Australia’s world famous beaches are usually thought of as Bondi beach in Sydney, the Whitsundays in the North or the majority of the sun-kissed Queensland coast. Once you actually begin dissecting the beach scene Down Under, you discover just how many sandy secrets Oz has been hiding. Perth and the surrounding areas command the title of Western Australia’s hot spots for beautiful beaches, but just two hours north by plane is the veiled gem of the North West Cape. The North West Cape is located in the middle of the western coast, highlighted by the humble town of Exmouth, which was originally established by the US Navy but is now a melting pot of locals, seasonal employees and transient backpackers.
On both sides of the North West Cape are stunning arrays of beaches that offer their own individual qualities. From nudist necessities to snorkelling sensations and surfer’s paradise, heading to the North West Cape not only looks like paradise but can also present job opportunities as well!
1) Town Beach
Town Beach is located along the majority of Exmouth’s perimeter. Only about a ten-minute walk or two-minute drive from Exmouth’s town centre, this beach is a backyard staple. Since this beach is so to the town, you’re able to catch a few rays o’ sun, dig your toes in the sand or grab a short swim, all in the short break you have between shifts at the local restaurants you might work at. Since Exmouth is primarily based around tourism, many of the restaurants rely on the influx of travellers that come to Exmouth and revel in the marine paradise and small town vibes that characterize the town. Many cafes and eateries prefer that you stay throughout the busy season, as it is a hassle to continuously train new staff. In order to increase your chances of landing a job, see that you schedule enough time in one place to make it worth your employer’s efforts. Exmouth offers not only hospitality related jobs, such as serving and house keeping, but with the thriving Ningaloo Reef just on the other side of the Cape, whale shark and reef tours are the main draw of the town, as well as fishing and dive charters.
2) Coral Bay
Coral Bay is one of the most popular spots for camper van crusaders to stop at, along their journey along the west coast. Several tour buses such as Red Earth or Western Exposure make periodic stops at similar beach spots such as Coral Bay and Turquoise Bay. Much smaller than Exmouth, Coral Bay has a very limited selection of entertainment options with no more than ten restaurants total, a few gift shops and very few formal accommodations. Half of Coral Bay seems comprised of the caravans that populate the local caravan park, housing the lovely nomads, families, explorers and residents that make their way to this special location. Many travellers who choose to stay in Coral Bay have passionate interests in the marine tourism industry, which is similar to Exmouth with whale shark tours, snorkel and dive guiding as well as fishing and boating charters around the gorgeous Ningaloo Reef. Finding a job here is much more difficult as the locals have secured what few job opportunities are available in this petite paradise.
3) Mauritius Beach
Nudists unite! There’s no need to go all the way to Europe to free yourself of those haunting tan lines and sticky swimsuits, just head twenty minutes out of Exmouth proper to this oasis of bare naked freedom. This beach is rarely visited by anyone, even during peak season. Whether that’s because of a fear of seeing unwanted sights or a general disinterest in baring it all, Mauritius Beach is a great alternative for some quiet time between you and the ocean. Just be wary ladies, those blokes fishing out on the reef may have strategically found ‘a good place to fish’, but they’re looking for other fish in the sea…or on the sand.
4) Oyster Stacks
If the goal is superb snorkeling, make sure not to miss Oyster Stacks on your route. Further into the National Park, Oyster Stacks can be found to make up in amazing marine life for what it lacks in sandy beach terrain. To enter the water, you have to carefully find your way past sharp and slippery rocks, sea urchins lurking between the crevices and making sure not to squish any sea cucumbers. Be sure that you are only going snorkeling at Oyster Stacks during mid to high tide, as low tide will leave your belly scraping the corals and your fins destroying precious homes for the marine life.
Ningaloo Reef and the surrounding ecosystems are extremely delicate and Oyster Stacks alone is home to hundreds of beautiful and rare marine wildlife such as sea turtles, blue-spotted rays, massive lobsters, hypnotizing lionfish and a diverse assortment of tropical fishes- all of which depend on the health of the coral reef to survive. One way that humans are attempting to help preserve coral reefs is through education, demonstrated through dive tours and guided snorkel adventures.
Just past the swell breaking on the outskirts of the reef at Oyster Stacks is a local dive spot called ‘Hole in the Wall’ which is a series of underwater caves you can explore with a certified dive master. Inside the dark caverns you’ll have the chance to discover reef sharks, giant coral trouts, and many other species that enjoy the smaller, darker spaces. Dive shops in Exmouth happily hire on qualified dive instructors and dive masters to help lead such tours during high season between May to September.
5) McCleods Beach
It might save your life to refrain from swimming at McCleods Beach, since just below the surface lurks rocky formations that are perfect shelter for stonefish. These fish have poisonous spines that will not only sting, but cause severe pain and subsequent illness after you step on them. McCleods is also not the most picturesque beach, but the barrier of sand dunes between the beach and the road create the illusion that you’re farther away from civilization than you actually are.
Taking a ride on all fours is a popular activity on this beach, whether that’s four legs or four wheels. Beach trail rides are offered as a tourist attraction by a local horse lover who is more than happy to accommodate your riding ability, as some experienced riders roll their eyes when they hear ‘trail ride tours’, imagining being stuck walking the entire time with a group of beginners, and vice versa for beginners worrying about getting left behind a crew of advanced equestrians. If vehicles are your steeds of choice, many four-wheel drive vehicles race up and down the coast, along with motorbikes and ATVs also participating in the high-speed frivolity.
Without the barrages of tourist attention that beaches like Turquoise Bay and Coral Bay attract, Hunters lack of pristine white sands and rock studded sea bottom make it an ideal spot to participate in shore fishing and when the swell is up, head out for a surf. The way the Hunters waves roll in gives way to beginners for a chance at learning without the pressure of either riding the wave or dying. However, swells are entirely susceptible to change and although Hunters is smaller on certain days during the early winter months of April and May, waves have been reported to reach up to 10ft during the prime season.
Located just past Vlamingh Lighthouse, Hunters is the first beach after you pass the Lighthouse Caravan park, which although a bit further out of the main town of Exmouth, allows campers the opportunity to be closer to the west coast where there is a greater selection of beaches and right next to the best spot to watch the sunset, up at the base of the Vlamingh Lighthouse.
Does this look like a snapshot from where you’d rather be? Believe it or not this photo was taken between shifts at the local health café and the country tavern. Dunes is by far one of the favourite beaches of Exmouth locals, as it’s proximity to town and often great wave sets are all the reasons required before rolling out with a cooler (in Aussie terms ‘eski’) of cold beers to accompany your sun dazed afternoon. The great thing about Exmouth is how friendly the community is, since the town is so small, everyone either knows or connected to everyone else! Dunes has the most consistent swells during early winter, so there’s always a great group of local surfers out in the waves soaking up as much of it as they can!
8) Sandy Bay
Looking to ditch the tourists entirely? Sandy Bay is like the younger forgotten sibling of the celebrity older relative Turquoise Bay. Even during the popular months of Australian winter, Sandy Bay remains fairly unpopulated by sunburned singlet wearing college kids or screaming toddlers ruining your peace and quiet.
If you enjoy the isolation, but are still keen for some excitement, Sandy Bay is actually one of the most beautiful kite surfing locations in Western Australia. Shallow water, sandy bottoms and perfect wind conditions in summer present the prime example of what many freestyle kite boarders are looking for. There aren’t any lessons offered at Sandy Bay, but during the summer months, Exmouth is home to Ningaloo Kite and Board, the premier kite-boarding store in town that could help direct you to an appropriate instructor if you were interested to pursue the art of flight without wings.
9) Turquoise Bay
Did you think you were in Fiji for a second there? Think again, this is the mesmerizing sky, water and sand of Turquoise Bay. As one of the most popular destinations on the North West Cape and even in Western Australia, Turquoise Bay is thankfully still free from being too commercialized and trashed tourists. Besides having crystal glass as water, the coral reef that lies beneath is breathtaking and inspiring with a healthy balance of fish, coral and larger marine species such as sea turtles, reef sharks, and stingrays. The trick to snorkelling here is to walk up the beach in the direction of the current and only entering the water when you are ready to be swept over the oceanic garden tended only by natural gardeners.
Several tour buses make stops here for obvious reasons. What might not be so obvious is that tour companies are always looking for help when it comes to the busy season! Maybe it’s leading the tours, driving the bus or coordinating schedules, tourist dependent services often triple in the amount of business they do during the season and need the man power to help fuel a successful business! Working as a tour guide is not only a fantastic way to earn some income on the road, but you will also gain a new appreciation and understanding of this new environment that you have set out to explore yourself.
10) Jansz Beach
Lastly, we have Jansz Beach, which might be one of the best all-around beaches. Boasting some of the largest sand areas, this beach is perfect for an afternoon get together with friends, an eski full of cold refreshments (this is what Aussie’s calla a cooler remember?) and lots of laughs. Make sure to bring a beach tent or umbrella, since Jansz doesn’t offer any shade shelter as other beaches do. Immediately when you enter the water is pillow soft sand, but a little bit further out are an intricate puzzle of trenches. You can gear up with your mask and fins for an inquisitive snorkel or if you’d prefer stay above water, take out a stand up paddleboard and watch the glassy ripples serve as your window into an alien world of crazy coloured crazy fish and stunning sea critters. Jansz Beach is truly the epitome of a perfect beach, the only thing missing, is YOU.