Where to stay for the Ningaloo Reef

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The Ningaloo Reef is the world’s largest fringing reef, and teeming with marine wildlife, it puts on an unmatched show. Corals, colourful fish, turtles, manta rays, humpback whales and whale sharks all thrive here. But where to stay for the Ningaloo Reef?

You have two main options for Ningaloo Reef lodging: Coral Bay and Exmouth. The tiny Coral Bay is located directly on the Ningaloo Reef, while the bigger Exmouth puts you a drive away.

Both these towns provide great hotels near the Ningaloo Reef. However, because of how far apart they are, it’s often a good idea to split your days between them.

Coral Bay

Coral Bay is the option for where to stay when visiting the Ningaloo Reef that offers the most intimate location. Where Coral Bay ends, the Ningaloo Reef begins (literally!).

Just walk down Robinson Street, Coral Bay’s main street, and see for yourself. There, the crescent-shaped Coral Bay Beach, also known as Bill’s Bay, takes your breath away.

Plunge into the crystal-clear water, and soon you arrive at the first corals. This habitat is home to a wide range of sea creatures, including colourful fish and turtles — sightings are likely.

With generally calm water, Coral Bay Beach is one of the best family destinations in Western Australia. Visitors of all ages snorkel the waters off Coral Bay Beach together.

On dry land, the scenery is jaw-dropping too. Coral Bay Beach’s white sand dunes contrast the blue Indian Ocean brilliantly — this is vacation.

What else is going on in Coral Bay?

Not much. Picture a small settlement with a few caravan parks, hotels, restaurants and a small shopping centre, where you can buy groceries, souvenirs and book tours.

Takeaway: Coral Bay is the only town directly on the Ningaloo Reef. This is the best option for where to stay when visiting the Ningaloo Reef if you like the idea of a quiet beach town.

Pros with Coral Bay

  • Best Ningaloo Reef access.
  • Lovely family-friendly beach.
  • Cozy vacation vibe.
  • Walkability.

Cons with Coral Bay

  • Few hotel & restaurant options.
  • Far from Cape Range.
Gentle lapping waves on the family-friendly Coral Bay Beach, WA
Family-friendly Coral Bay Beach.

Recommended hotels in Coral Bay

Ningaloo Reef Resort

The name of the Ningaloo Reef Resort gives it away: Just cross the street and you have arrived at the awe-inspiring Ningaloo Reef. Tropical fish, whale sharks and manta rays — here you come. Accommodation options include relaxed studios as well as garden and ocean view apartments.

View of Ningaloo Reef Resort, one of the best Ningaloo resorts, from the water
You can see Ningaloo Reef Resort from the beach.

Peoples Park

Enter Peoples Park and find a friendly oasis. From caravan sites to deluxe cabins and hilltop villas, this place to stay near the Ningaloo Reef offers something for every traveler. Regardless if you stay here or not, get some coffee at Fin’s café. The beverages and service are, exactly like you want a Ningaloo holiday to be, restoringly laid back.

Self-contained cabin surrounded by palm trees at Peoples Park, one of the best places to stay near the Ningaloo Reef, WA
Cosy cabin at Peoples Park.


Where to stay for the Ningaloo Reef if you prefer a bigger town? The answer is Exmouth, the only sizable town in the Ningaloo Reef area.

Above all, Exmouth is the gateway to Cape Range National Park. It showcases deep canyons, eye-popping limestone ranges and, of course, iconic Ningaloo Reef beaches.

Along Yardie Creek road, you find a remarkable lineup of snorkelling spots. Lakeside and Oyster Stacks are two snorkelling areas standing out for their rich marine life.

But the drift-snorkelling mecca Turquoise Bay is the icing on the cake.

Enter the water at the southern end of the beach’s drift side and let the current carry you north over the reef. Enhanced by the natural drift, this is a one-of-a-kind snorkelling experience.

How far it’s from Exmouth to Turquoise Bay? It’s a 62 km (39 mi) drive taking about 45 minutes.

After a day of Ningaloo snorkelling, enjoy the amenities in Exmouth. For its remote location, Exmouth boasts an impressive array of unique hotels and restaurants.

With Exmouth’s bigger size also comes appreciated town functions. In particular, because you never know, the town’s hospital gives you some peace of mind.

Takeaway: Pick Exmouth for where to stay for the Ningaloo Reef if you like the idea of a bigger town. Here, framed by Cape Range, nature and civilisation come together.

Pros with Exmouth

  • Closest to Cape Range.
  • Luxury Ningaloo Reef hotels.
  • Eclectic restaurants.
  • Town facilities (including a hospital).

Cons with Exmouth

  • A drive to reef beaches.
Entrance to the drift-snorkelling paradise Turquoise Bay on the NIngaloo Reef, WA
Turquoise Bay (make it left to drift snorkel).

Recommended hotels in Exmouth

Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort

Facing Town Beach and Exmouth Gulf, Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort offers luxurious rooms, self-contained apartments and bungalows. After diving the Ningaloo Reef, relax by the pool, work out in the gym and let the award-winning Mantaray’s Restaurant spoil you — this is a gorgeous option for where to stay when visiting the Ningaloo Reef.

Exmouth Escape Resort

An appealing selection of modern apartments and villas awaits at Exmouth Escape Resort, conveniently located on the main road. The resort facilities, including a spacious pool area, are spot on. Yet it’s the flavours of the on-site Whalers Restaurant that’s this Ningaloo resort’s best feature. Families, couples and solo travelers alike love the menu, ranging from fresh seafood to yummy steaks.

Man snorkelling the crystal-clear Turquoise Bay on the Ningaloo Reef, WA
Snorkelling the crystal-clear Turquoise Bay.

Is Coral Bay or Exmouth better?

So, you still can’t decide where to stay for the Ningaloo Reef? Let’s have a closer look at the friendly Coral Bay versus Exmouth rivalry.

Coral Bay vs Exmouth: Location

Coral Bay is located directly on the southern portion of the Ningaloo Reef. From Exmouth’s Learmonth Airport (LEA), it’s roughly an hour by car down to Coral Bay.

Exmouth is situated at the northern end of the Ningaloo Reef. If you arrive by airplane, transportation from the airport to the town of Exmouth takes under 30 minutes.

Coral Bay vs Exmouth: Beaches

Coral Bay Beach, one of the finest Western Australian beaches, awaits right across the street from Ningaloo Reef accommodation in Coral Bay. The accessibility is incredibly convenient and like made for a relaxing holiday.

Sure, Exmouth has its Town Beach, but it simply can’t compare to the beaches on the Ningaloo Reef. Most visitors happily drive the 45 minutes to Turquoise Bay — the reward is big.

Coral Bay vs Exmouth: Amenities

Coral Bay is a small resort town; it’s, in fact, so tiny that it might feel like just one big resort. A few Ningaloo hotels, some restaurants, a miniature shopping centre — there it stops.

As the region’s hub, Exmouth has a much more solid infrastructure than Coral Bay. Think more hotels, restaurants and shops but also a hospital and other services.

Coral Bay vs Exmouth: Whale sharks

Ningaloo’s whale shark season generally lasts from March to July. During these months, the marine giants show up almost daily. Tours depart both from Coral Bay and Exmouth, but the difference is that the season begins and ends slightly earlier in Coral Bay.

Regardless if you opt for a Coral Bay or Exmouth whale shark tour, book it in advance to avoid disappointment.

Planet Burgers food truck in Exmouth, WA
The casual Planet Burgers, one of many dining options in Exmouth.

Unique places to stay near the Ningaloo Reef

Do you want to completely leave civilization behind? On top of Coral Bay and Exmouth, these are unique places to stay in and adjacent to Cape Range National Park.

Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef

There are views, and there’s the view at Sal Salis. Enjoy luxury safari tents within steps of the Indian Ocean and the Ningaloo Reef. At this unique Ningaloo Reef accommodation, within Cape Range National Park, you allow yourself to get back to nature. Beware: A stay here might make you question how you normally live your life, or at least why you don’t bed down at Sal Salis more often.

Yardie Homestead Caravan Park

Don’t expect extravagancy here. Sitting between Exmouth and Cape Range National Park, Yardie Homestead is an old-school caravan park, which also provides chalets, holiday shacks and the bigger shearer’s quarters.

Tips for your Ningaloo Reef stay

  • Combine Coral Bay & Exmouth: Coral Bay and Exmouth are both great places to stay when visiting the Ningaloo Reef. Therefore the best scenario is to have time for both these gems during your stay.
  • Book lodging early: The Ningaloo Reef might be huge, but the hotels and resorts near the Ningaloo Reef are few. You don’t want to stay hours away; secure your Ningaloo lodging as soon as possible, especially if you plan a winter or school break getaway.
  • Plan tours in advance: Whale shark, humpback whale, manta ray and turtle tours are all big-ticket items at the Ningaloo Reef. To avoid disappointment, book the tours you want to take in advance (this also saves you precious holiday time).
  • Discover Cape Range: Too many visitors miss out on the inland attractions of Cape Range National Park during their Ningaloo stays. Yardie Creek hikes and boat tours complement the Ningaloo Reef exceptionally well.
Reflecting blue Yardie Creek in Cape Range National Park, a unique place to stay near Ningaloo Reef
Yardie Creek in Cape Range.

Where to stay for the Ningaloo Reef FAQ

What town is closest to Ningaloo Reef?

Coral Bay is located directly on the Ningaloo Reef, offering a walkable Ningaloo Reef experience. The area’s hub, Exmouth, is 62 km (39 mi) and about 45 minutes from Turquoise Bay, which is famous for its drift snorkelling.

Which is the best place to stay near Ningaloo Reef for families?

Coral Bay is a family-favorite for a reason. The advantage here is that you have your entire stay within walking distance, including the beach, reef, restaurants and grocery store. If this sounds like what you want, consider the Indian Ocean-facing Ningaloo Reef Resort.

How many days do you need for the Ningaloo Reef?

You don’t want to rush around this pretty area: Allow minimum 5 days but preferably more. Ningaloo Reef, Cape Range National Park, Coral Bay and Exmouth make a beautiful quartet.

What’s the closest airport to Ningaloo Reef?

Exmouth’s Learmonth Airport (LEA) functions as the Ningaloo Reef airport. From the airport, it’s under 30 minutes north to Exmouth and just over an hour south to Coral Bay.

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