Dirk Hartog Island National Park
Jutting out from the far western edge of the Australian continent lies Western Asutralia's largest island, the remote and rugged Dirk Hartog Island. The island is one of our most important historic sites as well as an important island for improving the conservation status of some native animals.
Dirk Hartog Island has a prominent place in Australian maritime history as it was visited by several notable European explorers, many of them well before Captain Cook and the First Fleet. The arrival of Dirk Hartog in 1616 marked the first European landing on Australia’s west coast, and he was later followed by other Dutch explorers including Vlamingh in 1697 and Englishman, William Dampier in 1699. Several Frenchmen followed the Dutch including St Alouarn in 1772 and Baudin in 1801. To find out more about Shark Bay’s maritime explorers click here.
Steep cliffs on the island’s western side slope gradually eastward towards a low limestone coastline of shallow bays and secluded beaches. The vegetation is low, shrubby and harbours a surprising array of animal life from rare burrowing frogs to wrens found nowhere else in the world.
Today times are changing. The island’s recent history as a pastoral lease has come to an end and sheep grazing has made way for conservation. The island is now a national park and the future looks bright for the island with bold plans underway to reintroduce some of the region's rare mammals.
Find out more about plans to restore the island to how Dirk Hartog would have seen it when he landed there in 1616.
The natural features of Dirk Hartog Island are varied and spectacular from small geckoes to wild coastal cliffs and beautiful wildflowers.
Dirk Hartog Island can only be accessed by private boat (about 35km from Denham), a commercial barge service from Steep Point or light aircraft charter. A high clearance four-wheel-drive vehicle is required to drive on the island.
By 4WD & vehicle barge
The privately run barge service operates in the morning from Steep Point and is subject to weather conditions. There is only a limited numer of vehicles allowed on the island at one time and bookings must be prearranged through the Dirk Hartog Island Homestead. Entrance and camping fees (if you stay the night prior to barge pickup) apply at Edel Land. Once you have booked through the Dirk Hartog Island website you will receive an email regarding camping fees from the Department of Parks and Wildlife.
When visiting the island please make sure you don't bring any unwanted pests with you. Check your gear and vehicle for hitchhikers like geckos, rats and seeds. See island protection for more about keeping islands free of unwanted pests. The 4WD tracks vary from soft sand tracks inland to rockier surfaces near the west coast. Be prepared - bring lots of drinking water, food and supplies, and fuel with you. For more about four wheel driving in Shark Bay please click here.
Boat owners are welcome to visit the island either on a day trip, to camp or to stay at the homestead. Most people travel across from Denham, a journey of approximately 35km as the crow flies. During summer when strong southerly winds are the norm the journey may not be possible. Check local conditions and ensure you have all necessary safety equipment before crossing. If you wish to camp bookings must be made prior to your departure.
Designated camping locations around the island include Urchin Point, The Block, Sandy Point, Quoin Head, Dampier's Landing, Withnell Point, Louisa Bay and Notch Point. Campsites are basic, with little or no facilities. For details and availability please click here.
When camping you will need to bring everything with you including a fuel stove as campfires are not permitted for reasons explained here.
For information and bookings contact the Parks and Wildlife rangers at Steep Point on phone - (08) 9948 3993 or email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
for a copy of a suggested
equipment list for a camping trip
to Dirk Hartog Island
For Your Safety
This area is remote and has some inherent dangers including variable weather conditions — especially in summer when the park is hot, dry and windy — and a hazardous coastline with large surf, 200 metre high cliffs, blowholes and dangerous marine animals in surrounding waters. For your safety:
The sand dunes at Tetradon Loop are constantly changing. Please keep to the right track.
For many visitors the main interest is fishing, whether it be some of Australia’s best cliff based angling or boat based game fishing, there is something for all anglers.
Fishing from the steep cliffs along Shark Bay's western edge is a thrilling, yet dangerous pastime. Serious accidents can and do occur! To make sure you aren't putting your life in danger grab a copy of our information sheet here and be prepared!
Snorkelling and diving
Dirk Hartog Island offers some exceptional diving and snorkelling. Two marine sanctuaries protect patches of coral at Surf and Sandy Points, ideal locations for snorkelling and diving. A range of other diving sites featuring crystal clear water and relatively unspoilt marine environments can be found around the island. Keen and experienced divers might like to head for the rugged western coastline with its wild and untouched dive locations with abundant marine life, amazing caverns, and swim throughs.
Dirk Hartog Island black and white fairy-wren
The many varied landforms of the island make great subjects for naturalists and photographers. The spectacular sand dunes near Tetradon Loop are a photographers dream and a short walk amongst the dunes at sunrise or sunset will provide plenty of opportunities for great photos. The east coast’s crescent shaped beaches are also great for exploring, with their ever-present range of seabirds and a wide variety of shells dotting the shoreline.
Rare wildlife such as the Dirk Hartog Island black and white fairy-wren and the sandhill frog, a species only discovered in 1976, are some of the animals that you may encounter on the island. Find out more about the wrens of Dirk Hartog Island here. Sea birds line the protected eastern coast, some species nesting on islands close to shore.
The waters around the island hold a teaming array of wildlife, much of which can be observed from a boat or whilst snorkelling and diving. Manta rays and even whale sharks can occasionally be seen around the northern coastline in May and June. Later in the year, when water temperatures drop further in the bay, dugongs travel to the warmer waters around the island.
Dirk Hartog Island is one of Australia’s most significant historic places. Cape Inscription, the site of Dirk Hartog’s famous first landing by a European in Western Australia back in 1616, is riddled with fascinating history. For hundreds of years many explorers visited the cape. Its prominent location, jutting out into the Indian Ocean, meant sailors who were blown off course were common visitors. Some of them left behind mementoes of their visit, hence the name Cape Inscription. To learn more about this fascinating history, visit our maritime exploration pages or even better take a visit to the World Heritage Discovery Centre in Denham.
At Cape Inscription there are few visible cultural remains, however the nearby lighthouse stands proud over the cape, as if to protect the deep history of this special site. Other visible historic features on the island are remnants of the pastoral history. Windmills and old shearing sheds are dotted around the island and the occasional fence line breaks up the arid landscape.
Map and brochures
For a brochure about Dirk Hartog island National Park click here.
To find out how you can help the 'Return to 1616' project, click here.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) administers camping fees - both vehicle based and boat based. These must be paid in advance by contacting the DPaW ranger station on phone - (08) 9948 3993 or email - email@example.com. At present there are no entrance fees for visiting the island.
Barge bookings and payments are made to the Dirk Hartog Island Homestead. Visit their website
for more details.
Dirk Hartog Island NP Camping Fees
- $19.00 per adult
- $13.50 per concession card holder*
- $2 per child 6-15 years
(*Concessions include Seniors’ Card, Disability Support, Carer Payment, Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), Age Pension, Disability Support (Blind), Carer Allowance & Companion Card).
NOTE: Access and camping fees are also in place for Steep Point and must be paid if you access this area in transit to the island. Go here for the Steep Point fee structure.
Take a Virtual Tour
Click for a video of the eastern coastline (2min 8sec).
360 panorama of Blowholes
360 panorama of Zuytdorp Cliffs
360 panorama of Cape Inscription
Audio of blowholes
Click to see the barge in action!