World Heritage-Listed Shark Bay is a popular tourist destination in Western Australia, largely due to the wild dolphins that visit Monkey Mia daily.

Designated a World Heritage Area in 1991, Shark Bay incorporates two stunning peninsulas running parallel to the mainland and surrounded by a rich marine park. Shark Bay Marine Park is home to many endangered species of both plant and animals, and various unusual natural processes have, over the millennia, given rise to some astounding natural features and spectacular coastal scenery.

Shark Bay is an enormous body of clean clear shallow water, sheltered by a line of islands and protected by its status as a Marine Park and World Heritage Site. Apart from the world-famous Monkey Mia dolphins, Shark Bay’s waters heave with fish, turtles, the world’s biggest population of dugongs, manta rays, sea snakes, and, from June to October, humpback whales.

Shark Bay also has a rich cultural history. Originally inhabited by the Malgana, Nhanda and Inggarda peoples who depended on both the sea and bush for their subsistence, Shark Bay offers opportunities for visitors to take indigenous cultural tours to learn about the land from their perspective.

Shark Bay’s only municipality is the one-time pearling town of Denham (pop. 500), 129km (80 miles) from the main coastal highway. It has a couple of hotels, a bakery, a newsdealer, some fishing-charter and tour operators, and the World Heritage Discovery Centre.

Monkey Mia, 25km (16 miles) away on the opposite side of the peninsula, exists purely because of the dolphins. It has a dolphin information centre and the pleasant but basic Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort.

As Shark Bay is a World Heritage Area, visitors are asked to abide by conservation rules, particularly when fishing. The only way to travel around the park is by car, and large areas are only accessible by 4WD.


History of Shark Bay

The local people of Shark Bay were probably the first indigenous Australians to encounter Europeans – Shark Bay was the site of the first recorded landing by a European on Australian soil. In 1616, Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog anchored at the island that now bears his name, just off Denham.


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