7 bucket list Exmouth experiences you must do in 2024
Cover photo: Live Ningaloo, Ningaloo. Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia.
Certain places in the world appear on most peoples’ travel bucket lists. Like visiting New York City at Christmas, watching the Northern Lights in Iceland, and exploring magical Machu Picchu. If it’s not already, a trip to Australia should be at the top of everyone’s 2024 travel bucket list. If you’re looking for the holiday of a lifetime, Australia is one of the world’s must-visit locations; it’s a dream destination like no other.
Earlier this month, Tourism Australia revealed its annual travel list, Australia Recommends: 15 Places to Come & Say G’day in 2024. While Esperance was the only destination in Western Australia to make that list (boo hoo), it has nevertheless inspired us to share some of the incredible bucket list experiences waiting for you if you decide to come and say G’day to us here in Exmouth and Ningaloo.
Swim with whale sharks and humpback whales
While Esperance has kangaroos on the beach, we have whale sharks and humpback whales. Depending on the time of year, you can book a tour with a local operator who will take you out on a boat to see these magnificent giants of the ocean. You can make the experience more magical by joining them for a swim – from a safe distance, of course!
If swimming with whale sharks is high on your bucket list, Australia’s west coast is one of the few destinations in the world to provide this incredible and memorable experience. Whale shark season runs from mid-March to the end of August. We’re fortunate to have a local tour company on-site who run tours to see and swim with the world’s biggest fish. Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours offer this unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Western Australia is also a hot spot to see humpback whales. These large and powerful mammals, known for their impressive acrobatic displays, migrate in their tens of thousands to the warm waters of Ningaloo each year from June to October, with tours commencing in August here in Exmouth. The aforementioned on-site tour operator have a licence to deliver humpback whale swimming tours.
Visit Ningaloo Marine Park and snorkel the reef
Covering over 600,000 hectares, Ningaloo Marine Park is a World Heritage-listed site known for its extraordinary natural beauty. So, you don’t need to travel to the Maldives to enjoy breathtakingly beautiful crystal-clear turquoise waters. The incredible colours of the Ningaloo Reef easily rival what the Maldives has to offer. Our World Heritage-listed idyllic coastline is home to a pristine reef with over 250 species of multi-coloured coral. It is teaming with a spectacular array of colourful tropical fish, sharks, dolphins, manta rays, turtles, and dugongs. Snorkelling the Ningaloo Reef is one of the most iconic experiences you can have here in Exmouth.
Many travellers visit the Great Barrier Reef because of its exceptional swimming and snorkelling opportunities. It’s something special to check off your bucket list. But Exmouth has some of the best snorkelling spots in Australia, too. Most of our snorkelling sites are accessible from the shore, with some just 5 – 10 metres offshore. Although smaller, Ningaloo offers more accessible snorkelling than the Great Barrier Reef. Our favourite locations for snorkelling the Ningaloo Reef are Oyster Stacks, Sandy Bay, Lakeside Beach, and Turquoise Bay.
Explore the rugged wilderness of Cape Range National Park
Our landscapes in Western Australia are wild and rugged. Vast and captivating, and spanning over 50,000 hectares, Cape Range National Park, on the west side of Exmouth, is one of Australia’s most ruggedly beautiful National Parks. Home to deep canyons and limestone ranges, you’ll find must-do walking trails with spectacular views. Also, head here to experience Ningaloo’s most iconic beaches, including the ever-popular Turquoise Bay.
It’s a 45-minute car journey from town to reach the northern border. The park is a haven for flora and fauna, and a hotspot for bird life, such as sea ospreys, wedge-tailed eagles, eastern reef egrets, cockatoos, galahs, and honeyeaters. You also might spot black-footed rock wallabies, emus, western red kangaroos, and echidnas.
Take flight in a microlight for extraordinary views of the Ningaloo coastline
Perhaps the best way to experience the mesmerising beauty of Ningaloo is to see it from above. Marvel at the contrasting vibrant colours of the range and the reef as you enjoy a bird’s eye view from the seat of a microlight aircraft. Book a tour with a local pilot who will take you on a scenic flight over the world-famous Ningaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park. Enjoy the most breathtaking expansive views from 1,000 metres above.
A scenic flight in a microlight is a heart-pumping adventure from start to finish; it will leave you with a sense of awe and wonder you may never have experienced before. And you will come away with a whole new level of appreciation for the beauty of our backyard after seeing Ningaloo from such a unique and different perspective. Flights can range between 30 minutes and 90 minutes, depending on the tour you book. As you soar through the sky, look out for migrating whale sharks and humpback whales.
Discover some of the best beaches in the world (not just Australia!)
From rugged and windswept to tranquil and secluded, Australia has no shortage of world-class beaches. And in Western Australia, we are famous for having some of the most pristine and whitest sands. If you’re a beach lover, you won’t have to look far to find your own personal stretch of paradise. You could say beautiful beaches in WA are a dime a dozen. But we don’t like to brag.
It is virtually impossible to pick a favourite Ningaloo beach when you are as spoilt for choice as we are. Turquoise Bay is probably the Ningaloo region’s most famous beach. It’s a magnificent spot for swimming, snorkelling, and chilling. While there’s no denying its natural beauty, it’s not the only beach in the region worthy of attention and love.
Ningaloo’s most idyllic beaches are in Cape Range National Park. Sandy Bay, for example, has some of the finest stretches of sand you will ever see. Known for its shallow waters, clear turquoise waters, and the softest white sand, we like Sandy Bay for all these reasons. But best of all, it’s a calm and quiet beach. And while it might not be as popular as Turquoise Bay, it is, in our opinion, just as picturesque.
Dive the world-famous Navy Pier
The World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef is one of the world’s largest fringing reef systems. It is home to more than 200 documented dive sites, some of which are the best in the world. One of the most popular dive sites in Ningaloo Marine Park is the Navy Pier.
At 300 metres wide and 110 metres long, this massive artificial reef – located on the east tip of the North West Cape – is teeming with hundreds and hundreds of different species of fish. Built by the U.S. government in the 1960s, it is a protected dive site. You can’t dive here without a permit. So, you need to book a guided dive tour with Dive Ningaloo, the only operator with a licence to take divers to the Navy Pier.
Diving here feels like diving in an aquarium, as you become encircled by schools of colourful reef fish, like parrotfish, butterfly fish and angel fish. Look out for trevally, snapper, jacks, and barracuda cruising through the water. Octopus, wobbegongs, moray eels, grey nurse sharks and white-tip reef sharks also call the Navy Pier home. A Giant Queensland Grouper is one of the pier’s most famous residents. The Big Friendly Grouper is around 2 metres long and likes to lurk under the pier’s lower jetty. Known for their enormous bucket mouths and curious and friendly nature, these giant groupers are the largest reef-dwelling fish in the world.
See marine turtles in the wild
Home to four different species of marine turtles, Ningaloo is one of the world’s most significant breeding grounds for green and loggerhead turtles. No wonder it is one of the best places in the world to see sea turtles. The reef’s warm waters are the perfect habitat for marine turtles. Juveniles swim in Ningaloo’s shallow lagoons throughout the year, providing ample opportunity to tick swimming with turtles in their natural habitat off your bucket list.
If you would like to see marine turtles in Exmouth, the best time to visit is between December and March. From summer to early spring, tours will take you to observe turtles nesting from a sensible distance. These close encounters occur on the beaches south of Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, which have become prime nesting spots. Operated by the Jurabi Turtle Centre, night-time turtle-watching tours are an unforgettable and unique Exmouth experience.
Whatever your travel plans for 2024 are, now that we have shined a spotlight on our extraordinary part of Australia, we hope a trip to Exmouth and Ningaloo finds a spot on your travel bucket list. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker into adventure travel or looking to enjoy some of Australia’s world-renowned nature-based activities, there’s something here for everyone.
So come for a visit and make memories that will stay with you long after you leave Exmouth and Ningaloo. The Ningaloo Visitor Centre is a great resource to help you plan your trip. If you need more information, read our recommendations for inspiring, life-enriching things to see and do in Exmouth and Ningaloo.