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Coral Bay  Western Australia

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Originally called Bills Bay, it was not until 1968 that the small town was formally settled and took the name of Coral Bay. Perth is 1141 km to the south by road, and access by air is via the airport at Exmouth, which is 150 km north of Coral Bay. Drivers should take particular care if driving after dusk, as there are large numbers of kangaroos in the area.

The area around Coral Bay was originally a popular recreation spot for the people of Maud's Landing, an earlier settlement slightly to the north of Coral Bay, and given the current popularity, and the beauty, of Coral Bay, it is hard to fault their judgement. Pristine white beaches, abundant flora and fauna, and, most spectacularly, the Ningaloo Marine Park - all make the town a must visit location when in Western Australia.

The town's star attraction, Ningaloo Reef, is just off the town's main beach - its proximity to the coast is just one of the things that make it unique. In total Ningaloo is 260-km long, at its closest point is only 100 metres off the coast, at its furthest 7km. The range and colour of the marine life on the reef is astounding: somewhere in the region of 200 species of corals, 500 species of fish, 600 species of mollusc, dugongs, manta rays, turtles, whales (14 species have been spotted in the area), seagrasses, nudibranches and more.

Anytime of the year is a wonderful time to view the reef, but the months of April to June hold special significance. It is at this time of the year that the reef's mass coral spawning attracts the largest fish in the sea, the whale shark. These creatures can grow to a length of over 12 metres, and as they often like to swim close to the surface they are easily seen, and interacted with. Tour operators in the town can take you to view this phenomenon, but tours are expensive.

Other options to explore the reef are in a glass-bottom boat, or for those who like to fish there are deep sea charters available. Or you could simply grab a snorkel or fishing line (to use outside the sanctuary zone) and go to the beach to explore freely. Water temperatures range from the low 20s to the low 30s (Celsius), so water activities are all-year round affairs.

On land try the Coral Bay Walk, a 2-km long scenic trail - see kangaroos, emus, lizards, abundant birdlife, wildflowers in season. The walk begins at the caravan park shop, and follows the coastline to View Rock. Four-wheel cycles can also be hired. The town has a small shopping centre, with tour operators, arts and crafts, boat and diving equipment hire, surf wear, cafe, newsagent and supermarket.

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