The kids point and exclaim in delight as a little black-footed rock wallaby peers out from a cave in the red cliff-face. With strong stripes of black and white on its face and body, it looks very different from other wallabies. You gaze around at the vertical towering walls of the gorge and marvel at the agility of the animals that live here. The cruise boat glides on. Now the guide is pointing out a grey reef heron perched among the rocks, then the bird takes off, flying with slowly flapping wings over the deep blue water of Yardie Creek.
BUDGET; EXTRA COST (MID-RANGE) FOR CRUISE
Enter via Yardie Creek Rd, about 36 km from Exmouth; Exmouth Tourist Office, (08) 9949 1176 or 1800 287 328
■ Milyering Visitor Centre, open daily, 9am–3.45pm. You can pick up information about visiting, see displays about the wildlife in the park and watch a video.
■ Yardie Creek Gorge, about 38 kilometres south of the visitor centre. As well as travelling on the creek, you can take a 500-metre, half-hour-return walk around the top of the gorge. The beginning of the walk is easy but it does become steep. There is an option of a longer walk where you might spot black-footed rock wallabies.
■ Sandy Bay, a lovely beach for kids, which has shallow water for playing in, and shaded picnic tables. You can fish here by just throwing in a line from the beach.
■ Turquoise Bay (seeNingaloo Marine Park).
■ Mandu Mandu Gorge. Keep your eyes open for black-footed rock wallabies on this 3-kilometre, two-hour-return trail that starts at the top of a ridge then drops down into the bed of the gorge. Take care where the trail crosses a steep-sided creek.
■ Mangrove Bay, if anyone in the family is keen on birds. There is a shady bird hide here overlooking a shallow lagoon. The best viewing times are early morning or late afternoon, but cover yourselves well and bring insect repellent to ward off mosquitoes. There is also a fauna hide about 500 metres from the carpark.
■ The wildflowers (July–October). Brochures for self-guided wildflower walks are available from Milyering Visitor Centre and Exmouth Visitor Centre.
Black-footed rock wallabies are a threatened species. They have specially textured feet for gripping rocks, and long tails to help them keep their balance. They can also climb trees with sloping trunks. It is hard to see them during the heat of the day when they tend to shelter inside cool caves. You are most likely to see these wary creatures in the early morning and evening when they emerge to feed on grasses, leaves or fruits.
■ The Yardie Creek cruise, operated by the Department of Environment and Conservation, departs daily at 11am, and takes one hour. Book with the Exmouth Tourist Office.
■ Cape Range National Park shares a coastline with the Ningaloo Marine Park.
■ Enter the park from the north, coming down from Exmouth. The southern entry is only accessible by four-wheel drive and is frequently impassable. The road to Yardie Creek Gorge is sealed, but some of the roads to the beaches and other sites are unsealed and if you are hiring a car you will need a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle. Call in to the Milyering Visitors Centre to ask about road conditions.
■ If you want to have a go at real bush camping, there are campsites in the park (without power, water or shade). Entrance and camping fees apply.
■ Avoid driving at night within the park because of the risk of hitting animals.
■ You can paddle your own kayaks in Yardie Creek – kayaks are available for hire from Exmouth Mini Golf.
■ Bring plenty of drinking water and do not attempt to walk in the hotter months (October–March).
■ For a more pleasant experience, bring fly nets (available in town) to wear over your faces.