Shark Bay enjoys a dry warm climate, with wind cooling down the heat of summer. Temperatures in winter rarely dip below 10C at night, with pleasant daytime temperatures reaching the mid 20s. In summer, we enjoy the cooling southerly winds, as temperatures rise over 30C. This makes it easy to plan your holiday. Any time of year is good! However, some activities and natural events are seasonal, so we’ve created this guide to help you get the best out of your trip.
Celebration of 400 years was held on 21-25 October 2016
Shark Bay was the setting for a key event in the history of Australia: the landfall of Dutch navigator Dirk Hartog on 25 October 1616. A hundred years on, Shark Bay and Dirk Hartog Island held the commemorate arrival.
During the year, new infrastructure and interpretive materials are being installed on Dirk Hartog Island and in Denham, and a commemorative event will be held at Cape Inscription on 25 October to mark the day Hartog landed at that spot four centuries ago.
A festival between 21 and 25 October will involve the whole community and include the arrival of the tall ship STS Leeuwin II, which will sail from Bunbury to Denham for the occasion.
To find out about the celebrations, contact the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre on 08 9948 1590.
Meet the dolphins – all year round
The dolphin experience at Monkey Mia is unforgettable and open to visitors all year round, 7 days a week.
Between 7.45am and 12.00 noon, the dolphins come in to feed, often up to three times through the morning. As with all wild animals, there’s no guarantee that they will visit, but if you’re there for a couple of days, you’re almost certain to meet them.
The interaction, right on the beach in shallow water, is guided by a ranger, who feeds the dolphins and answers your questions. A handful of lucky guests is invited to offer a fish to one of these friendly creatures – the photo opportunity of a lifetime!
The beach has wheelchair access and the water is calm. You’ll enjoy seeing the pelicans hanging around the crowd at feeding time too, hoping to grab a leftover fish or two!
Witness the whale migration – July to October
Between July and October, humpback whales journey along the coastlines of the Shark Bay area from their winter breeding grounds to spend the summer feeding in the Antarctic. The best time to spot them is in August/September, and you have a good chance of seeing a cow and calf frolicking together in the bay as they tend to stay within the more protected waters and move more slowly.
These giants of the ocean can grow to 18 or even 19 metres and eat close to a tonne of food a day. One of the most spectacular sights is the huge tail as a whale breaches and dives – one of nature’s most majestic moments.
Join a cruise with knowledgeable local operators to witness the whale migration and find out more about these and other marine wildlife in the bay.
Enjoy the wildflowers – July to October
Being at the northern extreme of the southern wildflower varieties and at the southern edge of the northern varieties, Shark Bay has the longest wildflower season of any part of WA and more than 700 species of flowering plants.
Some are unique to the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. The aromatic pink Tamala rose is one of the region’s most well known. The Shark Bay daisy, Royce’s gum, Rogerson’s grevillea and golden lambstail are also confined to the Shark Bay region.
Amongst the most spectacular flowers are the sceptre banksia, which puts out large flower-spikes in summer, and the carpets of everlasting daisies and pompom heads, at their best around the Hamelin Pool area from August.
Watch for birds – all year round
Shark Bay is a bird watcher’s delight! The region contains a wide range of habitats, including mangroves, salt lakes, coastal and scrub, able to support more than 200 bird species.
These include the southern scrub-robin, the thick-billed grasswren and the chiming wedgebill with its distinctive call. Easier to spot are the delightful pelicans at Money Mia, pied cormorants and emus. Keep en eye out for kestrels and kites around Denham, and explore the more remote rugged coastlines for sea and shore birds like the wedge-tailed shearwater, yellow albatross and osprey.
If you want to spot waders and terns, Little Lagoon is a great spot – and makes an enjoyable day out from Denham for safe swimming and fishing.
Ask for information at the Shark Bay Visitor Centre and explore some of the area’s walk trails or join an eco cruise to reach the more remote areas.
Go fishing and boating – all year round
The clear, calm waters of Shark Bay are a boating and fishing paradise. Steep Point and Dirk Hartog Island are among the most popular spots for experienced anglers – accessible only by boat or 4WD. Francois Peron National Park is excellent for easy beach fishing. Make sure you check bag limits and marine reserve zones where fishing is strictly prohibited.
Boats may be launched from trailers at Nanga, Denham and Monkey Mia. Charter boats, fishing excursions and eco cruises depart from Denham and Monkey Mia. Boat owners are asked to be aware of the importance of avoiding areas where dugongs are feeding. These slow moving, gentle creatures are easily disturbed. Check on restrictions, especially during the dugong breeding times.
Get in the water – summer for wind, winter for calm
The weather in Shark Bay is warm and mostly sunny all year round, making this an ideal water-based playground.
In summer, the wind makes for fantastic windsurfing and kiteboarding, especially around Denham, Little Lagoon and Monkey Mia, while the calmer winter season is ideal for kayaking and paddle-boarding. There’s little swell to contend with in the protected waters, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery from your kayak or just have fun paddling.
Divers and snorkellers will need to access the more remote spots, on Dirk Hartog Island and Francois Peron National Park, where there are areas of coral. Recommended for experienced divers is the Gudrun shipwreck off Cape Peron.