Ningaloo Station is a homestead to the south of Cape Range. Historically, four-wheel drive enthusiasts have used the crossing at Yardie Creek to make the trip from Coral Bay to Cape Range considerably shorter than having to go via Exmouth. Unfortunately for us the recent cyclones meant Yardie Creek was several metres deep and there had been a recent incident where someone had tried to cross the sandbar and ended up with his car written off. It was stuck for two days before it was retrieved. We took the main road, taking a brief diversion into the eastern side of Cape Range to visit the Charles Knife gorges, the main one, ShotHole Canyon was still closed from the recent cyclone. As well as commanding fabulous views across the peninsula, there are a number of well sites throughout the North West Cape where oil exploration had taken place in the mid 1950s. After drilling almost 4700m and not finding commercial hydrocarbons the wells were plugged.
On recommendations from WA locals, Brett and Doreen, and Gary and Pam, we had set our minds on visiting South LeFroy campsite on Ningaloo. The road in to the homestead was very corrugated and after an hour we arrived at a very dilapidated looking house surrounded by a huge flock of sheep and a handful of goats. Most of the coastal stations are for pastoral grazing and their 99 year leases will expire in June. The government is trying to reclaim the 2km coastal strip seeing potential to protect and/or develop the resource and regulars are concerned that their paradise will be lost forever, or will become too expensive. Currently dog-friendly, but lacking toilet and rubbish facilities, chemical toilets are required and rubbish needs to be taken with you when you leave.
A National Park style development would be ideal, however, the prospect of developing expensive eco-resorts would surely not bode well for the pristine coral reefs that lie metres from the beach in the crystal clear waters. We’ll watch this closely to see what happens.
A week at Ningaloo was not enough. We spent hours beachcombing or swimming over the reef. Reef sharks, turtles, abundant corals, and fish life proliferate. A short drive from the campsite took us over the sandhills, past the water bores to Norwegian Bay, the derelict site of an old whaling station. The rusting hulks of boilers and machinery littered the land behind the beach and made for some interesting exploration. The remnants of the old jetty and more machinery sit peacefully on the beach, now a marine reserve, and a solitary dolphin was hunting in the shallows 50m further along the beach.
A short diversion off the same road takes you to a popular fishing spot called Shark Alley. We visited several times, and couldn’t resist a snorkel. This was probably the clearest water but a strong current meant the kids had to be careful not to stray too far from the shore. Surprisingly though no sharks were spotted but more turtles and plenty of fish. Oscar’s new favourite fish was the giant unicornfish that really does have a unicorn protruding from the top of its head. We fished there and caught some of the most beautiful coloured wrasse and trigger fish. Nothing for dinner that day though.
On our last day Oscar and I were taken out fishing in the lagoon. One monster nearly pulled Oscar off the boat as he tried to reel it in, with me holding onto him, before it shook the hook. On the last cast of the day, with the sun having just set, I managed to land a legal sized spangled emperor, so no sausages for dinner!