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Shark Bay Area

Shark Bay is our favourite sailing location, mainly because we know the waters so well, having lived in Denham during the 70s and visited at least annually ever since. Its extensive coastline and shallow waters makes it an ideal destination for trailer sailers, although deep keelers are limited in many areas.


There are  two launching ramps available in Shark Bay.

  • In Denham, there is a two lane concrete ramp with a finger jetty. The ramp is well built with excellent non skid surfacing. It is fairly steep and can be a bit of an effort winching a heavy TS on at times. There is sufficient water depth to handle all TSs on most tides. The ramp and jetty faces roughly South-West so use during a fresh sea breeze or following the passage of a cold front can be a challenge. 

  • At Monkey Mia, there is a two lane concrete ramp  on a clear sandy beach with access to good deep water and a finger jetty servicing both ramps. The ramp itself has a non-skid surface but is fairly shallow so launching may require a bit of effort. The ramp faces roughly North with a shallow bank to the East and  so is protected from most prevailing breezes.  Parking can difficult to find in peak holiday periods.

Shopping / Facilities

  • Denham has 2 small supermarkets, Police, a Post Office/Newsagency, Pharmacy, 2 hotels and 3 fuel outlets. Mechanical repairs are available from the garage, depending on workload and personnel. There is a public toilet and shower near the jetty. Fresh desalinated water can be obtained from a coin operated facility on the main jetty or from a similar facility at the water plant a short way along the Monkey Mia Rd. There is an active Marine Rescue group operating and 88UHF and VHF16 are monitored.

  • Monkey Mia has a small shop with the basics and unleaded fuel. Alcohol is only available at the restaurant and bar, not as take-aways. A toilet is available for visitors.

  • Nanga Bay has a caravan park with beach launching (difficult for TS), a small shop and restaurant.

Seasonal Winds

The best sailing is to be had in Winter. From May to August, moderate Easterlies in the morning dropping to a glassy calm for the evening can be expected. Southern cold fronts can be a nuisance when they drift North, the more severe of these producing strong NW winds that can be difficult to shelter from. Follow the weather forecasts and watch the odd winter storm from the safety of land.

During Summer, the fresh Southerlies prevail, turning to strong with the assistance of an afternoon sea breeze.

Autumn is characterised by moderate to fresh Easterlies and afternoon sea breezes. April can be idyllic.

Spring can bring early moderate Southerlies, great for sailing but not for fishing and lazy cruising.

Sailing Routes we have enjoyed from Denham:

1. Notch Point/Quoin Bluff Return (approx 50 nm)

We sailed SW towards Useless Loop, fishing in the deeper channels on the way over and anchored for the night inside Saturday Island. (23 03.31S   113 23.04E)

Day 2 took us North to Cape Heirisson (26 00.95S  113 21.82E)  then across the Bellefin Flats (on a rising tide) and through the marked channels (25 58.98S   113 18.09E) towards Dirk Hartog Island Homestead. From there we eased along the inshore corals, stopping and snorkelling before settling in to Notch Point (25 56.55S  113 10.03E) for the night.

Day 3 was used to explore the area between Notch Point and Quoin Bluff. The shallow corals to the west of Egg Island provide excellent snorkelling. Tetrodon Loop is worth exploring on a rising tide but can get a bit shallow on the lows. A lovely small bay around the corner from Quoin Bluff gave an excellent anchorage for the night (25 53.34S  113 09.46E).

Day 4 was spent sailing back to Denham. With a light to moderate wind from the NE, we use the motor to avoid too much tacking. Trolling in the deeper water off Notch Point produced a 8kg longtail tuna (released).  Bar Flats made a good fishing stop to break the trip and we picked up a couple of nice pink snapper.

Note: If the wind is in the East or conditions mean that we are not keen on taking 4 hours or so to cross from Dirk Hartog to Denham, we will return the way we came, using the flats and a more southerly route to quarter the seas. This also gives us the option of sheltering at Cape Heirisson or Saturday Island if the Southerly blows up.

2. Denham to Monkey Mia (Approx 75nm)

Day 1 was spent using the Easterly to sail North, fishing a number of spots along the way. With the coming of the SW sea breeze, we made for the shelter of Big Lagoon (25  46.72S  113 28.56E), explored some mangroves and relaxed for the afternoon.

Day 2 Took us North again, rounding Cape Lesueur. A visit to the beach on the Cape (a good tide needed) can reveal artefacts from the large pearling camp of the early 1900s (25  43.21S   113 25.01E). A stop on Broadhurst Reef (25 36.76S  113 23.23E) provided excellent snorkelling. A comfortable night was spent in the lee of a large shallow sand bank near Castle Well Hill (25 36.58S  113 26.41E).

Day 3 Saw us exploring the many inshore coral reefs and beaches. Landing on the beach is dependent on how much swell surge is present. It is seldom much but it can make beaching the yacht difficult. Most reefy patches and coral bombies present no problems with the keel up but the main Gregories Reef (around 25 33.00S  113 09.46E) needs to be avoided. We rounded Cape Peron in uncomfortable conditions, with a fresh South-Easterly against a rising tidal race creating a short and high standing wave. We motored, running with the tide straight into the wind. Once around the Cape, the seas eased again and we hugged the coast down through Herald Bight. We sheltered for the night tucked up inside Guichenault Point (25 37.93S  113 34.23E), exploring the extensive mangrove complex and its many calm lagoons. Here we badly mis-read the tides, and by sunset were high and dry. Fortunately, Cape Rose has a flat bottom. During the night, the full moon rose over the exposed sand flats, revealing the effect referred to as the "Stairway to the Moon".

Day 4 produced more fresh SE winds, making sailing to Monkey Mia unappealing. We motored along the western side of the Guichenault Point spit before finding a way across these extensive flats. There is a marked channel about half way along the spit but it is still a couple of miles from the point itself. After a wait for more water on the rising tide, we negotiated the spit and motor sailed South along the red cliffs to Cape Rose. Here we stopped for a spot of fishing, catching a few Black Snapper and Estuary Cod to replenish the larder. The wind went more to the East, allowing us to sail to Monkey Mia, tacking a couple of times to avoid the extensive pearling lease areas inshore at Red Bluff. By the time we reached Monkey Mia itself, the wind had dropped, and we de-rigged while waiting for someone else to come into the boat ramp so we could beg a lift back to Denham for the car and trailer.

Anchorages We Have Enjoyed

NameAreaGPSAspectDepthOverall Rating
Big LagoonPeron Peninsula - Western Gulf
25  46.72S  
113 28.56E
shelter available from all points. Beach landing.can be shallow at entrance on low tide. 2m+ inside lagoon.One of our favourites
Castle Well HillPeron Peninsula
Western Gulf
25 35.58S
113 26.41E
exposed to North-West but can move to shallow bank. Beach landing on rising tide.anchor on edge of bank. 2m at low.Very Good
Notch PointDirk Hartog25 56.55S  
113 10.03E

better at 25 56.536S 
             113 09.780E

Exposed to the North and NE. Beach landing.Can be shallow, banks shift with storms. Good. poor protection during frontal weather.
Quoin BluffDirk Hartog25 53.34S  
113 09.46E
Exposed to the N. Beach landing with some rocks closer to the bluff.Can be shallow. Banks shift with stormsVery Good.
Louisa BayDirk Hartog25 46.821S
113 05.351E


Open to NE but shallow water reduces chop to manageable levels.

Shore landings rocky.

find clean sand amongst scattered shallow corals and weed.Good
Tetrodon LoopDirk Hartog25 57.520S
113 09.113E
We head here if caught out as a front crosses the coast. Protection can be found from all quarters.Difficult to navigate entrance in low tides but 1.5-2m inside the loop itself.Excellent
Sunday Island / Sunday BayDirk Hartog26 07.39
113 13.82E
Exposed to SE but shallows minimise chop. Low cliffs and rocky sand but a beach landing can be found with care.Shallow bay but generally enough water.Good
Saturday IslandHeirisson Prong26 03.37S
113 23.69E
Exposed to East but comfortable. Beach landing.2m+ close to the beach.Excellent spot to see out Southerly blow.
Cape HeirissonHeirisson Prong26 00.95S
113 21.74E
Exposed to North but shallows minimise chop. Beach landing on good tide.ShallowGood for overnight.
Ant IslandHeirisson Prong26 09.81S
113 26.41E
Exposed to North but shallows minimise chop. Beach landing on good tide.Shallow but OKVery Good


Tides play an important part in both sailing and fishing in Shark Bay. The tidal range is nearly 2 metres and both the Western and Eastern Gulfs are very shallow. Such a long shallow embayment means that winds can have an additional effect on the tides. During times of strong Southerlies (typically summer), the tides can be up to .3m lower than predictions. Northerly sets can have an even greater effect, with water being held inside the gulfs and producing high tides.

Tidal flows are most noticeable in the deeper channels. The shallows near Cape Inscription and Cape Peron are known for their tidal rips and care needs to be exercised when navigating these areas in times of strong flow. Opposing tides can take off 1-2 knots of speed or conversely add speed when travelling with the flow. Where possible, tidal flow needs to be factored into sailing plans. 

Tidal flows also have an effect of the size of a sea. A moderate Southerly wind blowing into a strong rising tide will produce a very lumpy and uncomfortable short chop in the Denham Channel. As a rule, the deeper the water, the greater the effect of opposing wind and tide. We often plan a route to quarter through the deeper areas, knowing that we can handle a more beam on sea in the shallower areas.

Other areas where tidal flows can be strong include:

  • Herald Gut (between Monkey Mia and Faure Island)
  • Denham Channel
  • Useless Inlet
  • South Passage
  • Blind Strait
  • Tip of Cape Peron

From a fishing point of view, inshore shallow water feeders such as bream and whiting show a marked preference for the top of the rising tide. Reef dwelling fish such as snapper and cod often bite best on the turn of the tide and the beginning of the run out. Of course, fish everywhere like to keep you guessing and often break their own rules.