Shell Beach Shark Bay, Western Australia covers 110 kilometres of coastline in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Shell Beach is so named because it is one of only two beaches in the world that is comprised entirely of shells.
This is one of the most unusual, and beautiful, beaches in Australia.
The beach looks like sand from a distance, but when you walk upon it you discover that you are walking on top of exquisite tiny shells that are just slightly bigger than grains of sand.
The crunch underneath your foot when you walk on the beach is the sound of billions of tiny coquina bivalve shells which are all that remain of the Cardiid Cockles which occupied the shells.
The waters adjacent to Shell Beach Shark Bay, waters which also surround L’Haridon Bight, are hypersaline, meaning they are extremely salty. The cockles thrive in these waters because they are salt-tolerant and have no natural predators to cull their numbers.
It is estimated that the shells have been settling here for about 4,000 years and the depth of the shells ranges from seven to ten metres.
The beach is about 45 kilometres south of Denham, the biggest town in Shark Bay, and it is easily accessible from the main road.
Over the millennia calcium carbonate, which is one of the minerals in the shells, has been dissolved by rainwater to form a type of cement that has bonded many of the shells together. Blocks of these shells have been quarried and some of the buildings in Denham were constructed using these shell blocks. The most obvious building is a prominent waterfront restaurant, and the effect is very similar to that of limestone.
It is believed that this restaurant is the only one in the world to be built from shells.
The shells are so tiny that they do feel like sand when you walk upon them, but they are a more vibrant and pronounced white than most sand, and when seen with the clear, aqua waters of the bay is a brilliant sight indeed.
There are many great reasons for visiting Shark Bay as it is a truly unique place, and Shell Beach just adds to the area’s allure and beauty.