Two formal walking tracks are provided within the park:
Location: between Cape Peron and Skipjack Point
Time: Allow 45min each way
Features: Spectacular views of marine life from top of sand dunes and two viewing platforms. Brilliant red sand dune cliffs ideal for photography. Wildflowers in spring. Signs explain many of the fascinating features of the walk.
Station Life Walk Trail
Location: Peron Homestead
Time: Allow 45min
Features: this walk around the historic homestead precinct explores the shearing quarters, stock yards and other features from the time when the park was an operating sheep station. Signs explain many of the fascinating features of the walk.
Boating, fishing, swimming and kayaking
Fishing is a popular activity in the Shark Bay area, and many species will take a bait all year round. Species commonly encountered on Peron Peninsula include whiting, bream and kingfish. Dinghies can be launched from the beaches at Big Lagoon, Gregories, South Gregories, Bottle Bay and Herald Bight. Larger boats can be launched at the formed boat ramps at Denham and Monkey Mia.
Please remember that special rules apply to fishing and other activities in the Shark Bay Marine Park. Fishing is not permitted in sanctuary zones such as in the northern waters of Big Lagoon, an important fish nursery habitat. In the special purpose zones around Cape Peron and the mouth of Big Lagoon, drop nets for crabs are allowed but set netting and spearfishing are not permitted. Because of the prevalence of dolphins and dugongs, waterskiing and freestyle jet skiing are also not permitted.
Swimming is fine at all camp site beaches however it is not recommended at Cape Peron due to the meeting of two strong currents.
The ledge close to shore at Gregories is an excellent snorkelling site where you can drift along and observe the abundant marine life. The ledge can be accessed from shore but wear protective shoes because of the presence of stonefish in the area.
Lying in about 6 metres of water about 10km off Cape Peron is the wreck of the Gudrun, the largest wooden shipwreck off Western Australia and home to a stunning proliferation of marine life. Scuba divers may spot groper, lionfish, pilotfish, batfish, sweetlip, trevally and mackerel. Be aware, the currents can be very dangerous and the site should only be dived on a turning tide (preferably a neap tide). Novice and visiting divers should dive with an experienced operator. The wreck is now protected by the Gudrun Sanctuary Zone; all fishing, collecting and removal of artefacts is prohibited.
Sea-kayaking is another popular activity around Peron Peninsula, the shallow and protected waters provide the ideal setting for exploring the coastline around the park. Trips between Monkey Mia and Denham around the perimeter of the park are offered by commercial companies based in Perth. Visit Tourism Western Australia's website for all tour bookings. Guidelines are available from the Department of Environment and Conservation office in Denham.
Francois Peron National Park and the Shark Bay World Heritage Area are home to some of the rarest and most endangered animals in Australia and the world. The region's bird-life is particularly rich, with land-based wading and migratory birds all being seen on the Peron Peninsula. Emus, fairy-wrens, scrubwrens, finches and wedgebills are the most common species but visitors may also spot the thick-billed grasswren, a threatened species once widespread on the mainland but now restricted to a small area that includes the national park
Nearly 100 reptile and amphibian species live in Shark Bay. Creatures as beautiful and diverse as the thorny devil, racehorse goanna, bobtail skink, knob-tailed gecko and bearded dragon are abundant. Snakes such as the gwardar, mulga and woma python, a threatened species, are often seen basking in the sun.
From the cliffs at Cape Peron and Skipjack Point, visitors may spot bottlenose dolphins, dugongs, green and loggerhead turtles, sting and manta rays and sharks. Visitors can also find tracks of euros (small kangaroos), echidnas and native mice scattered over the red sand.
Shark Bay is an important transition point between the temperate vegetation zone of Western Australia's south-western region, and the desert vegetation zone of the north and east. As a result, two distinct vegetation types are found in the park. The red sandy plains are dominated by desert-adapted acacias (wattles), while flowering plants from cooler climates, such as hakeas and grevilleas, reach their most northern range on the peninsula. Living at the extreme, these 'pioneer' species have stretched their survival capabilities to withstand the harsh environment.
Peron Peninsula also boasts a dazzling array of wildflowers. One of the most striking and abundant flowers is the Shark Bay daisy, a creeper that displays its large mauve to pink flowers well above surrounding shrubs. Navigator William Dampier, who collected plants from the region in 1699, was impressed by the blue flowering plants, including wild tomato bush, halgania, and his namesake, the hoary Dampiera. Dampier's specimens of the pink coastal thryptomene, a type of heath, are some of the earliest records of Australian plants. Along with white myrtle, yellow wattles and purple peas, they form a colourful display in spring.
Geology - gypsum birridas
Interspersed throughout the park and across Peron Peninsula are gypsum claypans known as birridas. Thousands of years ago, when sea levels were much higher than at present, most birridas were landlocked saline lakes. In more recent times the sea has invaded some birridas, such as Big Lagoon, to form shallow inland bays. Take a scenic flight over the peninsula to gain a full appreciation of these spectacular geological features.
Aboriginal and European Heritage
Aboriginal people have lived on Peron Peninsula, or Wulyibidi in the Malgana language, for about 25,000 years. At that time, much of Shark Bay was an arid valley with little fresh water. The first written descriptions and images of Malgana lives were documented by French explorers early in the 19th century. One of the explorers was French naturalist Francois Peron who made meticulous descriptions of anthropology, oceanography, meteorology and zoology during Nicholas Baudin's 1801 and 1803 expeditions. The park bears his name in recognition of his contribution to Australia's natural and social history. Read more about Shark Bay's cultural heritage.
The peninsula was managed as a sheep station until 1990, when it was bought by the State Government. In 1993 Francois Peron National Park was declared. Today, Peron Homestead offers visitors an insight into what life was like during the pastoral era. Take the self-guided walk to get a feel for the days of pastoralism.
Text: Shire of Shark Bay