We had been dreaming of the moment for months, and as we got to the end of the very bumpy and very long Ningaloo Rd, the ocean came into view. In the distance, waves broke over the fringing reef, the sign we were finally there. Ningaloo Reef.
It had been 154 days since we left Hobart, and if you’ve been following along, it might not seem like we had much of a travel plan. But there was one destination that dragged us from one end of the country to the other over those 5 months.
Ningaloo Reef extends over 260km along the North-West coast of Western Australia. It’s about as far as you can get in Australia from little ol’ Hobart, 6000km away.
There we were rewarded with a spectacle of coral reef where turtles and reef sharks swim through the crystal turquoise water and thousands of brightly coloured fish play.
We had heard horror stories of the 45km track into our campsite at South Lefroy. Caravan Killer they call it. ‘The worst track I’ve ever been on,’ as it was often described. Yes, it was rough and corrugated but we aired down our tyres, took it easy, and decided not to believe what people tell us.
With our high clearance and the occasional bit of low-range we navigated any sandy sections to arrive at our campsite on the beach.
Willow was quick to jump out and roll around in the sand; silly cat!
But it wasn’t until Willow wanted to come back inside that we realised our dilemma; Willow’s coat attracts sand like a magnet and soon she was trudging Ningaloo’s finest throughout the van. Not to mention Willow’s favourite hobby, as it seems, is seeing how much of the outside she can get inside.
After a quick brush off we came up with a solution. Willow is surprisingly comfortable around vacuum cleaners, so we gave her a quick WHIRRRRRRRR!
As you can see in the video, she wasn’t the slightest bit put off by the experience. Will vacuuming the cat become a regular thing on our adventures? Hmm, I’m not sure.
In total, we spent 4 weeks in the area, mostly at South Lefroy. It’s a busy place at this time of year and as we didn’t book far enough ahead, we weren’t able to secure just one campsite for the duration. Although our site bookings were all over the place, it did mean we enjoyed more of the area including Jane’s Bay and North Lefroy.
The great thing about this area is that even if you don’t get your ideal campsite, you can always drive to the day use areas on the beach or explore other spots along the coast.
Half a day’s drive up the coast is Cape Range National Park where swarms of tourists descend on the reef at places like Turquoise Bay and Oyster Stacks. Yes, South Lefroy is harder to get to, but I know where I’d rather be!
Steph and I took every opportunity to take our paddle boards out onto the reef to explore. South Lefroy offered the easiest acess to the reef but we also paddled out from Winderabandi Point where we snorkelled the drop-off. It was an eery feeling as the shallow coral gave way to the blue expanse of the drop.
It doesn’t take long to spot a turtle as they surface to breath. The turtles are big on Ningaloo; some over a metre long and weighing over 100kg. There are a few species that swim the reef but I was unable to tell them apart.
Sitting on our boards, we listened to the sounds of the Humpback whales in the distance, the booms of their tails hitting the water. In fact, as we lay in bed at night we could still hear their rhythmic tail slapping from beyond the reef.
When we returned from our reef outings, we would discover that Willow had been setting new records for napping, often asleep in exactly the same spot we left her. She would stretch out and greet us, hopping out of the van and leaving her toe bean prints in the sand.
Ningaloo Reef is a special place. There’s not many places left like it in Australia; a place where you can camp right on the beach and experience the wonder of a coral reef. It certainly trumps the more popular Great Barrier Reef on the East Coast.
We’re already thinking about returning one day. We’re not sure when exactly, but we can be sure that a little black cat will trudge Ningaloo sand all throughout the van!
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