Visitors flock to Australia’s Coral Coast each year to enjoy the year-round sunshine, get closer to nature and escape crowds. The region begins just two hour’s drive north of Perth at the coastal town of Cervantes and stretches more than 1,000 kilometres north along pristine coastline to Exmouth.

 

Boasting a warm climate all year round, Australia’s Coral Coast offers perfect conditions to enjoy a range of water sports, including swimming, surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing and boating, while nature lovers also visit to watch humpback whales on their annual migration along the coast between July and October each year.



Things to do in Shark Bay


Things to Do in Shark BayWith its white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, rust-red sand dunes and abundant wildlife, Shark Bay became Western Australia’s first World Heritage listed area in 1991. Take the World Heritage Drive to see the natural wonders of this region and discover for yourself why this region is so significant.

 

Things to do:

  • Stop at locations along the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive
  • Visit the Shark Bay World Heritage and Discovery Centre to learn more about the area
  • Head to Monkey Mia for a chance to feed the friendly dolphins
  • Discover the Francois Peron National Park on four wheel driving tour
  • Learn about Indigenous culture and history on a walking, kayaking or four wheel driving tour
  • Get up close to Shark Bay’s marine life on a wildlife cruise or at the Ocean Park Aquarium
  • Spot some of Shark Bay’s many wildflowers, native animals and birds
  • Go fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling at Dirk Hartog Island
  • Get a bird’s eye view of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area on a scenic flight

 

Denham

Distance from Perth: 834km

Denham is the gateway for exploring the beautiful and fascinating Shark Bay World Heritage Area. This is the departure point for cruises and tours to Dirk Hartog Island, Steep Point, Shell Beach, Francois Peron National Park and the stromatolites at Hamelin Pool.

Things to do in Shark Bay

 

Shark Bay World Heritage Area

Shark Bay became World Heritage listed in 1991, after meeting all four of the required natural criteria and remains one of only a handful of places in the world to achieve this status. The Shark Bay World Heritage Area covers 2.2 million hectares of land and sea on the coast of Shark Bay. The colourful and diverse landscapes, rare flora and fauna and world class examples of Earth’s ecological processes all contribute to the region being World Heritage listed.

 

Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery and Visitor Centre

The Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery and Visitor Centre celebrates Shark Bay’s biodiversity of ecosystems and explores the area’s World Heritage listing, history, natural landscape, bays, islands, lagoons, marine and terrestrial landforms and animals. The centre is open daily except Christmas day and Good Friday.

 

World Heritage Drive

Follow the interpretive signage along the World Heritage Drive to learn about this amazing area and how it satisfies all four criteria to be World Heritage listed. The drive starts at the Overlander Roadhouse on the North West Coastal Highway and continues 155 kilometres via Denham to Monkey Mia passing the Hamelin Pool stromatolites, Shell Beach, Eagle Bluff, the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery and Visitor Centre, Little Lagoon, the Peron Heritage Precinct and Monkey Mia.

 

Things to do in Shark Bay

Hamelin Pool Stromatolites

Hamelin Pool, located 90 kilometres south east of Denham, is one of only a few places on Earth where living marine stromatolites (the oldest living organisms on the planet) exist. These rocky looking lumps in the water are examples of the oldest and simplest forms of life on earth dating back 3.5 billion years. The water at Hamelin Pool is twice as saline as usual sea water due to sea grass banks situated across the bay’s entrance and rapid evaporation from the shallow water. Stromatolites are rock-like structures built by microbes (single-celled cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae). Few predators and competitors can survive these conditions, allowing the microbes to flourish and form stromatolites much as they did billions of years ago. Hamelin Pool stromatolites grow at a maximum of 0.3mm a year, so examples up to a metre high are very old. There is a viewing platform over the water and interpretive displays at the site and at the Hamelin Pool Telegraph Station nearby which houses a small museum.

 

Shell Beach

This extraordinary beach located approximately 50 kilometres south east of Denham is made up entirely of billions of tiny cockle shells layered up to eight metres deep and stretching for over 120 kilometres. The shells were once quarried and used to build the walls of buildings in the area, some of which can still be seen today. On a still day, the ocean at Shell Beach transforms into a palette of the most intense greens and blues.

 

Things to do in Shark Bay

Eagle Bluff

Just 20 kilometres south of Denham is Eagle Bluff. The scenic viewpoint features a 100-metre walkway along the ridge of a cliff face. The ocean views from this vantage point are breathtaking allowing views of sharks, turtles, rays and large fish in the shallow waters below.

 

Birridas

An unusual feature of Shark Bay is its gypsum claypans, known locally as birridas. Originally land-locked saline lakes, these shallow depressions support specially-adapted plant and animal species. The sea has also re-flooded some coastal birridas, creating inland bays of exceptional beauty which contribute towards World Heritage status. Two flooded birridas are notable for their beauty and ecological significance.

 

Big Lagoon

Big Lagoon is a thriving ecosystem featuring seagrass, sand flats and mangroves. It is a safe haven for dolphins, dugongs and young fish and crustaceans. Green turtles enjoy basking on the warm surface waters.

 

Little Lagoon

Little Lagoon is located four kilometres from Denham and is a natural nursery for whiting and other fish species. Beach and barbecue facilities provide for a peaceful day of swimming, feasting on a picnic or enjoying the sunset.

 

things to do in shark bay

Francois Peron National Park

Francois Peron National Park lies just north of Denham, adjacent to the Shark Bay Marine Park. The park covers 52,500 hectares of arid shrublands, rolling sandplains and spectacular coastal scenery. Here, striking rust red sand dunes give way to brilliant white beaches and a crystal blue ocean. The Wanamalu Trail stretches for 1.5 kilometres along the cliff edge between Cape Peron and Skipjack Point and is a 45-minute (one way) walk that provides excellent views of the coastline. Interpretive signs along the trail provide an introduction to the features of the area and two viewing platforms at Skipjack Point provide striking coastal views and the opportunity to view Shark Bay’s abundant marine life. Vehicle access to Francois Peron Park is from the Monkey Mia Road, about four kilometres east of Denham. The road to the Peron Homestead is accessible for two wheel drive vehicles but high clearance four wheel drives are essential for travel further north into the park. Designated basic campsites at Big Lagoon, Bottle Bay, Herald Bight Gregories and South Gregories lead to fishing spots along the coastline. Gas barbecues are supplied, wood fires are not permitted and visitors need to bring water supplies when visiting the park.

 

Things to do in Shark Bay

Peron Heritage Precinct

Situated in the Francois Peron National Park, the Peron Homestead Precinct offers a glimpse of life from the 1950s when the park was a working sheep station. A self-guided walk around the precinct explores the history of the area, visiting the shearing shed, shearer’s quarters and stock yards. Interpretive signs explain the station’s interesting history and an interpretive centre depicts stories of Indigenous inhabitants, European colonisation and current day conservation programs such as Project Eden. There is a natural hot tub fed from an artesian bore near the homestead that originally supplied water to the station’s stock and is now popular with visitors. The nearby barbecue and lawn area is a great spot for picnics. Peron Homestead is accessible by two wheel drive vehicles.

 

Wildlife

If you love wildlife, you will love Shark Bay. Some 17 species of mammals, 98 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 230 species of birds have been recorded in the area. Whether on an organised tour or travelling on your own steam, you’re sure to spot some of the region’s fascinating wildlife. Some of Shark Bay’s mammals are among the world’s rarest. Five threatened mammal species are found in Shark Bay and four are found nowhere else on Earth. Some of the area’s special mammals include: the Shark Bay mouse, western barred bandicoot, greater bilby, rufous hare-wallaby (Mala), Shark Bay boodie, banded hare-wallaby, southern brown bandicoot (Quenda), greater stick-nest rat and the woylie.

 

things to do in shark bay

Fishing

The lure of catching the coveted pink snapper and many other species of fish attracts thousands of recreational fishermen to Shark Bay each year. The protected waters of Shark Bay also sustain extensive seagrass beds, which are key nursery areas for finfish, prawns and scallops. Visit www.fish.wa.gov.au for information on size restrictions and bag limits.

 

Marine Life

The Shark Bay Marine Park covers 1500 kilometres of coastline, making it the largest marine embayment in Australia. More than 320 species of fish inhabit the Shark Bay Marine Park, from emperors and angel fish to remoras and wrasse. Spot turtles, dolphins, manta rays, whales (in season), dugongs and many other marine species on a wildlife cruise or from the shore. The shallow waters support a diverse ecology, including the largest number and area of seagrass species in the world, providing nutrition and shelter for the marine fauna. Shark Bay is an important turtle nesting location with up to 6,000 marine turtles living in the water including endangered loggerhead turtles. Tours are available, offering visitors the opportunity to get up close to Shark Bay’s abundant marine life.

 

Dugongs

Due to the vast sea grass meadows in the Shark Bay Marine Park, dugongs can be found year round in Shark Bay. The area supports 10 per cent of the world’s dugong population which feed on the significant sea grass meadows that blanket the sea floor of the Shark Bay Marine Park. You can’t help but be enchanted by these graceful (if a little bizarre looking) creatures. Dugongs can grow up to three metres in length and weigh as much as 400 kilograms. Being mammals, they cannot hold their breath under water for very long, so they can often be spotted coming to the surface for air. You can experience dugongs on a wildlife cruise from Monkey Mia or spot them on a scenic flight above the bay.

 

things to do in shark bay

Wildflowers

Located at the centre of the southern and northern varieties of Western Australia’s wildflowers, Shark Bay has the longest wildflower season in Western Australia and more than 700 species of flowering plants. Of these, more than 150 species are of special scientific interest and several are exclusive to the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. The aromatic Tamala rose is one of the region’s most well-known and showy species. The Shark Bay daisy, Royce’s Gum, Rogerson’s grevillea and golden lambstail are also found only in the Shark Bay region. The sceptre banksia features large flower-spikes in summer and everlastings often grow in massive drifts of colour that will surprise and delight visitors.

 

Dirk Hartog Island

For those who like a little seclusion, Dirk Hartog Island offers a peaceful retreat of beautiful scenery and private white sandy beaches. Dirk Hartog Island was the site of the first recorded landing on Australian soil by Europeans. Captain Dirk Hartog announced his arrival by erecting an inscribed pewter plate at the site now known as Cape Inscription. Fishing is very good around the island. Scuba diving, snorkelling and walking are also great ways to explore the surrounds. Air and land tours and accommodation must be arranged in advance.

 

things to do in shark bay

Steep Point and Zuytdorp Cliffs

Spectacularly beautiful Steep Point is the most western point of mainland Australia and is a mecca for fishermen. In fact it’s known to be one of the world’s most successful land based game fishing locations. Access is by four wheel drive only and visitors are advised to exercise caution and bring their own drinking water and supplies. This area also features the magnificent Zuytdorp Cliffs towering up to 170 metres above sea level. Offering some amazing scenery, including blowholes that shoot sea spray up to nine metres into the air, the Zuytdorp Cliffs span from Kalbarri to Steep Point. Land and scenic air tours are available to Steep Point and over the Zuytdorp Cliffs.

 

Monkey Mia

Distance from Perth: 835km

Monkey Mia Reserve is located on the eastern shore of Peron Peninsula about 23 kilometres from the town of Denham. Home to the world famous Monkey Mia dolphins, it’s a must-stop for families and nature lovers alike. Monkey Mia also offers many other attractions and tours including beach camel treks, catamaran wildlife sailing cruises and Indigenous tours. Explore the area surrounding Monkey Mia on the easy, 1.5-kilometre walk trail starting at the Monkey Mia Visitor Centre and heading into the sand dunes before returning to the beach. Access to Monkey Mia Reserve is subject to a Department of Environment and Conservation National Park entrance fee.

 

things to do in shark bay

Indigenous Perspective

Gutharraguda is the Aboriginal name for Shark Bay, meaning two waters. Long before Europeans landed and settled in the Shark Bay area, the land and waters of Monkey Mia and surrounds provided a livelihood for the local Nhanda and Malgana people. You can get an Indigenous perspective of Shark Bay by taking a walking, kayaking or four wheel driving tour with a local guide. Learn about the Indigenous history of Shark Bay and its many plants and animals. Become an animal tracker and discover which plants make good bush tucker and medicine. Along the tour you will visit significant cultural sites including a shell midden and caves where archaeological evidence has dated Indigenous occupation back thousands of years.

 

Dolphins

The dolphins of Monkey Mia are famous for their daily ritual of swimming to shore to interact with humans. As the bottlenose dolphins are wild, numbers and the exact time of their visit varies, however they often visit the shore up to three times a day, the first being at around 7.30am. A few people are selected from the crowd of onlookers to feed the dolphins. Monkey Mia dolphins are protected by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). DEC has a management program that ensures the dolphins maintain their hunting and survival skills. Therefore, the dolphins are only fed a small amount of fish. Visitors can also learn more about dolphins at the Dolphin Information Centre located inside the Monkey Mia Visitor Centre.

 

Shark Bay Region Visitor Information

Shark Bay World Heritage

Discovery and Visitor Centre

53 Knight Terrace, Denham WA 6537

Tel: +618 9948 1590

Email: [email protected]

Website: sharkbayvisit.com