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This blindingly white beach is well
worth a look if you’re travelling past,
but don’t forget your sunglasses. The
beach is made of millions of tiny white
shells piled to a depth of 10m, stretching
for over 120km. There’s a short hike from the
car park to the beach, and the shells
are rather sharp so shoes are a must. The
beach isn’t great for sunbaking but the
water is shallow and usually tepid, making
it ideal for youngsters.
These aquatic eruptions are an hour’s
drive (75km) north of Carnarvon. The
blowholes are dangerous if you get
too close, and swimming off the rocks
here is a definite no-no. Head to Point
Quobba, 500m south instead; it has
a coral-filled lagoon that is perfect for
swimming and snorkelling, and although
fishing is prohibited you can prise a feed
of oysters from the rocks. There is also
a campground ($5.50 per night) but
you’ll need to bring a portable toilet
and your own water.
Hamelin Pool is home to a colony of clumpy
‘living fossils’, around 2500 years old but
providing an insight into life that existed 3.5
billion years ago – this is one of only three
places in the world where you can see them.
If some may find the cow-pat-like structures
a little underwhelming, there’s a nice 200m
interpretive boardwalk around the pool.
The $5 entry fee to visit the Gascoyne
Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre,
(08) 9941 1989, is money well spent to gain
a rich understanding of the sad but
significant Indigenous history of the region.
The centre is kitted out with audio sensors,
touch screens and sound booths, making
the stories interactive and easy for families
to follow. Original art and crafts are
available to purchase including ceramics,
jewellery and homewares, and if you would
like your purchase to be shipped home
you might prefer to buy it online at
www.gahcc.com.au. There’s also an onsite
cafe with a bush tucker-influenced menu.
The park wows its visitors with vivid
colours that make for great photos:
the red dunes and spinifex are
a brilliant contrast to the shoreline
and ocean. Entry to Francois Peron
National Park is $12 per car, per day
and it’s best explored with a 4WD,
because a 2WD won’t get you very
far (you’ll also need to let your
tyres down at the Peron Heritage
Precinct). A good hike is the 1.5km
Wanamalu Trail along the coast to
Skipjack Point (where you are likely
to spot rays, sharks, dolphins and
schools of fish), or visit the historic
sheep station homestead. There
are toilets and cooking facilities at
Big Lagoon, a fish nursery, which
is a great for canoeing and sea
kayaking. There are also a number of
campsites within the park (BYO food
and water). On the return journey,
refill your car tires with compressed
air at the homestead.
Stromatolites at Shark Bay.
Conditions are perfect from May to August,
but beware: waves on this stretch are heavy.
When it’s pumping, only experienced surfers
should head out. Tombstones is a shallow
reef break considered the area’s best, while
Red Bluff is an exposed lefthander with
waves up to 2.5m. Also try Dolphin’s Point,
Turtles, Centres, The Bombie or Fencies.
Pack a picnic basket and head about 50km
east of town to this deep, freshwater pool
for a day of swimming and lazing around
underneath the ghost gums. The kids (and
young-at-heart adults) will love the rope
swing into the water. There is a permanent
old-school barbecue you can use for a fry
up, but you’ll need to collect or bring some
firewood. Just look for the sign signaling the
turn off on Carnarvon Mullewa Road.
Monkey Mia’s dolphin feeding is a special experience, but there are other ways
to see them without the tourist crowds. Try visiting the feeding area outside the
scheduled times, or set up camp a few hundred metres to the left where they often
swim close to the shoreline. If all else fails, the resident pelicans are characters in
their own right. A sea kayak is another great way to spot dolphins and to explore
the surrounding beaches (if you’re heading up from Perth you can hire one from
Rivergods or Canoe and Kayak in Perth). Those partaking in the timetabled feeding
might be lucky enough to get chosen to help – check the noticeboard for specific
times (the last feed of the day usually has fewer numbers). Aside from the beach
feeding there are charters that include dolphin spotting and the chance to see other
animals like dugongs and rays. Visitors to Monkey Mia should bear in mind that
sunscreen irritates the dolphins’ eyes, so avoid lathering up until after you see them.
One of Monkey Mia’s famed bottlenose
dolphins (photography Tracy Moran).
Art at the Gascoyne Aboriginal
Heritage and Cultural Centre.
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