Exmouth to Carnarvon

Coral Reef, Wallabies and The Dish

Our last day at Sal Salis started early as we had a 4 hour 38 minute drive from Exmouth to Carnarvon as we head slowly back down to Perth with a first stop at Carnarvon.  

The temperature had climbed to 40 degrees by 10.30.  It was the sort of heat that would have your dog hanging its tongue out – for a VERY long time.  This sort of heat makes you want to do very little indeed – so thank goodness for air conditioning in the car for the drive ahead.  It is the end of the season here.  Sal Salis closes next week and reopens in March/April time.  It would be way too hot to stay on, so just as well we are heading back South and it gets gradually cooler as each 50 kilometres clicks up.

We were sad to leave Sal Salis and to start what is the last leg of our trip.  We are already planning to return to Australia – it just has so much to offer.  We could have flown back to Perth from Learmonth (35kms from Exmouth) but the road has been very much a part of the experience here and I think we would have missed out a bit if we had just flown back and incurred one way drop off charges too.

Sal Salis - Snorkelling

The staff at Sal Salis cannot do enough to help you – we had an hour long snorkelling lesson to get us going, which is just what we needed to build up some confidence.

My first sight of the pristine Ninglaoo Reef – it truly is out of this world and just a short distance from the shore.  All that colour and diversity of marine life under the big blue – who knew?!  Even just a walk waist high in the ocean just short of the reef yielded sitings of green turtles (the nesting season has just started here) and blue spotted stingrays without needing to swim.

Exmouth to Carnarvon Sal Salis WA - Snorkelling
Sal Salis WA - Snorkelling
Staghorn Coral Sal Salis WA - Snorkelling
Sal Salis - Coral Reef
Exmouth to Carnarvon Sal Salis WA - Snorkelling
Exmouth to Carnarvon Staghorn Coral
Staghorn Coral
Staghorn Coral Sal Salis WA - Snorkelling
Exmouth to Carnarvon Blue spotted ray
Exmouth to Carnarvon Blue Spotted Ray
Blue Spotted Ray - The eyes have It!
Sal Salis WA - Snorkelling

Fascinating Facts

Coral reefs are the biggest and most spectacular structures made by living organisms.  They are built by the coral polyps:  animals consisting of a mouth surrounded by numerous tentacles, a simple body cavity and a limestone skeleton.  Reef building corals can only grow in shallow waters where they can obtain most of their food from the algae through photosynthesis.


Trying to master snorkelling for the first time in a very fast current over a shallow reef was a LOT harder than I imagined it would be.  I was very glad to have some one-to-one tuition from Nick at Sal Salis.  Without his help, I don’t think I could have experienced  the overwhelming beauty of this delicate marine kaleidoscope.  I need much more practice to gain sufficient confidence to search for the good photos underwater – but I made a start!

Cape Range National Park - Mandu Mandu Gorge

Flora and Fauna

We hiked from Sal Salis on an early morning sunrise walk to see the  black flanked rock wallabies at Mandu Mandu Gorge in the Cape Range National Park.  They run with such impressive, sure footed agility along the rocky slopes of the gorge.  They have to – they have several predators including dingos, eagles and snakes which makes them a threatened species.

​There are only three Australian mammals that can live without water – kangaroos, wallabies and the little black flanked rock wallabies.  They get all the water they need from the vegetation they eat.

Black flanked rock wallaby
Black flanked rock wallaby
Exmouth to Carnarvon Black Flanked Rock Wallaby
Black Flanked Rock Wallaby
Exmouth to Carnarvon Mandu Mandu Gorge Exmouth WA
Mandu Mandu Gorge Exmouth WA


Carnarvon was the first location in Australia where bananas were grown and produces 70 per cent of WA’s fresh produce. 

These days, Carnarvon is recognised as the place that grows the Sweeter Banana.  What makes them so sweet?  The unique arid desert climate mean the bananas grow very close together, which protects them from the summer heat and sea breeze and from the nasty bugs that plague bananas elsewhere.  Sweeter Bananas don’t need to be chemically treated for pesticides.

Exmouth to Carnarvon Carnarvon WA
Exmouth to Carnarvon Didgeridoo Roundabout WA
Wish I'd seen - a real didgeridoo. Only men can play them?!

Carnarvon - The Dish

Carnarvon Tracking Station was built in 1964 to support NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs.  For 11 years, it was the last station to communicate with astronauts before leaving the earth’s orbit and the last voice they’d hear as they headed for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.  We take live TV for granted these days, but on July 21st 1969, the live coverage of Neil Armstrong’s  first steps on the moon were transmitted from Carnarvon and formed an indelible memory for all those watching around the world.  (See What I’m Watching – The Dish).  You can visit the Museum here to find out more if you are interested.

Exmouth to Carnarvon The Dish - Carnarvon
The Dish - Carnarvon

Foodie Firsts

Sal Salis – Luke’s amazing roasted cauliflower.  The creative vegetarian specialties at Sal Salis – especially the roasted cauliflower – thanks Luke!  I have the recipe – another thing I am looking forward  to practising.

Berry Cooler – Sal Salis
2/3 ginger ale, 1/3 soda water mixed with freeze dried red berries.  So refreshing on arrival at Sal Salis after a long drive.

Hot Rocks Steak at he Carnarvon Motel – An unexpected highlight – a real hidden gem – very highly recommended!

Sal Salis WA Luke's Amazing Cauliflower recipe
Sal Salis WA Luke's Amazing Cauliflower recipe

Learning the Lingo

POHM – Prisoners of his Majesty.  Early settlers were transported to Australia as a punishment and became known as POMs for short – i.e. – Englishmen.

Poachies – yep – you guessed it:  poached eggs. 

Nude nut – a balding head.


Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn en route.

The Carnarvon Motel – An unexpected highlight – a real hidden gem!

Glad I Packed

Prescription mask (an absolute essential for me!)


Underwater camera – Olympus Tough.  It performed really well – very easy to handle.  It’s only limitation was my fledgling snorkelling ability.  With practice, this tough little camera is definitely capable of delivering so much more.

Wish I had Packed

A rashie or (waterproof sun shirt with factor 50 protection).  I bought one in Exmouth for future trips.

Exmouth to Carnarvon Exmouth Surf Shop
Get your rashies here - Exmouth Surf Shop

Tips for Future Travellers

Fuel up at the Shell station 5 kms out of Exmouth – much cheaper than the sleepy little town of Exmouth itself.

Pre book marine interaction tours to avoid disappointment- especially towards the end of the season.

Turquoise Bay – It’s beautiful for sure, but there are rip tides, stonefish and other nasties here, so you need to exercise caution.

Useful website for self-guided itineraries: