François Péron: showing off Australia’s beauty

One of the famous views of the National Park

If you’re driving a 4×4 in Western Australia, there’s one National Park you just have to visit: François Péron, about 800 km North of Perth. The park shows off Australia’s unique beauty: jaw-dropping beach sides and blue lagoons, rich red sands, intriguing wildlife and probably the most beautiful remote camping sites in the country. 

François Péron (named after a French explorer and zoologist) is part of the Shark Bay World Heritage site, along with the Hamelin Pool and Shell beach. It’s relatively small (for australian standards anyway) but since it’s only accessible by 4WD, a lot less tourists make it there. The park wasn’t originally on our ‘to see’ list, but after talking to two French travelers at Cape Leveque, we made a few alternations to our route and decided to squeeze it in. It turned out to be thé highlight of our whole trip from Darwin to Perth. Here’s why!

Driving through the park is a challenge. But a fun one!

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A standard rule before driving on sand is to deflate your tyres. Reducing the pressure makes the tyres wider and improves your traction and helps you to, well, stay out of trouble!  There’s a pressure gauge and compressor at hand at the park entrance and a board explaining how to use it (it’s advised to reduce the tyre pressure to 20psi or less) but if you still don’t know how, just wait for the next car to come along and ask for help. After that, you hit the endless sandy roads. There’s one main road and it’s a single lane, so it can be a challenge to maneuver in the sand when there’s a car coming from the other direction… When you exit the park, you can pump the tyres back up. We’ve seen two 2WD cars stuck in the sand along the way, so I wouldn’t advise to go ahead without 4WD…

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When entering the park (via Monkey Mia Road), the first thing you’ll see is the tyre station

Now and then you come across a salty plain and even though the signs warn you to stay on the road because the plains are basically like quicksand, there’s tire tracks everywhere of people putting their driving skills to the test. Good for them, but we’ve had our share of car trouble (broken window, flat tyre, roof malfunction) and stick neatly to the road. 😉

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Going up and down, taking curves in the sand and trying to steer from side to side: sometimes it feels like you’re playing a computer game…

The lookouts will leave you speechless

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Throughout the park there are several lookouts along the coastline. The two most popular ones are the furthest away, right at the northern tip of the Péron peninsula: Cape Péron and Skipjack Point. We’ve seen some very cool panorama’s throughout our journey in Western Australia, but never were they as bright and rich in colors as they are here at François Péron. The platforms are looking over immense red cliffs disappearing in the milky blue, bright turquoise and deep blue ocean. So don’t hesitate to drive all the way up to the tip: it’s worth it!

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Another spot with beautiful vistas is the Big Lagoon, a shallow inland bay with beautiful sand flats, thriving with seagrass and mangrove habitats.

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You'll have definite encounters with cool creatures

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François Péron lies within the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, home to nearly 100 reptile and amphibian species. The area is rich with birdlife as well, so plenty of cool crawling, swimming and flying creatures to observe! Near the Cape Péron and Skipjack Point lookouts we saw green turtles, eagle and manta rays and small sharks in the waters below, along the shore we spotted hundreds of cormorants (black and white birds with large webbed feet) and in the sands we came across bobtailed skinks, racehorse goannas (my favorite!) and even a yet-to-be-identified snake… Cape Péron and Skipjack Point are connected by a walking path called the Wanamalu Trail. It stretches for 1,5 km along the cliff edges and scenic coastline. Get up early in the morning: you have bigger chances of seeing wildlife.

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Green turtle
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Small shark
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Cuddling cockatoes
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A blue-tongued skink. These guys enjoy crossing the road right in front of you. A car engine or slamming door doesn’t scare them away, but a camera click does! Weird creatures…
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Hundreds of cormorants gathering on the beach
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The one and only snake in the wild we saw during our trip was here at Francois Péron. It scared the hell out of us… We tried to find out what kind of snake it was – perhaps a woma python?
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A perfect camouflage…
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An emu lurking in the shrublands…
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My favorite reptile! The sand goanna is a stunning little beast with powerful legs and claws. It can run surprisingly fast – hence its nickname racehorse goanna.

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If you stand still, the goanna will come very near!
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The bilby is one of the endangered native species that was reintroduced here in the Francois National Park, but unfortunately it’s a nocturnal animal so we never got to see one. Well, at least we saw a bilby on a road sign…

The desolation is awesome

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Western Australia treats you with a lot of desolate places, but if you’ve ever wanted to have a pristine beach all to yourself, François Péron is the place to be. The park has a few ‘rough’ camp sites scattered around the shorelines, like Bottle Bay, Gregories and South Gregories. Surrounded with nothing but oranges, greens and blues – it’s a sensation not a single five star hotel room can match. We stayed at South Gregories, with basically no facilities apart from a toilet and a camping spot. But it’s all you need! We enjoyed a romantic walk on the beach and a lovely sunset and were all alone for the rest of the day and night (it was mid September). Well, not entirely alone, given the animal tracks in the early morning sand…

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The only footsteps in the sand are ours…
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The view on the other side of the ocean: a desolate but colourful landscape
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Ready for the sunset!
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Our camping spot with ocean view.

 

Good to know

Just before entering the park, you’ll pass by a village called Denham. If you decide to camp here just before entering François Péron, be aware that the wind out here is pretty present out here. Make sure you chose a spot that is protected against the wind. We didn’t know this beforehand and booked a spot at the Denham Seaside Tourist Park. We were late and there was just one spot left: n.111, right on the edge of the park’s slope. The wind was so strong that it prevented us from sleeping…  So, if you can, pick a spot away from the edge, where the wind doesn’t have free play!