The Gascoyne W.A.
For many the Gascoyne region in Western Australia offers the ultimate stretch of coastline in Australia.
The Indian Ocean makes up the western boundary, just below the Pilbara, then the region reaches 500km to the east, into some of the most inhospitable grazing country in the state.
Incorporating stunning oceanside locations such as Shark Bay, Monkey Mia, Coral Bay and Ningaloo, this important tourist region also hosts some remote inland locations. From the gorges of Exmouth to Mount Augustus and the Kennedy Range, the interior has as much to offer as the beaches.
The Gascoyne region is slightly larger than Greece but populated with only 10,000 people. This number is bolstered by quarter of a million visitors every year.
Many Japanese visitors arrive on direct flights from Japan into Monkey Mia for the dolphin experience. They leave the same way - this part of the 'Coral Coast' being their only Australian experience.
Shark Bay and Steep Point, in the same locale, have long been fishing meccas for West Australians getting away for a remote fishing expedition. The fishing is that good that unique bag limits are placed on the region.
Shark Bay is World Heritage Listed for good reason. It presents some unique marine environments and is one of the few places in the world to meet all the requirements for World Heritage Listing.
Further north Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef provide some unique marine experiences. Stunning snorkelling and diving and the opportunity to swim with Whale Sharks bring tourists by the thousands.
The Gascoyne is a unique place. Many visitors overlook the inland outback experience in the rush for a pristine beach.
Facts about The Gascoyne
Population: 10,000 approx.
Climate: Semi-Arid to Arid, very low rainfall, 320 days of sunshine a year.
Geography: Low saltbush shrublands, Limestone platforms and cliffs, Sandplains, Saltplains, Sedimentary and Granite ranges are divided by broad flat valleys, Desert.
Flora: Mostly low lying scrub with little or no tree cover. Spinifex, Wattle, Poverty Bush, Some Eucalypt and Paperbark along flood plains. Wildflowers after rain and Buffel Grass.
Fauna: Endangered Brush Tailed Rock Wallaby, Red Kangaroos and Euros. Corella's, Galah's, Emus, Parrots and various Eagles and Hawks. Banded Hare Wallaby, Western Barred Bandicoot and Shark Bay Mouse, Numerous small Marsupials and many species of Snakes and Lizards including large Goannas. Dingoes, feral camels, goats and donkeys.
Most Gascoyne attractions revolve around the beaches and marine parks. Swimming and snorkelling gear are almost mandatory to take along although most towns will have hire gear.
Inland journeys will require plenty of drinking water, good all-terrain footwear and cool clothing.
Mount Augustus National Park derives its name from Australia’s largest isolated rock, Mount Augustus which rises 858 metres above the surrounding landscape. It is over twice the size of Uluru in an extremely remote section of the Gascoyne.
- 1500km of pristine Shark Bay coastline including, Zuytdorp Cliffs, Wooramel Seagrass Bank, Shell Beach, Eagle Bluff, Nanga Bay, The Stromolites, Hamelin Pool
- Monkey Mia Dolphins
- Coral Bay
- Gascoyne Station Stays (farm style accommodation)
- Ningaloo Reef
- Cape Range National Park and Chales Knife Canyon
- Muiron Islands
- Yardie Creek
- The Kingsford Smith Mail Run and Mount Augustus
- The Wool Wagon Pathway
- The Miners Pathway
- Kennedy Range National Park
Carnarvon, Exmouth, Denham, Gascoyne Junction, Coral Bay.
Getting Around The Gascoyne
Because of the diverse beachside activities in the region getting to the Gascoyne is a pretty simple affair.
Regular tours, buses and flights head to all destinations in the area and backpackers and visitors without vehicles find it relatively easy to get around.
Getting from one hotspot along the coast to another is simple. Venturing inland requires a completely different tactic.
The Gascoyne is remote. Because of the sparse grazing conditions the local cattle stations are big - up to 1.2 million acres. Distances between homesteads are large and there are very few residents living inland.
Consequently services are minimal or non-existent. The major highways north - the North West Coastal and Great Northern, both have towns and roadhouses at respectable distances apart. The Gascoyne interior lies between these two highways and there are very few services to offer the visitor venturing into this remote outback region. Fuel and tyre repairs can be purchased at inflated rates at a few station homesteads and there are a couple of organised camping facilities.
Most tourist brochures indicate that travelling through the inland Gascoyne is a 'self-drive' experience and this is pretty accurate.
Be prepared to carry enough fuel and spares, food, water and the basic creature comforts.
We have seen an elderly German fly into Perth, then to Carnarvon where he hired a small four wheel drive. He drove himself out in the height of summer and paid for a couple of nights accommodation at a local station. He then proceeded to climb Mount Augustus on a day that reached 47°C. Remarkable. And he had the time of his life doing it.
It is possible to explore the coast without your own transport. If want to get the most from your time in the Gascoyne you should consider organizing your own vehicle.
Best Time to Visit
Like most of the mid to northern part of Australia the Gascoyne gets extremely hot in summer.
The inland sector around Emu Creek Station, which is the official weather station, usually records a few days nearing 50°C every year. At the height of summer the interior around Mount Augustus is deserted and it's possible to have the rock to yourself.
The coast is a different scenario. Afternoon sea breezes drop the temperatures to more acceptable levels and lots of easy beach access means cooling off is simple. Exmouth's average winter temperature is 25°C and the summer average is 35°C. With little or no rainfall and 320 days of sunshine a year, most months of the year are a great time to visit.
March through June is coral spawning season and the Whale Sharks move in to feed in the shallow water. For many people, swimming with these creatures is the highlight of their trip.
Strong onshore winds can take the edge off great beach time and May through August are the best times at Coral Bay.
School holidays bring hordes of West Australians to this part of the coast and if you are after a quiet oceanside break then considering the time either side of the holiday season is a good idea.
Click on the map to see more Australian Regions.
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