Shark Bay is the designation given to the World Heritage site that encompasses a large area centred on two peninsulas off the coast of Western Australia. The area has been designated as such because of the amazing natural beauty, unique flora and fauna and incredible history in the region.
Being about 8 hours from Perth and easily accessible on well-maintained highways, this is the perfect destination for those who want to start exploring ‘up north’ on a shorter 5 day to 1 week trip. It’s also a must-see destination on any longer road trip up the coast of W.A. Make sure to check out our epic 10 day Perth to Exmouth road trip itinerary so that you don’t miss out on any of the best highlights on your drive along the west coast.
See below for the top 10 things to do in Shark Bay so that you can make the most of your trip and experience everything that this amazing destination has to offer.
Top 10 Things to do in Shark Bay
Table of Contents
Monkey Mia Dolphin Feeding
There’s no denying that the main attraction for most people visiting Shark Bay is the daily dolphin interactions. Every morning the wildlife rangers at Monkey Mia feed a small amount to local dolphins who live in the bay.
There are up to 3 feedings per day and anyone who has paid their entry fee to Monkey Mia Reserve can attend one or all of them. Only a small amount is fed so as not to discourage natural feeding and the rangers know all of the dolphins by sight so there’s no sneaking extra fish.
You are able to stand right at the water’s edge and see wild dolphins swimming just meters away and often playing or interacting with the rangers in the water.
The Monkey Mia Resort itself has some beautiful accommodation as well as camping grounds. There’s a restaurant, bar, and all manner of facilities you might need. The beach is also really nice and plenty of activities can be arranged in the area.
The first dolphin interaction of the day starts at 7:45am but we’d recommend getting there earlier to get a good spot on the beach.
Ocean Park Aquarium
If you were thinking you might get a chance to see some sharks while in Shark Bay well you were right! This is the place that can make that happen and much more besides. The aquarium here is unlike what you might be used to, the rugged large tanks give a top down view on the creatures and give them plenty of space to live.
The entry fee to the Ocean Park Aquarium includes a tour around each of the tanks with a marine biologist where you can learn about all the sea life in the local area and watch some amazing interactions with the tour leader.
The main event is the shark feeding where the multiple species of shark in a huge tank will shoot out of the water to grab the food dangled from above. The viewing platform and bridges give you a great vantage point to watch it all unfold.
As well as the aquarium there is a beautiful deck overlooking the stunning turquoise waters of the bay and where you can enjoy some great local food and drinks. A good tip is to arrive early for the feeding as the sharks are most ravenous first thing in the morning.
Opening Hours: 9-5pm daily
Tickets: $27/adult, $19/child
Situated on the narrowest point of the peninsula leading into Shark Bay is the amazing natural wonder of Shell Beach. A visit to this unique beach is certainly one of the most popular things to do in Shark Bay.
Made up of billions of tiny white shells instead of sand, the deposit stretches over 70km and the shells go down to over 10 metres in some areas. Shell Beach easily makes the list as one of Western Australia’s best beaches, it’s truly like nothing you’ve seen before!
Historically the shells were mined and turned into building blocks for construction in the town of Denham. There are few of these remaining however the Old Pearler Restaurant is one of them and is also a great place to grab dinner one night, but make sure to book ahead.
The water here is super clear and beautiful as the light reflects back off the white shells that line the bottom. If you have time you can enjoy a relaxing float as the high levels of salt make it easy to stay buoyant.
There are toilets here but no other facilities and no camping is allowed. As the beach is on the way into or out of the Shark Bay peninsula it’s most convenient to time your visit as you enter or leave the area.
The soaring cliffs of Eagle Bluff offer amazing views out over the ocean and the protected bay below. The waters are crystal clear and have a stunning variety of colours, if you are lucky you can spot all manner of creatures swimming around.
There is a boardwalk in place along the top of the cliff with a lookout at both ends. Don’t get too close to the edge otherwise as it can be really crumbly. Make sure you pack some binoculars if you want the best chance to spot the turtles, sharks, and dolphins that inhabit the bay.
There is a nearby campsite down a side road on your way to the bluffs, if you book at the Denham visitors’ centre you can camp here right near the beach and have a chance to watch an epic sunset from the top of the cliffs.
Francois Peron National Park
Covering the entire top half of the peninsula is the Francois Peron National Park. This is where you will find those stunning views of fiery red cliffs dropping on to pristine white sand before giving way to the ever beautiful turquoise waters of Shark Bay.
Most of the park can only be accessed by 4WD including the popular camp site of Big Lagoon. Further into the park are several camp sites that offer BBQ and toilet facilities but aside from this you will need to be self-sufficient.
Cape Peron is where you want to aim for to get the best sections of red cliff, there are a couple of lookouts in this area and some great spots for kayaking and fishing. Sunsets over the red cliffs are a sight you will not soon forget.
Hamelin Pool Stromatolites
Hamelin Pool has the biggest collection of stromatolites in the world. If you don’t know what a stromatolite is then don’t worry, you’re not alone! These strangely shaped structures, appearing like a cauliflower sculptured from sandstone, are known as ‘living fossils’.
They are made up of the activity and secretions of a form of bacteria that has been around for an estimated 3.5 billion years. These bacteria are actually capable of photosynthesis and helped to produce a huge amount of the oxygen that allowed other life to thrive on Earth.
So come and walk the boardwalk and you can have an opportunity to say thanks to these strange rocks that are a part of why you even exist today!
Wilderness Camping / Dirk Hartog Island
If you really want to get away from it all then this is a great place to do it. Dirk Hartog Island offers a rugged, beautiful landscape of cliffs, beaches and endless ocean views. Load your 4WD onto the barge to start exploring this off the beaten path destination.
There are a number of wilderness camp sites on the island with no facilities. You can quite easily find a secluded spot for yourself and just completely disconnect. How does watching Australia’s last sunset sound for a romantic experience?
If you need a little more excitement then you can sand-board huge dunes, visit the pink lake, see the blowholes blasting water into the sky or view the abundance of sharks and turtles from various cliffs around the island.
If wild camping isn’t your thing then you can still visit the island, check out the Eco Lodge, Ocean Villas or the Homestead Camp Ground. Just before you cross to the island you can also find the most western point of mainland Australia!
Peron Heritage Precinct
Situated just inside the Francois Peron National Park and accessible by 2wd, the Peron Heritage Precinct is set up to show what life was like in the pastoral days. The whole Shark Bay region was once covered in sheep stations and there is a lot of history to discover here.
There are BBQs here and also an outdoor hot tub fed by the underground waters that once nourished the station. It’s a great place to relax in the evening with a cold can of beer, remember to bring cans though as they won’t let you in with glass.
This is also the perfect place to get a photo of a classic Australian windmill turning in the breeze. Just 7km off the main road between Denham and Monkey Mia it’s only a short detour if you’re not heading further into the park.
This circular bay is fed by a narrow U shaped inlet from the nearby ocean which causes it to appear almost like a miniature inland ocean. The waters here are calm and beautiful to behold. The highway above gives an amazing view down onto the lagoon and it gets even better as you drive towards it as you are able to drive right onto the beach.
It’s a great place to get out the inflatable mattresses as you can lie back and relax without having to worry about floating out to sea! You can also take out kayaks and do a bit of fishing if that is your thing. There are shelters with BBQs to prepare anything you might catch.
Getting right out and amongst the sea life is probably the best way to see it, not to mention getting an amazing new perspective as you look back from the water to the equally stunning coast-lines.
There are several places to arrange wildlife cruises where you can see dolphins, whales, dugongs and other sea life. You can also take sunset cruises and tour around the stunning coastline of Dirk Hartog Island.
Departing from the pier at Monkey Mia, Perfect Nature Cruises offers several cruises per day on a well equipped catamaran, including a sunset cruise. They have a fully licenced bar on board however BYO is also permitted.
Departing from Denham, the Ocean Park Aquarium organises marine safaris if you want to get even closer to the wildlife! They have a wide range of activities including whale watching, sunset cruises, Dirk Hartog Island cruises and a range of dive trips and courses. Check their website for more info about booking excursions.
Where to Stay in Shark Bay
Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort – We’ve stayed here many times over the years and always have the best experience. Besides the dolphin feedings, there are plenty of other activities offered as well as a pool, hot tub, bar, restaurant and more. The accommodation could not be better located, it’s right on the waterfront with its own private beach to enjoy during your stay.
You can choose from a range of different options from dorms to basic apartments and beachfront villas. The best part about staying there is all the wildlife you’ll see roaming around. Keep your eyes peeled for pelicans, emus, turtles and even the odd dolphin that swims up to the shore outside of feeding hours!
Denham – If you’re not staying at the Monkey Mia Resort, the next best thing is to base yourself in Denham. There are plenty of options available around town from caravan parks to hotels and apartment rentals. It’s only a 20 minute drive to Monkey Mia from there so you can still easily make it to the dolphin feedings. Click here for the full list of places to stay in Denham.
Wild Camping – Wild camping is inexpensive and a great way to feel more connected with nature. There are quite a few campsites around the Shark Bay area and most of them require booking online prior to arrival. Check this site to find more info about planning and booking your Shark Bay camping trip.
One that we can personally recommend is “Eagle Bluff.” Set up camp right on the beach next to a little river that flows into the ocean. It’s a peaceful and beautiful spot for a few chilled days of swimming and lounging on the beach.
Francois Peron National Park also has a few campsites in stunning locations, these operate on a first come first serve basis and do not take bookings.
What to Pack for Shark Bay
- Inflatable watermelon – Because it makes for the best Instagram photos!
- Sun hat
- Sun glasses
- Insect repellent
- Fly net – The flies were particularly bad on our last visit to the national park in September. I can’t recommend bringing this item enough, it will make all the difference to your comfort!
Planning your trip to WA? Find More Things To Do!
- 10 Awesome things to do in Coral Bay
- The Best Manta Ray Tour in Coral Bay
- 18 Amazing things to do in Exmouth
- Perth to Kalbarri Road Trip: An Epic 5 Day Self-Driving Itinerary
- 10 Must-See Natural Landmarks of WA
- 20 Best Beaches in Western Australia
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