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Is Monkey Mia, Western Australia, Worth Visiting? The Answer May Surprise You

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

It was 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.

It wasn’t welcoming, like the gentle, soothing breezes we thought we were going to find at the coastal destination of Monkey Mia in Western Australia, and it had us thinking “is Monkey Mia worth visiting?” or should we pack up and go home.

a dolphin swimming in the water

We’re used to bad weather and annoying circumstances on our travels, and rarely let it dampen our experience of a place.

But the truth is, Monkey Mia was not the experience we were anticipating.

What brings people to Monkey Mia is the warm weather, blue skies, sailing on calm water, and lots of wild dolphins. It’s known for being idyllic with red sand dunes, white sand beaches and lots of wildlife.

And sure, the weather wasn’t on our side, but that didn’t stop us from trying to discover why it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Coral Coast, on the Peron Peninsula.

In this guide, we’ve shared our reasons why Monkey Mia didn’t grab us and what you need to know about visiting.

Is Monkey Mia Worth Visiting? No, Here’s Why

a dolphin eye peering out of the water

Okay, so we weren’t lucky when we visited, but if you were to ask me whether Monkey Mia is worth visiting, I would argue no.

That’s not to say that it’s not beautiful, it’s just that there were places on the Coral Coast that we enjoyed more.

We loved Ningaloo, the gateway to the Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay where we swam with manta rays, and the Kalbarri which has incredible cliffs and rock formations.

But for Monkey Mia…it just wasn’t wow for us. Here are some of the reasons why…

1. Too windy

people wearing beanies and looking at an animal in the ocean

It was the first time in months we wore jumpers. On the morning we went to visit the Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins at Monkey Mia Beach, we even put beanies on the girls. It was freezing.

I think the wind scared away the dolphins too. But, crowd numbers were down so we had decent viewing opportunities.

2. Overcrowding

people on beach Monkey Mia Western Australia

Feeding the dolphins at Monkey Mia Reserve can sometimes draw crowds of up to 700 strong visitors. 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.

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 restrictions on the number of fish they can give per dolphin and only do it three times during the morning from 8am – 12pm.

an dolphin fin poking out of the water
fish in a bowl

3. Feeding Dolphins Is Not For Everyone

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 dolphin 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.

If you’re lucky, you may even see turtles, dugongs and dolphin calves swimming next to the adult females.

While you are waiting between sessions, you can sit up at the Boughshed Restaurant 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.

little girl sitting in a chair

You can camp at RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, 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!

Reasons To Visit Monkey Mia

So far our reasons for not visiting have been our own, but it wasn’t all bad. There were some aspects of visiting Monkey Mia that were good, so here are some things we enjoyed about Monkey Mia WA.

1. The World Heritage Drive

car on dirt road beside beach World Heritage Drive, Shark Bay, Western Australia
Shark Bay, WA

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

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

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

2. Shell Beach

The beautiful beach you see here has been created by millions of tiny shells.

girl standing on Shell Beach, Western Australia
woman and child walking on Shell Beach, Western Australia
Shell Beach, Western Australia

3. Eagle Bluff

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

boardwalk beside Eagle Bluff, Western Australia
cove beach Eagle Bluff, Western Australia
coving beach Eagle Bluff, Western Australia

4. The Ancient Stromatolites

I found the ancient stromatolites a little underwhelming, but that’s just me. I accept that for some people, seeing the oldest living fossils and lifeforms on our planet is an incredible experience.

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, but if not, then don’t expect much.

The ancient stromatolites - Western Australia
The ancient stromatolites, Western Australia
The ancient stromatolites, Western Australia

Best Time to Visit Monkey Mia

You may be thinking we visited Monkey Mia in the dead of winter, which was why we had bad weather, but it’s not the case.

The wind in Monkey Mia is strong all year round, but the temperature depends on the time of year you visit.

Of course, being on the coast, the weather is better in the summer. Between December and February, it can reach up to 40°C (104°F), and with the wind, I could imagine it feel quite pleasant.

Dolphins visit the beach all year round, but the best time to see them is in the morning between 8 am and 12 pm.

The Verdict: I wouldn’t hurry back

girl standing on the beach with dolphin in background

We thought the Monkey Mia dolphin experience was a little overrated and touristy.

Yes, it’s amazing to see wildlife in their natural habitat, but it felt a little like the animals were trained to expect food in this area at a certain time, and so are they really wild anymore?

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.

Have you visited Monkey Mia and Shark Bay? Did you think it was worth the drive? Let us know in the comments.