The Gascoyne provides a spectacular pristine wilderness experience on both land and sea. The unique value of the seascape and landscape has been acknowledged with Shark Bay in the south of the Gascoyne and Ningaloo Reef in the north being listed as World Heritage areas.
The Ningaloo Reef runs from Exmouth in the north to Red Bluff in the south. Exmouth is the northern gateway to the Ningaloo Reef, which is the focus of much tourism activity with a number of unique wildlife experiences available. These include swimming with the ocean’s largest fish the whale shark and the dramatic manta rays. The Ningaloo Reef is closely adjoined with the Cape Range National Park and a significant karst or cave system that contributes to the biodiversity of the reef. Much of the Ningaloo Reef is conserved in sanctuary zones but there is allowance for recreational fishing outside the Marine Parks where game fishing is popular.
The small settlement of Coral Bay provides alternative access to the Ningaloo reef and offers accommodation and tourist activities and services. Numerous pastoral properties along the coast from Exmouth to Carnarvon also provide access to the Ningaloo Reef and options for camping in designated areas.
Carnarvon is the main hub of the Gascoyne and is situated on the fertile banks of the Gascoyne River. The warm winters and mild summers enjoyed in Carnarvon allow for a thriving horticultural industry. Indulge in the delicacies of the Gascoyne as you follow the Gascoyne Food Trail or visit the Gascoyne Growers Markets. The pristine waters around Carnarvon offer an abundance of fish life for the recreational and professional fisher. Carnarvon is home to the world class Gwoonwardu Mia – Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre, the Carnarvon Heritage Precinct and the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum, all of which tell an important story of the historical importance of the area.
Shark Bay is home of the world famous Monkey Mia, one of the first places in the world where visitors were able to interact with wild dolphins. The unique hyper saline environment of Shark Bay sees it maintain some of the oldest life forms on earth. The bays are home to the largest sea grass ‘paddocks’ which attract many species to spawn and nurture their young. The Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre in Denham showcases all facets of the World Heritage listing, the Aboriginal culture of the area as well as the unique place of Shark Bay in the early discovery of Australia.
Gascoyne Junction and the Upper Gascoyne inland area offer iconic features including the Kennedy Range National Park and Mt Augustus National Park, both areas of significance for Aboriginal people of the region. The history of inland settlement and the pastoral industry can be experienced through the Gascoyne Murchison Outback Pathways, a series of self drive discovery tours.
Ningaloo Shark Bay has been recognised by Tourism Australia as one of 16 National Landscapes Australia wide. The National Landscapes Program is a partnership between tourism and conservation and aims to promote Australia’s world class, high quality visitor experiences, increase the value of tourism to regional economies, enhance the role of protected areas in those economies and build support for protecting our natural and cultural assets.
The Gascoyne is covered by two Tourism WA marketing regions; Australia’s Coral Coast and Australia’s Golden Outback. Research on these regions and broader information on the tourism industry can be found at Tourism Research Australia.
- The Gascoyne’s tourism sector has experienced notable steady growth between 2011 and 2014, exhibiting an annual average growth rate of 5.7% (Tourism WA).
- Visitors to the Shires of Carnarvon, Exmouth & Shark Bay were predominately domestic (76%) in 2014 (Tourism WA).
- International visitors only comprised 24% of visitors in 2014, with Germany (25% of international tourists) reported as the top international market, followed by the United Kingdom (13% of international tourists) (Tourism WA).
- Although the Shire of Carnarvon had the greatest number of visitors in 2014 (118,000), the Shire of Exmouth generated the greatest tourist expenditure (approximately $110 million) (Tourism WA).
- The Shire of Upper Gascoyne’s tourism sector is still developing, with it’s most visited site in 2014 Mt Augustus (10,015 visitors; $1.1 million generation). The recent completion (2014) of the new tourism precinct in Gascoyne Junction will further aid the development of the Shire’s tourism industry.
Tourism is the largest revenue earner of all industry sectors in the Gascoyne region, attracting an average turnover of $225 million in 2015.
The Region retains its focus on providing an intimate and personal experience for visitors and is positioned as a premium experiential eco-tourism destination. This has supported an expansion of tourist accommodation and retail offering in the Region by the private sector. Tourism in the Gascoyne is poised to expand and industry is planning for the next stage of attracting investment.
Accommodation opportunities exist across the board. Each of the major towns attract more visitors in peak season than they can accommodate, across all levels of expenditure. Mantaray’s Ningaloo Beach Resort in Exmouth is attracting higher spending clientele, although this sector remains particularly underserviced throughout the region.
- Eco accommodation with wildlife viewing
- Indigenous tourism development
- Ongoing developments for accommodation for Coral Bay
- Carnarvon Whitlock Island Resort / Golf Course and surrounds
- Exmouth Cruise Ship Facilities
- Mount Augustus Resort
- Denham – Shark Bay Marina and Maritime Facilities
Please download a Gascoyne Tourism investment profile.
The Gascoyne Development Commission completed the Gascoyne Regional Tourism Strategy in 2014. The purpose of the Strategy is to recognise the broad tourism product offered in the Gascoyne, identify the main gaps and opportunities to determine the Gascoyne’s realistic tourism potential, and develop strategies for a coordinated approach to identifying what enhancements, actions and messages are required to promote and facilitate continuing tourism growth across the Gascoyne.
The Strategy provides a strategic framework and action plan for the Gascoyne region to broaden its appeal and deliver achievements beyond destination marketing and localised products through a coordinated and collaborative intra-regional approach.
You can find a copy of the Gascoyne Regional Tourism Strategy here
This link to Tourism WA Industry page provides the latest estimates of visitor numbers, nights, and spend in WA. It also looks at purpose of visit, origin of visitors, and regional dispersal. Data is broken down into the key visitor markets – international, interstate, intrastate and daytrip visitors.