Our Story – History of the Mackerel Islands
The islands and accommodation you experience today are imbued with colourful souls who had passion, determination and vision to bring coastal Onslow and the Mackerel Islands to the world.
Our story began with a pocketful of personal savings from Ian Blair and Adrian Day in 1964, when they triumphed with their first granted lease on the Mackerel Islands’ Thevenard and Direction islands, after being met with continual opposition by the government for over two years.
Ian Blair was the local policeman, fishing charter operator, magistrate, undertaker and Onslow manager – steadfast in his commitment to the Onslow community (and a pretty busy guy).
Enter the current owners in 1973, a bunch of farming folk with a dream for tourism, and, in true Aussie style, purchased the business unseen from Ian based on the long-standing family friendships among them.
They found someone with a small yacht to take them to Thevenard Island, where they found three corrugated iron shacks built by Ian.
From this time the business was promoted as a tourist resort on Thevenard Island with outstanding success. They regularly set out on boys’ fishing trips to the islands to build larger cabins that would start to realise their dream.
Through brainstorming, communing over barbecues, and a fair dose of manual toiling, the accommodation facilities were improved and expanded. In 1982 the cabin on Direction Island was extended to provide for tourist accommodation, and has been used by many guests since then.
A widely travelled bunch, they appreciated their creature comforts during adventures, and sought to provide quality accommodation on the mainland in Onslow as well. 1997 marked the beginning of the Onslow Mackerel Motel, later to be transformed into the Onslow Beach Resort and The Beach Club you see standing on Beadon Bay today.
The Shields’ investment into the Onslow area over the years extends far beyond financial. Despite challenges and tough times, their unwavering faith in the potential of the area for tourism has prevailed.
The early 80’s saw WAPET (WA Petroleum) discover lucrative oil and gas fields, leading to the North West Shelf Project. Construction commenced adjacent to Thevenard Island’s tourism lease following the discovery of the Saladin oil field circa 1985.
The Mackerel Islands and WA Petroleum maintained a harmonious and collaborative association throughout the past 30 years of operation. Currently decommissioning of the projects is under way, where some of the infrastructure still stands on Thevenard Island.
In the coming years this will be removed, leaving Mackerel Islands to devote sole use of Thevenard Nature Reserve to developing eco-tourism facilities and activities.
The Mackerel Islands’ team promise is to provide unique tourism experiences that harness the mesmerising beauty of the natural, pristine environment in the Ashburton and wider Pilbara region.
We aim to give back to the community through our commitment to customer service and warm hospitality, and through reconnecting people with what’s important in life.
Come and Discover our Island Playground!
Meet Marnie Shields, Director of Mackerel Islands & Onslow Beach Resort:
The Mackerel Islands began with a dream of fishing, fun and adventure fuelled by mateship, hard work, and business built on good old fashioned trust and handshakes.
43 years later the unique, rugged, unspoilt beauty of the string of ten islands and atolls that have become known as the Mackerel Islands still abounds. Of these ten, two islands welcome guests with accommodation, facilities and activities – Thevenard Island and Direction Island.
These islands are a discontinuous extension of the Ningaloo Reef system. The coral surrounding the islands are teeming with fish and marine life including painted crayfish.
The diving has been described by Nigel Marsh in Divelog Australasia Magazine as “WORLD CLASS DIVING” and is one of his “TOP TEN DIVE SITES IN AUSTRALIA”.
Fishing opportunities on and around the islands include beach fishing, fly fishing, bottom fishing and game fishing. We run fishing charters from Onslow and the Mackerel Islands, which are very popular as we only take on small groups, so everyone gets plenty of time with a line in the water.
To quote Al McGlashan on his Fish’n with Mates TV Show, the fishing is “INSANE, AWESOME, lives up to its name, and the variety of fish is simply out of this world”.
Thevenard Island is a major turtle habitat and hundreds of female turtles nest on the island each year. The newly hatched turtles can be seen during the summer months as they make their race down to the safety of the ocean. On the west beach, we have our own “TURTLE HIGHWAY”, a stretch of beach where visitors have a good chance of spotting a female turtle trudging to and from the dunes during nesting season.
The Mackerel Islands are located 22km off the coast of Onslow, and can be reached by boat or plane. Onslow lies between Exmouth, Karratha and Karijini National Park.
We offer daily transfers by boat, and also have moorings at the islands for the use of private boats.
We are also really excited that Virgin Australia now flies daily from Perth to Onslow.
We provide accommodation on two of the islands, Thevenard and Direction.
Thevenard Island, a 45 minute boat trip from Onslow, has 13 self-contained beachfront cabins each with its own shady deck and BBQ, where you can relax, socialise and watch the kids enjoying the absolute freedom of an island holiday. We also offer 34 single and double ensuite rooms. The facilities include a swimming pool, restaurant and bar, shop, gym and guest laundry.
For the adventurous, we have plaka boats, fishing and snorkelling gear, stand up paddle boards and kayaks available for hire.
We also offer day trips to Thevenard Island from Onslow, so travellers and locals can enjoy the facilities, even if they don’t have time to stay.
The sustainability of our activities on Thevenard Island is very important to us and we have invested heavily in a solar field, a desalination plant and a waste water treatment plant supplying 100% of the power and water used. The islands are a nature reserve teaming with bird life and native species and we want to ensure that we respect this delicate balance.
Direction Island, a 20 minute boat trip from Onslow, is one of the few places in the world where you can rent your own island. To holiday on an island and not see another soul except for your own family and friends is extremely unique.
The single rustic cabin sleeps 8, and is solar powered. We have also installed a desalination plant to supply all guests’ freshwater needs.
It takes about 30 minutes to walk around the entire island which is nestled within its own coral reef.
In Onslow, we have made a significant investment in the Onslow Beach Resort and The Beach Club.
The Onslow Beach Resort includes 86 stylish, self-contained studio apartments, a swimming pool, BBQs and free Wi-Fi, and looks right over the Onslow waterfront.
The Beach Club is a fantastic venue located absolute beachfront on Beadon Bay with stunning ocean views. It has a modern restaurant and bar providing delicious dining and icy cold drinks with a relaxed, casual vibe, plus a meeting and function room upstairs.
It is the perfect venue to celebrate birthdays, weddings and host conferences and events, or simply have a coffee and enjoy the view.
The rugged beauty and unique experiences which drew my father and his mates to the Mackerel Islands in 1973 remain accessible today.
This presents an exciting opportunity to offer this untamed, uncommercialised, unspoilt region to travellers looking to get off the beaten track.
It offers a holiday with modern comforts combined with relaxation, adventure and the chance to completely unwind, re-energise and get away from it all.
To quote Sabrina Hahn, Western Australia’s favourite gardener: “If you haven’t been to the Mackerel Islands, you seriously have to go!!”