Dirk Hartog Island is Australia’s westernmost point, and the first European landing site during the great explorations. The island is part of the Shark Bay UNESCO World Heritage area, and is located 37 kilometers offshore Denham, in Western Australia. Dirk Hartog is 80 kilometers by 15 kilometers.
A maximum of 35 visitors – and eight four-wheel drive vehicles – can be on the island at any given time.
The island is closed between November and March, due to the strong prevailing winds during those months.
Dutch captain Dick Hartog discovered the island and came ashore in 1616, and is considered to be the first European visitor in what today constitutes Australia.
The island’s aboriginal residents are called the Malgana people.
In the early 1800s, the island was used for the guano mining and pearling industries.
Starting in the late 1800s, sheep farming became popular on the island, and shearing sheds were constructed.
In the early 1900s, the Cape Inscription lighthouse was constructed, along with sleeping quarters, a store house, and stables.
It was not until the 1990s that tourism was encouraged on the island.
The island has 63,000 hectares, and is very bio-diverse. The island is home to over 250 native plant species, several threatened reptiles, and three endemic threatened bird species.
Most of the island is covered in scrubland and sand dunes (some reaching 15 meters high), interspersed with fossils of ancient coral reefs, and rocky outcrops.
Loggerhead sea turtles and green turtles have important nesting sites on the island.
Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)
Most island activities revolve around touring the island by 4WD – either to revisit historical sites or to see the beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife, or fishing in the nearby waters.
- Revisiting history: Visitors can take a day trip overland to the site where Dirk Hartog came ashore, the first European footsteps on Australian soil. Visitors can see the original plate at Cape Inscription, which was placed by the traveling expedition.
- Driving: The island has over 250 kilometers of off-road tracks, making 4WD a great way to explore the island. Visitors bring their own 4WD car to the island. Only eight 4WD vehicles are allowed on the island at any given time, so get your permit in advance.
- Fishing: Fishing is popular offshore, with Marlin and Red Emperor nearby. Some argue that the island offers one of the top ten fishing destinations in Australia. Guided spearfishing expeditions are even available, on live-a-board vessels. Be sure to read the fishing rules – for example, a maximum of 15kg of filleted fish per person can be taken off the island, certain types of fishing are expressly forbidden, and fishing is forbidden within the island’s several protected areas (such as Turtle Bay and Surf Point).
Visitors to Dirk Hartog Island stay at The Lodge. The Lodge comprises five ensuite twin/double rooms, and two ensuite twin rooms. The lodge can accommodate 15 people comfortably. The rooms are serviced every day. The Lodge has a TV room, and bar and billiards room.
The accommodation is basic – for example, the lights turn off when the generator switches off.
The island has six campsites:
- The Block: One of the island’s most popular camp sites, with a small seating area, cupboards, cooking area, generator, lights, and a water tank
- Urchin Point: Has an open-faced shack, generator, and lights, seating area, fire place, water tank
- Withnell Point: Has a boat anchorage, open-faced shack, seating area, sink, cooking work space, water tank
- Sandy Point: Includes several buildings – such as a shearing shed, shearing quarters – and a water tank, and is accessible by boat and 4WD
- Sammy’s Camp: Campers must be fully self-sufficient as there is no shed, and no water tank
- Louisa Bay: Campers must be fully self-sufficient as there is no shed, and no water tank; accessible by boat and 4WD
Dick Hartog is located 850km north of Perth.
Visitors can reach Dirk Hartog Island by private aircraft or boat – no regular commercial services run between the island and the mainland.
A 15-minute light aircraft flight can be arranged from Monkey Mia Airport, Steep Point.
Boat transfers are arranged when accommodation is booked on the island. The transfers depart from Denham, and take about an hour and fifteen minutes.
A landing barge transfers 4WD vehicles to the island on weekends, from Steep Point. The trip takes 15 minutes, and the barge can transport just one vehicle at a time.