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A Guide To Rowley Shoals Marine Park

A pristine, untouched marine park situated in Western Australia’s north-west.



What is Rowley Shoals?


Rowley Shoals, situated approximately 260 kilometres off the coast of Broome, is a group of three coral reef atolls. Featuring shallow lagoons, diverse and abundant marine life and coral reef systems, Rowley Shoals is a pristine destination to experience a flourishing ecosystem. Each atoll covers around 85 kilometres, rising almost vertically, creating a waterfall effect over the edge at low tide. The three reefs of Rowley Shoals are known as Mermaid Reef, Clerke Reef & Imperieuse Reef.


Mermaid Reef


Mermaid Reef is located on the north-eastern end of Rowley Shoals and features an extensive lagoon enclosed with coral. Mermaid Reef is characterised by a steep rise from the floor of the ocean from an approximate depth of 440 metres. It is listed on Australia’s Commonwealth Heritage List.


Clerke Reef


To the southwest of Mermaid Reef is another atoll known as Clerke Reef. This reef also rises sharply from the ocean floor from a depth of approximately 390 metres and features boulders that fall dry on both the eastern and western sides.


Imperieuse Reef


Imperieuse Reef is located as the south-western-most point of Rowley Shoals and features two lagoons and several coral boulders that rise nearly three metres above sea level. Large portions of the reef fall dry at low tide and a small island cay on the northern side called Cunningham Islet features a lighthouse known as the Imperieuse Reef Light. The reef rises from the ocean floor from a depth of around 230 metres.


Where is the Rowley Shoals?


The Rowley Shoals Marine Park is located nearly 260 kilometres west from the coast of Broome. This isolated location means that accessing the marine park is only possible via a multi-night cruise from charter operators, like Ocean Dream Charters. Generally speaking, and dependent on weather and water conditions, you can expect about a 12-hour journey to arrive.


What is There to Do at the Rowley Shoals?


As an untouched-by-humans marine location, Rowley Shoals is a rich and biodiverse haven for marine life. It offers its visitors unique diving, snorkelling and fishing experiences that stack up as some of the best on offer in the Indian Ocean.




Experience the magnificence of the coral atolls up close and personal at a variety of dive sites across Rowley Shoals. Coral reef diving in the marine park mainly consists of wall and drift dives, with the most popular sites at both Mermaid and Clerke reefs. Swim amongst an array of marine wildlife including trevally, dolphins, whales, turtles, rays and various shark species. To dive safely and comfortably at Rowley Shoals, it is recommended that between 10 and 20 dives have been logged.


Mermaid Reef Diving


At Mermaid Reef, you will encounter a crystal-clear lagoon enclosed by fascinating corals. Venturing out further will give you the chance to see sailfish, humpback whales, as well as various coral and fish species. Explore Cod Hole to see colossal potato cod or check out the Northern Wall and the 80 metre drop off. Mermaid Reef is perfect for drift dives due to its strong tidal flow and underwater currents. You can start your dive outside the coral reef and drift into the lagoon on the current.


Clerke Reef Diving

Clerke Reef is the perfect dive spot for wall diving and features countless species of fish and corals. Such is the clarity of the water, that visibility can reach as much as 50 metres making it a pristine location for any dive or ocean enthusiast. If diving on this reef, keep your eyes out for giant clams which can reach up to 1.5 metres in length.


Rowley Shoals Snorkelling


There’s no need to worry if scuba diving isn’t your scene, as the lagoons in the various Rowley Shoals Marine Park reefs are terrific sites for snorkelling. Just beneath the surface you can find abundant marine life and breathtaking coral gardens. You’ll encounter a variety of tropical fish species and might catch a glimpse of a giant clam.


Rowley Shoals Fishing


Rowley Shoals is a great place for recreational fishing, however there are some restrictions and prohibitions that you need to be aware of:

  • Clerke Reef and Imperieuse Reef have three types of zones; sanctuary zones, recreation zones and general use zones. Recreational fishing needs to be limited to designated parts of the marine park. It should also be noted that all types of cod, coral trout, groper, wrasse and corals are fully protected in ALL zones. State-wide fishing rules apply at the marine park.
  • Mermaid Reef is part of the Commonwealth Marine Reserve meaning fishing and taking marine specimens is strictly prohibited.

To ensure you are enjoying the marine park legally and safely, get into contact with The Department of Fisheries and Parks and Wildlife Broome prior to travelling to Rowley Shoals.



Booking A Trip to Rowley Shoals


Due to Rowley Shoals isolated location, the only way to reach the marine park is by boat. Ocean Dream Charters is one of a select few charter boats that take guests to this pristine location. Aboard our 6-night Rowley Shoals cruise, our guests will be treated to delicious meals prepared by onboard chefs and spend 5 days exploring this marine sanctuary.

Ocean Dream is an 86-foot twin hull catamaran designed for luxury cruising. Comfortably accommodating 12 guests, you’ll be amazed at the space and comfort aboard the vessel. With many lounging areas and a six-seat spa, you’ll be able to explore this oasis in style. To learn more information or see the availability for upcoming Rowley Shoals cruises, get in contact with the team from Ocean Dream Charters.