the Mackerel Islands, Western Australia

The Mackerel Islands are famous destinations in Australia – for both diving and fishing. The islands, which receive over 300 days of sunshine a year, are very laid-back, casual, and quiet. The island environments are beautiful, with clean turquoise waters and pristine coral reefs.

The Mackerel Islands are located in Western Australia, in the Pilbara Coastal region. 10 islands make up the group, of which two have accommodation (Direction Island and Thevenard Island).

The bulk of tourists visit either Thevenard Island (which is a nature reserve) or Direction Island.

Natural environment

The Mackerel Islands comprise several coral atolls. It is these coral atolls which form the habitat for the many plants and animals in the area. The water is.  The waters surrounding the islands are crystal-clear and perfect for diving. They are inhabited by a variety of marine life, including five species of dolphins, and six species of whales.

Thevenard Island is a nature reserve. Twenty-four species of land birds have been sighted on Thevenard Island. 31 species of migratory birds have been seen around Thevenard Island as well, including: harriers, sandpipers, plovers, godwits, and kestrels.

Activities (Nature and Wildlife Interest)

The Mackerel Islands are famous for fishing, with visitors traveling in from around Australia to fish around the islands’ waters.  A large diversity of fish inhabits the Islands’ waters, including: marlin, sailfish, cod, yellow fin tuna, coral trout, queenfish, spangled emperor, red, golden trevellies, snapper, and the Spanish mackerel.

Activities that are popular in the islands, with special attention paid to Thevenard Island as it is the largest, include:

  • Snorkeling and diving: The islands are famous for their snorkeling and diving opportunities – with colourful reef fish and a diversity of coral species. Dives are available for both novice and experienced divers, and diving charters are also available for hire.  The Around Island Snorkel Trail on Thevenard Island is ideal for folks who want to snorkel from the island. Thevenard Island has a PADI-certified dive center providing full dive courses.
  • Fishing: Fishing is a much sought-after activity, with beach and ocean fishing options.  Thevenard Island is particularly famous for its fishing opportunities. Fishing charters are available for hire, with Seafari’s being a very popular option; seafari’s are week-long fishing trips run by fishing and boating experts.
  • Wildlife viewing: turtles, whales (Humpback whale, Bryde’s whale, Sei whale, Pilot whale, and false Killer whale), dugongs, dolphins (humpback, striped, bottlenose, common, and spinner dolphins), stingrays, birds. Turtle watching runs from November to March, whale watching from July to September, and dugong breeding between September and April.
  • Walking: Look for the Around Island Eco Walk Trail on Thevenard Island. This walk takes about three or four hours, and has twelve stops along the way at areas or views of interest.
  • Land activities: snooker, table tennis, mini-golf, lawn bowls, badminton, kite flying, and volleyball.


Only two of the Mackerel Islands have accommodation, Thevenard and Direction Islands.

Thevenard Island:

The first option is Club Thevenard Accommodation Village, a renovated ex-mining camp with 30 accommodations and a capacity of 55 guests.  Facilities include a dining room, bar, pool, and outdoor lounge area. This accommodation can cater to all, and is popular among diving groups and backpackers. The village is closed November to March.

The second choice is Beach Cabins, which comprises  11 fully self-contained cabins on the beach, varying from two to five bedrooms.

As well, the island has the following additional facilities: recreation room, general store, dive centre, and weigh-in station.

Direction Island:

Direction Island has just one accommodation option – one self-contained beach cabin which can accommodate up to eight people. Visitors to Direction Island will have the island to themselves, because this cabin is literally the only structure on the island.

Getting There

The Mackerel Islands are located 22 kilometers from the mainland, near Onslow and south of Karratha. Onslow is 1,400 kilometers north of Perth.

By land…

Visitors can drive from Perth to Onslow in about a day and a half, all on paved roads.

By air…

Commercial flights operate between Perth and Learmouth (south of Exmouth), and Karratha.  Charter flights operate between Leartmouth, Karratha, and Onslow and Thevenard Island in the Mackerel Islands. Thevenard Island has a 1,000 metre airstrip.

By sea…

Boat transfers operate Wednesday and Sundays between Onslow and Thevenard Island.

Direction Island is only accessible by charter boat or private boat.

Related posts:

  1. Abrolhos Expeditions – Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia
  2. Recherche Archipelago (Bay of Isles), Western Australia
  3. Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia
  4. Cocos Keeling Islands, Australia
  5. Rottnest Island, Western Australia – Quokkas

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