If you’re a local in Western Australia and have visited the Lancelin Sand Dunes enough times to last you a lifetime, or a visitor who is looking for the ultimate Western Australian tourist experience, you may want to consider checking out Wedge Island. The island itself has changed both geographically and politically over the years, but is beloved by many locals for its seclusion and sentimental value. Keep reading to find out What to Do on Wedge Island.
Where is Wedge Island?
Wedge Island can mean two things for locals and is located along the Sapphire Coast.
“Wedge Island” is an umbrella term that refers to both the actual island and the nearby settlement Grey, which itself is another 20 km north of the island. It’s located along the Sapphire Coast, on the western end of Western Australia about 170 km north of Perth.
How to get to the Island from Perth
Get onto State Route 2 (the Mitchell Freeway) to head north towards Hester Ave and follow this road for about 27 km. When you reach the roundabout, take a left onto Hester Ave then merge left onto State Route 60 (Wanneroo Rd) heading north. Follow State Route 60 for about 120 km (Wanneroo Rd becomes Indian Ocean Drive when nearing Wedge Island).
By the time you reach the Wanagarren Nature Preserve Area, keep an eye out for signs towards “Wedge” or “Wedge Island”. Turn left and follow this road for another 4 km and you should be on the island at the road’s end.
This is the quickest, most accessible way to get to Wedge Island.
You can take the more fun route, get your 4WD, and map out a path via the sandy beaches along the coast. This route is recommended for experienced 4WD’ers or drivers with significant sand driving experience, as the sand can get very soft in some areas. Prepare accordingly if you commit to this endeavour.
A decent challenge is to try 4WD’ing your way through the beaches from Wedge Island to Grey (more on this later).
Is a 4WD vehicle required?
It is highly recommended to bring a 4WD vehicle.
Because of Indian Ocean Drive, Wedge Island is now much more accessible to the public; 2WD vehicles now have highway access straight to the beach parking lot. However, if you want the full experience, it is best to bring a 4WD vehicle and take the sandy, scenic route to get to the island. In addition, many of the activities at Wedge Island require 4WD capable vehicles to enjoy.
Indian Ocean Drive officially opened in 2010 and is a better route to take than the Brand Highway (State Route 1), but be very careful when driving along this route. This stretch of road has become notorious for a large number of road accidents throughout the years since its opening.
Are other vehicles allowed on Wedge Island?
It is not recommended to bring vehicles that are not properly registered 4WD’s.
It’s tempting to bring a dirtbike or an ATV, but a large number of illegally or non-registered vehicles have gotten caught by the local rangers over the years, leading to a ban on non-4WD vehicles in the area. Though you will probably be issued a warning from level-headed rangers, I wouldn’t push my luck. You can certainly bring one at your own peril!
Should I make any special preparations?
Prepare for Wedge Island as you would any extended camping trip. But no tents.
Depending on how long you decide to stay at Wedge Island, keep in mind that most of the area is not connected to any power grid and should expect basic facilities like toilets, rubbish bins and potable water to be of sparse availability.
Be a decent and neighborly camper; pack enough supplies and water to last you your stay and clean your own mess! But just don’t bring any tents. More on why this is the case in a moment.
What can I expect at Wedge Island?
4WD trails are the main attraction, with general beach activities allowed OUTSIDE of the Wedge Island area.
A major attraction about Wedge Island is the sand dunes surrounding it. As soon as you reach the sandy areas, be prepared to soften your tires (at least 10-12 PSI), as you will find yourself driving through a lot of sand. The sand dunes change and shift regularly, so make sure you scout the areas on top of dunes for any drop-offs or steep declines on the other side.
Wedge to Lancelin Sand Dunes
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: About 30 km
The Wedge to Lancelin Sand Dunes are a great track to 4WD if you’re in the mood for a lot of sand driving. The Lancelin Sand Dunes are about 30 km south of Wedge Island, just past the Nilgen Nature Reserve. Be sure to pack extra supplies and water for this track and clean up after yourself if you decide to camp along the beach heading to Lancelin.
Potential driving hazards include: soft sand, dune drop-offs and changing of the tides.
Wedge to Grey
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Length: About 20 km
Wedge to Grey is another 4WD track to consider if you want to truly maximize your time at Wedge Island. As always, make sure to pack ample supplies and water and clean up after yourself! Grey is the main settlement in the area and is accessible from the dunes, but will eventually take you to some rocky sand trails, so be deflate and inflate your tires accordingly.
When you reach the town, remember that it is a private area; there may be shacks you can reserve for personal use if you call in advance and inquire, but many families use the area for their day-to-day activities, so be on your best behavior (in and outside of your 4WD).
Potential driving hazards include: soft sand, rocky cliffs, dune drop-offs and changing of the tides.
Beach activities… North of Cervantes
During most times of the year, the weather along the beaches at Wedge Island is tourist-friendly and can be windy enough to enjoy kite-surfing. Unless it’s raining, you can swim, surf, fish, snorkel (check in to make sure you have the proper camping permits) and just generally do anything beach-related… outside of the Wedge Island area.
So, no camping at Wedge Island?
No… and yes.
With regards to the “camping ban” around Wedge Island, the military has completely sectioned off large parts of the beach area to conduct bombing and firing exercises (areas in between Lancelin and Cervantes) and need to keep the general public safe from these areas.
Because of this, camping is now restricted to the areas north of Cervantes. It’s unfortunate and a messy bit of legislation that irks both tourists and locals alike.
Though the following piece of advice is not recommended, so long as you can convince the local rangers of your humble intentions and camp quietly inside the cabs of your vehicles and not in actual tents (and more importantly, not cause trouble), you should be able to stay the night. But only shoot for a night.
If you feel the need to stay for longer than a day, be smart, call ahead and book a stay at a shack at Grey or around the vicinity of the island. Just remember that electricity is usually generator-powered in these areas and you may need to follow rules or curfews.
Be professional, clean and courteous and make it clear that you aren’t looking to cause any trouble.
What to do about Wedge Island?
Support the local community by getting involved.
Wedge Island is a town that has come to grow and develop its own unique culture because of the shack community that has proliferated and stayed over the decades. But because of a 1989 piece of Australian legislation, the shacks (approximately 350 of them) around Grey and Wedge Island were in danger of being removed (at least until 2016, when the communities were told by the local government that their shacks were in no danger of being destroyed).
If you check out the Grey and Wedge Island community websites, you can find all the different ways you can support these communities and families in keeping their homes and avert relocation or any other potentially damaging legislative actions.
Wedge Island is a conservation area and needs to be treated as such.
To wrap things up,
Wedge Island is a great place to go adventuring if you’re in the mood for dunes, beaches and a lot of them. It’s unfortunate that politics has had to play a role in diminishing the full potential of this magical getaway, but the fact that the local shacks have been allowed to stay says much about how much love the community has for the area. When you can, prep for your next adventure at Wedge. You won’t regret it.