The WA coastline is well known for it’s untouched beauty, with some of the best beaches in the world. Over the years I’ve covered a fair bit of what it has to offer, and loved every minute of it. However, every now and again a place appears that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
I thought Carrarang Station was as good as it got until visiting Steep Point, and then I went to Dirk Hartog Island, which blew them both out of the sky. Dirk Hartog Island is an incredibly special place; if you haven’t been before, put it on your bucket list!
Think of a huge remote island with some of the best beaches and fishing in the world, linked only by 4WD tracks with stunning views and picture perfect camp sites.
Where is Dirk Hartog Island?
Dirk Hartog Island is found in the Shark Bay World Heritage area, some 900km north west of Perth. Its just over 1.5km from Steep Point, and directly west from Denham.
About the island itself
Steep Point is the western most point of Australian mainland. Dirk Hartog though, sticks out further west by a considerable amount. It’s a mecca for avid fishermen, painters, scientists, 4WDer’s and campers. Dirk Hartog Island has a huge number of secluded beaches, incredible wildlife and a remoteness like no other. The number of 4WD’s on the island is restricted, so you’ll never have to worry about being crowded in by tourists!
In 1616, Captain Dirk Hartog landed at Dirk Hartog Island and left an inscribed plate, at Cape Inscription. Several others visited in the two centuries following. In 1800, the island was used for mining guano and pearling. The lighthouse at Cape Inscription along with stores house and stables started in 1908 and took two years to be completed.
In 1868/1969 a pastrol lease was granted to farm sheep, and the island was sold by the Government to Sir Thomas Wardle. Since then, the island has been managed by the Wardle family, with a focus turning to tourism.
One thing that really shocked me was the size of Dirk Hartog Island. If you are a WA local, you’ll have been to Rottnest Island, which is 19km2. It’s not a super small island, but it is tiny compared to Dirk Hartog, which is 620km2 (roughly 33 times bigger!). For the east coasters, Dirk Hartog is about 3 times as small as Fraser Island, or 3 times as big as Moreton.
The island is roughly 80km long by 7km wide, and takes a full day of driving to do a lap in a 4WD.
Over time, all of the sheep on Dirk Hartog Island were removed, and thousands of goats too. Feral cats have been a huge issue in decimating the native fauna. Traps and baiting have been used in a massive effort to eradicate them. A huge fence was built segregating the north and south sections of the island. At this stage, no feral cats have been seen in the northern part of the island for nearly 2 years! Trail cameras and sniffing dogs are used on a regular basis to monitor this.
How can you get there?
There are 3 was to get to Dirk Hartog Island – by boat, by 4WD on the barge, or you can fly in. By boat, its about a 40km journey from Denham. If you don’t have your own 4WD, but you still want to see the island, Shark Bay 4WD tours can get you there with a range of different packages, some of which include snorkeling and exploring the great island.
Dirk Hartog Island Barge
The most common way of getting to the island is by putting your 4WD on the barge at Steep Point. This is a short 15 minute trip across onto the southern shore of Dirk Hartog Island. The barge is run by the Wardle family, and runs as required. It’s big enough to fit a 4WD and average sized trailer. Anything bigger than a normal trailer and you’ll have to do two runs.
Prices range from $340 to $680 return for 4WD’s depending on the time of year, along with $70 per adult (driver excluded) and $35 per child. Trailers are $120 return.
Prices and deals
Visiting Dirk Hartog Island isn’t cheap, but its unique in many ways, and in my opinion well worth the money. Keep an eye out for deals which are run from time to time and you can save a fair bit of money. Earlier this year Dirk Hartog Island were running some great specials on camping and Ocean villa accommodation including 4WD and trailer transfers on the barge from Steep Point.
When’s the best time to visit?
The most popular time to visit Dirk Hartog Island is between March and September, when the weather is best, winds are least and many of the marine animals are out and about. From May – July seems to be the better fishing period.
Accommodation at Dirk Hartog Island
There are 4 ways you can stay at Dirk Hartog Island:
Homestead Eco lodge
The Eco Lodge is located at the homestead on Dirk Hartog Island, on one of the most beautiful bays it has to offer. The lodge doors are literally 30 metres from the water, and accommodation includes all meals. The lodge itself is a rustic but luxury retreat and has a bar area, pool table, outdoor dining and a private library. It has 6 twin rooms with ensuites.
The Ocean villa is more suited to small groups of friends and families, and has 3 rooms sleeping up to 8 people. There’s a kitchenette, toilet and bathroom, eating area and big outdoor decked area metres from the beach. It’s also located at the homestead, about 100 metres away from the Eco lodge.
If you want to camp near the beach, while maintaining access to flushing toilets and hot showers, the homestead camping option is for you. Located about 200 metres away from the Eco Lodge, there are a number of camp sites set back a few metres from the beach.
National Park Camping
If you are self sufficient, the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) manage a number of camp sites spread around Dirk Hartog island. These have no facilities (some have minor shelter and tables etc) so you need to bring in everything, and take it all out too.
4WD Tracks around Dirk Hartog Island
The Island is covered in 4WD tracks, heading to the major bays, beaches and attractions. Most of the tracks are hard sand with some corrugations, but there are a number of rocky sections and a number of beaches and dunes to drive through or around.
There’s nothing too difficult or that requires substantial clearance, but tyre pressures are key to ensuring you don’t get stuck on the beaches and that you don’t damage your tyres on the sharp rocks.
Please stick to the existing tracks, and ensure the gate through the feral cat fence is kept closed when you’ve gone through.
Take plenty of extra fuel too, as the slow speed tracks (15 – 60km/h) will chew a fair bit of extra juice.
Fuel, water and food
I can’t stress enough that Dirk Hartog is remote. There’s no fuel, no fresh water and no shops. You need to bring everything required. If you run out, you are in trouble; it can be a good 4 – 5 hour drive to the homestead, and they can’t be providing visitors with things that weren’t brought.
Fishing at Dirk Hartog Island
Thousands of people visit Steep Point every year for the fishing, and Dirk Hartog is easily as good, if not better. Being harder to get to means its fished by even less people, and you can catch anything from Spanish Mackerel, Wahoo and Marlin to Pink Snapper, Bluebone, Spangled Emperor and Tuna.
The west coast seems to be more popular for fishing, but its also much harder to fish; you’ll either be doing it off rocks or cliffs. Take care, do it safely and wear a life jacket as required. You wouldn’t be the first person to die fishing the WA coastline.
If you are taking your 4WD to Dirk Hartog, you’ll have to head out to Steep Point to get on the barge. It’s an amazing place, with great beaches, awesome fishing and a couple of other attractions to see in the area.
Francois Peron National Park
Lastly, I will make mention of Francois Peron National Park, which is the northern part of Shark Bay, and is truly incredible. If you have time and are in the area, visit it!