Friendly, laidback and surrounded by good-looking fish, Exmouth is the perfect place to position yourself to explore the Ningaloo Marine Park.
Airnorth Magazine - Aug/Sept 2019
Words: Leah McLennan
Halfway up the idyllic Western Australia coastline, Exmouth is a beachy holiday town with an aquatic wonderland on its doorstep. Home to around 2,500 people, this tiny town is surrounded by the huge World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Marine Park. You can walk just a few metres offshore, pull on a mask and snorkel. Here, in aquarium-like waters, you can drift over the largest fringing reef on earth, home to turtles, tropical fish and manta rays.
If you take a short boat trip into deeper waters, you can snorkel with gentle whale sharks (from April to July) or alongside humpback whales (from July to October). Ningaloo Reef is one of the only places on the planet where large numbers of whale sharks – massive but harmless filter feeders – are known to visit so close to land every year.
Exmouth, Ningaloo’s hub town, sits at the northern end of Ningaloo Marine Park. It’s easy to reach. You can jump on a plane and fly into Learmonth Airport, 36 kilometres from Exmouth. Or if you’re up for a road trip, this sun-kissed town can be found 1,250 kilometres north of Perth, with plenty of stop-worthy spots along the way.
Seafood onSunrise Beach
Smack-bang on Sunrise Beach, the restaurant at Mantarays Ningaloo Resort is just made for seafood lovers. Aptly called Mantarays, it’s a perfect mix of fine dining and relaxed style. Popular dishes include the seafood platter and the sirloin beef, with grass-fed beef sourced from nearby Bullara Station.
Food Truck Feed
Parked at Exmouth Town Beach, The Short Order Local food truck whips up some unforgettable bacon and egg burgers, freshly baked muffins and coffee. Perch yourself on one of the rug-lined couches, read the paper and enjoy your morning feast. The food truck also does a curry-focused menu on Wednesday nights.
Whalers Restaurant, located in the Exmouth Escape Resort, is considered one of the area’s best restaurants and has a huge local following. The focus here is seafood: you’ll have a hard time choosing between dishes such as New Orleans seafood gumbo, seafood spaghetti, reef & beef, and the always delicious local fish of the day.
Cafés and Cocktails
Exmouth is home to several cafés that serve excellent coffee, smoothies and juices, including SeeSalt, the Ningaloo Bakehouse and Adrift Café. For those with a thirst for something stronger, Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort serves up some delicious cocktails by the pool.
Fun with the Family
Beer lovers, rejoice! There are two recently opened breweries in Exmouth. Froth Craft Brewery is a funky, family establishment pouring crafty brews and artisanal cider. The kitchen serves tasty dishes, including local fish and hand-cut fries, huge veggie and beef burgers, and plates of Exmouth prawns. For more beer action, head over to Whalebone Brewing Company. Housed in a no-frills shed, at Whalebone you can kick off your boots (or thongs) and completely relax. When you get peckish, there’s delicious pizza on the menu and live tunes to boot. The kids will love it all, especially the play area.
Ultimate Luxe Escape
Laidback Exmouth has a range of comfortable hotels and resorts. Looking for something super-special? Luxe glamping resort Sal Salis will satisfy. Hugging the beach, each of the safari tents is fitted with timber floors, comfy beds, verandahs, ensuites and sun-heated showers. Perhaps the best part of the experience is the canapés at sunset, followed by dinner (with matching wines) beneath the stars. The exclusive retreat, with numerous guided tours included in the tariff, can arrange airport transfers. It’s open from March to October.
If you’re after a self-contained villa or apartment, check out the 4-star Exmouth Escape Resort, home to the aforementioned Whalers Restaurant. For those who travel with a vessel, there are boat parking and washing facilities. Relaxation lovers will enjoy the two large outdoor pools.
Cabins & Campers
Also well-positioned in Exmouth, the RAC Exmouth Cape Holiday Park offers self-contained cabins, motel-style rooms, backpacking dorms, and powered and unpowered sites. It’s located just a short walk from Sunrise Beach, part of the new marina development in town.
The Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, 17km north of downtown Exmouth, has some of the best coastline views in the area. This is one of the few places in Australia where you can watch the sun rise and set.
The Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival, celebrating the annual visit of the whale sharks to the area, takes place during May.
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