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Skywest Airlines (tel. 1300/660 088 in Australia; www.skywest.com.au) and Qantas (tel. 13 13 13 in Australia; www.qantas.com.au) both fly to Exmouth, while Skippers Aviation (tel. 1300/729 924 in Australia; www.skippers.com.au) flies to Shark Bay. At the time of writing, these airlines had just been awarded their contracts; inquire for information on current schedules or prices.

Greyhound Australia (tel. 13 14 99 in Australia) travels 3 days a week between Perth and Broome, calling at Coral Bay. A connecting service runs between nearby Giralia turnoff and Exmouth. There is no connecting service to Shark Bay. The trip time Perth to Coral Bay is just over 15 hours, and the full fare is A$207.

If you have time, driving to either destination (or both) illustrates much of the character of Western Australia, with travel through long desolate stretches and some great wildflower regions (Aug-Oct); be aware of wildlife especially at dusk and dawn. It's a long drive and you should plan for an overnight stop in each direction. Check that your contract allows you to drive your rental car this far north and includes unlimited mileage.

From Perth, take the Mitchell Freeway north then follow the signs to the Indian Ocean Drive past the Pinnacles and on to Geraldton (415km/ 260 miles from Perth), then North West Coastal Highway for 278km (172 miles) to the Overlander Roadhouse. Turn left here for Monkey Mia, 154km (96 miles) away, otherwise continue another 340km (213 miles) to Minilya Roadhouse; the Exmouth turnoff is 7km (4 1/3 miles) north of Minilya. The Coral Bay turnoff is 79km (49 miles) along this road, with Exmouth another 145km (90 miles).

Geraldton (pop. 28,000) is a good option for breaking the journey, with numerous motels. Ocean Centre Hotel, Foreshore Drive and Cathedral Avenue, Geraldton, WA 6530 (tel. 08/9921 7777; www.oceancentrehotel.com.au), has the best rooms and location in Geraldton, overlooking the bay and the spanking-new foreshore redevelopment. Doubles range from A$180; ask about specials. It also has a relaxing breakfast cafe and bar, in-house movies, secure parking, and Wi-Fi. While in Geraldton, do not miss the brilliantly inspirational HMAS Sydney Memorial, Gummer Avenue, Mount Scott, Geraldton. Free half-hour tours run daily at 10:30am.

Kalbarri, 166km (104 miles) north of Geraldton, is another option for a stopover. One of WA's favorite resorts, it's located where the Murchison River breaks through the coastal cliffs to reach the Indian Ocean. Kalbarri has dramatic scenery and -- with its parrot breeding center -- is well worth a couple of days. There are numerous self-catering options; check Kalbarri Visitor Centre, Grey Street, Kalbarri, WA 6536 (tel. 1800/639 468; www.kalbarri.org.au). Otherwise try the 4.5 star Kalbarri Edge Resort, 22 Porter St., Kalbarri, WA 6536 (tel. 1800/286 155; www.kalbarriedge.com.au) Rooms are from A$199 double.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.