We called in at the Kalbarri Bakery and picked up some rolls and wraps for lunch as we figured there would be nowhere to buy lunch later on in the day. Just out of Kalbarri we took a short detour to the Meanarra Hill Lookout for views over Kalbarri, the Murchison River mouth and the national park.
Heading north towards Shark Bay, the landscape was pretty flat with low, scrubby trees on either side. Soon the soil changed to the distinctive red of the Australian Outback. We spotted a few kangaroos, an emu and some birds of prey on our journey. After about 250km we stopped briefly at the Overlander Roadhouse, then turned off the highway into the Shark Bay World Heritage Area.
We stopped at Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites. Hamelin Pool is one of only two places in the world with living marine stromatolites (the oldest living fossils on Earth). The metre-high stromatolites have grown over millions of years through a binding process of algae, sediment and sand. They only grow at the rate of 0.3mm per year. Unfortunately, when we reached the beach we found that Cyclone Seroja in April 2021 had destroyed the boardwalk. So although we were very close to these remarkable living organisms, we never got to see them. Soon after we called in to Shell Beach, where the tides deposit billions of tiny shells on the shore. In places, the shells have been laid down to a depth of 10 metres. The beautiful snow-white beach covers a 60km stretch and is entirely formed from shells – there is no sand.
Next stop was the Eagle Bluff Lookout. There is a 400m long boardwalk which overlooks vast seagrass beds, home to dugongs, turtles, sharks and rays. We enjoyed the views and thought we spotted a dugong, though the wave patterns, glinting sunlight and shifting seagrass left us wondering if we had really seen anything at all. We’ll hopefully get much closer than this to dugongs and other marine creatures in the next day or two.
We arrived at Monkey Mia mid-afternoon and settled in to our beach view rooms at the RAC Dolphin Resort. We wandered down to the jetty to see what we might find and were lucky enough to see some fairly large fish swimming alongside the pylons and … even better … three turtles, each of which swam close to the surface, occasionally raising a head above the water. That was a really special way to end the day. Tomorrow we’re expecting lots of rain.