Shark Bay is a World Heritage Site in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia. The 2,200,902-hectare (5,438,550-acre) heritage–listed area is located approximately 800 kilometres (500 mi) north of Perth, on the westernmost point of the Australian continent, inscribed as follows:
...Shark Bay’s waters, islands and peninsulas....have a number of exceptional natural features, including one of the largest and most diverse seagrass beds in the world. However it is for its stromatolites (colonies of microbial mats that form hard, dome-shaped deposits which are said to be the oldest life forms on earth), that the property is most renowned. The property is also famous for its rich marine life including a large population of dugongs, and provides a refuge for a number of other globally threatened species.
The record of Australian Aboriginal occupation of Shark Bay extends to 22,000 years BP. At that time most of the area was dry land, rising sea levels flooding Shark Bay between 8,000 BP and 6,000 BP. A considerable number of aboriginal midden sites have been found, especially on Peron Peninsula and Dirk Hartog Island which provide evidence of some of the foods gathered from the waters and nearby land areas. An expedition led by Dirk Hartog happened upon the area in 1616, becoming the second group of Europeans known to have visited Australia, after the crew of the Duyfken, under Willem Janszoon, visited Cape York in 1606. Shark Bay was named by William Dampier, on 7 August 1699.
The heritage–listed area had a population of fewer than 1,000 people as at the 2011 census and a coastline of over 1,500 kilometres (930 mi).