Getaway Fact sheets
You are here: ninemsn > Travel > Getaway > Fact sheets

Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia

Thursday, July 24, 2008
The Dampier Archipelago is a group of 42 uninhabited islands off the Western Australian coast. The islands, outcrops and islets spread within a 45km radius and are popular with divers who explore the coral reef and shipwrecks.

The archipelago was named after William Dampier who first set foot there in search of supplies in 1699. It has a history of shipwrecks, whaling and pearling, but these days it is an active place for boating, fishing, swimming and windsurfing.

The town was designed and constructed by the Hamersley Iron mining company in 1965 and the pretty settlement is home to around 2000 people. By 1968 it had outgrown its original plan and the ever-increasing population was moved to the new town of Karratha, 20km away. It nestles on King Bay and has beaches fringed with palms.

Burrup Peninsula, just south of Dampier, has a wealth of sacred Aboriginal rock art. There are approximately 10,000 engravings across more than 500 recorded sites. It is recognised as the largest outdoor art gallery in the world. Many theories dispute the age of the carvings — conservative thinking suggests between 6000 and10,000 years. Others think they are older.

A range of complex and animated motifs is depicted, from spiritual beings, humanoids, fish, birds and mammals, some of which are now extinct.

The art is visible because the act of carving the artworks into the rocks has exposed the underlying grey rock, which contrasts with the desert varnish — a dark, glossy red-black patina that covers the rocks in varying degrees.

The art works are best viewed in the earliest possible part of the day. The rocks the artists used store heat and reflect the heat of the day creating very hot temperatures. There are also remnants of Aboriginal campsites throughout the area with large shell middens.

Brad Beaumont is owner/operator of The Spinifex and runs tours to rock art sites. He works with archaeologists, cataloguing and preserving the collection. Brad provides interpretations of the art you see on the islands on his tours, including their history and the fate of the original inhabitants.

An estimated 150 Yaburara people were massacred in 1868 by European settlers in retaliation for the murder of a police officer, his assistant and two pearlers. The genocide occurred in various locations on the Burrup and in the waters of the archipelago in what is referred to as the Flying Foam Massacre.


The Dampier Archipelago, 1550km north of Perth.


Island Rock Art Day Tours aboard The Spinifex are $70 per person. They operate by appointment.

Prices correct at July 24, 2008.

For further information

Island Rock Art Day Tours
The Spinifex
Dampier Archipelago
Mobile: 0408 801 040

Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.

User comments

Related links


Brochure Search

Free electronic brochures with information, resources and holiday ideas for unique getaways.

Select a destination:
Sign up nowTo Receive the free Getaway newsletter