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Exmouth

Trip Reports      Exmouth May 2009     Exmouth August 2009

Exmouth is just North of the Tropic of Capricon near North West Cape. It was established to support an American military and communications base in the 60s. Now there is a limited Australian air and naval presence with the Harold Holt Communications base. The town survives on tourism, boasting such great attractions as the famed Ningaloo Reef, an annual migration of whale sharks, humpback whale migrations, incredible fishing opportunities and the wonderful scenery of the Cape Range National Park.

From a sailing perspective, Exmouth Gulf to the East offers a large expanse of relatively calm water. To the West, the inside of Ningaloo Reef offers limited opportunities for sailing but some excellent recreational water.

Launching

Exmouth has a large and modern marina, catering mainly for a fleet of prawn trawlers and fishing boats. It has a 4 lane concrete ramp suitable for all tides, with finger jetties. The two outer finger jetties offer "blind sides" that can be used to tie up to while waiting for someone to return with a car etc without blocking use of the ramps. We have used the town taxi service so we can leave the car at a caravan park but it is evident that some people leave car and trailer at the car park for extended periods.  If this option is taken, it is best to inform the police of your whereabouts.

On the West Coast, Tantabiddy is approximately 35km around NW Cape. Here there is a one lane concrete ramp that will suit trailer sailers on half tides when the swell surge is not too great. It offers access to a large amount of water inside the reef and a passage to the outside.

At Bundegi, approximately 12 km North of Exmouth, there is a new boat ramp that would suit trailer sailers. It is open to the NE, E and SE, especially when the tide is up and the protection of Bundegi Reef is minimised.

At Coral Bay, approximately 150km South of Exmouth on the West Coast, there is a new launching facility at Monck Head. We have not used it but it looks to be suited to trailer sailers.

Car Storage

We made use of "Exmouth All Purpose Storage" at 1131 Koolinda Way, Exmouth (Ph 08 9949 1889). Ron charged $70 for the week for car and trailer. He gave me a lift to the marina and was most helpful. We approached the Ningaloo Resort Caravan Park but they were not too interested. A local suggested dropping by the local yacht club and asking around.

Shopping

Exmouth has a couple of supermarkets, bakery, newsagent, liquor store, an assortment of clothing shops, a sports store, a number of fishing/dive gear shops and some limited boating chandlery.

Accommodation

We stayed at the Ningaloo Reef Resort, a caravan park central to most shops. It had no trouble accommodating the yacht. Nearby was the Exmouth Caravan Park and it looked comfortable. Further out near NW Cape, the Lighthouse Caravan Park has a good reputation amongst travellers. There are many other styles of accommodation available, from units to luxury town houses to hotels spread around the town. Things can get quite crowded in July.

Tides

Exmouth has a tidal range of around 3 metres. Strong tidal currents can be experienced in parts of the gulf, most notably around NW Cape. The tide can also play a part at Ningaloo, where high spring tides can allow the swell to come over the reef in places, making some anchorages less attractive.

Communications

We have had Telstra Next G service as far away as Y Island (15 nm East).

Anchorages and Places to Visit

We have not even scratched the surface with Exmouth Gulf yet so the following is based on our little experience. I am sure that we have missed some real gems. Note that the comments about anchorages refer to SHALLOW water access suitable for trailer sailers that can retract the keel. What we regard as a good anchorage allows drying out on clean sand. Use these AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

Y Island - A small coral atoll 15nm East of Exmouth Marina. The Island is surrounded by spectacular coral, especially off the Southern end. It affords some protection on the Eastern and Northern sides although a rolling Northerly swell can be an annoyance. There is a wreck of a trawler on the South,West beach. Best to land with a tender due to presence of coral right to the sand beach. A small piece of paradise.
Eva Island - 2 miles North of Y Island and similar. It lacks protected anchorages. There is a deep drop-off on the Eastern side, from 2 to 10 metres over heavy coral. This can be an interesting place to troll for very large trevally and mackerel. A beautiful snorkel can be had on the North Eastern tip over the shallow rock ledge extending out from the shore.

 

 

 

 

Somerville Island - Approximately 3.5 miles East of Y Island. More of the same but with no apparent clean anchorage.
Tent Island - Shallow on the Northern End, better access on the Southern end. A shallow sandy creek system on the North East tip would give good protection against a big blow. Some corals on Southern end.
Simpson Island - Close to mainland. The Eastern side gives good protection although care needs to be taken when entering channel from the North due to large coral bombies. Clearer on Southern end although care is needed.
Bay of Rest - A deep inlet and mangrove complex over sand and low rock rubble. The main channel is deep enough to handle some keel boats and protection is afforded to most winds. We have found very clean sand on the Western side is suitable for drying out. We have sat out some serious blows here. There are some very shallow yet spectacular corals on the Western side of the channel entrance. These are terrific to snorkel over and hold a surprising variety of fish.