The most westerly town in Australia, Denham is the only town on Shark Bay, which was carried for many years on its small but strong fishing industry. In recent times, tourism has played an increasing role in the prosperity of the town. The Shark Bay area is listed as a World Heritage site.

Shark Bay

One of Western Australia's most iconic tourist destinations, but there are no resorts or man-made attractions here. That's because Shark Bay is all about coming face to face with nature and encountering flora and fauna in an unspoilt natural wilderness environment. Shark Bay is a World Heritage Area that covers more than 2.2 million hectares and has a coastline more than 1,500 km long. The westernmost part of Australia, it features landscapes and seascapes both colourful and diverse, from red and white sands and turquoise lagoons to plunging cliffs and soaring dunes.


Zuytdorp Cliffs

The Zuytdorp Cliffs extend for about 150¬İkm along a rugged, spectacular and little visited segment of the Western Australian Indian Ocean coast in Shark Bay. This rugged section of coastline remained the preserve of the Indigenous inhabitants for many years and one of the last great wildernesses until the advent of the sheep stations established in the late 19th century,

The cliffs are named after an 18th century trading ship of the Dutch East India Company, the Zuytdorp, that was wrecked against the cliffs in 1712.


Natural features: Indian Ocean; Shark Bay; Zuytdorp Cliffs; Dirk Hartog Island (Turtle Bay; Cape Inscription; history of the island); Shark Bay - Hamelin Pool Marine Reserve (Stromatolites); Faure Sill (a shallow barrier bank); Wooramel Seagrass Bank; Denham Sound; Useless Loop (salt mining); Eagles Bluff (dugong colony); Monkey Mia Reserve (dolphins); Bernier and Dorre Islands; Cape Peron; Shell Beach; Edel Land Peninsula; Peron Peninsula; Nanga Peninsula; Zuytdorp Cliffs; Blind Strait; Useless Inlet; Boat Haven Loop; Brown Inlet; Depuch Loop; Freycinet Reach and Peninsula; Hopeless Loop; Lharidon Bight; Salutation, North Guano, South Guano, Three Bays, Baudin, Wilds, Double, Freycinet, Mary Anne, Whit, Sunday, Egg, Meade, Bernier and Dorre Islands.
Built features: Nangar station (48 km south); Cape Inscription lighthouse (1910)
Heritage features: Cape Inscription; Capt. Denham's inscription (1858) on rocks at Eagle Bluff; Zuytdorp shipwreck (1712)

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Where is it?

911 km north of Perth

History of Denham

Dutch seaman Dirk Hartog made the first landfall of the west coast of Australia in October 1616. He left a plate recording his visit at Cape Inscription on Dirk Hartog Island. It was found and replaced by another similar plate in February 1697 when another Dutchman, Willem de Vlamingh, explored the west coast. Two years later, British sea captain William Dampier visited and named Shark Bay. French explorer Nicholas Baudin explored the bay in 1801, naming most of the area's coastal features. One of the expedition's crew members, Louis de Freycinet, returned in 1818.

Pearling commenced from Shark Bay in 1850, being the first such base on the WA coast. It continued for another 70 years until operations were centralised in Broome. Tourism is now a major source of income, most of which is generated by the Monkey Mia dolphins. In the 1960s, a fisherman and his wife began feeding Bottlenose Dolphins when returning with their catch.

As news of the dolphins coming inshore spread, visitors started to come to see them. In 1985, an information centre was built, and in 1988, a special state government grant was provided to develop roads, car parks, and facilities. It is now a major tourist attraction.

The town's name honours Capt. Henry Mangles Denham, who surveyed a portion of Shark Bay aboard HMS Herald in 1858. Monkey Mia: Mia is the Aboriginal term for home or shelter, while the Monkey part of the name is allegedly derived from a pearling boat called Monkey that anchored at the now Monkey Mia in the late 19th century, during the days when pearling was an industry in the region.

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