The Abrolhos is an archipelago of 210 islands extending more than 100km from north to south and situated 60 to 80km off the mid-west coast of Western Australia. The Houtman Abrolhos Islands National Park extends to the high water mark and includes 189 of these islands covering all unoccupied islands, with parts of islands not occupied by commercial fishers and aquaculture operators.
The islands are clustered into three main groups – Wallabi, Easter and Pelsaert.
Visitors are welcome for day trips in the national park though many of the islands are difficult to access due to the surrounding shallow waters and reefs.
When visiting you must be completely self-sufficient and take all your rubbish with you. Follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace to help leave the islands as you found them.
Fossicking and use of metal detectors is not permitted. If you find relics of European heritage they should be reported to the WA Museum.
To find out more or book a tour visit Australia’s Coral Coast or Visit Geraldton.
The waters of the Abrolhos are managed by Fisheries Officers from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and maritime archaeological sites are managed by the Western Australian Museum.
If you are travelling by private boat, the vessel master must notify Fisheries prior to entering the waters of the Abrolhos Islands Fish Habitat Protection Area. The notification form and more information can be found on the Fisheries website.
Biosecurity – prepare before you go
The introduction of non-native species is the single greatest threat to island environments. Help keep the islands pest free by taking a few precautions:
- Make sure your clothes, shoes, vessels and gear are free of soil, seeds, insects and other living organisms such as house mice and Asian house geckos.
- Rodent bait stations on boats are recommended.
Find out more about conserving Western Australia’s Islands
Diving and snorkelling
The islands are an amazing place to dive and snorkel with magnificent coral gardens, colourful fish, anemones and seagrass meadows.
Check the Fisheries Abrolhos Recreational Fishing Regulations for daily bag limits, legal sizes and other regulations that apply or book a fishing charter.
Respect the residents
Inhabited islands are private property managed by Fisheries and used by western rock lobster and aquaculture industries. Please do not enter the camp areas or use their jetties, moorings or facilities.
Delve into history
Shipwrecks at the Abrolhos represent the earliest European archaeological sites in Australia. The most famous wreck is the Batavia which hit a reef in the Wallabi Group in 1629.
The stories of Batavia survivors, the mutiny and the massacre are well documented. There are 19 other known shipwrecks at the Abrolhos and many more that remain undiscovered.
You can learn more by visiting the WA Shipwrecks Museum at Fremantle and the Museum of Geraldton or by booking a historical tour by scenic flight or charter boat.
The Abrolhos is one of the the largest seabird breeding areas. Most of the islands have important bird nesting and breeding sites. The islands are home to vulnerable and endangered shorebirds and migratory waders including several critically endangered species - the curlew sandpiper, great knot, Eastern curlew and bar-tailed godwit.
The Australian sea lion is commonly seen at the Abrolhos, the northern breeding limit for the species.
There are a number of reptiles and birds found nowhere else including the Abrolhos Painted button quail, dwarf bearded dragon and Stokes’ spiny tailed skink.
The islands vegetation is similar to that on the nearby coast however there are several communities of special conservation interest including mangroves, saltbush flats and the dwarf Atriplex shrubland.
Manage your impacts on wildlife
- Stay clear of bird nesting areas. Walk around the perimeter of the islands to avoid disturbing birds and damaging burrows in soft sand. Almost all areas of soft sand will contain the burrows of seabirds that are easy to collapse. Mangroves are home to breeding seabirds and sealions.
- Keep to existing tracks and move away if birds become agitated by your presence. Avoid visitingbird nesting islands two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset when the birds are most active.
- Keep 50 metres from colonies and occupied nests, stay quiet and move slowly. Stressed birds desert their nests leaving eggs and chicks unprotected.
- Minimise your use of lights at night, including on boats, as this confuses night-flying seabirds such as shearwaters.
- Kiteboarding near bird colonies can cause birds to startle and desert their nests. Be aware of the birds behaviour and stay clear of colonies.
- Sea lions breed and haul out on many islands. Be Seal Wise and keep your distance from them, particularly if pups are present.
Islands of Interest
Accessible by boat and aircraft, Turtle Bay is a pristine beach ideal for walking, swimming and snorkelling. There is a walk trail and lots of coastline to explore. Look out for tammar wallabies, carpet pythons and the Abrolhos painted button quail.
This is the main occupation and massacre site associated with the Batavia shipwreck. Beacon Island provides a great vantage point for understanding the events that occured over three months following Batavia's wrecking.
This is the largest island in the Abrolhos and relics of the forts built by soldiers from the Batavia can be seen but access to its eastern shoreline is difficult due to the surrounding shallow waters and reef.
Tammar wallabies and carpet pythons are often seen, and this island supports the largest colonies of wedge-tailed shearwaters at the Abrolhos.
Mutineers on the Batavia were imprisoned and sent to the gallows on this island. It is composed of coral rubble with a series of tidal ponds and colonies of breeding birds including roseate terns.
Mangroves around a large lagoon provides breeding habitat for lesser noddies, bridled and sooty terns, little shearwaters and the largest pied cormorant colony at the Abrolhos.
This island supports the largest colony of white-faced storm petrels at the Abrolhos as well as large colonies of fairy and roseate terns and populations of lesser noddies, bridled and sooty terns and little shearwaters. Sea lions can often be seen here.
The large lagoon is home to a giant cod that often appears when visitors arrive and is a swimming pool for newly born sea lions. There is also the largest colony of Caspian tern known to exist on an island in WA.
Thirteen species of seabird breed regularly across the whole island, including the largest colonies of lesser noddies, sooty terns and brown noddies at the Abrolhos. Visitors should avoid this island during the peak nesting season from mid-August to late January. Roseate terns breed on the island’s perimeter so take care not to disturb them.
Mangrove forests and the sand in the southern four kilometres of this island provide habitat for nesting and burrowing seabirds so please avoid these areas.
A stone jetty and shelter can be seen at the Guano Jetty in the south, the remains of an industry that flourished from 1847-1946. The island was also used by survivors of the Zeewijk shipwreck (1727).
Survivors of the Zeewijk shipwreck made a camp here and built a new ship from the remains of the wreck and timber collected from mangroves on nearby islands. A large guano mining settlement occupied this island in the late 1800s. Artefacts such as occupation sites, quarries and tramline foundations can still be seen. Large colonies of bridled terns and wedge-tailed shearwaters nest here from October-March.