I Wouldn’t Hurry Back to Monkey Mia, Western Australia

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An animal swimming in the water

It was blowing a gale when we arrived at our campsite in Denham, 30 minutes down the road from Monkey Mia.

I mean so bad that the pole that holds up the canvas roof over the girl’s bed in the camper trailer snapped. The Jayco strikes again.

We had to bring out the problem-solving smarts for a temporary fix so the girls had a bed to sleep in.

But, that’s how windy it was. It wasn’t welcoming, like the gentle, soothing breezes coming in off the ocean in Broome. Ahhh Broome, we miss you so.

This wind was freaking annoying.

It kept us awake at night with its howls and relentless shaking of the van. We thought it was going to fall apart on our heads.

Monkey Mia was not the experience we were anticipating. Our friends stayed there only a week after us and they had perfect conditions: warm weather, blue skies, sailing on calm water, and lots of wild dolphins.

It’s amazing the difference weather can make to your experience; their photos had me thirsting to return and experience Monkey Mia and Shark Bay without the wind!

It just wasn’t wow for us.

It was the first time in months we wore jumpers. On the morning we went to visit the dolphins, we even put beanies on the girls. It was freezing.

people wearing beanies and looking at an animal in the ocean

That is freezing after coming out of the Top End freezing. If you’re from Canada, you wouldn’t think it was so.

I think the wind scared away the dolphins too. But, crowd numbers were down so we had decent viewing opportunities. Feeding the dolphins at Monkey Mia can sometimes draw crowds of up to 700 strong. I just couldn’t imagine!

They all hustle for space at the water’s edge to watch as the dolphins swim up and down with one eye up wondering what the hell all these legs and beady eyes are doing.

Monkey Mia Western Australia

A fish swimming under water

people standing in shallow water

“Why would you want to see me?” I’m sure they’re thinking. “I’m just a water mammal that likes fish. By the way, do you have any?”

Many years ago, before anyone cared about conservation, you could wade a few feet into the water to feed these precious dolphins.

Now they know better. They still feed them but have a set number of fish they can give per dolphin and only do it three times during the morning from 9-12pm.

an animal\'s fin poking out of the water

fish in a bowl

The rangers hand pick a few people from the crowds to feed them. Just make sure you do not have even a big toe in the water during feeding time or they will not pick you.

Our girls did not get picked, but our friends did a couple of times when they went. They also had about 14 dolphins appear while we only had two. The experiences are vastly different.

person feeding a dolphin

dolphins in the water

If you hang around after the first feeding, more people tend to leave so you have more of a chance to be chosen to feed the dolphins.

While you are waiting between sessions, you can sit up at the cafe for a coffee or even breakfast, or stop for lunch after it. It has magnificent views. We only stopped for a coffee break, but our friends had lunch and loved it.

girl standing on the beach

little girl sitting in a chair

You can camp at Monkey Mia, which looked like a nice campsite on the water. We couldn’t as we could not get Optus internet there and had deadlines to meet, unfortunately, internet often gets in the way of things we want to do! (Like staying at the beautiful Lake Argyle!)

I wouldn’t hurry back.

We thought the Monkey Mia experience was a little overrated and touristy. It’s a long detour from the main highway to get there and in hindsight wished we skipped it and spent those three nights elsewhere.

For us, the wild dolphin experience was more accessible and better at Bunbury, just south of Perth.

We camped at Denham, which is also on the water and considering the wind would be absolutely amazing if you love kite surfing!

It was very quiet and empty during our visit. Our friends also loved the town of Denham. Again it didn’t show itself in the best light for us.

The World Heritage Drive

While we weren’t fussed by Denham and Monkey Mia, we did love the World Heritage Drive along Shark Bay.

This is a stunning area and more worth exploring. Just be sure to allow time as it will take longer than you think.

World Heritage Drive, Shark Bay, Western Australia

There are plenty of stunning lookout points along the way. Here are a few:

Shell Beach

The stunning white sandy beach you see here has been created by millions of tiny shells.

Shell Beach, Western Australia

Shell Beach, Western Australia

Shell Beach, Western Australia

Eagle Bluff

There’s a short 100-metre boardwalk here along the cliff face with stunning views.

Eagle Bluff, Western Australia

Eagle Bluff, Western Australia

Eagle Bluff, Western Australia

The Ancient Stromatolites

I found this a little underwhelming.

We did come at really low tide so they were all exposed. And it is amazing to learn about some of the oldest fossils giving us an insight into the evolution of the world. If you love science, then this is the place to visit.

The ancient stromatolites - Western Australia

The ancient stromatolites, Western Australia

The ancient stromatolites, Western Australia

Have you visited Monkey Mia and Shark Bay?

Did you think it was worth the drive?

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23 thoughts on “I Wouldn’t Hurry Back to Monkey Mia, Western Australia”

  1. I was actually one of those lucky kids who grew up in WA and got to go play with the dolphins every summer. I can see how today it would feel very touristy, but back then it was a lot of fun.

  2. Hey Guys,
    Feel your pain with the wind, however in the WA that’s just part of the game, you could come to Broome in July / August and get blown away by howling easterlies.
    Monkey Mia is touristy however it is a victim of its own success, one day Bunbury will overtake it for the reason you mention it’s easier to get to then you will have the same gripes about it & be happy Monkey Mia is still there.
    Perhaps next time you come to WA come armed with a 4×4 so you don’t keep driving past all the jewels the state has to offer which are off road especially in the north like Perron NP @ Shark Bay not far from Monkey Mia.
    Love Ya Blog, love Ya tweets, travel safe
    Cheers – Will

  3. I was at Monkey Mia back in 2011, and thought it was cool… but it wasn’t exactly as I had pictured it. I was under the impression that everyone got an up close & personal experience with the wild dolphins… when in fact, that’s not quite the case. It was neat, but definitely not something I’d go out of my way to experience again.

    The stromatolites also underwhelmed me.

  4. We were a little underwhelmed with Monkey Mia too, though Shark Bay itself was lovely. There are so many spots to swim with wild dolphins along the coast you can be a bit spoilt. We’d love to get up to Ningaloo as three times we’ve tried to get there but weather or other plans stopped us.

  5. I sort of agree with you about Monkey Mia – even 6 years ago it was super touristy. However, Shark Bay was possibly one of the most spectacular sights I saw in Australia, even after a year of exploring most of the country!

  6. I know what you mean about Monkey Mia, we had been told how awesome it was by the girls who sold us our car but after our incredible week on the Ningaloo Reef at the Cape Range NP we found Monkey Mia to be a little underwhelming.
    The dolphins are gorgeous, and it’s great to see wild dolphins so close, and that is totally going to draw the crowds. Luckily it was fairly quiet when we visited, Chris even got picked to feed one, he’s such a kid sometimes!

    I loved the stromatolites, they were geekishly cool. I really liked staying at the campsite at Hamelin Pool, it was wonderfully low-key.

    We drove up to the Francois Perron NP and stayed up there for a night or two and that was great too.

  7. We had exactly the same experience as you. The weather was dismal and by the time we arrived at Monkey Mia the Dolphin Feeding was over and done with for the day. We wandered around and thought that there wasn’t much else on offer here. We also spoke to an English family from Perth with 3 young children who were staying for a whole week at Monkey Mia Resort who day after day went to the Dolphin feeding but not once did their children get picked. They were so disappointed! The rest of Shark Bay was spectacular but because of the weather we wanted to push on and venture further north.

  8. What a shame that it’s become so touristy. Also can’t help but feel that daily feeding of those wild dolphins (are they wild?) is disrupting the food chain.

    1. Yes they are wild. They have pretty strict measures in place now to ensure they don’t interrupt their normal feeding habits, so that is good. It never used to be like that though. Thank goodness they have learned.

      1. Yes, sadly doing the right thing by the dolphins and ecosystem makes it less special and interactive for the tourists… but 20-30 years ago back when there weren’t so many tourists it might not have been such a concern.

        Personally I love dolphins but I’ve never felt the need to do an organised “dolphin experience” because wild dolphins are so common in WA, even in the Swan River, and I’ve swum with them before by just jumping into the water off the side of a little dinghy as a pod swam by.

  9. Our experience of Monkey Mia was quite similar – VERY wet and expensive. But we did enjoy seeing the dolphins, particularly our first encounter of them racing along the beach feeding by themselves during our first evening there. In the end it was Coral Bay that really made our trip northwards worthwhile, so beautiful!

  10. What a shame you let the weather tarnish your trip, our coastal wind warning here go for much of the year. Shark Bay is a truly magical place, so much beauty, so much to see and do. The history, geology, culture, flairs and fauna is fascinating, as is all of this country

  11. Hi Caz, I also took the 2 day detour and was underwhelmed with it all! I was lucky and got a nice day for it but even still pretty frosty on the early morning feed! Shell beach was a nice touch though, if I ever make it back to WA then it has got to be a 4WD job!

  12. I actually really loved Monkey Mia. We started our trip around Australia in Perth and seeing the Dolphins was one of my favourite experiences in the first month. Later on we also went to see the Dolphins in Tin Can Bay, in Queensland where I actually got to feed one, but I still somehow preferred Monkey Mia.
    I guess you also have to be a bit lucky. We stayed two days, on the first day there were only two dolphins and I was a bit disappointed, on the second there were like 6-7 though.

    1. Yeah. We had bad timing and bad weather and lots of people. It just made it all feel a little overrated. If it wasn’t such a long detour to get there we probably wouldn’t have felt so deflated.

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