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The boardwalk: before and after the cyclone

Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia is globally recognised for its unique marine stromatolites, or ‘living fossils’. A timber boardwalk was built over the water in 1996 to bring visitors up close to these delicate lifeforms.

Hamelin Pool remains a fascinating destination for visitors. Visitor interpretation is provided about the stromatolites and the World Heritage significance of Shark Bay, and there is a 1.4 km walk trail that includes historic features such as gravesites, a shell block quarry and the old Telegraph Station.

Hamelin Pool at sunset

Before cyclone Seroja - at sunset

Hamelin Pool boardwalk

View from the boardwalk before cyclone Seroja

Hamelin Pool stromatolites

After cyclone Seroja

Hamelin Pool stromatolites

Public information signage - Area closed, no access


What has been done to restore the boardwalk?

In February 2022, DBCA engaged an independent structural engineer to assess the damaged boardwalk and evaluate repair or replacement options. The replacement option involves using alternative materials and design to minimise construction disturbance frequency and mitigate the risk of future storm damage.
Based on the engineer assessment, DBCA has determined that boardwalk replacement is the best approach to minimise environmental impacts to the stromatolites, optimise economic efficiency, and mitigate the risk of future storm damage.

DBCA has now secured funding to commence the redevelopment project of the boardwalk. 

What is the cost of replacing the boardwalk?

The State Government is set to deliver a $4.6 million refurbished boardwalk in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area.

What is so important about the stromatolites?

Stromatolites are rock structures that are formed by the activity of microbial mats. These dome-shaped deposits represent the oldest forms of life on Earth and are comparable to living fossils. Analogous structures dominated marine ecosystems on Earth for more than 3 billion years. The stromatolites of Hamelin Pool were the first modern, living examples to be recognised that have a morphological diversity and abundance comparable to those that inhabited Proterozoic seas. As such, they are one of the world’s best examples of a living analogue for the study of the nature and evolution of the earth’s biosphere up until the early Cambrian.

The oldest recorded fossilised forms of stromatolites, dated at about 3.5 billion years, are also found in Western Australia east of Marble Bar. These are to be protected in ex-Meenthena pastoral lease proposed national park – as part of the Plan for Our Parks State Government initiative.

What is being done to protect the stromatolites?

There is strictly limited access to Hamelin Pool which protects the stromatolites. Access is controlled through physical barriers and the area is patrolled by Gascoyne DBCA staff frequently. Research to understand potential impacts to stromatolites continues and access for scientific purposes requires a conditional license.

Can visitors still view the stromatolites?

While visitor access to the site is restricted, the best time to view the stromatolites from the temporary fence is at low tide and visitors are encouraged to use binoculars to get the best view.

Can people fly their drones over the stromatolites?

Drones must be flown in accordance with CASA Regulations. You must keep it within your visual line of sight and consider that you must not under any circumstances enter the water to retrieve your drone should it need to be retrieved.

What other attractions can visitors see while visiting the stromatolites? 

Despite the boardwalk closure, Hamelin Pool is a fascinating destination for visitors. Visitor interpretation is provided about the stromatolites and World Heritage significance of Shark Bay. The Boolagoorda Trail is a 1.4 km loop walk through historic features such as gravesites, the old Telegraph Station and unique ancient shell beds that are exposed at a historic shell block quarry. The quarry provides an opportunity for visitors to better understand the geological processes that contributed to the formation of these unique shell deposits.

Contact the project team

Gascoyne District
61 Knight Terrace DENHAM 6537
Phone (08) 9948 2226
Fax (08) 9948 2201