This Blog entry covers our stay at Hamelin Pool Caravan Park and our visits within the Shark Bay World Heritage Area including Steep Point and the Monkey Mia Reserve.
We left Kalbarri and headed west to join the North West Coastal Highway where we then had a run of 180 klms north to the Overlander Roadhouse, (diesel was $169.90/Ltr, so still not too bad), where we were to leave the highway again and head west into the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. This was also our first day of reasonably high humidity, so we felt that we were truly heading towards the northern regions of the Pilbara and the Kimberly at last! We also clicked over 20,000 Klm since leaving 7 months ago, so a big day all around with much anticipated excitement about our planned activities here.
The first recorded white man to arrive on Australian soil was Dirk Hartog, a Captain of a Dutch trading ship, on 16th
October 1616, which was 152 years before the famous voyage of Captain James Cook. Hartog landed on an island, now his namesake, at Cape Inscription where he nailed an inscribed
Hamelin Pool Old Telegraph Station & Campground
The original Telegraph Station is on the right of the pic.
pewter plate onto a post to record his landing. This original plate now resides in the Rijks Museum, Holland. Another famous person to land near Cape Inscription was the British Navigator and Naturalist, William Dampier. He went ashore in 1699 at a place now known as Dampiers’ landing, where he made the first scientific collection of Australian plants, which are still preserved at Oxford University.
We had met up with some fellow Victorians, from Geelong, (but Essendon AFL supporters!) at Horrocks beach and whilst at Kalbarri we joined them to do the Loop Walk of the Murchison Gorges. It was during our stay at Kalbarri that Peter and Sue, (and their two boys Tom & Charlie), asked us to accompany them to the most westerly point on the Australian mainland, Steep Point, which is in the Shark Bay Area. We also wanted to see Monkey Mia and Denham and so we all decided to stay at Hamelin Pool to cut down on some travelling time and cost of fuel to fit these trips, plus a few other side trips in. Hamelin Pool Caravan Park is at the site of the Historic Telegraph Station and more Stromalites (see Cervantes) in
the Hamelin Pool Marine and Nature Reserve. The Telegraph Station was built in 1884 as part of the vital communication line between Perth and Roebourne. The original building is now a museum housing many fascinating artefacts. Originally named the Flint Cliff Telegraph Station after a local landmark, the station played a vital role in Western Australia’s communication system until the advent of the public ‘telex’ system spelt its demise in the late 1950’s. Shark Bay is home to a unique animal – the Hamelin Cockle – a shell species so prolific in Hamelin Pool that the sheer volume of shells has been compacted into a solid mass able to be cut into blocks. A number of buildings in Shark Bay were built out of this material and the quarry site at Hamelin Pool where they were extracted can still be seen behind the big sand dune at the back of the Telegraph Station and campground. The quarry is only used these days to produce blocks for repair work to the buildings in Denham, and locally, that were originally built with this material.
Our first full day was taken up with our trip out to the most westerly point on
The turnoff where it became more 'interesting' - for the next 60Klm ! Only bad corrugations up to this point (for past 70klm).
mainland Australia, Steep Point and False Entrance. With Peter leading the way we headed out Useless Loop Road for about 130 Klm experiencing well graded compacted sand surface through to teeth rattling and vehicle destroying corrugations. Letting the pressure down in our tyres helped keep the vehicles from skipping around on the worst of the road. As we turned off Useless Loop for Steep Point the road became a 4WD only track and sandy so it was another stop to let tyre pressures down to around 20 psi for the last 60 klm in to the point. We passed some amazing bush camping sites with absolute beach frontage to the Henri Freycinet Estuary, which can be booked through the ranger (on site) if you wish to stay here. Despite being part of Carrarang Station, the area is managed by the Dept of Environment and Conservation. Steep Point is the westernmost point of the Australian mainland and is also the closest mainland location to the wreck of the HMAS Sydney II and the German raider HSK Kormoran. If you are thinking of coming here after reading this be aware that access is only by 4WD.
Dirk Hartog Island is immediately
The track in was quite deep sand in some places
north of Steep Point across the South Passage, the closest named point being Surf Point. On our way back out from Steep Point we stopped for some lunch at a small beach with ‘squeaky’ white sand and crystal clear water, just magic. Another diversion on the way out was a side trip to False Entrance, a bay on the western side Steep Point.
Denham has evolved from a pearl town to become the ‘capital’ of Shark Bay and the hub of the tourist and fishing industry. Not long after Captain Henry Mangles Denham chartered the whole of the Shark Bay area in 1858, the first of the pastoralists and pearlers arrived. By the 1870’s several small settlements dotted the coastline and several large pastoral leases were issued. Pearling moved from Denham after declining numbers of pearls and the depression saw it close. Fishing then became the mainstay industry for the remaining settlements. Today Denham is a thriving community with industries that include salt mining and pearl farming alongside fishing and tourism. The main street faces the west and the Henri Freycinet Estuary. With safe swimming beaches, heaps of accommodation options and ‘things to do’, and all the necessary basic
and a number of sand dunes to cross, but nothing serious. The Landcruiser in front belongs to Peter & Sue, (and their two boys, Tom & Charlie) who we travelled with.
services, Denham is a popular destination.
Back towards Hamelin Bay from Denham we visited Shell Beach. The hypersalinated water of L’Haridon Bight in Shark Bay is home to billions of tiny coquina bivalve shells and is known as Shell Beach. The high water salinity (salt concentration) levels in this area have resulted in this particular species thriving. The Cardiid Cockle is particularly tolerant to increased salinity, while many species are not. Its predators do not cope well in this salty environment. This has resulted in the accumulation of millions of these tiny shells along the shore. Shell Beach is covered for a 60km-long stretch to a depth of some seven to ten metres. The effect is brilliant; a long, snow-white beach bordered by aqua blue ocean waters. We went for a swim here and it is the only place I have been able to float easily with my arms still by my side due to the high salt content. The water was crystal clear, fantastic.
Eagle Bluff we also enjoyed. A 200 mtr boardwalk along the edge of the bluff gives you a great view straight down into the shallow clear water of the estuary. The highlight though
and then there was a run along the beach, but only for a short while before we went back into the dunes.
is that you are looking down into waters that are part of the Shark Bay Marine Park (no fishing) and if you are lucky to strike a calm (water) day you can see stingrays, schools of fish and sharks! We saw lots of sharks! Nothing serious like white pointers, but nevertheless, sharks, and heaps, it was brilliant. Oh yes we also saw rays and schools of fish, but not nearly as exciting as watching those ‘predators’ just cruising along below the surface.
And then there is Monkey Mia, which in truthfulness (is that a word?), I was not sure I would enjoy, as my expectation was a ‘kitchy’, pricey, resort that controlled everything….wrong, pleasantly surprised I might add! Yes we paid to enter the Monkey Mia complex, but that was not expensive and went to protection of the wild dolphins in the area. The ‘Resort’ exists, but not one that was over the top or confrontational, it was simple, clean, and had a great pool area and a fabulous caravan park, although this was expensive by Eastern States pricing, but a great spot. And then there were the Dolphins…Wild dolphins have been visiting the beach at Monkey Mia since
and here we all are at the most westerly point on mainland Australia.
the early 1960’s providing a unique experience. They only feed females and only the same few each day despite the fact that many others may turn up. On the day we were there about 17 dolphins arrived to see what was going on, but only 5 females were fed. The feeding is carefully controlled so that the normal daily ‘function’ of these dolphins is maintained. It was one of those ‘moments’, an ‘experience’ that we will never forget, a beautiful wild animal that is genuinely curious and seems to be smiling at you! They are so beautiful and special, a moment when something so cool takes your breath away. For Trish it was a tick off her ‘bucket list’ and thinking about it now, it was just a magical moment for us both. We stayed and had a meal at the café on the beach and watched the dolphins playing in the water for hours after the feeding took place, only a couple of metres off the beach and alongside swimmers, they did not seem to want to go back out to sea that day and it was just all a bonus to us, magic!!
Shark Bay World Heritage
Trish & Mike at Steep Point.
Area should be a must on any trip up the west coast and don’t forget it has lots of other attractions beside Monkey Mia (which was brilliant).
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