The WA coastline is over 13,000kms of coral, pristine beaches, teal waters, abundant fishing spots, and mesmerising marine life. In short, it’s a sailor’s paradise. But there are a lot of options when it comes to exploring sailing spots along the Coral Coast Highway, so you’ll want to pick all the waters that best suit your style.
For some that might be drifting through Coral Bay, fishing off the side of a dingy, or laying back without a care in the world. And for others that might be a tropical trek along the greater Western Australian coastline. For that you’ll want to look into long-range power catamarans rather than a smaller monohull vessel.
To help you plan your WA sailing expedition, we’ll be sharing our top 6 best sailing spots across the expansive Western Australian coastline. Read on to unearth some of WA’s best hobby and adventure-friendly sailing spots.
1. Rottnest Island
30 kilometres from Hilary’s Boat Harbour, and only 19 kilometres from Fremantle, Rottnest Island is one of WA’s most accessible sailing spots for tourists. It’s also one of Perth’s most popular tourist and holiday locations.
With its unique wildlife (namely sharks and quokkas!), great accommodation options, and selection of stunning beaches, a trip to Rottnest can be as simple as taking a beach day, scheduling an island getaway, or even embarking on a deepwater fishing adventure. Or all of the above!
You can also sail around the coast of Rottnest Island to experience this iconic WA destination from a variety of different angles. Just remember to only moor your vessel at designated anchorage points – and to mark out the location of hiking trails along the island so that you can continue to explore even when moored.
2. Ningaloo Reef
The world renowned beauty of Ningaloo Reef brings people from across the world to swim and snorkel. And at 260 km long, this reef also happens to be one of the biggest in the world, with endless stunning coral formations and tropical fish darting in and about like one big parade that runs every single day. Dolphins, dugongs, humpback whales, and whale sharks also migrate through the reef during different parts of the year, so plan ahead if you want to see these charming creatures.
You can find the reef about 1200 km north of Perth, and near the town of Exmouth. There is easy boat access and endless docks available by the reef, and it’s also home to the wreck of the SS Mildura, a sunken cattle steamer.
3. Jurien Bay
Jurien Bay is another favourite getaway for Perth fishermen. Tuna, bream, red emperors, marlin, and mulloway are just a few of the impressive fish you can catch in the area. In fact, Jurien Bay began as a fishing village, and it’s since become a tourist location supported by its crayfish industry.
But fishing isn’t all that this bay has to offer. The Pinnacles are another must-see natural wonder. These are a stunning collection of limestone pillars that sit nestled among striking yellow sand dunes. Suffice to say that landscape photographers will relish the opportunity to snap contrasting shots of weeping coastline, sea horizons, and endless dunes – and all in one destination too.
And besides these usual pleasures – beaches, snorkelling, sailing, and fish & chips – Jurien Bay is also a great destination for those looking to go skydiving, or even swimming with the sea lions!
4. Shark Bay
It shouldn’t surprise you what the main attraction is for this particular sailing spot. Shark Bay is named for its seemingly endless array of sharks – Tiger, Zebra, Grey Nurse, Whale, Pencil, Weasel, Fossil, Spinner, and Nervous, to name a few – but what you may be surprised to hear, is that this coastal destination is actually also home to far more than that. It’s both an excellent fishing spot – one of the best in the world – and a wonderful snorkelling spot too. You can swim with the Parrotfish at lunch, then dine on a Spangled Emperor in the evening.
Nearby, at Monkey Mia, you can feed the dolphins by hand, or even visit the area’s population of dugongs that live in seagrass meadows. And if somehow that’s not enough, there are red cliffs, thorny devils, shipwrecks, and even some elusive echidnas to see. The best time of year for all this is during the warmer months – December to February – but mid year won’t disappoint either. Just avoid winter if you want to see the dugongs, as they migrate during the cooler months.
5. The Houtman Abrolhos
Located just 80km off the coast of Geraldton, the Houtman Abrolhos chain of islands boasts a gorgeous collection of reefs and pools that all avid snorkelers would adore. In fact, many refer to the Houtman Abrolhos as the ‘Galapagos Islands of WA’, with the islands being home to some unique marine life and birdlife. The islands are especially perfect for snorkelling, swimming and fishing due to their pleasant atmosphere.
That said, they do get windy, so they’re best visited during the summer. And whilst the waters around the islands are bound to be enriching enough for any sailor to explore, they can also get a little shallow at times, so it’s best to navigate around the islands in a smaller vessel like an unpowered yacht. Coming here in a motorboat may just result in you scaring away wildlife.
Additionally, there are scenic flights to take for those looking to escape to the Abrolhos islands on their next WA getaway. The island also boasts an abundance of boat tours and boat rental options, so you won’t have to sail there independently to still enjoy navigating through the islands’ azure waters.
6. Buccaneer Archipelago
As millions of litres of water rush through a series of thin gaps in the Buccaneer Archipelago, the rapids look like a waterfall lying down, and so they were named the Horizontal Falls. People from all over the world come to see these breathtaking natural wonders, but they’re not the only thing that the archipelago has to offer.
The coast off of Derby is home to the Cygnet Pearl Farm, One Arm Point, and endless secret beaches, fishing spots, and islands. Inland you can find Galvans Gorge, the Ord River, and the 1,500 year-old boab prison tree. The Buccaneer Archipelago may be a well kept secret due to its remote location, but if you’re sailing around northern WA, it’s an unmissable wonder.
7. The Dampier Archipelago
For many WA locals, Dampier is likely to be better known for its iron and salt mines than for its beauty. But any avid adventurer knows just how gorgeous the archipelago truly is. The region’s rich iron deposits have created a unique landscape where red soils meet white sands. And with a stunning coastline of aquamarine waters accompanying Dampier, any aerial shots of this stretch of WA is sure to inspire a gasp or two.
But what do sailors have to look forward to when exploring the Dampier Archipelago? Well how about loggerhead turtles nesting on the beaches or swimming alongside your boat? There are also dugongs, manta rays and bottlenose dolphins appearing just off the coast – attracted by the abundance of marine life that also calls Dampier home. And on that note, this stunning destination is yet another superb fishing or snorkelling spot for sailors who want to jump into the water after a long hard day of skippering.
Whichever way you travel along the WA coastline, you’ll be sure to find emerald bays, exotic wildlife, natural wonders, and exciting experiences. Sailing the coast is an entirely different experience than driving through the WA outback. If you’re flying to WA to charter a boat and make the journey, the only question is whether to start in Broome, or Perth?