Remember when you were a kid and you actually knew your neighbours. You would spend your days running through their house without the need for an invitation, with all the kids from the street coming together, from sunrise to sunset, to play.
A place where you have just met someone but already feel like you’ve lived next to them for years. That welcomed and carefree feeling is infectious and every single person embodies it, whether traveller or local.
We tried to come up with another remote small-town in Australia that came close to this family-town feeling. We couldn’t. A lot of people in country towns in Australia tend to keep to themselves, and even the local bar workers in those remote areas are pretty … meh … about new faces and visitors.
Not Exmouth. We had the pleasure of meeting a lot of locals who were so welcoming and open to sit down [quite literally come and sit down with us] for a chat. We even had some lovely locals offer us a round at one of the local breweries…umm…it’s hard enough to get good friends to shout a round, let-alone ‘strangers’. What legends.
The people, the air and the sights are intoxicating.
OUR CAPTAINS; FLIGHTS TO EXMOUTH
We flew up with Qantas, but other airlines also fly up. We had a flight credit to use from our AMEX so it essentially meant we flew up the two of us, for the price of one.
Going end of Feb/beginning March over the Labour Day Long Weekend meant that we weren’t in peak season for Exmouth. It was actually great to not have the town packed and meant that we got cheaper flight and accommodation rates, while still having amazing weather.
WHERE WE STAYED; EXMOUTH ACCOMMODATION
We stayed at, and booked directly through, Mantarays Exmouth Resort.
We did try to book through Qantas Travel for the points, but for some unknown reason [which they would give us no help on] they were double the price per night.
Mantarays is one of the only places in Exmouth which is right on the beach, although it is a few minutes drive into the main town [NB: main town consists of a few IGA’s, a bakery, local clothing stores and a bar].
We hired a car and picked it up from the Airport. They do have a shuttle bus into town if you don’t hire a car. We would just suggest you think about where you want to go while you’re there though – with no car, getting out to the National Park or other nearby places might be a little harder and potentially more expensive if you’ve paying for tours everywhere.
OUTSIDE THE HOTEL; EXMOUTH TO-DO’S
One of the reasons we chose to visit Exmouth was for the diving.
We booked through Dive Ningaloo, the first day we were there. We would recommend doing this as soon as you arrive [or pre-booking if you like to be super organised] as they dive different sites on different days, so if you only have one day for diving, then it’ll give you the option to choose what site you want to dive the most.
Or, if you’re like us and just excited to dive the Ningaloo Reef in general, they are all amazing options. Essentially, there are three dive sites; Ningaloo Reef, the Murion Islands or the Exmouth Navy Pier.
Due to weather conditions and the short stay we had up there, we dove the Ningaloo Reef.
It. did. not. disappoint!
While we loved the diving on The Great Barrier Reef, we have to admit that Ningaloo took the cake. We absolutely know that bleaching and environmental issues are still having a devastating impact of the Great Barrier Reef but even those aside, Ningaloo’s diversity of marine life and abundance of it was probably the best we have ever seen. Worldwide. And that was just on the reef.
Dive Ningaloo take you out by boat for two dives and a BBQ lunch [of course. this is Australia after all]. In terms of gear, equipment, professionalism and people, Dive Ningaloo where phe-nom-enal. For anyone that dives out there and uses wetsuits supplied by the dive company, you will know what a big deal it was for us to get given wetsuits that looked like they were only purchased the day before. No tears, wears or signs that others had swum in that same wetsuit.
Everyone chats and they put in such an effort for all onboard to leave feeling like they had spent the day on a boat with friends. The knowledge across the entire crew is incredible and we can only hope to be as controlled as they are underwater.
The Ningaloo Reef dive took us to two different dive sites which had corals and small fish, as well as large fish like reef sharks and the biggest turtles we have ever seen. The Marion Islands are full of reef life [think Nemo’s and hundreds of reef fish], whereas the Exmouth Navy Pier is “on steroids” according to Tam from Dive Ningaloo. Dive Ningaloo are the only dive company in Exmouth to have permission to enter the Navy Site, both on land and sea. So add to that lack of people and boats, the fact this is a part of a sanctuary, and you get giant fish and and explosion of sea life.
We didn’t have enough time to do these two additional dive sites but you can bet your last dollar that we will return to do them.
The Joneses Rating
$ – $$
We got a great deal at Mantarays but it is, especially in peak season, the most expensive accommodation option in town. There are a lot of caravan parks with chalets and similar accommodations if you need to reduce costs but for us, an extra $80 per night to stay at the lovely Mantarays Resort, was a no-brainer.
Food and drinks are the same as Perth prices, if not slightly cheaper at the bars and if you snorkel and don’t dive, it’s a very inexpensive trip.
WHAT WE WOULD RETURN FOR; EXMOUTH MUST DO’S
We’d definitely do another weekend, or even week, getaway up in Exmouth. There is still so much to see and do up there, even outside of the other dive sites we’re still to see. Dive Ningaloo also offer an overnight dive [or snorkel] option, with the overnight accommodation being on a small island which would be amazing to go back and do.
The Whale Shark tours are one of the biggest draw cards and attractions up in Exmouth, so we would love to experience that. While there were some sightings of the beautiful creatures while we were there, the season doesn’t really kick off until April so we would rather plan a trip up there for it knowing we had a better chance of seeing and swimming with those ocean giants.
WHAT WE WERE HAPPY TO LEAVE
The flies ha! Welcome to outback Australia. Of course, you can’t complain [at all really] when that’s your only issue with a place. Heads up – you might want to invest in one of those fly nets. You’ll look ridiculous but you’ll be happy and carefree with the ability to use your hands for normal activities v’s swatting flies away.
EXMOUTH TOWN GUIDE
The Joneses Exmouth
DO, DO …
Beach-hop. Once you’re in the National Park, you drive past turn off after turn off to another beach. Make the most of it and stop at a heap of these. We started at Turquoise Bay with a snorkel, and then on the way back we stopped at a few others to check them out.
The sunset at the Lighthouse is also something pretty spectacular to experience. Grab some takeaways from Whalebone Brewery and head up there to watch the sunset over the ocean. Love.
DO DRINK …
Beer so good we bought 5 litres to bring back home with it. Whalebone Brewery is a must. Their Ginger Beer is amazing, and so too is the overall vibe of the place. Scattered furniture in a big, joyful yard. It’s exactly the type of place you want to quench your thirst out in a remote coastal town.
There is also Froths which is in town, another brewery. It was nice and enjoyable but didn’t seem to have the same vibe and atmosphere as Whalebone. They do however put on free movies on Saturday nights which is pretty cool.
Do EAT …
Visit Social Society for breakfast. And do it more than once. The food is delicious and you can pick up some great little clothing or jewellery finds in their store as well.
DO EXPLORE …
There are hiking trails all throughout the National Park. There are flat and easy options if you need, otherwise the Level 4 options, if you’re fit, are pretty straight forward.We were fortunate enough to spot turtles in the Yardie Creek while up high on our hike. Beautiful textures and colours and, if you’re lucky enough, Rock Wallabies.