Everything you need to know about Shark Bay.
So the name of this coastal paradise has a way of scaring off tourists, but it’s really more calm and serene than the name (which could be some kind of Hollywood thriller film title) suggests.
Whether it’s swimming, boating, fishing, walking, or taking in some of the Indigenous Culture, there’s so much to see and do within this World Heritage listed wonderland.
There are a couple of towns bordering or located near Shark Bay, namely Denham and Monkey Mia, so you’ll be kept more than busy on your visit.
Things to do in Shark Bay
Despite the name, Monkey Mia is not known for monkeys. No one knows for sure how it got its name, but apparently, a boat called The Monkey moored off the bay, and Mia is an Aboriginal word for home or house.
While there are (sadly) no monkeys, there are equally (if not more) intelligent creatures that you can meet.
The dolphins of Monkey Mia are a huge attraction because they come right up to the shore to say hi and enjoy a feed.
They’ve been coming into the shallows for the better part of 50 years, but more recently the feeding has become stricter, not least because more than 100,000 tourists are drawn to the attraction every year.
While officers from Parks and Wildlife feed the dolphins their allocated fish, you can wade calf-deep into the water and come just about face to face with these beautiful animals. If you’re lucky you may even be chosen from the throng to feed one yourself!
See Some Ancient Beings
Keen to see something that’s been alive for about 3.5 billion years?
And no, it’s not some kind of Megalodon Shark.
Shark Bay’s Stromatolites are the oldest “living fossils” on earth, these ancient organisms grow at a sluggish 0.3mm a year, but they are getting bigger… slowly but surely.
You can see the Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool.
For the best view take the boardwalk right into the midst of the Stromatolites.
Explore Aboriginal Culture
The Aboriginal culture of the Midwest is fascinating and very much alive, with a range of tours to take part in that allow you to learn about Gutharraguda – the Indigenous name for Shark Bay – through the eyes of First Nations people.
Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures are your best bet when it comes to an authentic Aboriginal experience, with a night tour, a kayak tour, a camp and cooking safari, and more.
Hit The Road
While you can do 4WD tours, including with Wulu Gura Nyinda, there are plenty of straight forward tracks to get out and explore yourself.
Much of Shark Bay is only accessible by 4WD, so it’s worth hiring a car or going for one of the tours.
One of these hard-to-get-to spots is Francois Peron National Park, which you access via a soft sand track.
This park is well known for its striking red cliffs, white beaches, and blue waters, so it’s worth the trek.
Steep Point – the western most part of Australia – is another spot you need to navigate with a 4WD.
But hey, the more challenging the terrain, the more satisfying it is to get to… right?
Foray into Fishing
Steep Point is coincidentally one of the best land-based fishing spots in the whole world, where you can catch Spanish mackerel, tuna, billfish, sailfish and more. Apparently, about 300 different species of fish have been caught at Steep Point, so time to cast that line.
The other spot that’s great to fish is… well… out at sea. You can definitely jump on a fishing tour though if you have no generous mates.
Once on your trusty craft, heading out the islands off the coast of Denham, including the famous Dirk Hartog Island and the Bernier and Dorre islands beyond that.
Anglers have been known to catch whiting, yellowfin bream, flathead and even pink snapper in the area.
Even if fishing isn’t your thing, getting out to the open ocean and exploring islands of Shark Bay is still a fantastic opportunity.
The main island that draws visitors is Dirk Hartog, named after a 17th century Dutchman who is believed to be the first European to have ever discovered it.
Since it’s an island completely detached from the mainland, you can only get there by boat, barge or light aircraft charter.
Only four-wheel drives can really traverse the island’s terrain, but only 20 private vehicles are allowed at any given time.
So it pays to inquire ahead before rocking up in your car hoping to get it across on the barge.
Given it’s a bit of an effort to get to, a lot of people choose to stay on the island overnight at either the Homestead Camping grounds or the more glamorous eco lodges.
The island is renowned for the countless rare species that call it home, including loggerhead turtles, which rock up in summer to lay their eggs.
Go out for a snorkel and you may well run into a manta ray. In the colder months, Dugongs are known to meander over to the notoriously warm waters of the Island.
Go further out, or hop on a boat tour, and you could see whales in November or whale sharks in September.
Dirk Hartog is just one place in Shark Bay where you can see these creatures, with boat tours offered all over Monkey Mia and Denham on which you’re guaranteed to see some wildlife.
Cast your line
Albany attracts anglers from all over, with plenty of beach fishing if you don’t feel like getting out on a boat.
From Cheyne’s or Shelley Beach, you can catch herring and whiting.
While Two People’s Bay is known for King George Whiting, able to be caught right from the beach.
If you’re into crabbing, you can catch Blue swimmers from the harbours.
Out at sea you want to head for King George Sound, where you could catch salmon or even Bluefin Tuna you’re lucky.
The Midwest is a major stop on surfers’ road trips.
If you have the time and are keen on an unforgettable surfing experience, detour to Red Bluff on your way up to Shark Bay.
Known as one of the best surfing destinations in the whole world, the sheer cliffs and red dirt of this coast are spectacular.
Closer to Shark Bay the “Rivermouth”, where there is consistent surf year-round.
Shelling Out a Good Time
Shell Beach, in Francios Peron National Park, is a natural wonder.
It’s exactly what it sounds like…
A beach… of shells.
From a distance, the beach looks snow white. But the shore is made of neither snow nor sand, but shells, billions of them.
The unique beach stretches 70km and the water, while very salty, is perfect for a swim.
Where to eat and drink in Shark Bay
While made up of just a few tiny coastal communities, there are a few key places to eat and drink in Shark Bay.
For a dive into the history and character of the old fishing town, visit the Old Pearler Restaurant.
It’s made of what looks like old limestone brick… but the truth of the materials used to craft the unique building is more interesting than that. The Old Pearler Restaurant is made entirely from coquina shell carved from Shell Beach.
Sitting down inside it feels like taking a step back in time (or perhaps a few steps underwater), with your choice of local seafood and crabs and cray on offer when in season.
The Boughshed Restaurant in Monkey Mia is a bit more upmarket, but with a view of the ocean right in front of you, it’s hard to pass up. Enjoy some oysters and bruschetta to start you off with some champagne, before moving on to the fish of the day, one of the pastas or a good old fashioned Black Angus Eye Fillet.
Ocean Restaurant is also a great place for lunch, with hearty steak sandwiches and kebabs on offer.
Also right be the ocean, the restaurant boasts that you can see sharks, rays and dolphins right from where you’re sitting.
Where to stay in Shark Bay
Shark Bay Hotel prides itself on being “Australia’s most westerly hotel”, interesting flex right?
But still, cool to hold in your mind as you lay your head down for the night. The accommodation is pretty simple but with exceptionally friendly staff and, as with so many things in Shark Bay, right in front of the ocean.
For something a bit more upmarket, the Heritage Resort (also right by the ocean, go figure) is a beautiful spot with a pool and cocktails just begging to be ordered.
RAC’s Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort is also a bit fancier, with two swimming pools and kayak and canoe hire available.
We have also mentioned already the ecolodge available on Dirk Hartog Island. While remote and very much feeling like it’s cut off from the rest of the world, the lodge is actually quite luxurious. But there are a few conditions including the minimum nights you can stay and the need to rent a full space out (so bring your family and friends!)
If you are up for a drive, you can stay at Red Bluff at the eco-lodge and glamping accommodation.
Don’t reckon it’s anything to write home about? Well, Chris Hemsworth and Matt Damon would disagree.
That’s right, the two Hollywood superstars stayed at some of the accommodation at Quobba Station, Red Bluff and you can follow in their footsteps.
Feature Image Supplied By Tourism WA
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