Francois Peron National Park
Named after the French zoologist who accompanied the Nicolas Baudin scientific expedition to southern and western Australia in 1801, the Francois Peron National Park covers some 52,500 hectares at the northern extreme of the Peron Peninsula. Under the care of the Department of Conservation and Land Management, this area has become one of the most important natural areas in Australia and is home to many rare and endangered species. The park is in the midst of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area and is adjacent to the Shark Bay Marine Park.
The park was once a pastoral station, and you can reach the old homestead by two-wheel-drive (entry fees are payable) to experience what life would have been like on a remote sheep station. Beyond the homestead is a wilderness area.
You need a four-wheel-drive to visit Peron's scenic coastline with dramatic contrasts of red cliffs, blue water and white beaches. From the cliffs of Cape Peron visitors may see bottlenose dolphins playing, dugongs feeding, green and loggerhead turtles surfacing for air and large manta rays gliding past just beneath the surface. The park and the rest of the peninsula is interspersed with gypsum claypans known as birridas. Most birridas were landlocked saline lakes when sea levels were much higher than at present, and gypsum was deposited on the lake floors. In some places the sea has invaded the claypans, such as at Big Lagoon, to form a shallow inland bay. The area was used by pearlers in the late 1800s and old pearl shells still litter the beach at Herald Bight, the site of a pearling camp.
Regular four-wheel-drive nature-based tours and cruises to the more remote areas of the park may be booked through the Shark Bay Tourist Centre.
Francois Peron National Park and the Shark Bay World Heritage Area is a mecca for visitors interested in discovering unique and diverse wildlife. Ten species of mammals, 98 species of reptiles, and more than 100 species of land-based, wading and migratory birds live along the shore and in the coastal desert of the Bay.
While several endangered mammals survive on Shark Bay's offshore islands, a large number of species have disappeared from arid parts of Australia. This is largely because of predation by introduced foxes and cats and competition from introduced grazing animals such as rabbits, goats and sheep.The department's Project Eden is attempting to bring back endangered wildlife to Shark Bay's Peron Peninsula.
As well as widespread baiting to remove feral cats, foxes, goats and rabbits from a 1050 square kilometre area of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, a 3.4 kilometre fence has been built to keep the ferals out. By the end of 2001, foxes had all but been eradicated and around 70 per cent of feral cats had been removed.
Animal species such as the red-tailed phascogale, rufous hare-wallaby, banded hare-wallaby, western barred bandicoot and chuditch may soon be reintroduced. Woylies, bilbies and malleefowl have already been released. Project Eden is set to make the Shark Bay World Heritage Area one of the wildlife wonders of the world.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Where is it?
Francois Peron National Park lies 10 kilometres from Denham, 340 kilometres from Carnarvon and 410 kilometres from Geraldton.
Denham is four hours from Geraldton and three hours drive from Carnarvon. Francois Peron National Park is a further 15 minutes drive from Denham.Commercial flights operate to Shark Bay and airfare and accommodation packages are available. By road, take the Brand Highway to Geraldton and the North West Coastal Highway to Overlander, then turn left to Denham.
What to do:
Bush camping, four-wheel-driving, walking, beach fishing and swimming are popular in the park.
Pastoral Lifestyle Walktrail -- This 45 minute trail from the Peron homestead takes visitors through the homestead and outbuildings of the former pastoral station.
Historic homestead, information panels, barbecues, hot tub, grassed area, car park and toilets at Peron Homestead.
There are bush camping areas with few facilities (toilets and gas barbecues) at Gregories, Cape Peron, Bottle Bay, Herald Bight and Big Lagoon. All are accessible only by four-wheel-drive (low clearance 4WD unsuitable).
The best time to visit the Bay is between April and October, when winds are generally lightest and the temperature is in the mid-20s (degrees Celcius). Temperatures can be extremely hot in the summer months.
Nearest CALM office:
CALM's Gascoyne District Office in Knight Terrace, Denham. A park ranger is also stationed at Denham.
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of The Western Australia Department of Conservation and Land Management