Exmouth, once US Navy town, now provides easy access to Ningaloo Reef, Cape Range National Park and the many spectacular beaches and coral lagoons, including pristine Turquoise Bay.
Exmouth Location and Climate
Exmouth is situated on the North West Cape 1270km from Perth. Exmouth experiences summer year-round with an average winter temperature of 25C, and a summer average of around 35C. Exmouth has little rain and no wet season, so the summer days are low in humidity.
Exmouth is a very young town located on the Gulf of Exmouth on the eastern side of the North West Cape. Dutch ships first visited Exmouth as early as 1618 but it wasnt until some 350 years later that a town was settled.
Exmouth was established in 1967 as a support town for the joint Australian-United States Naval Communications Station, some fifteen km north along the peninsula. Due to its proximity to Southeast Asian waters, Exmouth was chosen and constructed as a support town for the Harold E. Holt Naval Communications Base nicknamed the Potshot by Americans and both were opened in 1967. Much of the navy activity has been mothballed, but some of the buildings are still in use. At the tip of the peninsula, near Bundegi, the 13 naval communication transmitter towers taller than the Eiffel Tower of France the highest is a soaring 388m still dominate the skyline. Learmonth Airport, 40km south of Exmouth, opened during World War II is the chief airport servicing Exmouth, coral Bay and the mining and exploration enterprises in the region. Exmouth airport received a major makeover in the 1990s and able to take international flights, the Exmouth airport is as modern as any in remote Australia.
North of Learmonth Airport is the solar Observatory, alongside the Gulf of Exmouth. Looking towards the Gulf of Exmouth from the height of the Cape Range National Park, the colourful prawning fleet of the Kailis factory is very picturesque. Exmouth prawns are without parallel, and a platter of freshly caught prawns in one of the local restaurants is an epicurean delight.
Exmouth also happens to be situated alongside one of the worlds most pristine and accessible reefs. Exmouth is part of a remote outback experience that provides an excellent base to explore the majestic Ningaloo Reef and offers a truly unique range to reef holiday experience all year-round.
Ningaloo Reef is Australias largest fringing coral reef and runs 260km along the length of the North West Cape, beginning at Bundegi Beach near Exmouth. Many different varieties of soft and hard coral can be found, as can wildlife such as tropical fish, sea snakes, sharks, moray eels, seals, rare dugongs, turtles and the largest fish in our oceans, the whale shark. Marvel at the vibrant underwater life snorkeling in fabled Turquoise Bay only metres from the white sandy beaches.
An extraordinary range of dive sites to suit all levels of experience is available for scuba divers: entry-level dive sites include Gullivers, Blizzard Range The Labyrinth and the Fish Pit while advanced divers can take things further at Helgas Tunnels, Helby Bank or the Sponge Garden Drift.
Just north of the North West Cape are the Muiron Islands, a snorkeling and diving paradise a short boat ride from Exmouth. Turtles nest in the imaginatively titled Turtle Bay, an excellent spot for swimming and lazing bout on the beach. A superb range of dive sites available around the Muiron Islands, some of these include The Cod Sanctuary, Jaws Reef, Mackerel Lumps, Pearl Reef, The Jack Pit and Porite Bombies.
Exmouth is the closest point in Australia to the Continental Shelf, which is one of the reasons why there is an abundance of life in the surrounding waters.
Game fishing out of Exmouth is sensational with over 40 varieties of game fish in the waters. Different species of marlin, sailfish, short-billed spearfish and broad-billed swordfish, not to mention sharks, Spanish mackerel and tuna can be wrestled, tagged and released.
The Cape Range National Park covers 50,581ha of land near Exmouth along the western side of the North West Cape. Cape Range is a massive limestone range that has been eroded of time; Cape Range National Park is awesome with spectacular deep gorges, ridges, gullies and extensive caves. From the eastern side, visitors can travel along the Charles Knife Road exploring the Thomas Carter Lookout with its magnificent views of the deep gorges, across rolling plains and out to the splendid azure waters of the Gulf of Exmouth beyond. Wildlife is regularly sighted around Exmouth, bustards, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, and bungarra lizards abound and wild goats are often seen precariously climbing the gorges. On the western seaboard of the North West Cape, around the very end of the road around the cape is Yardie Creek. An estuarine lagoon filled by very high tides that cross the sand bar at its mouth, the gorge of Yardie Creek has diverse and lively fauna from black-footed rock wallabies to nesting sea eagles. The walkway from the car park to Yardie Creek is almost littered with the ancient fossils from the time when the landscape of Cape was part of the ocean floor. The underlying limestone caves and waterways of the Cape Range National Park are also home to unique blind shrimp like creatures that are living remnants of the prehistoric era.
One of the few fringing coral reefs on the west coast of a continent in the world, Ningaloo Reef creates a protected lagoon around the North West Cape. First-time or inexperienced snorkellers will find Exmouth an ideal base to explore the underwater environment. Manta Rays, colourful coral and beautiful species of tropical fish are accessible year-round as Exmouth enjoys summer for most of the year. For the ultimate wildlife encounter swim alongside a giant Whale Shark, the worlds largest fish. These majestic creatures cruise past Ningaloo Reef from March to June. They can grow up to 18m long, but are harmless in that they are filter feeders, with plankton as their diet.
The coral of the Ningaloo Reef on Australias Coral Coast spawns at a totally different time to the coral spawns anywhere else in the world. The spawning is always at the time of the first full moon after Easter. The coral spawning occurs at night and is like an upside down snowstorm, with the spawn rising from the coral to the surface of the ocean. The Ningaloo Reef coral spawning signs the start of the mammoth feeding chain and unfailingly brings the whale sharks, the gentle giants up from the depth of the continental shelf off Tantabiddi.
The Ningaloo Reef is the closest part of Australia to the continental shelf where whale sharks are believed to live. Tantabiddi, on the western seaboard of Exmouth, is the closest point, hence the annual presence of the filter-feeding whale sharks of the Ningaloo Reef. Turtles nest on local beaches between November and February and make for an awesome sight as they retreat in their hundreds to the waters edge. Loggerhead and Hawkesbeak turtles are regularly seen in the lagoons. A Turtle Interpretive Centre is located along side the nesting beaches, and care should be taken to observe the instructions in order to not inhibit the turtles as they create their massive nest mounds and they lay their eggs. Whales can be spotted as they migrate down the coast past the Cape June to October.
For those who want to explore the reef but do not want to get wet, a cruise aboard the semi-submersible to be introduced to the amazing underwater world of coral gardens and vividly-coloured tropical fish available. Expert commentary gives you the chance to learn about this marine environment and offers excellent photographic opportunities.
Fishing is superb; beach fishing is easy and fun or perhaps deep ocean species like Red Emperor, groper, North West Snapper, mackerel or tuna are more your taste. Is there anyone who has fished the North West Cape and not taken home his supper
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