Five Fingers Reef (Coral Bay), Western Australia

I’ve visited Coral Bay and the surrounding area a few times over the years and I’ve often heard people say “You should check out Five Fingers Reef”.  Well, this year on our annual trip to 14-mile Beach Camp we took a day trip up to Five Fingers Reef to see what all the fuss was about and we were so glad we did!

aerial view of cars at five fingers reef coral bay wa

Located within the Ningaloo Reef not far from Coral Bay, Five Fingers Reef has become a destination of choice for travellers seeking underwater adventure and I can definitely see why.

Read on to find out all about Five Fingers Reef and what you should know before visiting!

Key Points

  • Easy access to amazing coral gardens and marine life;
  • Ideal for kids and those wanting somewhere calm and protected to try some snorkelling;
  • You will need a 4WD to access Five Fingers Reef;
  • Does get busy around school holidays.

How do you get to Five Fingers Reef?

To get to Five Fingers Reef in Coral Bay, I first need to make my way to the town of Coral Bay itself. This beautiful coastal town is located in Western Australia, approximately 1,200 kilometres north of Perth. I have a few options to reach Coral Bay:

By air: you can fly into Learmonth Airport, which is the closest airport to Coral Bay, around 120 kilometres south. 

A couple of domestic airlines operate daily flights from Perth to Learmonth. Upon arrival at the airport, you can choose to rent a car or take a pre-arranged shuttle service to Coral Bay and then can organise a tour to take you to Five Fingers, or hire a 4WD.

By road: If you choose to drive from Perth to Coral Bay, this will take around 12-13 hours.  Keep in mind, it’s essential to plan the drive well, considering rest stops and refuelling points.

Once you get to Coral Bay, you will then need a 4WD to be able to drive to Five Fingers Reef which I’d just over 4 kilometres south of Coral Bay.

To head there, simply drive toward the Coral Bay boat ramp and take a left turn down the signed 4WD track for Five Fingerd Reef.

🚘 Need a 4WD to drive here? Hire a car today!

4WDing to Five Fingers Reef

Five fingers reef coral bay sign
Five Fingers Reef sign as you enter the beach

As mentioned, to access Five Fingers Reef you will need a 4WD.  There are two ways to access Five Fingers, one is entering from the north near the Coral Bay boat ramp and the other is coming up from the south from Warroora Station.

The most used track is the track coming in from the north, as most visitors are staying within accommodation at Coral Bay.

What is the 4WD track like?

4WD track into Five Fingers Reef
A section of the 4WD track heading into Fiver Fingers Reef

The 4WD track is soft sand with quite large ruts along the way which results in a bit of a bumpy ride though more than doable in most standard 4WDs.

Where to park your 4WD?

cars and reef at five fingers reef coral bay wa
4WDs parked up between two of the reef fingers

When you arrive, you’ll notice that most visitors park their 4WDs along the waterline, allowing direct access to the water.  

4wds lined up at five fingers reef coral bay wa
Example of 4WDs parked on a low tide

One thing though, be sure to keep an eye on the tide and if it’s an incoming tide then I’d suggest you park your vehicle right back away from the waterline as the tide can come in pretty quick.

tide coming in at five fingers reef coral bay wa
High tide starting to come in pushing water up over the reef and closer to the 4WDs

Unfortunately, we experienced this on the day we were there and came back from snorkelling to find we had water washing in and around the front 4WD tyres:/

What if I don’t have a 4WD?

quads at five fingers reef coral bay wa
Quad bike tour lined up on the beach at Five Fingers Reef

If you don’t have a 4WD there are a number of tour operators that will take you there.  

One option you might like to consider is the Quad Bike Tour.  Although you don’t get a lot of time to snorkel (approx 45 minutes) you get to take a ride on a quad bike out to Five Fingers whilst also seeing other popular spots along the coast such as Turtle Cliff.

Another option is to walk.  This isn’t an option I’d usually recommend though with only being a couple of kilometres away from Coral Bay I’ve heard of some visitors walking there.  

However, if you do choose to walk then you need to ensure you’re well prepared with plenty of water as it’s at least 1 hr each way and I definitely wouldn’t attempt this on a hot day.

What are you likely to see snorkelling at Five Fingers?

My child snorkelling at five fingers coral bay

To be honest I was blown away by what I saw snorkelling at Fiver Fingers Reef.  Being so close in and so popular I wasn’t expecting much, though after putting my head underwater I was pleasantly surprised! 

Coral plate and reef at five fingers

I was amazed by the diverse marine life thriving around the different coral structures, not to mention the crystal-clear water. 

Stingray at five fingers reef coral bay
Blue spotted stingray

One of the first creatures I encountered was a large spotted stingray chilling toward the edge of the reef.  As I swam further out the marine life only got better with a variety of different fish species – I was even fortunate to see a turtle cruising along!

Large clam on ocean floor
Large clam on ocean floor

When taking a closer look at the reef, I also came across some giant clams.  These fascinating creatures can grow up to one metre in length and are quite a sight!

When’s the best time to visit Five Fingers Reef?

busy day at five fingers reef coral bay wa
July school holidays at Five Fingers Reef

Similar to most well-known spots, Five Fingers Reef can get packed during peaked periods such as school holidays, especially during the April and July school holidays which is the peak season up at Coral Bay. Hence, if you plan to visit during these times then try to get there earlier than later to get a half-decent spot.

When is the best time to snorkel?

above and below water at five fingers reef coral bay wa
How clear the water can be on a perfect day!

From my experience, I’ve found the best conditions to be when you have a low swell with light offshore winds.

The low swell helps to promote better visibility and the light offshore winds will ensure the surface of the water is calmer.

Therefore keep an eye on the winds and pick a day when the swell is low;)

Snorkelling at Five fingers reef
The conditions were ideal on the day we visited!

Is it safe to snorkel at Five Fingers Reef?

calm water at five fingers reef coral bay wa
Five Fingers Reef with a light offshore wind blowing

Yes, nestled inside the Ningaloo Reef, Five Fingers Reef is relatively protected from the outer swells and waves and provides a pleasant area to snorkel.

Can you fish at Five Fingers?

Yes, you are allowed to fish at Five Fingers Reef.  However, as it’s a popular snorkelling spot you may find it hard fishing amongst the snorkellers, hence if you do plan to go fishing there I would keep this in mind and perhaps fish early morning or late afternoon when it’s not likely to be as busy.

See also: Coral Bay fishing spots

Can you spearfish at Five Fingers?

Child spearfishing five fingers reef
Fishing with a gidgee at Five Fingers Reef Coral Bay

Yes, you are allowed to spearfish at Five Fingers Reef in Coral Bay, however similar to fishing as it can get busy there I would consider trying to go there on quieter times if you plan to go spearfishing.

For more information, check out this guide to spearfishing around the Ningaloo.

What to take with you

Depending on your plans, here’s a list of things I would look at taking:

  • Bathers, towel and snorkelling gear (A must!);
  • An underwater camera;
  • Refreshments (drinks and a snack);
  • Plenty of sunscreen;
  • Shade umbrella or awning.

Can you camp at Five Fingers Reef?

No, there is no camping permitted at Five Fingers Reef.  If you are looking to camp then your next closest camping spot would be south at Warroora Station or at one of the caravan parks within Coral Bay.

Photos of Five Fingers

Check out the below photos for more of an insight into Fiver Fingers Reef:

Final thoughts

When I went there with family and friends we had a great morning there, not only snorkelling but going along the 4WD track was great fun too!  

Hence if you’re in Coral Bay and looking for an excellent morning activity, I’d definitely recommend heading to Five Fingers Reef!

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