Coral Bay is small village in Western Australia, renowned for Ningaloo reef, Australia's only fringing reef. Though recordings say that people came here back in 1884, it was not until 1968 that any serious settlement took place.
Coral Bay only has a small resident population, and the town is almost based almost exclusively on tourism. Although there are passing backpackers, much of the target demographic is families and groups, who can camp or stay close to the beach and live in and out of the water, swimming, fishing, and coral viewing.
Coral Bay is a significant settlement, but it is geographically very remote. The closest settlement is Exmouth abouth 120km in the North. Skywest airlines flies to Learmonth, shuttle transfer to Coral Bay is available at the Airport, but should be confirmed in advance.
Coral Bay really is only one bay beach, with the supermarket complex at one end, and the Ningaloo Reef Resort at the other. The two are about 10 minutes walk apart.
With the Ningaloo Reef on the West Coast of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef on the East Coast, people are inevitably going to make comparisons between the two, and different experiences will vary. The Ningaloo is a true fringing reef. The reef extends from the land up to a few kilometres out to sea, and much of it is accessible from the coast. Chances are you can find a part of the reef for your own exploration, grab a snorkel and stay as long as you like. Snorkel as the sun goes down over the ocean. There is a large variety of marine life, tropical fish, lots of reef sharks, rays, and soft corals and sponges. There are some colourful hard corals too. By contrast the Great Barrier Reef is larger, and the northernmost parts have more hard corals. But to see it you will have to pay to stay or visit a coral cay, or take a boat out to the reef. The boats tend to go to the same parts of the reef, and these well visited parts tend to be damaged, with less variety of marine life, and bleached corals. It's may be best not to compare, and enjoy each destination for yourself.
Coral bay has a small shopping complex on the way into town. There is a dive shop, and boutique, a bakery and and a supermarket in the complex. The supermarket is open daily from 7am to 7.30pm selling general groceries (although you would be best advised to stock up in Exmouth, as the food here is very limited and over priced) as well as locally caught fish.
There are some (rather cheesy) souvenir shops available as well if you are interested in buying T-Shirts or shells.
There are two cafes, a bakery, a pizza place, and a restaurant at Ningaloo Reef Resort. There is a a supermarket for self-catering.
Be aware that the cafes don't sell alcohol, but are BYO. There is a little store which sells alcohol located in the bar of Nigaloo Reef Resort.
Accommodation can be a problem when you are travelling during school holidays. Book in advance if you want to avoid spending the nights in your car.
Coral Bay is very remote and fresh water is very limited and expensive, so all toilets, basins and showers source their water from bores - expect a salty taste on your lips after having a shower.