Australia's Coral Coast is home to some of the world's most important turtle breeding grounds

The Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area and the Mackerel Islands (off the northern coast of Exmouth) are all significant areas for marine turtles, including loggerhead, green, flatback and hawksbills turtles. Shark Bay alone is home to over 6,000 turtles!

Turtles can be encountered in the region year-round. Spot them popping their heads up out of the water while on a wildlife cruise or marine safari in Shark Bay; snorkel with them through the crystal clear waters of Ningaloo Reef while encountering some of the reef's 500 species of fish, 300 species of coral and abundance of other marine life; and spot them on a self-guided turtle walk at the Mackerel Islands.

From late-October through to early April the region transforms into a hub of turtle breeding as mating, nesting and hatching seasons occur. Visitors to the region should read the Turtle Watchers Code of Conduct (below) before heading to the beaches during these seasons.

Turtle Mating

Turtle mating generally commences in late-October, where they can be seen in the shallows. It's important not to disturb, swim with or interfere with mating turtles in any way - and make sure to give them plenty of space if they are resting on the beach.

Turtle Nesting

From December, female turtles can be seen making their way up the beaches to dig their nests and lay their eggs. This is a critical time for turtles, as turtles can easily become disoriented or abandon their nests if they are disturbed or startled.

Turtle Hatching

60 days after nesting, hatching occurs! As with turtle nesting, this is a critical time for turtles and it's important to give hatchlings adequate space and not interfere with them in any way.

Turtle Season Hotspots

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Dirk Hartog Island

Dirk Hartog Island is home to Australia's largest breeding colony of loggerhead turtles - the world's most endangered turtle species. They can be seen nesting from the Island's aptly named Turtle Bay to Dampier's Landing, and Turtle Bay is the species' main nesting area.

Ningaloo Coastline near Jurabi Turtle Centre

Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

The Ningaloo Coast is recognised as one of the world's most important nesting grounds for both green and loggerhead turtles. Key locations include Point Quobba (Carnarvon), Maud's Landing (Coral Bay) and the Jurabi Coastal Reserves (Exmouth). Exmouth's Jurabi Turtle Centre is one of the best places for a turtle experience, with dedicated night time turtle eco-education tours run by Park Rangers between December and March.

Mackerel Islands Baby Turtles

Mackerel Islands

Located off the northern coast of Exmouth, the Mackerel Islands are a gazetted nature reserve and a turtle hotspot. Flatback, hawksbill, loggerhead and green turtles can all be seen nesting and hatching on Thevenard Island, one of the 10 island atolls, between December and March.

Turtle Watcher's Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct will guide you on how to get the best opportunity to watch turtles during breeding season without disturbing their activity. The most important things to remember when you sight nesting and hatching is "no glow, move slow, stay low".


Turtles are at various risk levels from disturbance during their nesting process, but you should be mindful not to interfere with or disturb them during any stage. Here is everything you need to know about each nesting stage and how you can best protect them during this critical time in the breeding cycle.

Nesting stageHow to identifyTimeVulnerability to disturbanceTorch UseDistance from Turtle
1. Emerging from waterThe turtle crawls from the ocean towards the sand dunesBetween 5 - 20 minutesHighNoStay still and at least 15 metres away from the turtle.
2. Digging her nestThe turtle uses her front flippers to dig her nest, tossing large quantities of sand behind herBetween 20 - 40 minutesHighNoStay still and at least 15 metres away from the turte - if you are getting hit by sand, you are too close!
3. Excavating the nestThe turtle uses her rear flippers and will be rocking as she digsBetween 10 - 20 minutesMediumNoA maximum of 3 people at a time may slowly approach the turtle from behind, but must stay at least 1 metre behind her.
4. Egg layingThe turtle will be very still with a gentle heaving motionBetween 3 - 10 minutesLowYes, but only from behind if you stay low and remain partially covered at least 1 metre away from the rear of the turtleStay at least 1 metre behind the turtle.
5. Covering and camouflaging the nestThe turtle will cover the nest and compact the sand with her rear flippers, before slowly moving forward while tossing large quantities of sand behind her with her front flippersBetween 20 - 40 minutesLowNoStay still and at least 2 metres behind the turtle.
6. Returning to the oceanThe turtle will crawl from the sand dunes back to the oceanBetween 5 - 10 minutesLowNoRemain at least 2 metres behind the turtle at all times.


Turtle hatchlings are particularly vulnerable, and it is important that we minimise our impact on them to avoid causing stress. When viewing turtle hatchlings, make sure to:

  • Never touch or handle hatchlings
  • Never use any form of light or flash photography - this will disturb and disorientate the hatchlings, exposing them to a greater risk of predation or causing them to divert from their route to the ocean and become stranded on the beach.
  • Never disturb the nest
  • Never compact the sand, as there may still be hatchlings waiting to emerge from the nest
  • Never illuminate the hatchlings in the water
  • Never drive your vehicle on turtle nesting beaches, as you risk trapping hatchlings in wheel ruts
  • Always stand at least 1 metre away from the nest
  • Always stand still when hatchlings are making their way down the beach, to avoid stepping on them or scaring them
  • Always allow hatchlings to make their way to the ocean without assistance or disturbance. Allowing hatchlings to make their own way to the water using their flippers helps them to exercise their lungs, which in turn allows them to swim and dive when they reach the water
  • Always remain behind the hatchlings at all times

The best way to experience nesting and hatching turtles is on tour with a local. Exmouth's Jurabi Turtle Centre is one of the best places for this experience, with guided nighttime eco-eduational tours run by Park Rangers between December and March.