The distances here in Western Australia are so vast that it is almost beyond comprehension – even though we have driven over much of Australia over the years. Here in the North West the road is endless and there is nothing to break it. It was with great relief that we arrived at the tiny village of Coral Bay – and here we wanted to stay!
This tiny settlement is perfect for families and for people seeking relaxation or something more adventurous such as diving, fishing or snorkelling. The beautiful coral reef is just metres from the shore and the beach has pristine white sand and is safe for even the tiniest tot. We found ourselves in a cabin right on the foreshore
And all we had to do was cross the road and we were on the beach and in the beautiful clear water.
There is a platform for coral viewing or snorkelling and even early in the morning the fish were friendly and just weaving around our legs – probably looking for food!
The sunsets here are glorious and with an aperitif in hand, gorgeous view and the total serenity of the place, that long, endless road was forgotten.
The next day we had a 420km drive to Shark Bay – or the little town of Denham. This is the most westerly point of the Australian continent and is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It has vast sea beds which are the largest in the world and which support the dugong population – which is also one of the largest in the world. The Stromatolites are among the oldest forms of life on earth and it is possible to view them at low tide from a specially erected platform. Apart from these features, we wanted to come here because of its proximity to Monkey Mia which is famous for its dolphin experience.
In the past visitors were able to swim and interact with the dolphins which came close to shore to be fed. Today it is regulated by the Department of Wildlife because the lives of the dolphins were endangered by too much human interaction. It is still a wonderful experience and the Wildlife Officer also gives a short talk about dolphin behaviour.
Feeding occurs in the morning and the amount of fish each dolphin gets is strictly monitored so they still have to go out into the wild to hunt.
These are such beautiful creatures and I almost had the feeling that Piccolo was human when looking at her eye.
Monkey Mia is a tiny place with just one caravan park/hotel and is where tourists come especially for the dolphins and perhaps a little fishing. There are boat trips on offer as well.
Denham is a great little town and was settled by Europeans first in the 1850’s who began pearling, pastoralism and guano mining. The original inhabitants were the Aboriginal people – the Mulgana – who were here for thousands of years and evidence of their presence can be seen in cave shelters and shell middens around the peninsula. It is said that they were probably the first Australian Aboriginals who had contact with European explorers who came in the 1600’s.
We walked along the foreshore and found a sweet little building which is a restaurant called The Old Pearler. Deciding to have dinner there, we then discovered its interesting history.
This is the only restaurant in the world to be built predominately of sea shells. The shells are essentially of the small molusc family being bonded together by pressure and calcium. The shell stocks came from the Hamelin Pool area and blocks were cut by saw from the ground. An Englishman, Tim Hargreaves, took three or four years in 1974 cutting and laying the shell blocks.
Railway sleepers were used for doors and window frames and the tables were made of timber salvaged from the original Peron Station shearers quarters. Various artefacts are on the walls inside and the acoustics are exceptional which is due to the myriad of air pockets in the shell blocks. These also ensure there is coolness in the hot summers without resorting to fans or air conditioners.
This is also the most westerly restaurant on the continent. We had seafood both nights we visited and the crayfish was sensational.
Several years ago we visited the area on board “True North” and also went to Dirk Hartog island which is close to Denham as well as Steep Point. This is a rugged area which is the westernmost point of mainland Australia. Access is by 4 wheel drive only as the track is through sand dunes. We were fortunate to land by boat and this time is it good to see from the land perspective. Steep Point is also a renowned land based game fishing place with over 320 species of fish caught off the point. We saw fishers harness themselves to the cliff and then float their baits off the cliff using helium balloons. They then hauled their catch up the cliffs – no easy task as a shark very often gets it first!
Anyone visiting this part of Western Australia simply has to disregard that long, long road and come to Denham. I promise you will not be disappointed!