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In the midst of a cold and wet winter, we did the long trek north, driving 14 hours north from Perth to search for sunshine in Coral Bay. We did the long drive over 2 days. Being West Australian natives the long drive is normal for us. Even our three year old daughter just settles in, sits back and enjoys the ride.
We were prepared for an enjoyable road trip with a variety of tunes and a pile of books and toys in the back for Em to play with. Our food was ready – Thai chicken rice paper rolls and spiced almonds. The wheels were rolling and we were off.
Drummond Cove is our favourite overnight stop along this stretch of road. It is just past Geraldton, close to the 440 Roadhouse and right on the Great Northern Highway so it is easy to take off quickly in the mornings. The camper was set up in record time and we settled in to sleep.
We arrived in Coral Bay the following day at about 4 in the afternoon. It didn’t take long to do a basic set up before a quick walk over the road for our first glimpse of the beach. Em was overjoyed and we were unable to stop her from running into the water fully clothed.
When we returned to camp we sat down with a drink, ready to relax and unwind from the long drive.
We then spent the next seven nights in paradise. We have been to Coral Bay a few times in the last few years but each stay has always been short. I could never just drive past it so we had to stop in when we went to Exmouth, and we would always tack on a couple of extra days to go up there when we visited my Dad in Carnarvon. This time we had a full week to relax, have a proper look around and enjoy ourselves.
The best thing about Coral Bay is that there is nothing much to do. There is the beach, some snorkelling and some dunes. We quickly settled into a routine. We would get up in the morning, go to the beach for a few hours, we would return to camp for lunch and then still have the whole afternoon to do whatever we wanted. Sometimes we went back to the beach, sometimes we went to explore- Maud’s Landing, the dunes and the marina.
And sometimes we let Em run wild making friends at Bayview Caravan Park’s playground, pool and jumping pillow. She loved going to the beach but she always knew there would be other kids to befriend at the playground and at the pool.
A few quiet mornings I woke early and left Rick and Em snoring in bed while I went for a nice quiet walk along the beach. The morning colours were amazing pale pinks and blues in the sky which were reflected in the water. I was able to sit in peaceful solitude on the beach, stopping to breathe and meditate before walking back to our camper.
We had a day of 4 wheel driving through the sand dunes. I was holding on tight, holding my breath and squeezing my eyes closed – totally not an enjoyable experience for me. Em was cackling like a madman, bouncing around in her car seat, having the time of her life. Rick was in total control and enjoying the whole experience. The tracks didn’t take us to any beach that was better than Bill’s Bay which is the main beach in town but it was still great to get away from the main drag and see what else the area had to offer.
Bill’s Bay is definitely the best beach for kids and was also the closest beach to where we were camped. The water is ankle deep and completely clear for about ten metres before it drops off to the coral reef. The shallow water is basically the best and most beautiful splash pool for a child ever.
The weather was perfect 25-30 and sunny every day. We spent hours at the beach, in the water and building sand castles. Em begged us for a boat every day and on our last day we hired a kayak for an hour and Rick and Em paddled around the shallows until Em got bored (about half an hour) and Rick dropped her off and went on his own little adventure in the time he had left.
Rick snorkelled just about every area that could be snorkelled. I didn’t do any snorkelling on this trip. Unfortunately I was quite sick with the worst cold ever, even baking on the sand in the sun didn’t make me better. I didn’t want to put my snotty face in a snorkel and Em is still too young to snorkel so we will have to do another trip when she is older so that she can discover the amazing world that exists below the surface of the water.
There are a number of companies that offer all sorts of tours – dune buggies, fishing charters, snorkeling and diving. Unfortunately Rick gets extremely seasick so all boat tours were out of the question and we weren’t up for the dune buggies so snorkeling, beaching and exploring were enough to keep us happy for the week we were there.
There is a small supermarket in town, a beautician, a gift shop, hostel, pub, a couple of restaurants and a bakery. We have previously stayed in a room at the hotel and had views right out to the ocean.
There are two caravan parks in town. I have always stayed at Bayview Caravan Park (probably because it is a bit cheaper than People’s Choice Caravan Park) but I have heard good reviews of that one also.
The Bakery does great pies and coffee. On the day we left we packed up the camper and then got take away coffees and pies for breakfast.
A week was the perfect amount of time. I felt like I could have got bored if we had been there for much longer, but I was also really sick and not able to enjoy it as much as I normally would. We also had a night on either end of the trip to break the trip up on the way there and back. I would highly recommend doing that too if you are also travelling with small children.
Billabong roadhouse is the best place to stop for food and fuel on the way up and down. Our car takes diesel so I didn’t check the prices for unleaded but they check all the prices in the local area and make sure that their price is the lowest. They also seem to have the best quality food for a roadhouse offering some fresh and healthy options.
Em is still talking about Coral Bay and keeps telling us she wants to return. If it was a couple of hours away we would go every year. The vast distance is worth the travel and although it is always busy (be prepared to book a year in advance if you are travelling in school holidays) it is a small town with limited tourism so even when it is busy, it is still not crowded.