An area not to be missed on a visit to Western Australia is the gorgeous Cape Range National Park. You can feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere only a short drive from the town of Exmouth. Stock up on groceries and water in Exmouth because the facilities in the park are limited. However, there are many campgrounds that are very neat and well kept.
The campgrounds are supervised by hosts to whom you pay to secure your spot. Most camps have toilets but there is no running water in the park. Since it was November when I was there, the crowds had gone and the temperatures got lower at night. Some camps still required bookings because they are so popular or have limited spaces. All of them are awesome though, so I wouldn’t worry too much about this. During my stay I camped at Tulki Beach with access to the beach where you can watch a beautiful sunset, in Osprey Bay where we had a sea view from our camping spot, and at Ned’s camp which is relatively close to the entrance of the park.
There are two walks that are worth a visit. The walk in the gorge brings you along the rocky bottom. There are some bushes with kangaroos lazing in the shade. They often heard us coming and startled us by hopping away. I guess I disturbed their little naps. When I thought the walk was easy, a climb came up ahead. The higher we got, the more beautiful the view. We saw both walls of the gorge with the gorge in the middle leading to the sea. The walk on the top gets a bit more difficult with ups and downs, but that view is well worth it!
At Yardie Creek we started walking along a well paved path, slightly disappointed that it was this easy. It led to some information signs about the area, but after those you could choose to walk further along a rougher path. Finally, the real walk. It brought us over the cliffs, looking out over the water of Yardie Creek. Wallabies were jumping on the rocks at the other side, a little one trying to follow his mum. The path is not really clear and often people have diverted from it, but you’ll see a clear sign when you reach the end.
However beautiful, the walks are not the reason you’re visiting. Snorkeling is what it is all about. There are many beautiful beaches, but from some the snorkeling is much better than from others. When the tide is high you can go to Oyster Stacks. The shore is rocky and the entry into the sea a bit difficult because of it. It is a pretty sight with deep blue water through which you can see rocks and corals. I saw fish in all possible colors including my favorite, the Picasso fish.
Turquoise Bay gives you two snorkel options and good option to swim in the bay. The bay is the easier option, where you can swim around leisurely. The drift is for the more adventurous. As the name suggests, there is a current that takes you from one end to the other. The current is strong, so you need to watch out that you stop in time and swim back to the beach. Otherwise the current will take you out to sea.
Among all the fish, the drift is where I saw several sharks. The reef sharks seemed about 1,5m long. They didn’t pay much attention to me though and just swam away, patrolling the area. In my last drift I saw a turtle. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was and shouted ‘turtle, turtle’ for everyone to hear. I kept trying to follow it, but eventually the current had taken the energy out of me. The turtle however, just continued its swim.
A last site is a bit more difficult to find; Lakeside. There are markers indicating the area, but when there is a stronger current it is hard to find the exact spot. I kept trying and found the treasure. The corals were bigger and better than in the other spots. I saw the same types of fish, but also a gigantic brown one, at least one meter long and fat as can be. The wildlife in the sea always scares me a bit, but none of them really pays attention to you. If anything they just swim away.
The Cape Range National Park is worth a few days of exploration. It can also be a spot where you can relax after being on the road for a while. When it’s windy, the snorkeling is not as good, so calculate some extra time to compensate for that. You don’t want to miss out on that experience. Like I said, take heaps of food, water and petrol and breath in the fresh air. The park won’t let you down.