WA2021: Ningaloo

Yardie Creek Sand Bar

Our four days and five nights at Yardie Homestead seemed to disappear quite quickly, particularly as we are now coming up to our second and last night at Wooramel River Retreat. Yardie Homestead is located on the west side of the North West Cape, the side of the cape that features Ningaloo Reef. When we booked this campground, we could not get a site five nights in a row, so we booked three nights at and unpowered site and two nights at a powered site. We tried to change this when we arrive, but it was not possible – as it happens this was a good thing.

The wind

I should not complain about the weather as we are heaps better off than Victoria, but, the wind has become a serious issue for me/us. Because of our set up, we cook outside. Our cooktop is set up with three sides that can be wind breaks, but the fourth side is open. In view of this, it is necessary to try to orientate the trailer such that the wind is not blowing in to the cooktop.

Our unpowered site was against an exposed back fence to the campground and, guess what, we could not manoeuvre to avoid the wind. Luckily, the wind dropped at sundown on the first two days, but we had to get breakfast going early otherwise toast was off the menu.

Our third day was wind free (relatively), but on the fourth day it was back. Fortunately, we had moved to the powered. Site which was much more sheltered.

Yesterday when we arrive at Wooramel, it was a beautiful day, calm and sunny. However, about 09:00 this morning the wind got up and it had been ferocious all day. And, guess what, yes, it is blowing straight into the cooktop. It took about 30 minutes to boil the kettle for two cups of tea, only then with us both huddled round the kettle to act as a wind break.

OK, now that I have that off my chest, I am sure you would rather here about what we have been doing.

Mandu Mandu Gorge

After my little accident in Hancock Gorge, I swore not to tackle grade 5 walks again. So, we decided to spend the first day at Ningaloo walking the grade 4 Mandu Mandu Gorge trail, a three km, 2 hour walk. I felt reasonably confident about this, but that was to change. The trail started off along the base of this dry gorge along small rocks. The high cliff faces to both sides were home to rock wallabies, so part of the experience was spotting them.

This stage of the walk was very enjoyable, until we came to the steep climb to the top of the north edge of the gorge. And it was very steep, but we carefully made our way up to the top! From here we turned a corner on a slight descent and stopped for lunch, before a short clamber up some rocks to get to the next ridge.

Little did we know that there was a series of these ridges on the return leg and each one becoming more difficult to ascend and descend. Half way back, my enjoyment of the walk evaporated with each careful step and slither down rock faces. It was a great pity because, otherwise, the views of the reef were spectacular.

Glass Bottom Boat

On our second day (Tuesday), we had booked a short excursion on a glass bottom boat to view the coral and fish on the reef. Yet again the wind was howling round us and kicking up a few waves on the normally calm lagoon between the reef and the land.

However, the boat trip was really interesting, with details about the coral, then turtles and other fish that we saw. I always thought that coral was an animal, but I learned that, at different stages of its life, it is also a plant and a rock. The highlight was seeing a male and a female green turtle swimming around the reef.

Part of the deal was the opportunity to go snorkelling, so I was up for that. I am not competent at swimming with a snorkel, so I did not stay in for very long, in part because of the waves (resulting from the wind!). The water was a very comfortable temperature, so the worst part was coming back out onto the boat – it was freezing! That apart, it was a great outing.

Mangrove Bay

The west side of the Cape is very well structured with regard to permitted activities on land a sea. This is so in order to protect the reef and the sealife. The whole of the reef is a marine park and the land side is either the Cape Range National Park or various other reserves.

One of these reserves is a bird observatory with a hide overlooking as lagoon. K’s interest in identifying and photographing birds took us there a few times during the four days. The bird species were not very varied, but even I managed to get a couple of shots of the birds

Egret taking off
Pelicans resting

There were also a couple of good swimming beaches, so we took full advantage of enjoying the warm water on a couple of occasions.


The main town, Exmouth, is located on the east side of the Cape. It was established during the second world war when the Americans needed a location to set up a Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio station, mainly for submariners. So, they entered in to an agreement with the Australian government to build this on the tip of the Cape and in the process built the town of Exmouth.

The largest in the southern hemisphere, his VLF radio station is still operational. A large proportion of the Cape tip and eastern side is prohibited Commonwealth land that includes a RAAF base next to Exmouth airport.

Our third day was spent in Exmouth where at long last we found a really good bakery and an IGA supermarket. We were also going to investigate two more walks a bit further down the east side, but as they are grade 4, I did not feel up to it, particularly after the Mandu Mandu Gorge trail.

Yardie Creek

This is the only gorge on the Cape that is constantly under water as it is fed from the artesian basin, below and from the ridges behind when it rains. It can be cut off from the sea by a sand bar for up the three years – it is only when there is a heavy downpour that it will flow.

On our last day, we went on a pre-booked cruise up the creek during which we were given a very entertaining commentary about the creek and the cape. It went through various stages: whaling, pearling, WWII, tourism.

On our way, we spotted quite a few rock wallabies, a couple of Osprey nests and a Bower Bird building its bower.

And so, our four days at Ningaloo came to an end, leaving us with lots of great memories (but my lasting memory is of the wind!).

Wooramel River Retreat

This has been a two night stop over on the way to the Shark Bay area.

It was a day for doing some work (I had to complete my quarterly BAS for the tax office), catching up on my post writing and relaxing. I also took the opportunity to give the wagon a good wash (it had been raining slightly for the first time in weeks so I thought it would get a good rinse).


The relaxing bit was soaking in one of the four artesian baths at the retreat. These are fed naturally from 240 meters below where the water temperature starts at 50 degrees getting down to 35 degrees by the time it fills the baths. The water is rich in iron, magnesium and other minerals, all good for relaxing in, particularly at that temperature.

The view from our riverside camp site – the river only has water every six months or so, otherwise it is sand all the way!

The internet service is very poor here, so I will not be able to upload until tomorrow when we get to our next destination – Denham, Shark bay

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