We 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 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. There’s not much to do. And that’s why I love it.
Coral Bay is my paradise. From the first time, I visited, I fell in love with this idyllic little beach town in the middle of nowhere. On one side of Coral Bay, it’s barren, arid cattle country, where sheep roam and truckers dodge kangaroos. On the other side, it’s blue water, sandy beaches, and the Ningaloo Reef and its abundance of marine life.
And, in between that, is a little town that’s home to one hotel, an RV site, a bunch of backpackers, and some beach bums enjoy the tropical beauty at the end of the world.
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 every day, 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 a cold beer and good friends.
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 because a quiet beach town is all I want in life. When Tourism Australia invited me to Australia last month, I declined the 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 like 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 just to find multiple roads, more hotels, and more restaurants? After three years away, I was glad to see the town was still quiet and peaceful.
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 above, 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. 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 Reef looks amazing from the air, it’s what we see underwater that matters, and I see far more underwater action here than I do on the Great Barrier Reef.
During March and April, whale sharks migrate up the coast, and large manta rays can be found around the reef. It being off-season, I had to settle for the manta rays. I took a half-day snorkeling trip around the reef; 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!
This isn’t your standard Aussie tourist destination. It’s that very isolation that keeps most tourists away, leaving the place so peaceful and detached from the rest of the world. This is a spot for mostly Australian and people driving around in campervans. There are no hordes of people ruining the beaches or the wildlife. It’s a world away from the busy East Coast.
If you ask me, 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, come to Coral Bay.
While part of me wants you to go there, 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 to Coral Bay has suddenly disappeared, and I can keep my version of heaven just a bit longer.
How to Visit Coral Bay
Coral Bay isn’t an easy place to get to. By car, it’s almost 5,000km from Sydney — literally across the entire continent. It’s located in the middle of the western coast, making it far off the beaten trail. The closest airport is located a couple of hours away in Learmonth. Shuttle buses are available from Coral Bay Airport Transfers for 95 AUD per person (one way). They run round-trip service with a flexible schedule based around the arrival and departure of flights.
Integrity Coach Lines also have service from Learmonth to Coral Bay, though they only operate a few days a week in the area. One-way tickets are 47 AUD per person.
If you plan to drive from Perth, expect the journey to take at least 12 hours each way. If you’re coming from the other direction, the trip is a solid 14-hour drive from Broome.
As for accommodation, there are a couple of hotels in the area as well as a hostel to stay at. If you’re driving, you’ll find some RV parks too.