When we arrived in Shark Bay, we were aware of all the typical tourist attractions such as Monkey Mia, Hamelin Pools and the surrounding bay, but what we were really looking forward to was Steep Point – the westernmost point of Australia!
Steep Point got its name from Dutch sailor William de Vlamingh when he anchored by the southern tip of Dirk Hartog Island in 1697. The general area is called Edel Land and stretches from Steep Point all the way down to False Entrance. The land has been purchased by the state government for conservation purposes and will soon become a national park.
The landscape is a combination of limestone, surreal sand dunes and secluded beaches. The cliffs drop down 200 metres into the ocean and make for some truly terrifying scenery, and the colours are a huge contrast to the red sand dunes of Francois Peron National Park. The area is only accessible by 4WD and you need a permit or park pass to enter. Day passes are $11 per vehicle.
The turnoff to Steep Point is 88km south of Denham. The total distance between the Northwest Coastal Highway turnoff to Steep Point is 185km. A few kilometres of the road is sealed, but then it’s about 114km of unsealed road before the final stretch over very soft sand. You have to reduce your tyre pressure to 15-20psi before continuing into Edel Land, otherwise you risk getting bogged, and you don’t want to have to pay the fee for recovery.
The road was fairly corrugated, which made the drive slow going, but once we got to the sand dunes, the real fun began. Up and down with lots of tilts, the Troopy conquered them all. The track mainly required high-range gears but there was one soft uphill section that needed low-range. It took us about 3 hours to get to the Ranger hut, just short of Shelter Bay.
Before leaving for this trip, make sure you’re topped up with fuel because there are only two petrol stations nearby, and the closest one is about 180km to the east.
Pay your camping fees to the ranger, who was a plump lady with a lovely smile, tanned leather skin and a white bob – it’s $7 per adult per night to camp. The nice ranger lady advised us to stay for one night only and to be outside of Edel Land by midday the next day, because a storm was coming. She said if it rains, they’ll close the roads, and if they close the roads you’ll be in here for at least four days. She gave us the westernmost camp spot available, took our money and wished us luck to get out before the storm.
There were lots of people camping in Shelter Bay. You could see boats anchored in the bay as well, which means that they were there for the fishing. Game fishing is huge at Steep Point and while we would have loved to drop a line, the potential storm did not allow us the time.
We got to camp at dusk, had a quick dinner and settled in for the night. First thing in the morning, we set off for the signpost to advertise our position. There was something really scary about Steep Point. There was a real sense of being at the edge of the world. The cliffs were sheer and rugged and we were hesitant to get too close to the edge.
Thunder Bay & the Blowholes
Afterwards, we moved onwards to Thunder Bay and the Blowholes. We would have loved to drive along the Zuytdorp cliffs but we were told that our tyres might not make it past the treacherously rocky track. The Blowholes blew our minds. They were like huge nostrils of a snoring dragon, breathing in and out with a blood curdling noise. Juz found a teeny tiny blowhole and let it suck in her hair. There was also a huge coastal gorge along the cliffs that made us look very insignificant.
We only had two hours left before midday, so we scooted south towards False Entrance. This huge beach has the most ferocious waves – there was no way we were going to have a dip! We had a quick bite to eat and continued to the exit.
That night, we made it to Gladstone Scenic Lookout (-25.985206,114.298046) that gives you a great view west over Shark Bay. We watched the clouds roll in, flash and purge, and then went to sleep, only to be woken a few hours later with the Troopy rocking about in the wind with rain and lightning all around us. Lucky we weren’t stuck at Steep Point…