The first Australian site to be UNESCO World Heritage listed, Shark Bay protects some of the world’s largest seagrass beds, as well as ancient stromatolites that are one of the oldest of earth’s life forms. It includes the Shark Bay Marine Park, Francois Peron National Park, Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve and Zuytdorp Nature Reserve, as well as a scattering of offshore islands.
Denham is the main gateway to Shark Bay and the most western town on the Australian mainland, with Monkey Mia situated a short drive south. It’s here that wild dolphins are hand fed every morning under the watch of local rangers, with the animals having become accustomed to humans since fishermen began feeding them the remains of their catch in the 1960s.
The coast of Shark Bay stretches for more than 1,500 kilometers, including around 300 kilometers of dramatic limestone cliffs. Be sure to visit the stretch known as the Zuytdorp Cliffs, which are among the most impressive. There are also plenty of beautiful bays for swimming, kayaking and fishing, as well as the opportunity to ride camels and embark on Aboriginal cultural tours.
In addition to Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, Shark Bay is home to around 10,000 dugongs, more than 300 fish species and 26 threatened native mammal species. Hamelin Pool is home to the most diverse and abundant stromatolite forms in the world, with these cyanobacteria believed to be around 1,000 years old. The seagrass meadows of Shark Bay are also of note, including the Wooramel Seagrass Bank that is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world.