a white sand beach with calm turquoise ocean on a partly cloudy day

Shark Bay Travel Guide 2024

Kaya/hello, I’m Wendy, a Western Australian resident.

Welcome to my comprehensive travel guide to the spectacular Shark Bay region, a gem in Western Australia’s crown. As a seasoned traveller who has explored the nooks and crannies of this UNESCO World Heritage site, I bring a wealth of firsthand experience and deep knowledge to this guide.
Over the years, I’ve immersed myself in the stunning natural beauty, unique wildlife, and rich cultural heritage of Shark Bay. My adventures here, from swimming with the friendly dolphins at Monkey Mia to trekking the red dunes of Francois Peron National Park, have given me valuable insights and local secrets that I’m excited to share with you. Join me as we embark on a journey through one of Australia’s most extraordinary destinations.

What to do in Shark Bay

Discover the wonders of Shark Bay, where the natural beauty and unique wildlife create an unforgettable experience. From the friendly dolphins of Monkey Mia to the ancient Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, Shark Bay offers a range of activities.

Explore the pristine beaches, visit the Ocean Park Aquarium, or marvel at the stunning views from Eagle Bluff. Nature lovers can revel in the diverse marine life and the striking landscapes of Francois Peron National Park.

For a more in-depth guide on these and other exciting activities see this post on things to do in Monkey Mia and Shark Bay.

a beach made up entirely of cockle shells

Where to eat in Shark Bay Denham and Monkey Mia

We had lunch at the Boughshed in the RAC Monkey Mia Resort. Unfortunately, you can’t book lunchtimes, but we managed to easily get a table during peak time. The views are lovely from the outside as the restaurant overlooks the beach. My fish and chips were delicious, and the rest of the family enjoyed their burgers.

The woodfired Shark Bay Pizzas are flavorsome, cooked to perfection, and have a generous amount of toppings. Gluten-free bases are available, and they cater to most dietary requirements. Shark Bay Pizzas are very popular, so order well ahead of the time you want to collect in peak times. Well worth the wait, though.

The Oceans Restaurant at Ocean Park Aquarium offers great food with stunning ocean views. The fish & chips and calamari were superb.

If you want bread, we found the bakery sells out of bread early, so get in quickly.

a sand beach with a resort behind

Shark Bay Facts

The Shark Bay World Heritage Area covers 2.2 million hectares and was the first location in Western Australia to receive UNESCO status in 1991.

Shark Bay is Australia’s largest bay, with over 1,000 km of spectacular beaches, and is renowned for its marine life. Due to Shark Bay being in a transition zone between temperate and tropical waters, there are at least 320 fish species and more than 80 different types of coral.

Extensive seagrass meadows support over 10,000 dugongs making it one of the largest populations in the world. In addition, humpback whales migrate along the coast and use the bay to rest during their southward migration in spring.

South Peron has Hamelin Pool on one side and Henri Freycinet Harbour on the other. The land was part of the Peron Pastoral Lease until the Peron Peninsula was bought by the Western Australian government in 1990. The northern part of the peninsula became Francois Peron National Park in 1993, and South Peron remains unallocated government land.

red cliffs backing a narrow white sand beach with crystal clear ocean

Shark Bay Tips

  • Apply sunscreen, wear protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Stay hydrated and carry plenty of water with you.
  • Always dive, snorkel, and swim with a buddy.
  • In shallows, wear suitable footwear to protect you from stonefish and cone shells (common in Francois Peron NP).
  • Be aware of boat traffic when in the ocean and marine animals such as sharks and sea snakes.
  • Stay back from Coastal cliffs which may be unstable.
  • RAC WA members can pre-purchase an annual National Park membership at half price.
  • If no bins are available, take all your rubbish with you.
  • Only Telstra has extensive mobile coverage in Shark Bay, but it still cannot be guaranteed in remote areas. Optus is available in Denham town.
  • There is free internet at the Shark Bay Discovery Centre in Denham.
  • Arrive at Monkey Mia early (around 7 am in peak times) to queue to get on the first row of the beach.
  • Watch out for emus and kangaroos on the road, and try to avoid driving around dusk or dawn when they are more active.
  • Visit the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery & Visitor Centre for up-to-date local information.
wide red dirt road track through bushland

History of the Shark Bay Region

Shark Bay is the traditional land of three Aboriginal language groups: Malgana, Nhanda, and Yingkarta. The Malgana name for Shark Bay is Gutharraguda, meaning ‘two waters’ due to the two bays that dominate the landscape. The area is important to the local Aboriginal people as they have a strong connection to the land and sea here.

The town of Denham was named after Captain Henry Mangles Denham, who mapped the Shark Bay region in 1858 aboard the HMS Herald. The settlement was originally a pearling camp called Freshwater Camp, where the first pearls in Western Australia were discovered in the 1850s by Lieutenant Benjamin Helpman. The pearling industry ended when the oyster-shell banks were depleted but thankfully, wild pearl oyster numbers are rising again.

Sheep rearing was one of the primary industries in the 1860s, with fifteen sheep stations being built, starting on Dirk Hartog Island in 1869. By the 1960s, there were approximately 142,000 sheep in the Shark Bay region, but the logistics of transporting the wool to market made running a sheep station difficult. Wool had to be transported overland using horses & carts and then carried to larger boats by dinghies.

Droughts and the lack of fresh water were other challenges the farmers faced, and the collapse of the wool market in the 1990s forced the sheep stations to diversify. Carrarang and Tamala became cattle stations, Hamelin Station took on goats, while Dirk Hartog Island and Nanga introduced tourism alongside their pastoral operations.

a big lagoon from above showing its green water surrounded by red dirt
Big Lagoon, Francois Peron National Park by Tourism WA