On one side is rugged outback, on the other a marine wonderland, and in the middle… Monkey Mia, where the red desert meets the sea
Western Australia’s Shark Bay region is a special part of the world. With its year-round warm weather, blue skies and turquoise waters, it is an untouched wilderness brimming with stunning natural wonders. It is home to one of the world’s best dolphin encounters, but that is just the beginning.
Disappear for a few days and you can embark on a voyage of discovery to a place where you will find the oldest living fossils in the world, see dugongs and humpback whales, walk on a cockle shell beach, or scuba dive from the westernmost tip of Australia.
With Monkey Mia 850 kilometres north of Perth, the drive can be done in a day, or it’s less than two hours by plane with Rex (Regional Express), which has recently introduced new affordable airfares.
Those driving can take a more leisurely approach if they have some time on their hands and factor in an overnight stopover in Geraldton, which sits 420 kilometres from Perth of WA’s Coral Coast.
Refreshed after a night’s sleep, take the time to visit the revitalised waterfront, or swim at one of the town’s many beaches. The cafe scene here is also flourishing so grab a takeaway coffee to launch yourself on the five-hour drive to your final destination.
Pastoral land and red desert slowly transform into white sandy beaches as you enter Western Australia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site – Shark Bay. Here, the desert meets the sea, and the marine life in this thriving natural haven is as diverse as the rugged Australian landscape.
New Look RAC Resort
Monkey Mia is world famous for the dolphin interactions that take place on the doorstep of the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, which has recently undergone an amazing transformation: brand new beachfront luxury villas, 120 caravan and camping sites, hotel-style rooms and accommodation options to suit all budgets and tastes.
The resort redevelopment also includes new camp kitchens, recreation room and ablutions, as well as a general store and gift shop. A second swimming pool and additional children’s pool complete the facelift for this renowned beachfront resort.
After a long day’s drive, there’s no better experience than standing on the deck of a beachfront villa watching the setting sun drench the ocean in hues of orange and pink. As the night sky fills with stars, guests can relax with a drink (or two) at the Monkey Bar, before dining at the beachfront Boughshed Restaurant.
Paddling with the locals
With the waters of Shark Bay always invitingly warm, most visitors wade the shallow waters for an encounter with the wild dolphins, but there are other options that allow for a slightly different interaction.
Hire a stand-up paddleboard and immerse yourself within the abundant marine life that calls this extraordinary place home, and within moments there are sure to be curious dolphins swimming close by. Take a set of goggles with you and swim alongside fish, sting rays and the occasional turtle in the crystal-clear waters.
Exploring natural wonders
The charming township of Denham is less than 30 minutes away, and it’s here that you can learn about the area’s natural and historical treasures at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre.
A quick trip south to Ocean Park yields turtles, sea snakes, stingrays and endless fish species, hourly shark feedings and snorkelling in the lagoon; if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even dive with the sharks.
To explore the coastline, charter a boat for a day trip to Dirk Hartog Island to visit the 1616 landing site of Captain Dirk Hartog, or dive marine sanctuary zones, brimming with coral gardens.
Just south of Monkey Mia, Hamelin Pool is one of only two places in the world where living marine stromatolites exist; the world’s oldest organisms date back 3.5 billion years.
South-east of Denham, Shell Beach is a dazzling 45-kilometre stretch of white beach coastline, one of only two beaches in the world made entirely of cockle shells. And at Francois Peron National Park, a former sheep station that blends dusty red desert and spectacular coastal scenery, take a dip in the hot artesian waters.
It’s wild, it’s remote, and it’s beckoning.
Monkey Mia TOP 5
1. Dolphin encounters at Monkey Mia
2. Stroll along Shell beach
3. Hire a paddleboard or kayak and explore the bay
5. Explore Dirk Hartog Island
6. Indigenous tour through Francois Peron National Park
For more information or to book a stay, visit parksandresorts.rac.com.au/monkey-mia