There’s something for every kind of holiday-maker in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Around 800km north of Perth, the marine-park-fringed desert scrubland boasts everything from sport fishing and chance dugong sightings to a golf course with sandy greens.
Here’s your guide to the top ten things to do in the Shark Bay region.
1. Explore the main townsite, Denham
Crowned as the winner of the Tiny Tourism Town award in 2022, Denham has a lot to love. Drive the 825kms from Perth (or fly in on Rex Airlines) before exploring the town on foot. Walk the length of the foreshore, tee off at the local golf course, go for a dip at the Denham Swimming Area, or head off on a hunt for the Instagrammable ‘Thong Shack’.
2. Go wildflower spotting
Shark Bay has the longest wildflower season along the Coral Coast, with shrubs and trees in bloom year-round. But, after plentiful winter rains, the wildflower display kicks up a notch. See the more coastal areas spattered with Shark Bay Daisies and red Tamala Roses, or the desert scrublands awash with yellow acacias.
3. Hook a big one
Keen anglers will have a field day in the Shark Bay region. There are endless options for both land-based and deep-sea fisherpeople. Cast a line off the beach and expect to hook anything from tailor and whiting to bream. Head further afield on a tour or in your boat, and pink snapper, yellowtail kingfish, and tuna are all fair game.
4. Learn from the traditional custodians of the land
Shark Bay is known to the Nhanda and Malgana Aboriginal people as ‘Gutharraguda’, the land holding great significance to them and their culture. You can learn about their deep spiritual connection to the saltwater country on a 4WD-ing, kayak, or Didgeridoo tour with Darren ‘Capes’ Capewell from Wula Gura Nyinda.
5. Visit Shell Beach
As the name suggests, this is not your typical sandy stretch of Coral Coast coastline. Covered in trillions of tiny white cockle shells, there’s no other beach in the world like it. You’ll find this secluded spot 44km from the Denham townsite (or 84km from the North West Coastal Highway), not far from the Hamelin Pool stromatolites.
6. Check out the Hamelin Pool stromatolites
Shark Bay is the best place in the world to see stromatolites, AKA 3,500,000-year-old ancient living fossils. The specimens at Hamelin Pool – 105km from Denham – just so happen to be the oldest and largest on earth. While the viewing boardwalk is still undergoing repairs, you can see them from the Hamelin Pool quarry.
7. Have a beach day at Monkey Mia
Calm and clear, the beaches at Monkey Mia are ideal for some family fun. You’ll have a whale of a time swimming, kayaking, boating, and shell-collecting there. Hit the beach early, and you’ll catch the dolphins on their morning visit to shore. Stay overnight, and you’ll see the curious emus that wander the reserve.
8. Learn about sea life at Ocean Park Aquarium
Learn about moray eels, venomous sea snakes, and various shark species at the Ocean Park Aquarium, 10km south of Denham. Join a 45-minute guided tour of the aquariums with a marine biologist, and stay on to watch the fury of a shark feeding.
9. Discover the wonders of Francois Peron National Park
Francois Peron National Park is where the rusty red cliffs bleed into brilliantly blue water. It’s also home to an abundance of wildflowers, and fauna so unique it isn’t found anywhere else on earth. Venture into the park in your 4WD (access to the park is from Monkey Mia Road, around 4km east of Denham) or let an experienced tour guide show you about.
10. Meet the dugongs
The Shark Bay Marine Park is home to more than 10,000 dugongs. See them gently grazing on the seagrass meadows on a dedicated tour, or try your luck at the boardwalk at Eagle Bluff. If you’re lucky, you’ll see rays and turtles too.