Australia has some amazing places to visit and one of the standout memories from our recent trip was a place called Shark Bay in Western Australia. Shark bay is listed as a world heritage site and is located approximately 800 kms north of Perth and is the most westerly point on the Australian mainland. One well known area of Shark Bay is the famous Francois Peron national park located on the Peron peninsula, and Monkey Mia is located on the same peninsula along with the town of Denham.
When we arrived at Shark Bay the first major attraction were beds of Stramatolites at the Hamelin pool. Stramatolites are believed to be the worlds oldest living fossils and it is believed these ones started forming around a thousand years ago. The Stramatolites are formed from Cyano bacteria or(blue green Algae.). Stramatolites are widely distributed in the fossil record and contain some of the oldest forms of life from over three billion years ago.
Not far from the Stramatolite beds is the famous Shell beach, made up from billions of cockle shells. Shell beach is one of only two in the world made up entirely of shells, and the shells are all of the same species.
Shell Beach is 60 kms long and the cockle shells are 7 to 10 metres deep. Water passing through the shells over many years has cemented the shells together forming a type of limestone called Coquina. The Coquina was mined years ago before Shark Bay became a park, and was cut into blocks and used to construct some of the buildings in the nearby town of Denham.
Travelling north from Shell beach along Shark bay road we travelled through Taillefer Isthmus. This narrow spit of land joins the main land of Western Australia to the Peron Peninsula and Francois Peron national Park. When we entered Francois Peron National Park we passed through an electrified fence.
The electrified predator fence is placed on a very narrow section of the Isthmus and travels out into the ocean on either side to stop feral animals from entering the park. There is also a cattle grid across the road and the most impressive feature that’s used is when a vehicle or animal approaches the gate there are loud speakers that play a recording of dogs barking to scare away foxes cats and other ferals. The park land inside the fence has been completely eradicated of feral foxes and the feral cats although some still exist have been controlled. We noticed an abundance of small reptiles and rodents, probably more than anywhere else in Australia. It was the only place in Australia that we saw a Bilby and the Thorny devil lizard. We had to stop the vehicle to let this Thorny devil pass.
The town of Denham is 45 kms north west of Shell beach, this is the main town in the area and has it’s own Airport. Flights to Denham are about two hours from Perth. We camped in Denham for a couple of days and used the town for our base. We were travelling with a Toyota Landcruiser ute with a camper on the back and we removed the camper from the vehicle and left it at the campground while we did day trips. The famous Monkey Mia is about a half hour drive from Denham and a popular tourist destination for feeding the dolphins. We didn’t feed the dolphins but we could see them sometimes fishing for mullet next to the shore and we did see a large family of Emu’s walking through the town.
The Northern half of Francois peron national park up to cape Peron is for 4wd vehicles only and the roads are made of soft red sand and the scenery is absolutely amazing with red sand hills meeting white sand beaches and turquoise waters. We had to stop many times to allow slow moving lizards time to cross the road.
Shark Bay has some of the largest sea grass beds in the world covering 480000 hectares and this sea grass supports a population of dugongs (sea cows) of around 10,000 or about 12% of the worlds population. In some places we could see see them while they were surfacing for air along with turtles and dolphins.
We would love to go back again some day and would highly recommend visiting Shark bay to anyone travelling through Western Australia. The scenery and wild life are spectacular.