833km north of Perth you’ll find the most westerly town in Australia: Denham. It is the main settlement in the Shark Bay area and known as the gateway to the dolphins.
Opposite Denham lies Dirk Hartog Island, the place of the first recorded European landing on Australian soil in 1616. The next to sail into this area was William Dampier in 1699. He named the area Shark Bay after the abundance of sharks he saw.
Today Shark Bay is listed as a World Heritage Area. It is one of only 14 places in the world to meet all four natural criteria to be listed as World Heritage. It is the only World Heritage Area in Western Australia.
Denham is a small town with a lovely beach and jetty from which to launch your boat or catch a fish. It is a beautiful town with heaps of accommodation options.
Two buildings justify a special mentioning; the Old Pearlers Restaurant and St Andrews Church. They are both original buildings constructed by the early settlers. What makes them really special though is the building material: tiny compacted shells from nearby Shell Beach.
During the 1800’s pearling was the main lifeline of the town. It didn’t last long though because of the method used. The pearl shells were put on the beach in tubs and left to rot. The shells would then open and the pearls would fall out. The stench must have been horrible!
It left the town with streets paved with shells. Pity they didn’t realize back in the 1960’s that it would have been a wonderful tourist attraction … they put bitumen over it.
Captain Denham inscribed a slab of rock at Eagle Bluff during his survey in 1858. Today his rock can be seen at Pioneer Park in Denham. But it is not all about European history in this town. Take a walk of about 400m from the southern end of Knight Terrace and you will come across two rocks curved toward each other. It is believed that this is the place where Aboriginals used to trap their fish.
If you are looking for a more secluded picnic spot, then head towards Little Lagoon which is situated 3 km north of Denham. This picturesque lagoon is fed by the sea via a tidal creek. It is a good spot for fishing too.
48km south of Denham is Nanga Station. This huge sheep station embraced tourism. Nowadays you will find a range of accommodation options, restaurant, liquor store and a shop here. There is also a swimming beach, pool and artesian spa.
Denham – so much more than a mere gateway. More Photos.