Dirk Hartog Island National Park
Jutting out from the far western edge of the Australian continent lies remote and rugged Dirk Hartog Island, one of our most important historic sites. It is also becoming 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.
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 island’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.
Who was Dirk Hartog? Click here to find out!
To find out more about Shark Bay’s maritime explorers click here.
The natural features of Dirk Hartog Island are varied and spectacular from small geckoes to wild coastal cliffs and minute wildflowers.
What does the eastern coastline of the island look like?
Click the image to start the video (2min 8sec).
There are several ways to get to Dirk Hartog Island National Park including by vehicle barge, boat and plane. Note that both the barge and homestead accommodation only operate between the months of March and October, limiting access to the island during summer.
When visiting the island please make sure you don't bring any unwanted pests onto the island. When getting ready to go, please check your gear and vehicle or vessel for hitchhikers like geckos, rats and seeds. See island protection for more about keeping islands free of unwanted pests.
4WD tracks on Dirk Hartog Island vary from soft sand tracks inland to rockier surfaces near the west coast.
By 4WD & Vehicle Barge
Travelling to the island via vehicle barge between Steep Point and the island is a popular method of transport, giving you the freedom to use your own 4WD on the island. Note this is a challenging 4WD experience there is a limit of 8 vehicles allowed on the island at any one time.
To access the barge you will need to travel to Steep Point
via a rough 4WD track and then take the 20 min trip across to the southern tip of the island. The barge service only runs in the morning and is subject to weather conditions. Bookings must be prearranged through the Dirk Hartog Island Homestead. For more info on the barge service click here
. For more about four wheel driving in Shark Bay is available 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.
Charter boats are also an option and several companies in Denham offer this service. Costs vary depending on your group size. Visit the Shark Bay tourist information website
for a list of companies and to make bookings.
Aside from the commercial accommodation at the island’s homestead, facilities are limited to two small fishing shacks on the northwestern coastline. A small number of rugged 4WD tracks give access to these shacks and to campsites on the eastern side of the island.
Designated camping locations around the island have very basic or no facilities. Sites include Urchin Point, The Block, Sandy Point, Louisa Bay and Sammy’s Beach. Storm surges associated with high tides in winter 2012 severely undercut the shack at Withnell Point making it hazardous and it was necessary to remove it. Much of the beach at Withnell Point was lost at the same time so it is no longer a good place to camp.
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 office in Denham on phone - (08) 9948 2226 or email - firstname.lastname@example.org
The spectacular dunes of Tetradon Loop on the eastern side of Dirk Hartog Island
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:
Activities and highlights
The remoteness of Dirk Hartog Island has been a major attraction for the few visitors that venture out to the island each year.
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. For full details of the fishing on the island visit the Dirk Hartog Island Homestead website.
Cliffs on the western side of Dirk Hartog Island
Going Rock Fishing at Steep Point or Dirk Hartog Island?
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!
Going rock fishing? Get a copy of our rock fishing fact sheet here
Whilst no formal walking tracks are in place, walkers will find plenty of places to explore including secluded beaches, coastlines along cliff tops and vast sand dunes.
A number of designated campsites are located around the coastline. Very basic shelters are available at some sites whilst at others you will need to be totally self-sufficient. Campers often choose their destination based on the proximity to a particular fishing site. Remember when choosing your site that the prevailing south-westerly wind can affect comfort levels. Please bring a fuel stove as campfires are not permitted
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.
Many of Dirk Hartog Island’s amazing natural features are easily accessible to the visitor. The west coast is a great place to feel the brute force of massive waves crashing into the limestone cliffs or to search for humpback whales as they migrate past during winter and spring. In some places the constant pummelling of the sea against the cliffs has eroded through the limestone forming unusual blowholes where spectacular surges of spray and water gush through when the swell is running.
View a 360° panorama of a Dirk Hartog Island blowhole here
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 black and white fairy-wren
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 make 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.
Cape Inscription lighthouse
Map and brochures
For a map of the island's key sites and general 4WD track locations click here.
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 office in Denham on phone -
(08) 9948 2226 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
- No entry fees currently in place
(*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
360 panorama of Blowholes
360 panorama of Zuytdorp Cliffs
360 panorama of Cape Inscription
Audio of blowholes