Seven Days on and Around Dirk Hartog Island
Tory Wardle was a nineteen-year-old apprentice chef when she arrived on Dirk Hartog Island, just off the coast in the Shark Bay region to help her friend Kieran cater for his very first group of tourists. Tory quickly fell in love with the island and Kieran. Twenty-one years later, Tory and Kieran run Dirk Hartog’s successful eco-tourism business, raising their three children in this very special part of Western Australia. Living on Dirk Hartog Island is a fantastic lifestyle – it’s a combination of the remoteness, the fresh air, the sea life, the fantastic people and the warm weather. If you’ve got a week to spend here, there’s so much you can do.
The most western point of Australia, Dirk Hartog Island is named after the Dutch explorer who landed there 400 years ago, the first ever recording of a European landing in Australia. It’s now a national park and haven for endangered wildlife.
Visitors to Dirk Hartog often come as part of a larger trip to the Shark Bay World Heritage area, south of Carnarvon. Other highlights in the area include Monkey Mia and the Hamelin Pool Stromatolites.
Getting your bearings
If visitors arrive early in the day, I take them to Surf Point. It’s a sanctuary zone and an amazing spot for snorkelling, with hundreds of different species of fish. From the lookout you can see across to Steep Point on the mainland, as well as the rugged cliffs stretching northwards up the island. It gives people a great perspective of the vastness of the island. They think, “Oh my god, this is massive.” At 80 kilometres long, Dirk Hartog Island is the largest island in Western Australia.
On the way back to the lodge, we stop at the blowholes. The water can go a hundred metres in the air and it sounds like a jet engine. In the afternoon, we go sandboarding on the dunes and have drinks on top of the 600-foot cliffs at Herald Heights.
Camping in the north
Urchin Point is my favourite camping spot. There’s a great wave out the front, and we get surfing groups staying up there. I’m not a surfer, but I love watching the dolphins catch the waves. In the evening, you can have sunset drinks looking over Turtle Bay. There’s no more beautiful vista than that. The kids and I spend most summers up there, snorkelling around the underwater caves and crevasses looking for crayfish.
Campers have to bring their own 4WD across on the barge from Steep Point, or have their own boat. We recommend that people bring all their own supplies, including drinking water, fuel and lots of food. Bring your snorkelling, walking and fishing gear, too. A lot of people fish every day – that’s what they come here for. The safe waters also make it a great place for a boating holiday.
It isn’t called Shark Bay for nothing. From the beach you can see lots of little school sharks that scatter when you run through the water.
During summer, hundreds of loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the beach at Turtle Bay and about eight weeks later the babies hatch. The humpback and southern right whales come through in August and September. They’re really inquisitive – they come right up to you when you’re kayaking. And then there are the dugongs, which feast on the giant sea grass meadows here. Some people have never seen a dugong in their life.
Exploring on foot
I’m a walker, and between July – September the wildflowers are unbelievable. I love walking on the old goat tracks along the cliff edges on the rugged west coast, but I also enjoy fossicking on the eastern beaches. There are shipwrecks out there, so you find all sorts of things that might be hundreds of years old.
Lots of people want to see where Dirk Hartog nailed his pewter plate to a piece of wood at Cape Inscription, back in 1616. I can’t believe that someone in their twenties could travel across the world, stumble across such a remote area and then manage to return to Holland. It spins me out.
For birdwatchers, the island has 81 species of birds, including a black-and-white fairy-wren that’s only found here and at Barrow Island.
Leave the world behind
Staying at the lodge is really relaxing. We’ve got a pool table, a table-tennis table and a nice green lawn to lie on, or you can spend the day on the beach. I do all the meals – every couple of hours I have something new coming out of the kitchen. People are amazed that we have such fresh food. For dinner, it’s mostly seafood – we catch it, fillet it and eat it that evening.
Sometimes visitors take their watches off and never know what time it is. Being with nature – that’s what people love.