Coral Bay wasn’t on our itinerary, but seeing the turnoff on Northwest Coastal Highway after our trip in the outback it was impossible to resist the temptation of visiting this little holiday town on the edge of the Ningaloo Reef.
That’s how Junior and I ended up trying to find a spot at one of WA’s most popular caravan park at the height of the school holiday season. I felt very brazen turning up without a booking and still thank my lucky stars for snagging the very last space of prime real-estate at People’s Park Caravan Park. Just as well, as option B was an overnight stop at the next roadhouse and that would have been a hard sell to Miss 6 who already spotted all the happy kids returning from their day at the beach.
Coral Bay is an annual pilgrimage for families from all around the state and it’s how West Aussies do holidays best. It’s all about games of beach cricket, taking the dinghy out for a fish, sunset beers and family barbeques.
People’s Park is one of two caravan parks in Coral Bay. Frankly, you can’t go wrong with either one. Both are located opposite the picturesque beach and offer very good facilities.
People’s Park has plenty of grassed and shady sites. The most popular spots are the so-called exclusive oceanfront sites directly opposite the bay. These are for caravans and campervans only, so no tents or trailers in this section.
The other spots are in the Pioneer Section, which is further back and on a slight hill. These are suitable for caravans, camper trailers, vans as well as tents. Most sites are powered and there’s only a small section at the back of the park with the ‘less-exclusive’ unpowered sites.
Despite being the peak holiday season, Peoples Park was very clean and tidy. The toilet and shower block is large and spacious and although the camp was completely full it never got too crowded.
There are four communal barbeque areas, with stone tables and benches. This is where junior and I had our meals and we enjoyed meeting other people there. There’s also a campers kitchen with fridge, microwave and cooking facilities.
There are many comments about People’s Park being crowded and that sites are relatively small. One reviewer even said he felt like a tinned sardine. It does get busy, but remember that this is one of WA’s favourite holiday spots, especially for large groups and families. Perhaps that’s why it’s called People’s Park but for me, it felt very social. During holiday season expect kids on bikes and plenty of social get-togethers. We really enjoyed the atmosphere of the park and met lots of people during our two-day stay.
People’s Park is definitely not wilderness camping and while I wouldn’t say that the sites are small, if you do have a big caravan, you will be close to your neighbours. If you’re after more tranquillity, there’s plenty of camping near Coral Bay that offers more of a wilderness experience, including Gnaraloo, Waroora Station and Ningaloo Station.
There’s no wifi at People’s Park, which applies to most of Coral Bay. I found this a good thing and added to the general holiday vibe as there were no distractions and kids got creative making up other activities.
Due to its popularity, the park gets fully booked during most school holidays and the recommendation is to book a long way in advance (you can book up to 2 years in advance), especially for those hard-to-get oceanfront sites.
Having said that, we got a spot without a booking and there generally are a few sites available for walk-ins like us, even during the busiest times.
Along with the powered and unpowered sites, Peoples Park also 1 and 2 bedroom self-contained cabins available for rent. These are located on the eastern fenceline of the park and are fully self-contained.
The cabins have their own bathroom facilities and have air conditioning, TV and include a change of linen and towels. The cabins can be booked here.
I didn’t get a chance to take peek at the Hilltop Villas on top of the hill. The villas are relatively new and can be accessed from People’s Park along a wooden boardwalk up the hill. They have stunning views of the Coral Bay and the ocean.
The studio villas are catered for two people with 1 queen size bed. An additional person can be accommodated at an additional cost.
The family villas are suitable for families with up to 3-children.
The Hilltop Villas have air-conditioning, flat screen TVs, bathroom, washing machine and a small kitchen with all essential supplies. Check here for the latest prices and availability.
There is a small shopping centre in Coral Bay with souvenir shops, fashion boutiques and supermarket. The supermarket stocks all essential supplies including fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as a reasonable selection of camping gear. There is also a small shop with essential supplies at the People’s Park Caravan Park.
Expect prices to be a lot higher in Coral Bay than at the larger regional towns. If you’re passing through Carnarvon, I recommend that you do your shopping there where you’ll find several large supermarkets. You can also buy your fruit and veg directly from the growers along the Gasgoyne food trail in Carnavon.
Coral Bay has plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained. The main action revolves around the stunning Ningaloo Reef and a range of snorkelling, diving and other water-based activities can be booked in town.
Whale Shark Tours in Coral Bay can be arranged during the Whale Shark season between March and July. A full list of these tours can be found here.
Bill’s Tavern – casual dining with some great fresh seafood options, including fresh Exmouth Snapper and an awesome fish curry.
Fin’s Cafe – located outdoors at the People’s Park shopping village, Fin’s Cafe has the best coffee in Coral Bay as well as some good dinner options.
Ningaloo Reef Cafe – lots of Italian dishes, casual environment.
Coral Bay is located 1,124 km north of Perth and is an approximate 11-12 hour drive. From Exmouth, Coral Bay is 152 km and takes approximately 90 minutes by car and slightly less from Learmouth Airport.
A bus from Perth to Coral Bay is available with Integrity Coachlines who operate a hop-on, hop-off bus service travelling from Perth to Broome and return.
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