Exmouth began life during WWII as a US submarine base, though the town didn't flourish until the 1960s with the establishment of the Very Low Frequency (VLF) communications facility at the North West Cape. Fishing (especially prawns) and oil and gas exploration commenced, and both industries are still thriving – the flares of gas platforms are visible from Vlamingh Head at night.
With the protection of pristine Ningaloo Reef, tourism now accounts for the bulk of all visitors, many coming to see the magnificent and enigmatic whale sharks (April to July). Peak season (April to October) sees this laid-back town stretched to epic proportions, but don't be put off, as it's still the perfect base to explore nearby Ningaloo Marine and Cape Range National Parks. Alternatively, just relax, wash away the dust after a long road trip and enjoy the local wildlife; emus walking down the street, 'roos lounging in the shade, lizards ambling across the highway and corellas, galahs and ringnecks screeching and swooping through the trees.
Exmouth is at the western end of the Pilbara's 'cyclone alley', and in 1999 Cyclone Vance caused widespread devastation, reaching wind speeds of 267km/h. Once hailed as 'New Broome' (the marina development that stalled during the 2009 global financial crisis is showing signs of life again), with Rio Tinto's successful application to billet its FIFO workers in local accommodation, hopefully the town won't become 'New Karratha'.