Explore WA’s Cape Range National Park

Just a 40-minute drive from Exmouth and part of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area, Cape Range National Park covers more than 50,000 hectares, the remains of an ancient sea floor that has been pushed upward by changes to the Earth’s crust. On the land are incredible limestone ranges, huge canyons with creeks running through them, and a rich diversity of wildlife. But there’s another world here too, and it’s found just off the shore: the crystal-clear waters and coral gardens of Ningaloo Marine Park. 

How long do you need to experience all Cape Range has to offer? How long have you got? You could see the highlights in a couple of days, but if you wanted to delve a little deeper, give yourself anywhere up to a week, so you can enjoy it all and spend some time relaxing.  

Here are just some of the highlights of Cape Range National Park. 


Get Started on Land

Even before you get to the park, turn off to visit Charles Knife Canyon. A winding road leads to Thomas Carter Lookout, where you can stare out over the rugged terrain and to the waters of the Exmouth Gulf. From the lookout, there’s the moderately difficult seven-kilometre Badjirrajirra Walk that winds a loop through gullies, gorges and bushland to reach the top of Cape Range.  

As good a place as any to start your Cape Range National Park exploration is at the Milyering Discovery Centre. Fun fact: built in 1988 from rammed earth and powered by solar energy, it was the first environmentally friendly building of its type in Australia. Here, you can find out about the area, staff can point you in the right direction, and there’s a shop with snorkel hire.  

One spectacular drive travels 12 kilometres along the base of Shothole Canyon, a spectacular gorge named for the damage left to the terrain following seismic studies during 1950s oil exploration. It is suitable for 4WDs only, so remember that when you’re hiring your rental car. 

Yardie Creek is a permanent water source surrounded by red limestone cliffs. The water in the creek is salt, but it has some areas of mangrove, which provide roosting sites for many birds. Leave the rental car in the car park to follow the Yardie Gorge Trail along the water course then up the red rocks. It’s not an easy hike, getting harder the higher you get, but it is only two kilometres and is worth the effort for the incredible views into the gorge.  

Make the Most of Ningaloo Marine Park 

There are beaches right along the coastline of Cape Range National Park and, unlike the Great Barrier Reef, which is situated far off the mainland, you can simply hit the beach then swim off the shore to access the incredible life and colours of Ningaloo Marine Park. 

Lakeside offers stunning coral, while the reef at Oyster Stacks is incredibly close to shore, so the marine life is concentrated. You can only snorkel here at high tide though. Turquoise Bayis possibly the most beautiful beach in Western Australia, and is the perfect spot for snorkelling, swimming or lazing on the sand. Beware of the often-strong currents 

This is a prime breeding area for turtles, although that usually occurs in the hot summer months. Instead, visit the Jurabi Turtle Centre, where you can find out more about green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles in the displays. You’re also likely to see them feeding or swimming around coral reefs. 


What to Look for at Cape Range 

There is lots of wildlife right across the national park. As you’re hiking or driving look for kangaroos, echidnas, emus and monitor lizards. There are many other species here, including 160 different types of birds, but a lot of the smaller mammals, like the rock-wallabies that live in the limestone cliffs, tend to shelter during the day and make an appearance either late in the afternoon or early in the morning.       

Out in the ocean, there are a few visitors who only come at certain times of the year. This is one of the few places in the world where large numbers of whale sharks come close to shore from late March to late July each year. It’s unlikely you’ll see any snorkelling off the beach, but a day tour from Exmouth will have you swimming with the biggest of fish. 

If underwater critters are your weakness, late May and June bring whale sharks, oceanic manta rays (the bigger ones) and humpback whales, all of which you could see on your tour. There are many to choose from, but Ningaloo Discovery gives you the choice of travelling by sailing catamaran or power boat.  


Ready to experience Cape Range National Park? Hire a rental car to make it easy.