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Diverse Scenery Of The Shark Bay, WA

Shark Bay is where rolling red sand dunes collide with a turquoise ocean teeming with colourful underwater life!

Spanning a vast 2.2 million hectares of wild natural beauty, Shark Bay is Australia’s largest bay, with more than 1000 kilometres of pristine beach and calm inviting waters brimming with marine life. Inscribed on the world heritage list in 1991, Shark Bay is located on the Coral Coast Highway about eight hours north of Perth and is a refuge for many globally threatened species of plants and animals. It encompasses national parks, conservation parks and marine parks with exceptional features, including the world’s largest seagrass beds and ancient stromatolites (layered sedimentary formations). For the caravan tourer there are loads of places to soak up all the unspoilt land and seascapes. With so much to offer, this is one drive that deserves at least a week to enjoy its many wonders.

Coastal Caravanning - Denham and Beyond

Denham is the main town in the region, the most westernmost settlement in Australia. From a ramshackle town that grew around a pearlers camp, today it’s a great base from where you can access fishing charters, wildlife cruises and 4WD tours. Most facilities are available here, there’s cafes, bakeries, a supermarket and not far from town the amazing Ocean Park Aquarium and Little Lagoon.
Enjoy a stroll down the main street of Denham, with many buildings of interest. Many years ago, the streets were paved with pearl shells. These days it has an almost Mediterranean feel with its turquoise waters, small, beautiful beach and a jetty popular with anglers.  Have a drink at the Top Pub, the westernmost hotel in Australia, and for the kids there’s a fantastic shipwreck-themed adventure playground on the foreshore. 

Denham WA | TradeRVs

At the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery and Visitor Centre visit the Fire on the Water exhibition. The 15-minute 3D film, which is free and runs daily, tells the story of the battle between HMAS Sydney 11 and HSK Komoran. This Second World War battle staged 200kms off the coast of Shark Bay. 

There are three caravan parks in Denham, all family and dog friendly. Denham Seaside Caravan Park boasts panoramic views of the water from most sites. However, there are other ways to enjoy absolute beachfront camping not far from town.  About 23kms from Denham are the coastal camping areas of Eagle Bluff, Whalebone Bay, Fowlers Camp and Goullett Bluff. With only four vehicles allowed at a time, permits ($15) need to be obtained by contacting the Visitor Information Centre in Denham. The permits can only be booked on the day of arrival and are valid for 24 hours only. Fortunately for us, working in nearby Kalbarri, we visited the area a few times and stayed in three out of the four spots. Each are spectacular and offer secluded camping, as most of the time we had it all to ourselves.

Fowlers Camp | TradeRVs

A free dump point is located in the information bay on the Shark Bay Road as you come into Denham. There’s also potable water available for a small fee from the Water Corporation located on the Monkey Mia Road. 

Eagle Bluff Lookout

Eagle Bluff lookout and boardwalk is located off the Shark Bay Road, about 20kms south of Denham. It’s perched high over the cliffs of the bay and is named after the sea eagles that nest on the rock island just offshore. The elevated 100-metre walkway offers breathtaking views over pristine clear waters and the chance to see turtles, manta rays and other marine life. If you’re lucky you might even spot dugongs over the summer months. 

Eagle Bluff Lookout | TradeRVs

Monkey Mia

No trip to Shark Bay is complete without a visit to Monkey Mia. For 40 years, three generations of wild bottlenose dolphins have been visiting the beach, and it’s one of the best places in the world for dolphin interaction. Visitors can watch them play as they’re being fed by the rangers early in the morning. 

Being wild animals and coming in of their own free will, dolphin experiences always depend on when the dolphins visit the beach but usually it’s between 7.45am and 12 noon. The best time to arrive is 7.30am. Some days the experience can be over by 9am. We arrived later in the morning but still saw many dolphins playing in the water. 

Aside from the dolphins there are wildlife and sunset cruises available, as well as kayaks and paddle boards for hire, enabling you to experience Monkey Mia from the water. We saw a few people kayaking close to the dolphins though swimming with them is prohibited. There’s beachfront accommodation at the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort with more than 120 caravan and camping sites. A daily entry fee of $15 per person allows you to enjoy all the facilities of the Monkey Mia Resort as a visitor.

Monkey Mia | TradeRVs

Beach and Nanga Bay

Shell Beach is one of only two beaches in the world consisting entirely of shells. There’s no sand, just shells and it stretches 120km with shells up to 10 metres deep.

This beautiful snow-white beach with its millions of tiny cockle shells was named a Top Beach by National Geographic. On a still day, the ocean at Shell Beach transforms into a palette of intense greens and blues and the cockle shells sparkle. You can read all about their connection to seagrass along the short walk to the beach. In years gone by the shells were hard packed, cut into blocks and used to build some of the buildings in Denham. One of them is the historical Old Pearler Restaurant on Knight Terrace, but book ahead as this place has an incredible reputation.

Shell Beach WA | TradeRVsShell Beach WA | TradeRVs

Shell Beach is easily accessible by 2WD and is located 50km south of Denham. It has a large car park and a turning circle for larger caravans.

Just 10km south from Shell Beach is another great option for caravanners at Nanga Bay Resort. Built in the 1960s and once part of a pastoral station, it’s nestled on the crystal-clear waters of Henri Freycinet Harbour. Although the facilities are dated, what it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in ambience and charm. Stroll around to enjoy the quirky and uplifting messages painted on the buildings by its owner and cook up a storm in the outdoor barbecue area, a great place to relax and meet fellow campers. Nanga Bay is a favourite for many families who return year after year but if you visit out of school holiday periods, you may well have the place to yourself as we did. 

We loved the warm natural artesian spa, and the beach is at your doorstep. You can drive on it for miles and have your own patch of paradise. On our second visit, caretakers Corrina and Trevor loaned us two kayaks to explore the calm waters. Unfortunately, my iPhone got water in it and subsequently died.  Although the phone was insured, I lost many photos that hadn’t been backed up. I admit I had a meltdown, but as the saying goes, “if the ocean can calm itself, so can you.”

Francois Peron National Park

With a high clearance 4WD you can get off the bitumen and explore the wilderness of Francois Peron. Most of the park can only be accessed by 4WD so caravan camping is out, but it makes for a great day trip.

Francois Peron National Park | TradeRVs

The drive into Francois Peron National Park is accessed from the Monkey Mia Road about 4km east of Denham.  It’s 2WD as far as the Peron Homestead where we unhitched our Jayco Journey, but not before giving way to emus and blue tongue lizards. The natural artesian spa looked inviting, but we were keen to hit the tracks. 

It was more than 40km of rough track to get to our destination of Cape Peron, where most travellers aim. The sand gets soft and very deep in parts so lowering tyre pressure is essential. Towards the end we saw a number of cars getting bogged in the deep sand. 

Francois Peron National Park | TradeRVs

At the tip of Cape Peron, the colours are dazzling. Sunburnt red cliffs back onto azure waters. It’s like a canvas where the rust-red desert sand meets brilliant white beach and the bluest water merges with eternal blue skies. Nearby at the viewing platforms at Skipworth Point, the Indian Ocean beckons below like a huge natural aquarium. From these high sand dunes, the vistas often reveal stingrays, sharks, turtles and schools of fish. These waters hold an estimated 10,000 dugongs and you may well spot some in the waters below. 

Soak In An Artesian SPA

Back at the Peron homestead, where we dropped off our caravan, we’re ready for the artesian spa. The water is scorching at 40C, and almost too hot for me but the other half had to be coaxed out of it!  The hot artesian waters once supplied water to stock on the former Peron Station. These days the artesian spa is a treat. It relieves any tight muscles after all that bumping around on the sandy 4WD track.

Artesian SPA WA | TradeRVs

And, for the record, you don’t need to 4WD into the park to enjoy the artesian plunge at the homestead. It’s accessible at the historic precinct, at the start of the Francois Peron drive. You can also make use of the free barbecues, take a stroll around the shearing sheds and find out about Project Eden.

For more epic 4WD adventures, drive the challenging sandy track to Edel Land National Park and visit the westernmost point of mainland Australia, Steep Point, to see the spectacular Zuytdorp Cliffs and blowholes. For the ultimate island adventure, take your 4WD over on the barge to the untamed wilderness of Dirk Hartog Island National Park, the largest island in Western Australia and discover the landing site of Captain Dirk Hartog, the first recorded landing of a European in Western Australia. This is high on the bucket list for our next visit. Also on the list is the Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool, the oldest living fossils on earth. In April 2021, Cyclone Seroja caused damage to the boardwalk which leads to the stromatolites, and it remains still under maintenance and closed to the public during 2022.

There are so many reasons why Shark Bay is a world heritage area but there’s only one way to truly experience it and that’s to follow the drive and immerse yourself in all of the natural and dramatic beauty that’s part of this remarkable area. 

Shark Bay Visitor Info

Getting there: The drive from Perth to Shark Bay is between eight and nine hours or 800 kilometres depending on your final destination on either National Route 1 to Shark Bay Road or State Route 60 and National Route 1 to Shark Bay Road.

Where to stay:

Things to do:

  1. Monkey Mia Dolphin Experience
  2. Francois Peron National Park
  3. Soak in an artesian hot tub at Peron Homestead
  4. Visit the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery and Visitor Centre (maps, directions, itinerary planning, road conditions, public toilets, free art gallery, Discovery Centre)
  5. Walk along the boardwalk at Eagle Bluff
  6. Visit Shell Beach
  7. Take a drive to Edel Land National Park
  8. Visit Dirk Hartog Island National Park

World Heritage Listing: Shark Bay was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List on 13 December 1991 for its three exceptional natural features: its vast sea-grass beds, which are the largest (4800 km2) and richest in the world; its dugong (‘sea cow’) population; and its stromatolites (colonies of algae which form hard, dome-shaped deposits and are among the oldest forms of life on earth). Shark Bay is also home to five species of endangered mammals.

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