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 quieter and more serene than the name (which could be some sort of Hollywood thriller movie title) suggests.

Whether it’s swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, or experiencing some of the native culture, there’s so much to see and do in this World Heritage-listed wonderland.

There are a few towns bordering or located near Shark Bay, namely Denham and Monkey Mia, so you will be more than busy during your visit.

Things to do in Shark Bay

Monkey Mia

Despite its 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 house or home.

While there are (unfortunately) no monkeys, there are just as many (if not more) intelligent creatures you can encounter.

Monkey Mia’s dolphins are a huge attraction as they come right up to shore to say hello and feed.

Source: @jaxonfoale

They have been coming to the shallow waters for nearly 50 years, but more recently the diet has become stricter, not least because more than 100,000 tourists are drawn to the attraction every year.

While parks and wildlife officers feed the dolphins their assigned fish, you can wade calf-deep in the water and come face-to-face with these magnificent animals. If you’re lucky, you might even be chosen from the crowd to feed one yourself!

See ancient beings

Want to see something that’s been around for around 3.5 billion years?

And no, it’s not some kind of megalodon shark.

The Shark Bay Stromatolites are the oldest “living fossils” on earth, these ancient organisms are growing at a slow rate of 0.3mm per 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 in the middle of the stromatolites.

Explore Indigenous Culture

The Aboriginal culture of the Midwest is fascinating and very much alive, with a range of tours that allow you to experience Gutharraguda – the native name for Shark Bay – through First Nations eyes.

Wula Gura Nyinda Ecological Cultural Adventures

are your best bet when it comes to an authentic Aboriginal experience, with a night tour, kayaking tour, camp and food safari, and more.

Take the road

Although you can do 4×4 tours, including with Wulu Gura Nyinda, there are plenty of easy tracks to get out and explore yourself.

Much of Shark Bay is only accessible by 4×4, so it’s worth hiring a car or joining one of the tours.

One of those hard-to-reach places is Francois Peron National Park, which you access via a soft sand track.

shark bay - francois peron national park
Source: @kobajourney

This park is well known for its striking red cliffs, white sand beaches and blue waters, so it is well worth a visit.

Steep Point – the westernmost part of Australia – is another place you should navigate with a 4×4.

But hey, the harder the terrain, the more satisfying it is to get there… right?

Foray into fishing

Steep Point is coincidentally one of the best land fishing spots in the world, where you can catch Spanish mackerel, tuna, billfish, sailfish and more. Apparently around 300 different species of fish have been caught at Steep Point, so it’s time to cast that line.

The other great place to fish is… well… at sea. You can definitely join a fishing excursion if you don’t have generous companions.

Once on your trusty craft, head to the islands off Denham, including the famous Dirk Hartog Island and Bernier and Dorre Islands beyond.

Anglers have been known to catch whiting, yellowfin bream, flathead, and even pink snapper in the area.

island hopping

Even if fishing isn’t your thing, getting out into the open sea and exploring the islands of Shark Bay is always a fantastic opportunity.

The main island that attracts visitors is Dirk Hartog, named after a 17th century Dutchman who is said to be the first European to have discovered it.

shark bay - dirk hartog
Source: @jaxon_roberts

As it is an island completely detached from the mainland, you can only get there by boat, barge or light aircraft.

Only four-wheel-drive vehicles can truly cross the island’s terrain, but only 20 private vehicles are allowed at any given time.

It therefore pays to inquire ahead of time before getting into your car in hopes of getting it on the houseboat.

Since it’s a little difficult to get there, many people choose to spend the night on the island, either at the Homestead campsite or in the more glamorous ecolodges.

The island is renowned for the countless rare species that call it home, including loggerhead sea turtles, which sway in the summer to lay their eggs.

Go snorkeling and you just might come across a manta ray. During the colder months, dugongs have been known to meander to the notoriously warm waters of the island.

Go further or take a boat trip and you can see whales in November or whale sharks in September.

Dirk Hartog is only one place in Shark Bay where you can see these creatures, with boat tours offered all over Monkey Mia and Denham on which you are guaranteed to see wildlife.

Cast your line

Albany attracts anglers from all over, with plenty of beach fishing if you don’t feel like going 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, which can be caught straight from the beach.

If you like crab, you can catch blue swimmers from ports.

At sea you want to head to King George Sound where you can catch salmon or even bluefin tuna, you’re in luck.

Surf

The Midwest is a major stop on surfer road trips.

If you have the time and want an unforgettable surfing experience, take a side trip to Red Bluff on your way up to Shark Bay.

Known as one of the best surfing destinations in the world, the sheer cliffs and red dirt of this coast are spectacular.

Closer to Shark Bay is the “Rivermouth”, where there is constant surf all year round.

Have 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.

shark bay - shell beach
Source: @sarahkeelan.travels

From a distance, the beach looks white as snow. But the shore is not made of snow or sand, but of shells, by the billions.

The unique beach stretches for 70 km and the water, although very salty, is perfect for swimming.

Where to eat and drink in Shark Bay

Although made up of a few small 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 former fishing town, visit the Old Pearler’s Restaurant.

It’s made of what looks like old limestone bricks… but the truth about the materials used to make this unique building is more interesting than that. The Old Pearler Restaurant is made entirely from shells carved at Shell Beach.

Sitting inside is like stepping back in time (or maybe a few steps underwater), with your choice of local seafood, crabs and crawfish when in season .

The Boughshed Restaurant at Monkey Mia is a bit more upscale, but with an ocean view right in front of you, it’s hard to pass up. Enjoy oysters and bruschetta to start with champagne, before moving on to catch of the day, one of the pastas or a good old-fashioned Black Angus eye fillet.

The Ocean Restaurant is also a great spot for lunch, with hearty steak sandwiches and kebabs.

In addition to the ocean, the restaurant boasts of being able to see sharks, rays, and dolphins right from where you are seated.

Where to sleep in Shark Bay

The Shark Bay Hotel prides itself on being “Australia’s most westerly hotel”, an interesting flex, isn’t it?

But still, cool to keep in your mind while you lay your head down for the night. The accommodation is fairly basic but with exceptionally friendly staff and, as with so much in Shark Bay, right in front of the ocean.

For something a little more upscale, the Heritage Resort (also right by the ocean, go figure) is a gorgeous spot with a pool and cocktails just waiting to be ordered.

RAC’s Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort is also a bit fancier, with two pools and kayak and canoe rentals available.

shark bay - RAC monkey mia dolphin resort
Source: @langridgelandscapes

We have also already mentioned the ecolodge available on the island of Dirk Hartog. Although it’s remote and feels cut off from the rest of the world, the lodge is actually quite luxurious. But there are a few conditions, including the minimum number of nights you can stay and the need to rent a full space (so bring your family and friends!)

If you’re up for a drive, you can stay at Red Bluff in the eco-lodge and glamping accommodation.

Don’t you think that’s exciting? Well, Chris Hemsworth and Matt Damon would disagree.

That’s right, the two Hollywood superstars have stayed in some of the accommodations at Quobba Station, Red Bluff, and you can follow in their footsteps.


Feature image provided by Tourism WA

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