Exploring Dirk Hartog Island in a 4X4

Want to take a trip to a 4X4 destination that is so remote that even the early explorers didn’t settle there? The Australian 4X4 enthusiast is spoilt for options when looking for an adventure, that …

Club 4X4 Insurance
Mar 03 2023

Want to take a trip to a 4X4 destination that is so remote that even the early explorers didn’t settle there?

The Australian 4X4 enthusiast is spoilt for options when looking for an adventure, that is for certain. We think Dirk Hartog Island needs to be on your 4X4 destination bucket list of places to go. With its rugged landscape, huge sand dunes, beautiful coastline, and abundant marine life, you are guaranteed to fall in love with this island.

The dunes are stunning and provide a great challenge for the experienced 4WDer, or you can simply walk the dunes to take in the awesome views.

There are many high cliffs around the island, but the vertical cliffs on the “wild west side” rise high above the ocean, creating breathtaking views.

You will enjoy the variety of beaches and marine life along the coastline. If you keep an eye out, you should see a plethora of animals and birdlife too, so keep your camera ready.

While you travel around this beautiful Island in your 4X4, you will enjoy the experience of differing terrain between the sandy coast and rocky interior, with some locations becoming quite challenging. Make sure you take some recovery gear, especially recovery boards like Maxtrax or Treds.

Where is Dirk Hartog Island?

Dirk Hartog Island is just off the coast of Western Australia roughly in the middle, south-west of Carnarvon or further north-west of Geraldton. It’s situated above the western finger of Shark Bay and extends out into the Indian Ocean, enclosing Shark Bay.

There are many 4X4 tracks around the island as can be seen on the map below, showing many highlight points to help plan out your adventure.

The Wardle Family

Dirk Hartog Island has been in the Wardle family for over 50 years, with Sir Thomas Wardle purchasing the pastoral leasehold in 1968. His grandson, Kieran and wife Tory transformed the island’s use towards tourism in 1993 and have been managing and nurturing the tourism business since then. They have 3 children who have grown up on the island, have been educated through Carnarvon School of the Air, and each have their own unique personalities built from this island life. Read more about the Wardle family story here.

Returning the Island to 1616

A huge effort has been made to convert the island back to its original wildlife inhabitants.

The Dirk Hartog Island National Park ‘Return to 1616’ ecological restoration project is managed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA). The idea is to eradicate all feral animals and create a haven for the island’s 13 original native species, making it the largest island in the world to be cat free.

The island has many amazing stories, past and present. Whilst there is much effort being made to assist nature in returning to what it was like in 1616, Kieren and Tory’s efforts in sustainable ecotourism mean that we are still able to access and enjoy this beautiful spot in the world by 4X4.

So please respect the land, all its signage and directions, and take all your rubbish with you. We really want to see this place kept open for future generations.

A Little History About 1616

The first known explorer to discover part of Australia was Dirk Hartog, a Dutch skipper in the ship Eendracht. Taking advantage of the famous ‘Roaring Forties’ trade winds heading east, he overshot the route and whilst turning north towards Indonesia, came across the landform now known as Dirk Hartog Island. Dirk Hartog’s crew climbed the cliffs and placed a flattened pewter dish inscribed with the story of the journey and discovery on a wooden post high on the cliffs of the northern end of Dirk Hartog Island. If you are interested in learning about this early discovery, the Western Australian Museum have great information on Dirk Hartog.

Preparing to 4WD on Dirk Hartog Island

This is remote travel, and you will need to be prepared. In addition to food and your preferred gear if you’re choosing to camp and cook, you’ll want to make sure you have at least a basic recovery kit and know how to use it safely.

Dirk Hartog Island is a long way from a service station, so carrying enough fuel is critical. To give you an idea, travelling from Steep Point to reach fuel at Ampol Overlander Roadhouse is 185kms on the Northwest Coastal Highway, or if you headed north to visit Shark Bay and enjoy Francois Peron National Park, it’s around 232kms. That’s nearly 400kms return before you head across to the island. Whilst on the island, you will use a lot more fuel than your average trip as there is a fair bit of slow-going low range and soft sand driving. During our last trip there with ARB, we averaged 22L/100km in the 76 Series and similar in the 200 Series LandCruisers. To ensure you have the fuel to allow you to explore this amazing location, additional fuel or a long-range tank like those listed below would be a great addition to your vehicle.

If you know you will require additional supplies, contact the team at Dirk Hartog well before your travels and ask about purchasing fuel and any other supplies during your trip.

How Do You Get on to Dirk Hartog Island?

Kieren operates the Hartog Explorer, which is a purpose-built landing craft designed to carry a 4WD and camper trailer between the island and the mainland. The barge picks you up from a designated spot known as Barge Landing Beach over near Steep Point.

If you want to take a camper trailer across to the island, you will need to check the length as the barge has a deck capacity with a maximum combined length of 10.6 metres.

Accommodation or Camping?

National Park Camp Sites: If you are into camping, you can enjoy the many opportunities around the island by staying at designated National Park camp sites, with a comprehensive list found at the link below.

National Park Camping

Homestead Bay Camp Sites: A great option in a quiet location is Homestead Bay, which is right alongside Kieren and Tory’s homestead. There are a few different camps available, from safari tents to camp sites, set on a beautiful beach looking over Mead Island. This is a great base from which to explore the island.

Homestead Camping

Accommodation: If you would like to travel a little lighter and are looking for a more luxurious island experience, you might like to look at the accommodation available right near the homestead.

You will be extremely impressed with the Eco Lodge accommodation.

Eco Lodge

There is also the Ocean Villa, for something a little different. You could stay in this private villa that has three rooms to house a group.

Private Villa

Make sure you also visit Australia’s westernmost point, known as Steep Point.

If you are to consider Dirk Hartog Island for an upcoming adventure, make sure you are extremely well prepared as this really is a trip of a lifetime, so you want to make the most of it. This is a great example of a location where Club 4X4’s insurance really shines, especially off-road recovery cover if things don’t go to plan.


-Michael Ellem

Offroad Images

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