The Houtman Abrolhos Islands National Park is Western Australia’s newest designation, having been given its official status to coincide with the 400-year anniversary of when Dutch navigator Frederick de Houtman first spotted the chain. The archipelago consists of 192 islands, islets and rocky outcrops off the midwest coast of Australia, with the national park consisting of 105 of the islands surrounded by tropical coral and crystalline, unspoilt waters.
The park’s designation was announced in 2017, with a budget of $10 million being set aside for two years (2019 to 2021) to develop a sustainable tourism plan for the region. The money is being used to create visitor and management facilities and to support sustainable tourism in the national park. It is the first national park to be created under the McGowan Government’s Plan for Our Parks initiative, which according to the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions aims to create at least five million hectares of new conservation estate over the next five years.
The islands enjoy warmer tropical waters thanks to the flowing of the Leeuwin current, something that plays a major part in the island’s marine flora and fauna. The destination is richly biodiverse, with a high density of tropical and temperate species.
“The Abrolhos are steeped in history. It is the site of 19 historic shipwrecks, most notably the Batavia, which is one of the most chilling tales of mutiny in Australian history. It is the jewel of the midwest. The islands have a unique and extraordinary environment, rich in biodiversity, heritage and conservation values, including specially protected flora and fauna. As well as that, The Abrolhos is one of Australia’s largest and most important seabird breeding areas, it’s also home to several animals not found anywhere else, including the Houtman Abrolhos painted button-quail and spiny-tailed skink,” a spokesperson from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions told Lonely Planet.
The islands are grouped into the three main areas of Wallabi, Easter and Pelsaert. Visitors can make day trips to the national park, although many of the islands have limited access due to shallow waters. Activities include snorkelling, swimming and bushwalking.
Information on how to visit is available at the Government of Australia’s Parks and Wildlife Service website.