camping

The DBCA have 10 camp sites that you can camp at within the Cape Range National Park. From there, you can also camp at the Yardie Creek Homestead, or glamp at Sal Salis.

The 8 sites (starting from the south) are Boat Harbour, One K, Yardie Creek, Osprey Bay, Kurrajong, North Kurrajong, North Mandu, Tulki Beach Camp Ground, Mesa Camp Ground and Neds Camp Ground.

Boat Harbour and One K are on the south side of Yardie Creek and require a 4WD to access them.

Our two favourites are probably Osprey Bay and Mesa.

Sunrise at Mesa

Waking up at Mesa Camp Ground

Cape Range National Park Accommodation

The only place you can get accommodation within the national park is Yardie Creek Homestead, which has a range of Chalets, Holiday Cabins and Shearers quarters.

The most common place to stay if you are not camping (as there are plenty of options for Cape Range Camping) is in Exmouth itself, and then you make the drive out each day.

Exmouth has a huge range of accommodation options including holiday houses, resorts, backpackers, Airbnb’s and the list goes on. This is on the other side of the Cape, and requires a decent drive to the National Park itself.

About the Ningaloo Marine Park

WA has some world class destinations, and Ningaloo Marine Park fairs high on that list. Covering some 6000 km2, starting not far north of Carnarvon and ending around the Muiron islands north of the Cape in Exmouth. Home to more than 300 species of coral and 500 species of fish, a lot of visitors will often comment that its better diving than The Great Barrier Reef itself.

Exmouth Ningaloo Reef

The coral and water is spectacular

People come from all over the world to swim with the manta rays and whale sharks, which can grow to a whopping 18 metres long. There are a huge number of different zones which allow different activities. Many restrict where, and how you can fish and are marked on a number of maps, with yellow markers on the beach.

Marine zones at Warroora

Sanctuary zones are located all through the Ningaloo Marine Park

One of the best things about the Ningaloo Marine Park is that it literally comes right up to the shore, and there are hundreds of places you can swim out from the beach with a snorkel and see a huge array of turtles, stunning coral and more fish than ever before.

Snorkelling at Oyster Stacks

Snorkelling right off the shore

Big crayfish at Cape Range

A nice crayfish in the Marine Park

Best time to visit Cape Range National Park

Western Australia has a reputation for being windy, and nothing will turn an incredible place like this into something rather unpleasant than gale force winds for days on end.

For this reason, the best time to visit Cape Range National Park is generally between May and August, with the months either side being suitable at times, and the wind still being unpredictable even between May and August.

You can get a week of no wind, or a week of terrible wind. Be prepared for this in the way that you pack, store gear and plan on camping!

Mesa view

The wind can be pretty bad

Visit Cape Range National Park

If you haven’t been to Cape Range National Park, put it on the bucket list. It’s world class, and you’ll have a ball. We rate it as one of our favourite places in WA, and we’ve been to more than enough to pass on some pretty solid recommendations.

Cape Range beaches

Osprey Bay Beaches

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