Across the head of Shark Bay and to the west of Carnarvon, though not on the regular tourist runs, are Dorre and Bernier Islands. Both are uninhabited apart from the very rare banded-hare wallaby, Lesueur's rat kangaroo, little barred-bandicoot and Shark Bay mouse all of which are extinct or nearly extinct on the mainland. Rising sea levels some 8,000 years ago left the islands isolated and inaccessible from the mainland.
Home to some of the rarest wildlife in the world these two islands west of Carnarvon are of immeasurable conservation importance. Classified as A Class nature reserves, the islands are home to four species of mammal found nowhere else on the planet.
To protect the native wildlife there is no overnight access to the islands. Day visits are permitted on Bernier Island only and access is totally prohibited on Dorre Island.
The islands are located approximately 50km from the Western Australian coast and can only be reached by boat. Access is prohibited to Dorre Island and day visits only are permitted on Bernier Island. No camping is allowed on either island.
If approaching Bernier Island by boat, Red Cliff Point is a recommended all year round destination, however the best time is during the lighter winds that tend to blow April to October. Tropical cyclones have been known to track this far south during the tropical cyclone season, which runs from November to March.
The anchorage is northwest of the prominent bluff at Red Cliff Point, beneath towering white dunes that tumble into the sea at a sharp angle.Anchor over a sandy bottom, with protection from S-W in approx 3mts. There are no facilities on the island.
Facilities & Fees
There are no facilities on the islands and no fees are charged for day visitors.
Undoubtedly the most important of the island's assets are their rare mammal species. Four species; the Shark Bay mouse, banded hare-wallaby (pictured at right), western barred bandicoot and rufous hare-wallaby (mala) are found naturally, nowhere else in the world. Two hundred years ago these mammals were found across much of the Australian mainland but the introduction of foxes and cats led to their eventual demise. Cat and fox free Bernier and Dorre Islands have remained as the last bastion of these species and are now critical nature reserves vital to the survival of these small mammals.
To read more about each of these species read the fact sheets
Bernier and Dorre Islands are part of a tragic chapter in human history. Between 1908 and 1918 these small, isolated islands were used by the Western Australian government for experiments as 'lock hospitals' for Aboriginal people with venereal disease and leprosy. Men, women and children were brought by force from all over the north-west area. The patients and their families often had little idea of where they were, or why they were taken from their traditional country. Experiments were done in the new sciences of bacteriology and tropical medicine. Of the 650 inmates taken to the islands, only 490 returned to the mainland.
Cape Ronsard Light
The original Cape Ronsard Light was a steel cylindrical tower above. Built in 1961, it supported a white flashing light powered by acetylene gas. It was removed and replaced with a GRP cabinet when the light was converted to solar power in 1985. Cape Ronsard is the northern tip of Bernier Island.