Shark Bay is a World Heritage Site in Gascoyne, Western Australia. It is famous for its amazing sites, and for its dolphins. The westernmost part of the Australian mainland, it is 830 km north of Perth.
Despite its adjacent ocean and bays, the world heritage shark bay area has a very dry climate, and very arid landscape. That said, there are seasonal rains from the north, and weather from the south does intrude, but generally it has a sense of the rest of the coast towards the north west, dry, vast and endless.
The European history of the area goes back to when Dirk Hartog, the Dutch explorer landed at Shark Bay in 1616, over 150 years before Captain Cook made his first landing at Kurnell in 1770 leading to the establishment of the British colony at Sydney 18 years later.
The Dutch were not attracted to the area, as it contained none of the spices or other valuables they were looking to trade or acquire. Their further visits were largely the result of being blown off course on route to the Dutch East Indies (modern day Indonesia).
Francois Peron National Park is named after a French naturalist who visited Shark Bay in 1801 and 1803. For many years it was a sheep station. The government bought it in 1990. The old homestead is now a museum.
Shark Bay region is a large set of islands and bodies of water. There are beautiful beaches, including Shell Beach, made entirely of shells.
Flora and fauna
A large section of Shark Bay has been cleared of non-native wildlife and fenced off at the narrowest point to provide a conservation reserve for rare Australian wildlife. The project is called Project Eden. Many native animals have been released including the woylie, mallee fowl, southern brown bandicoot and bilby.
The Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve is home to the stromatolites, a rare and ancient form of life.
Shark Bay Airport (MJK) is around 8 km from Denham, and around 16 km from Monkey Mia on the Monkey Mia Road. The airport has a sealed landing strip, but no terminal facilities of any substance.
Shark Bay Car Hire is a local operator. None of the majors operate in the area.
Fees and permits
- Shark Bay Marine Park and Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve is free.
- Francois Peron National Park is: $10 per car, $5 per motorbike, free for holders of WA National Park pass.
Holiday and annual passes are also available at Department of Environment and Conservation offices
- Monkey Mia Reserve is: adult $6, child $2, family $12. Holiday permit (valid for 4 weeks) is: adult $9, child $4, family $22.
Access to Shark Bay region and its features is via the towns of Monkey Mia and Denham. These two locations are a small entry point to the larger area.
Named features of the region include: Francois Peron National Park, Dirk Hartog Island, Shell Beach, Shark Bay Marine Park, Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve. It was given World Heritage status in 1991.
Monkey Mia is pronounced Monkey-My-Ah, not Monkey Mee-Ah.
The Shark Bay World Heritage Discover Centre is in Denham.
- Monkey Mia Dolphins. The wild dolphins come close to shore at the bay in the mornings. It is possible to feed them. This is in a supervised resort setting, so if you want to get close to the dolphins arrive as early as possible
- Hamelin Pool. Home of the oldest living organisms in the world.
- Shell Beach. A long beach, comprised of small shells, metres deep.
- Eagle Bluff.
- Francois Peron National Park.
- Dirk Hartog Island. Accessible by plane from Shark Bay airport by charter flight, or by 4wd and barge. Barge crossing must be prearranged. There is accommodation on the island.
- Point Quobba. Blowholes.
- Steep Point. The most westerly point on the Australian mainland.
- salt mountain. The salt mountain at the Useless Loop salt mines can be seen from Denham beach.
- Fishing. Recreational fishing is allowed in Shark Bay, but there are special rules as it is a National Park. Several charter boat providers operate from Denham.