According to my husband, people pay good money for 4WD experiences. I certainly couldn’t understand why, as we were shaken rattled and rolled during a trip to Francois Peron National Park in Shark Bay.
The park is part of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area and there are several different areas to visit. Travelling in a 4WD Land Rover, we were heading to Cape Peron, which is about 51 kms from the park entrance.
Nine kilometers in there is a tyre pressure station where drivers can reduce their tyre pressure before driving on the soft sand. The park is obviously a magnet for international tourists with information signs in French, German, Italian and Japanese at the station.
As we lurched forward and again bumped our heads on the car’s roof, I was beginning to feel sorry for our friend who was driving. Not only did he have to cope with driving at speed in the sand (to avoid being bogged down), he also had to deal with two complaining females in the back of the car!
We eventually made it to Skipjack Point, 2kms from Cape Peron. I was surprised to meet a few other 4WD cars on the road – luckily there are a lot of passing places on the single-track road and everyone was very courteous. The road goes through several large birridas (gypsum clay pans) that can become boggy when wet.
We parked at Skipjack Point. It is a five-minute walk to the cliffs on a good path. The lookouts are well fenced and there are several information sites about the marine life to be seen around the area.
It was well worth the difficulties of the journey to get to such a beautiful spot. Not only are the views stunning but in the waters below we also saw a tiger shark, two manta rays and a loggerhead turtle. On one of the beaches, hundreds of cormorants stood by the shore obviously waiting for their next meal to arrive by wave power!
An essential item is a pair of binoculars – even although it was easy to spot the shark, rays and turtle – it was so much better to see them through a magnifying lens.
We then travelled on to Cape Peron but didn’t see any marine life at all however Cape Peron has a covered picnic area and one toilet facility. It is wide enough to cope with a wheelchair but the access is over sand, which would be quite difficult. Also the user has to either hold the double piece of string that serves as a toilet door closer or tie the string to the handrails. Hand sanitiser is another essential piece of equipment as there is no water!
On our way back, we made a 10 km detour to the Big Lagoon to have lunch. The men had brought their fishing rods but had no luck catching our lunch. Fortunately the ladies came prepared with a small gas bbq, hamburgers and buns – not to mention liquid refreshment. As there more than a few flies around we also erected a fly tent so we could enjoy our meal without fighting off the insects.
On our way back we came across more wildlife – what we think was a King Brown snake. It was crossing the road and understandably, we didn’t venture too close!
Do not miss visiting Francois Peron. As well as the marine life, there is the Peron Heritage Precinct – accessible by two-wheel drive cars. We didn’t visit but this area includes a Homestead where tourists can see what life was like many years ago. There is a self-guided tour to see how shearers lived and worked as well as a hot tub to soak in artesian waters.
There are plenty of camping areas and walks in the park as well as areas for swimming, diving and snorkelling.
Fires, pets, fireworks and drones are not allowed.
The park is about a ten-minute drive from the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort and from the town of Denham.
Entry is by a self-registration honesty box, $12 per car or $8 for seniors.
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