On the westernmost point of Australia, Shark Bay offers more than sheer adventure and unbelievable fishing. It dazzles visitors with its vivid red dunes and white beaches, and its wealth of wildlife and flora – all earning the area World Heritage status. Stand-out sights on the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive include the Hamelin Pool stromatolites, Shell Beach and Eagle Bluff.
North of Shark Bay is Carnarvon, with its bounty of delicious produce. The region is steeped in history, with 2016 marking the 400th year since a European explorer set foot on an offshore island. The bustling town’s scenic waterway offers fascinating glimpses into its maritime past.
As the weather cools, get talking to visitors, and you’ll soon realise some planned to stay only a few days, but wound up spending weeks soaking up the winter sun and laidback lifestyle of this unique ocean escape.
Meet the world-famous dolphins at Monkey Mia.
Take a Didgeridoo Dreaming tour under a starry night sky, with Wula Guda Nyinda Eco Adventures.
Watch sea spray rise up to 20m high at the natural Blowholes, 70km north of Carnarvon.
Dine at the One Mile Jetty heritage precinct and return on the Coffee Pot train.
Visit 110km Shell Beach, made up of billions of tiny white shells, up to 10m deep. There are only two beaches in the world like it.
Join the locals catching squid off the floodlit Denham Jetty once the sun sets.
Hop on a boat and visit the Monkey Mia pearl farm.
Go charter fishing or sailing in Shark Bay.
Hike the 1.5km Wanamalu Trail between Cape Peron and Skipjack Point in Francois Peron National Park.
View Shark Bay’s marine life at Ocean Park Aquarium, on a boat tour, or from the air on a scenic flight.
For more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/SharkBaytoGnaraloo.
Take off to the Space and Technology Museum, and see the Carnarvon Tracking Station and the Overseas Telecommunications Satellite Earth Station (OTC).
See tropical fish in the natural Aquarium pool, protected by coral reef near the Blowholes.
Learn about natural wonders and thousands of years of history at Shark Bay World Heritage and Discovery Centre.
The Coffee Pot train at the Carnarvon Heritage Precinct.
Denham This quaint coastal town offers the largest range of accommodation and cafes in Shark Bay, most within an easy stroll of the beach.
Monkey Mia The only place in the world where your neighbours will be the resident dugongs. A range of beachside accommodation is available, along with shops, tours and dining.
Dirk Hartog Island With a smattering of secluded accommodation, the island is known for great fishing, scuba diving and snorkelling.
Carnarvon Offers everything from caravan parks to motels and self-contained apartments. Station stays are available on the outskirts, and north along the coast.
VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY, DIRK HARTOG, SHARK BAY 1616
In 2016, Shark Bay will commemorate 400 years since famed Dutch explorer Captain Dirk Hartog landed at Cape Inscription on Dirk Hartog Island. Rumour has it the five-day festival in October will be attended by royalty. Book early to catch all the highlights, from balls and concerts to tall-ship reenactments and more.
The replica of the historic vessel The Duyfken.
CARNARFIN FISHING COMPETITION
With a prize pool of $25,000, anglers vie to hook the biggest fish across 16 categories, within 50 nautical miles of Carnarvon. May.
Shark Bay’s week-long fishing competition and festival, with live entertainment. May.
A festival of music, art, culture and history in Shark Bay. May.
CARNARVON TROPICOOL FESTIVAL
Celebrating the Gascoyne’s diverse and vibrant culture, with a variety of entertainment. May.
SHARK BAY WINTER FESTIVAL
Celebrate with the far western speedway championships, street parade, markets and entertainment. Jul.
GASCOYNE FOOD FESTIVAL
Showcasing the region’s massive array of fresh local produce, the festival attracts foodies, celebrity chefs and lifestyle media to Carnarvon for a weekend of indulgences. Aug.
Motorcycles, quad bikes, custom-built 4WDs and buggies compete in this endurance race over 500km of tough desert terrain near Carnarvon. Oct.
EAT AND DRINK
Drive round Carnarvon’s famous plantation area for fresh fruit and vegies, including the famous bananas. Local pubs, cafes and restaurants in Denham, Monkey Mia, Shark Bay and Carnarvon serve the region’s bounty. Sample fresh-caught seafood at the Small Boat Harbour, a Carnarvon banana smoothie from Bumbaks, or fresh-fruit ice-creams and exquisite vegetables on Robinson Street. Visit the Saturday Gascoyne Growers Market for seriously good coffee, and stock up on fruit and veg direct from the plantations, plus fresh seafood to take home.
DO AND SEE
Shark Bay Marine Life
As well as the unique ecological system of stromatolites at Hamelin Pool, sea grasses, marine life and rare endangered species, Shark Bay is renowned for the Monkey Mia Reserve, where dolphins approach the shoreline three times a day to be fed. Shark Bay is also home to the world’s second-largest dugong population (15,000). Board a catamaran tour to spot the dolphins, dugongs, turtles, sea snakes, and even some sharks. From the coast at Eagle Bluff, you can see turtles, rays and large fish. To learn more about the marine life, visit the Ocean Park Aquarium in Shark Bay.
Francois Peron National Park
This breathtaking park of contrasting landscapes covers 52,500ha of coastal scenery, sand plains and bush land.
One of the world’s best land-based game fishing locations, this also offers the most spectacular coastal views of the dramatic Zuytdorp Cliffs.
Hamelin Pool Stromatolites
Dating back some 3.5 billion years, these lumpy fossils are the oldest living organisms on the planet. Look carefully and you may see them ‘breathing’ as tiny bubbles of oxygen are released.
TIP Cruise out to historic Dirk Hartog Island and go snorkelling...
DROP IN ON THE LOCALS
Adam Morris, manager
Take a guided tour around Western Australia’s number-one tourist attraction, the Ocean Park Aquarium, showcasing Shark Bay’s marine wildlife.
Stand on the same point as the first WA explorer, at Cape Inscription on Dirk Hartog Island.
Stephanie Leca, Tourism Officer
Walk along the historic Fascine in Carnarvon and view the HMAS Sydney memorial plaques.
Visit Rocky Pool, an amazing permanent freshwater oasis just 55km east of Carnarvon.