6 December 2023
Fasten your seatbelts, pack your bags, and get ready to discover the hidden gems that make Carnarvon a coastal town like no other!
Welcome to Carnarvon, a palm-fringed coastal oasis tucked away along the shores of the Coral Coast Highway. Located a 9.5-hour (895km) drive north of Perth, or a 2-hour flight with Regional Express Airlines (REX), this coastal town invites you to deviate from the usual tourist spots and discover its lesser-known treasures.
Choose your base at Outback Oasis Caravan Park, Hospitality Carnarvon Surestay Collection by Best Western, Capricorn Holiday Park, or Coral Coast Tourist Park, and allow the town’s unspoiled beaches, natural wonders and vibrant coral reefs set the stage for a blend of activities. From platters of fresh local produce, historical space exhibits, to rugged coastlines perfect for fishing, surfing, and snorkelling, Carnarvon is a haven for both the adventure seekers, and those seeking serenity. So, whether you're passing through or planning an extended stay, take a refreshing change from the typical tourist hotspots and uncover these 10 hidden gems.
Pack your snorkel and towel it’s time to go on an adventure! First stop; the incredible Quobba Blowholes, located just 75km North of Carnarvon. Here, you’ll find yourself admiring the spectacular view of the ocean rushing through sea caves and shooting through rock holes, with each blow matched with a loud ocean roar, sometimes reaching heights of up to 20 metres!
Don’t forget to stop in at 'the Aquarium,' a beloved swimming and snorkelling lagoon. Located just 1km south of the Blowholes, you can choose to enjoy your very own rock pool, take a dip, explore the surrounding area on foot, or sit back and relax on the beach. No trip is complete without a snap of the iconic ‘King Waves Kill’ sign, this old wooden sign will have you quickly reaching for your camera! If you want to stay longer, Quobba Station is the perfect base where you can expect incredible fishing, surfing and snorkelling. The station hosts two campsites - The Quobba Homestead, perfect for families, fishermen and grey nomads, and Red Bluff, great for surfers, families, and adventurous travellers.
For the foodies, Carnarvon contributes to over 80% of Western Australia’s total fruit and vegetable harvest. Here, you can indulge in year-round local freshness on the Fruit Loop Drive Trail. Simply grab the trail map at the Carnarvon Visitor Centre and treat yourself to locally grown delights from 9 iconic locations, including the renowned chocolate-coated bananas. For a more direct farm-to-table experience, fruit, vegetables, and seafood can also be purchased directly from farm gates and the weekly Gascoyne Growers Market, which takes place every Saturdays between May and October. The markets offer local tropical fruits, homemade ice-creams, ready to eat meals (perfect for travellers!) and a wide variety of vegetables, cakes, jams, relishes, plants, and homemade crafts. The annual Gascoyne Food Festival takes place in August, so if you're travelling around this time make sure to add it to your list!
Tucked away in the heart of Carnarvon lies a cultural gem waiting to be discovered - Gwoonwardu Mia, Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre. This multipurpose centre celebrates five Aboriginal language groups: Yinggarda, Bayungu, Malgana, Thadgari, and Thalanyji. Collaborating closely with representatives from each local language group, the centre ensures their stories, art, and culture are not only preserved but shared with visitors.
Soak in the Aboriginal history of the region through the Centre’s permanent collection, exhibitions, Artist-in-Residence program, and the ethnobotanical garden. As you wander through the interpretive centre, you’ll explore many themes ranging from the ancient culture of the region to station stories and tales from Carnarvon town. Step into the Sky Dome exhibit, where a timelapse video of a starry sky unfolds, accompanied by insightful commentary about the ancient art of stargazing within the Aboriginal community.
Fill up your picnic basket and escape inland to Rocky Pool, nature’s very own freshwater bathtub. Located 55km east of Carnarvon, you’ll choose to float in the calm waters, indulge in a picnic under the ghost gumtrees, or simply absorb nature’s surroundings. The consistently warm climate makes it perfect for a refreshing dip all year-round. Take a stroll around Rocky Pool and admire the majestic ghost gum trees, or for a spot of exploring – the shallow pools are also known to be full of fossils that have been washed down from the Kennedy Ranges. For the adventurous souls seeking more than a day's escape, journey east of town to the Kennedy Range National Park, a two-hour drive that unfolds into a 4WD bush camping adventure beneath a star-studded night sky.
If you’re on the hunt for the perfect Instagram shot, head down South River Road to the iconic Cactus Garden. Hidden amongst the lush surroundings of Carnarvon, the Cactus Garden is a small desert haven which has become a popular photo hotspot for those seeking a touch of extraordinary. Pull up on the side of the road, and find yourself strolling through rows of captivating cacti, each providing a unique backdrop for some unforgettable snaps. Soak in views of over 350 cactus plants, all boasting magnificent and vibrant colours, with some even towering above five metres! Cactus plants are also available for purchase.
Step back in time, and uncover the town’s fascinating role in space history at Carnarvon’s Space and Technology Centre. Immerse yourself in a variety of interactive displays and experiences, including The Apollo (capsule) simulation, captivating planetarium movies, NASA memorabilia, and the space theatre and gift shop. Discover the town’s significant contribution to space exploration during the 1960s and 1970s, supporting NASA’s Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs. The centre is open daily, sharing the story of how this historic site played an essential role in relaying the iconic first moonwalk to Australian television stations in collaboration with the Parkes Observatory. Here, you’ll also discover the lesser-known tales of Carnarvon, functioning as the last communication station with space capsules leaving Earth, and serving as the final link before splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
For those seeking an adventure beyond the ordinary, head 140kms north of Carnarvon to Gnaraloo Bay. The journey along dusty and bumpy dirt roads leads to a secluded haven, with its sparkling blue waters, the purest white sand imaginable, and of course, an array of marine life. Remember to pack your mask and snorkel, as here you’ll discover some of Ningaloo’s most pristine coral gardens and serves as a habitat for one of the world’s largest populations of endangered loggerhead turtles. If the idea of lounging on the beach sounds a bit too tame, Gnaraloo Bay is also known for its world-class surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, and fishing. If you’re keen to catch a wave, check out Gnaraloo Point. The size and power of these waves are recommended for experienced surfers only – attracting visitors from all around the world who are eager to challenge themselves against the renowned Tombstones. Note, Gnaraloo Bay can only be accessed via 4WD’s.
For those seeking a little extra, take to the skies with Coral Coast Helicopter Services. This locally owned gem allows you to unwind in your own exclusive window seat, showcasing views of Carnarvon and surrounds. Whether you only have 5 minutes, or an hour, you’ll have the opportunity to customise your package to fit your road trip itinerary! Opt for a scenic flight and take in the rugged coastline of Carnarvon and its surrounding wanders from above. For those feeling more adventurous, check out the action-packed Heli-Adventures such as Heli-Snorkelling and Heli-Fishing (Line fishing, Spear fishing and Crayfishing). Don’t miss the chance to explore the beautiful coastlines of Quobba, marvel at the blue hues of Dirk Hartog Island, or be flown to your very own private beach, each creating an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime.
Escape the hustle and bustle and unwind at Wooramel River Retreat, an extraordinary station stay located just 1-hour away. The campground, surrounded by abundant birdlife and wildlife, provides spacious areas to relax, with the option to create your own private campfire beneath the outback night skies. Indulge in the naturally heated therapeutic artesian bore baths sourced from the Birdrong aquifer, there’s no doubt you’ll be left feeling relaxed and rejuvenated!
For those craving adventure, get a taste of station life with a 70km self-drive 4WD station tour. This track leads you to the scenic meeting point of the river and the sea— an ideal setting for a picturesque picnic. For those eager for a hike, lace up your shoes for the Wooramel River walk – a 5km stroll along the riverbanks under the towering gumtrees. Whether you’re soaking in therapeutic baths, gazing at mesmerising night skies, or relaxing under the majestic gum trees, Wooramel River Retreat offers you the unique charm of station life in the heart of Australia’s outback.
Settle into the relaxed pace of this sub-tropical haven and begin your day with a leisurely stroll along The Fascine, a palm-fringed walkway tracing the waterfront. Stop by and indulge your senses with a drink and bite to eat at one of the charming bakeries or waterfront hotels along the way. Round off your day learning about the rich history of Carnarvon with a walking tour through the Heritage Precinct or opt for a self-paced exploration using the Heritage, Art, and Cultural Trail guide available at the Visitor Centre.
As you wander along Robinson Street, Carnarvon's main street, be sure to absorb the town's story through its public art and an impressive 26-metre-long mural. Just a few minutes’ drive South of the Heritage Precinct is the main town beach - Pelican Point. This is a favourite amongst the locals for fishing and swimming adventures.