Cape Range National Park
Situated on the west side of the North West Cape is the Cape Range National Park; a spectacular place of rugged limestone ranges, breathtaking deep canyons and 50km of pristine beaches.
The park covers some 50,581 hectares and its northern boundary is just 40km from Exmouth. Wildlife is abundant with a variety of birds, emus, echidnas, lizards, wallabies and red kangaroos commonly sighted. Cape Range offers a variety of attractions and activities for visitors interested in the natural environment.
In ancient times the range was isolated as an island as rising sea levels inundated lower lying areas. As a result of this geographic isolation, there are some species of plants and animals that are endemic to the area, including the red centred variety of the Sturt Desert Pea. Surveys have recorded over 630 species of flowering plants on the peninsula and within the Cape Range National Park. This is a surprisingly high number for an arid limestone area.
Over 700 caves are catalogued in the area and it is likely that many remain undiscovered. There are numerous gorges and sanctuary areas that provide a haven for wildlife and contain rare and unusual flora. A stunning array of wildflowers can be seen in late winter, including Sturt desert peas and the beautiful bird flower.
Mangrove Bay - This sanctuary zone area includes a bird hide which overlooks a lagoon area. A variety of birds roost in the lagoon at high tide and many feed on small fish and other marine life in the shallow waters. Closer inspection may reveal an osprey or brahminy kite perched above surveying the coastline. During the summer months many migratory birds can be observed in the area.
Milyering Visitor Centre - Milyering, the National Park Visitor Centre, is 52km from Exmouth. Here interpretive displays, audio-visual facilities and a library containing a wealth of information on the National and Marine Parks are on hand to help visitors appreciate the natural environment. National Park rangers are also on site to assist with enquiries.
Mandu Mandu Gorge - A 3km walking trail allows access into this dry gorge. The trail starts at the end of the Mandu Mandu track and follows the northern ridge of the gorge, offering stunning panoramic views. The trail leads down into the creek bed from where you follow the base of the gorge back to the car park.
Yardie Creek - The sealed road from Exmouth through Cape Range National Park ends at Yardie Creek. Centuries of erosion have formed a spectacular multi-coloured gorge here that cuts deep into the limestone of the Cape Range.
Yardie is the only gorge in the area with permanent water, however, this is salt water fed from the ocean. This interesting ecosystem has mangrove areas that provide roosting sites for many bird species, while the sheltered waters are a sanctuary for many marine animals.
Hidden within the safety of the gorge walls is a colony of rare black-footed rock wallabies. These timid creatures seek shelter on ledges along the gorge walls, resting during daylight hours before coming out to feed in the cool of the night. There is a relatively easy walking trail along the top of the northern wall of the gorge or you can join a boat cruise through its cool depths. CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR YARDIE CREEK BOAT TOUR.
There are in excess of 112 camping bays in the Cape Range National Park, most of which are accessible via conventional vehicle. These sites offer easy access to the coast for swimming, snorkelling, fishing and other activities.
Caravans and larger vehicles are welcome, however, there are few facilities - no power, showers or cooking facilities. Many of the sites have toilets and picnic tables but you must be fully self-sufficient. Note: no wood fires or pets are permitted in the National Park. Due to the arid nature of the country it is essential to bring your own water.
There are four camping bays that can be booked only online at www.parkstay.dpaw.wa.gov.au. The other camping bays cannot be booked and are available on a first come, first served basis only. If you will be arriving between Monday to Friday, you can check availability for the camping bays at the Department of Parks & Wildlife (DPaW) office in Exmouth. On a Saturday & Sunday, visitors will need to make their own way to the park entrance to check availability of the camping sites. There is a DPaW employee ranger stationed at the park from 8am all year round and they will know what camping sites have availability. For more information, please contact the local DPaW office on 08 9947 8000.
EXPLORE THE EASTERN SIDE OF CAPE RANGE
There are two unsealed but fully formed roads that run from the Minilya-Exmouth Road into the Cape Range National Park. These provide spectacular scenic drives with bush walking opportunities.
Shothole Canyon Road - The access road to Shothole Canyon turns off the Minilya-Exmouth Road, 14km south of Exmouth. The canyon was named after the shotholes left by the explosive charges detonated to trigger miniature earthquakes for seismographic studies during the oil searches in the 1950s. The gravel road meanders over dry creek beds along the gorge floor and offers visitors close examination of the colourful rock layers of the sheer canyon walls. At the end of the 15km road there is a picnic area and a short walking trail. Note: Shothole Canyon Road is currently closed due to flood damage. Please contact the Exmouth Visitor Centre on 08 9949 1176 for updated information.
Charles Knife Canyon - This scenic drive turns west off the Minilya-Exmouth Road, 21km south of town. The mostly gravel road follows the razor-backed ridges of the range and provides breathtaking downward views into the stark, multicoloured gorges. There are several lookout points that provide fantastic photo opportunities and a marked walking trail from Thomas Carter Lookout. Conditions of the walk trail depend on rainfall. please contact the Department of Parks & Wildlife for a walk trail guide for the Cape Range National Park.
Caution should be taken when bushwalking in the canyon areas as walls are steep and can be dangerous due to loose surfaces. Don’t go on your own - always let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Cave areas are unsafe due to oxygen deficiency - for your own safety please remain on existing walking trails. Avoid walking in the middle of the day and always carry water as there is almost no surface water in the Cape Range.