Coral Bay is a small coastal settlement located 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) north of Perth, in the Shire of Carnarvon in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia.

Bordered by the Ningaloo Reef, it is a popular tourist destination and largely owes its survival to revenue derived from wildlife tourism. Coral Bay is a unique location in that the reef fringes the water's edge, making it easily accessible for snorkellers. The climate is arid, and waters are generally warm year-round due to the subtropical nature of the area. The 2016 census recorded a population of 207.

The Gascoyne region was originally populated by the Thalandji Aboriginal people. Evidence found by archaeologists indicates that Indigenous people have been present in the Ningaloo region for over 32,000 years. The world's oldest beaded necklace was discovered in the Mandu Mandu Creek Rock-Shelter, alongside camp fire residue in the layers of surrounding limestone caves.[1]

The first known European sighting of the North West Cape was made in early 1618 by a crew member of the Dutch ship Zeewolf. Later that year Captain Jacobz of the ship Mauritius made contact with land, however the district remained largely uninhabited for decades following due to its dry climate and remote location.[2][3]

The earliest recorded European activity in the Coral Bay region was at Mauds Landing, which acted as a shipping point for wool, sheep and cattle from 1884 to 1946. The port was named after the schooner Maud, whose captain discovered the site 2 km (1.2 mi) north of Coral Bay. The area saw the construction of a jetty in 1896, followed by a tramway, a well and a wool-shed.[4] A hotel and store operated at the site between 1911 and 1921.[5] In 1947, however, Mauds Landing was closed as a coastal port due to funding shortages and its constant need for repairs.[6] The surrounding area formed Cardabia Station, owned by Charles French, which encompassed Bills Bay. The cove was named after his wife Ruby May French, or "Auntie Billie" as she was more commonly known. In 1933 the first building was constructed by Jack McKenna as a holiday retreat.[7]

It was not until the late 1960s that Bills Bay began to form a functioning township, when a section of Cardabia Station was sold to Ken Ryan. Upon this he built a caravan park, a hotel and a service station.[8] The town name Coral Bay likely derived from the Coral Bay Hotel built by Ryan.[9] The area was visited a few years later in 1973 by Bill and Alison Brogan who recognised the potential of the region to become a popular tourist destination. Bill purchased a transportable building, a charter yacht and a sight-seeing boat which he called Miss Coral Bay I.[10] The 1980s saw the formation of a housing estate and the tapping of artesian groundwater.[8]

^ Morse, Kate (December 1993). "Shell beads from Mandu Mandu Creek rock-shelter, Cape Range peninsula, Western Australia, dated before 30,000 b.p." Antiquity. 67 (257): 877–883. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00063894. ISSN 0003-598X. S2CID 159650775. ^ Australian Heritage Database (August 2008). "Ningaloo Coast" (PDF). Australian Government Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. ^ "WA Holiday Guide - Coral Bay Western Australia - Visitor Information". Retrieved 30 October 2020. ^ "Heritage Council of WA - Places Database". Retrieved 30 October 2020. ^ "inHerit - State Heritage Office". Retrieved 30 October 2020. ^ "Heritage Council of WA - Places Database". Retrieved 30 October 2020. ^ "inHerit - State Heritage Office". Retrieved 30 October 2020. ^ a b Jones, Tod; Hughes, Michael; Wood, David; Lewis, Anna; Chandler, P. (2010). "Ningaloo Coast region statistics: collected for the Ningaloo destination modelling project". hdl:20.500.11937/6741. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help) ^ "inHerit - State Heritage Office". Retrieved 30 October 2020. ^ "A little history". Ningaloo Coral Bay. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
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