Ages varying from Late Triassic to Early Jurassic have been proposed by different authors for the onset of rifting in the Northern Carnarvon Basin. Seismic sections from the Exmouth Sub-basin and outer Exmouth Plateau demonstrate significant growth strata associated with displacement on normal faults starting at least at the base of the R. rhaetica zone (Rhaetian). This tectonic event coincides with a marked change in sequence architecture and a large landward shift (~300 km) of the paleo-shoreline to the vicinity of the Rankin and Alpha Arch trends. Rapid creation of accommodation in the inboard narrow rift basins (Exmouth, Barrow and Dampier sub-basins) is suggested to be the most likely cause of this major transgression. The preferential development of associated carbonate build-ups during the Rhaetian on the footwall side of active tilted fault blocks provides additional evidence for the onset of significant extensional faulting occurring during this time. An earlier more subtle initiation phase of rifting, however, is interpreted during the Norian, from around the middle part of the H. balmei biozone time, above which a change in stratigraphic architecture from aggrading to retrograding occurs. The observed structural and stratigraphic transitions can be related to typical phases of evolution described in many rift basins around the world. The work highlights the importance of integrating regional structural geology, sequence stratigraphy and depositional systems observations to provide robust constraints for basin evolutions.