Exmouth awarded Small Tourism Town of 2022

The leader of one of Western Australia’s major tourist communities says a national award is a fitting reward for the town’s hard-working locals.

Exmouth, 1200-kilometres north of Perth, was named Small Tourism Town of the year at the Australian Tourism Awards.

In Canberra to accept the award on Tuesday, Shire President Darlene Altston said the recognition would mean a lot to the town.

“Being able to take back this award to our community and knowing that everybody does their best to deliver that experience is just amazing,” she said.

“It’s just amazing to be recognised on a national stage for delivering a wonderful tourism experience for our visitors.”

Natural wonders the key
For visitors, the town’s attractions are clear.

Travelling around Australia with his family, Melbourne man Elia Petzierides said the town’s proximity to the UNESCO Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area was a major drawcard.

“We got to swim with some whale sharks and we were lucky enough to also score some manta rays,” he said.

“I asked our kids what they thought was the highlight and the aquarium hands down was the favourite.

“We also love a town with a big attraction and so Exmouth’s giant prawn really helps them along.”

“In our trip of Australia, we’ve seen some pretty lame giant statues, so it certainly is big enough.”

For backpacker Evan Centanni, it was snorkelling opportunities which drew him to the area.

“When I arrived in Australia in Perth, I started looking into where I would want to go next,” he said.

‘I do a lot of snorkelling normally, so Ningaloo Reef jumped out as a priority.”

Mr Centanni said the wildlife in the Cape Range National Park had also been a highlight.

“It’s exciting to see different mammals in the wild and I was pretty excited to find that rock wallaby,” he said.

“Compared to other places I’ve been in Australia so far, which is not very many, it has a pretty cool backpacker scene. It’s a really good place to meet people and there are a lot of parties.”

Big crowds bring housing challenge
The tourist town swells in size from April to October, with up to 20,000 people visiting during the July School Holidays.

Its popularity has been singled out as a driver of housing pressure in the town which has forced workers to sleep in their cars.

Ms Alton said addressing accommodation challenges remained a key priority for the shire ahead of a once in 400-year solar eclipse in April next year.

The rare phenomenon is tipped to draw tens of thousands of people to Exmouth as one of the few accessible vantage points around the world.

“We’re working on establishing some additional accommodation overflow campsites and space for RVs,” Ms Dalton said.

“We really want to be able to deliver an amazing event to everyone that comes to Exmouth at that time.”

WA Tourism Council CEO Evan Hall said Exmouth had been “going from strength to strength”.

“They’ve always had a really strong international presence because of things like the whale sharks, which are a very unique offering,” said Mr Hall.

Further south on WA’s coast, Denham was highlighted as a finalist for the Top Tiny Town category at the awards.