We live an hour from Lancelin and have made the day trip numerous times. One of our favourite things to do in this coastal town is exploring the Lancelin Sand Dunes.
Wangaree, as Lancelin was initially called, was once a tiny fishing settlement and is now home to over 700 people. However, this number significantly increases on weekends and school holidays when Perth residents head out of the city for a more relaxed beach lifestyle.
The beach shacks give Lancelin a distinct holiday vibe, although some are replaced with modern double-storey holiday homes.
Lancelin Sand Dunes hold the Guinness World Record for the largest convoy of off-road vehicles organised by Lancelin District Community Association (Australia) on 15 October 2016. Lancelin also holds the World Record for the longest windsurfing race at 13.83 nautical miles.
Another record for Lancelin is that the world’s oldest message in a bottle was found 30 km north of Lancelin in January 2018. A scrolled note was inside a bottle thrown overboard from the German ship Paula in 1886.
Not bad for a small town!
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Lancelin is 127 kilometres north of Perth, on the west coast of Western Australia, in the Shire of Gingin.
From Perth, Wanneroo Road, which turns into Indian Ocean Drive (State Road 60), leads up to Lancelin. You will need to turn left onto Lancelin Road, which takes you into the town. The journey will be about 1 hour and 40 minutes from the centre of Perth. Most of the road is single lane, apart from overtaking lanes, and can be dangerous due to road trains and slow-moving vehicles towing caravans or boats. Take care when overtaking.
Once out of the suburbs, the road passes bushland and opens up to agricultural fields. The fields are green in winter and spring, but summer and autumn bring hot weather and dry land. There are a few rest stops on the side of the road where you can pull over for a break and stretch your legs. You pass the turn-off for Guilderton (Moore River), but it’s a 14 km detour, so leave Moore River for another day.
Lancelin Sand Dunes
Lancelin Sand Dunes are the largest in Western Australia, around 2 km long, and the main attraction in Lancelin. They consist of soft white sand with no vegetation making them perfect for sandboarding.
As you drive into Lancelin, you will see an Information Bay with a map and signs showing what there is to do in Lancelin, along with directions on how to access the sand dunes. Entry into the dunes is free of charge, and they are open from 8 am to 7 pm.
Lancelin Sand Dunes are right behind the town and easy to get to from the main road. A dirt track leads to an open sandy area where you can park a 2-wheel drive vehicle at the base of the dunes on hard rock. You can see a photo of where to park on Lancelin Tourism‘s site. Do not drive anywhere else, or you may get bogged. If you don’t feel confident driving on the base of the dunes, you can park on Bootoo Street and walk about 300 metres.
If you have a hire vehicle, check with the company before, as most won’t let you off sealed roads.
Four-Wheel drives can go into the sand dunes, but you must take extreme care as deaths have occurred here. The dunes are continuously changing due to strong winds, creating huge drop-offs of 10 to 15 metres. Assess the dunes before driving over them (in your car or bike).
Legally, you can only use the licensed off-road section shown as you enter the dunes. It can be unclear, though, as there aren’t many fences or signs in the sand dunes to indicate where this part is.
If you require a sandboard, you can reserve sandboards here and collect them from 7 am every day of the week. It’s a fun activity for families with kids as young as five enjoying sandboarding on the dunes. You can either sandboard sitting down or standing up, although we didn’t manage to stand! It’s harder than it looks, and you need a sandboard; boogie boards or cardboard won’t work. It also helps if you wax your board before going down.
It’s a popular free thing to do, so the dunes get crowded, especially on long weekends and school holidays, so be prepared to share the dunes with sand boarders, 4-wheel drivers, bikers, and dune buggies.
Make sure you come prepared as there aren’t any facilities here (including toilets). As it gets windy, I recommend sunglasses to minimise sand being blown into your eyes and reduce the glare of the bright white sand. Wear lightweight clothing, as you will get sandy and insect repellent for the flies.
You require a decent level of fitness as once you slide down the sand dune, you have to climb back up, which is hard work. Some of the dunes you will be sandboarding down are 40m high.
If sandboarding isn’t your thing, it’s a beautiful spot to sit on a dune and gaze at the panoramic views of the dunes, town, beaches, and islands. It’s spectacular at sunset when the sun sinks into the Indian Ocean.
If you love adventure, book this 2.5 hour Buggy, Quad Bike, Motocross and Sandboard tour. You get to experience it all in one tour.
Other Activities and Things To Do in Lancelin
Beaches & Islands
Back Beach is the most popular beach in Lancelin. You can access it with a 4wd from a track off Fisher Way or walk over the dune from the car park. This beach is popular with surfers, boogie boarders, bodysurfers, kite surfers, and swimmers. However, it is not patrolled, and there can be strong rips along the coast. As with all of the WA waters, there’s a small risk of a shark attack. In July 2012, surfer Ben Linden, aged 24, was tragically killed by a Great White Shark off Wedge Island, near Lancelin. Australian Geographic have tips on how best to avoid a shark attack. The main ones are:
- Do not wear shiny swimwear or accessories; try to wear bland, darker colours.
- Avoid swimming, surfing, or kayaking alone.
- Be aware of entering the water after a storm or heavy rainfall.
- Avoid swimming or surfing at dawn, dusk or night.
However, the risk is minimal, and you have more chance of drowning than being attacked by a shark.
The best months for surfing are March, April, May, June, October and November, but you can read more on the surf forecast site.
There are two islands off the mainland, Lancelin Island and Edwards Island. Lancelin Island is the largest, 700m offshore, which you can access with your boat. You are only allowed on the eastern and western side beaches and the boardwalk that crosses the island. Despite being used as a bombing target last century, it is now home to many birds. It’s the second most diverse seabird breeding island in WA after Pelsaert Island in the Abrolhos.
Edwards Island (also known as Edward Island) is located between 50 and 150 metres from the shore, depending on the time of year. Like Lancelin Island, it’s an A-Class nature reserve and home to many birds. Access to Edwards Island is prohibited.
A lovely beach walk is from the north point to the south end of Lancelin Bay. The 5.4 km return walk should take under an hour.
Windsurfing (Sailboarding) & Kitesurfing
During summer, the roaring winds make Lancelin one of the best windsurfing and kitesurfing spots in Western Australia, and it is mentioned on the International Windsurfing Circuit. This seaside town hosts Australia’s largest windsurfing event, the Ocean Classic, attracting some of the best windsurfers and kite surfers from around the world.
The best time to visit Lancelin for kitesurfing is from December to early February when there are strong afternoon south-easterly winds. Most kitesurfers set off from Grace Darling Park, where there’s parking, a rigging area, and a public toilet/shower.
Lobsters and Fishing
Since 1950, Lancelin has been a lobster fishing town with around 20 commercial boats licensed to catch crayfish (lobster) now. You can buy live crayfish from the boats when they dock at the jetty. Orders are taken online, and prices will depend on supply and demand but expect to pay from A$25 to A$150 per crayfish depending on the size (smalls through to jumbos). There’s also a guide on the website for how to handle and store live crayfish.
Amateurs can catch lobster year-round with the appropriate license. You should check with the Fisheries Department for more information.
If you fish at the jetty, you may catch Herring, Whiting, Squid, Tailor and Samson fish. Beach fishing can provide some good catches, especially at the north point around dusk.
Lancelin’s waters are generally calm in the morning, which provides the best conditions for boats. Lancelin doesn’t have a boat ramp, but you can launch on either side of the jetty. Launching and retrieving can be tricky, so be prepared. If you plan to go outside the bay, you should only cross the reef by the prescribed paths and advise Lancelin Volunteer Marine Rescue of your plan on VHF 22 or VMR688.
A Fishing Charter Boat Tour allows you to try your luck at game fishing and to try to land Snapper, Baldchin Groper, or Dhufish.
Be aware that the Demersal ban runs from October 15 to December 15 inclusive. This means that you can’t take any Demersal fish (e.g. Snapper, Dhufish, Baldchin Groper) during that time.
Snorkelling and Diving
The protected waters provide ideal conditions for snorkelling and diving and are teeming with fish due to many reefs. Fourteen shipwrecks lie along the coast, creating incredible dive trails for experienced divers.
The new Lancelin Lookout is situated just north of the Lancelin Beach Hotel and has a car park at the foot of the path. This wooden boardwalk is a great vantage point to see the beautiful beaches, and the view is even more magical at sunset, although it’s more crowded at this time.
As we always visit Lancelin as a day trip from Perth, we haven’t stayed in any accommodation. However, these would be my picks if we were to stay there.
Hostel – Budget
I use Stayz rather than Airbnb as they are often cheaper, and I have used them for over ten years now.
Lancelin Camping Grounds & Caravan Parks
Camping on the beach is discouraged by patrolling rangers who can impose heavy fines.
Where To Eat
When researching where to have lunch in Lancelin, I noticed that most cafes, pubs, and restaurants had mixed reviews. Here are some options, but read the comments on Tripadvisor first. We ate at the Seabird Tavern (the fish and chips were good).
- Endeavour Tavern
- Lobbster Trap
- Offshore Cafe & Restaurant
- The Lancelin Bay Restaurant
Visiting Lancelin With Your Dog
If you are travelling with your pet, there are a few pet-friendly accommodation choices in Lancelin:
You can also take your dog on most beaches in Lancelin but check this list of On-Lead and Off-Lead Dog Exercise Areas.
The Offshore Café and Store and the Endeavour Tavern are dog friendly.
Lancelin Visitor Information
The Lancelin Visitor Information is located at the Lancelin Community Resource & Visitor Centre, 117 Gingin Road.
Lancelin Weather Forecast & Tides
Lancelin weather is slightly warmer than Perth, hot in summer and cold in winter with strong afternoon sea breezes. You can find the latest 7-day weather forecast on the Bureau Of Meteorology site and details of the tides at Tide Forecast.
Head to the Lancelin sand dunes in the morning before the sea breeze comes in. It can be very windy, and it’s not pleasant being sandblasted!
Take sunglasses, as the sand is bright even on a cloudy day.
I would like to respectfully acknowledge the Yuat People, the Traditional Owners, and First People of these lands. I would like to pay my respect to the Elders past, present, and future, for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture, and hopes of the Yuat People.
In 1658 a Dutch ship, the Vergulde Draeck (Gilt Dragon), was wrecked on rocks near Ledge Point. Abraham Leeman landed on Lancelin Island later that year, searching for the missing ship.
French explorer, Jacques Felix Emmanuel Hamelin, named Lancelin Island in 1801 after the scientific writer PJ Lancelin.
The first European settler in the area was John Hopkins, who made money from fishing in 1928. This attracted more people, and by 1947 several cray-fishing boats were operating from there. It became a holiday camping destination around this time and was most likely when the shacks were built.
Despite being known as Wangaree, meaning fish in the local Aboriginal language, the town’s name was changed to Lancelin in 1954. During this year, the Lancelin Inn, later the Lancelin Beach Hotel, was opened.
The Lancelin Defence Training Area was established in the 1940s and is still used by the Australian Defence.
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