Coral Bay: My Beach Paradise

Coral Bay, Australia outback and seaWe all have our own version of The Beach: that spot in the world where all is perfect and all is paradise. I found my version of the beach back in 2007. It’s a small town in Western Australia called Coral Bay. It’s a one-road town with one bar, one supermarket, three restaurants, and three hotels. This is a small town. In this town, there’s not much to do. And that’s why I love it.

Coral Bay is my paradise. On one side of Coral Bay is barren, arid cattle country, where sheep roam and truckers dodge kangaroo. On the other side is blue water, sandy beaches, and the Ningaloo reef with its abundance of marine life.

I love the beach, and everything in this town revolves around one giant white sand beach with turquoise blue water that stretches until infinity and a reef system so close to the land you can swim to it. There are so many turtles, fish, and stingrays, it’s too much to handle. When I was there in 2007, I woke up everyday, swam with turtles, relaxed on the beach, and worked on my tan. At night, the setting sun would light up the sky in fiery tones of red and orange while I cooled off with cold beer and good friends.

Fishing in Coral Bay, Australia

Life in Coral Bay is perfection, and my time there went way too fast. I could have stayed for weeks, and I longed to go back and visit. A quiet beach town is all I want in life. When Tourism Australia invited me to Australia last month, I declined their offer at first. After all, I just went to Australia at the beginning of the year. But when they told me I could go back to Coral Bay, I jumped at the chance.

I wondered what the town would look after three years. Tourism in Western Australia has grown in recent years, and I wondered if this sleepy town had been spoiled. Would I return to my one-road paradise to find multiple roads, more hotels, and more restaurants?

The only bar in Coral Bay

Whatever Coral Bay looked like now, I planned on doing more this visit than just sitting on the beach. To begin with, it was off to explore the outback that surrounds Coral Bay. While I was in the countryside, kangaroos jumped all around, eagles and other birds flew in the air, and there was wildlife everywhere. Then we went down to the beach and spotted parrotfish jumping in the shallows and reef sharks circling for food.

After seeing the land, it was time to see the water. Snorkeling and swimming around the reef for a second time, I realized this is the best reef in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef gets all the attention, but the Ningaloo Reef is much better. There’s brighter coral and more wildlife, including whale sharks, turtles, and dolphins. It hasn’t been spoiled by overdevelopment or overfishing. While the Great Barrier Reefs looks amazing from the air, it’s what we see underwater that matters, and I see far more underwater here than I do on the Great Barrier Reef.

Coral Bay ocean that is so very blue

During March and April, whales sharks migrate up the coast, and large manta rays can be found around the reef. It being off season, I had to settle for manta rays. I took a half-day snorkeling trip around the reef, and about an hour outside of Coral Bay, we spotted some large manta rays. These creatures were huge! It was amazing to swim with them and watch them glide effortlessly through the water. I never realized how big these creatures were. In my mind, they were as big as a person. In real life, they’re as big as three.

After three years away, I left happy. I was glad to see the town was still quiet and peaceful. Coral Bay isn’t an easy place to get to. It’s in the middle of the western coast, the closest airport is two hours away, and it’s a few days’ drive from Perth and a solid day’s drive from Broome. It’s that isolation that probably keeps most tourists away. (And also makes things fairly expensive here.) You mostly find Australians who have rented campervans or a few intrepid backpackers who paid to get out this far.

A yellow sunset in Coral Bay

There’s nothing in eastern Australia that equals the beauty of Coral Bay. Forget Cairns, Noosa, Magnetic Island, or Bondi Beach. If you want to experience the beaches you see in ads for Australia, you come to Coral Bay. Part of me wants you to go there, and part of me wants it all to myself. Paradises are all eventually lost, but I want to hold onto mine just a bit longer. If you make it there, you’ll see what I mean. You’ll want to tell others, but you won’t really want to tell others. Then again, maybe you’ll find the sign pointing your way here has suddenly disappeared, and I can keep my version of heaven just a bit longer.

For more information on Australia, visit my guide to Australia travel.

Editor’s Note: While I paid for my trip to Coral Bay in 2007, this trip was paid for by Tourism Australia.

  1. I’m sorry, but reading this really makes me want to see it :) I really would love to see western Oz and the arid deserts. And now I have to add Coral Beach to it. I promise not to damage it and keep it as you left it when I do visit there (fingers tightly crossed).

  2. Dave

    I love beaches so much, so it’s hard not to love them all (also, I’m indecisive). This post got me even more excited for my short visit to Australia in March, even if I wont witness the great Coral Bay, yet.

  3. I have to strongly agree with this one. Also the beaches just south of there in Shark Bay are truly amazing as well. Dolphins swim to you as well as sea turtles, its paradise!

  4. Coral Bay is my paradise dream place too. When I think about it and recall the snorkeling all the millions fish and colours, and the contrast between harsh desert and clear turquoise ocean and the wild life everywhere you look, it seems too amazing to be real as if it’s a recurring dreamscape rather than somewhere up the coast that I like to go to for holidays every couple of years.

  5. swanny

    Hey Matt
    realise this is an old post now but I just have to say how good Coral Bay and the whole Exmouth peninsula is.
    I am a West Aussie local from Freo and head up to Ningaloo each year for a fishing trip around April.
    Whilst Coral Bay is fantastic if you travel 50km north from it on a 4WD track you will come to Ningaloo Reef national park and will find Turquoise Bay. Here it is even better than Coral Bay, more untouched, big Nor’west Snapper everywhere, Turtles, Stingrays, Sharks (but not Great Whites, they live down south!). You need a tent or campervan. This is where us locals go! It is one of my favourite places on Earth. Next time you visit Coral Bay at least head up for a day trip snorkelling and fishing.
    Also by the way Virgin Australia runs direct flights from Perth to Learmonth Airport only 15 min from Exmouth and an hour from Coral Bay.

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