SHARK BAY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Where is it? A 440-kilometre drive north of Geraldton.
How’d it get the name? It was tagged Havre Inutile (loosely meaning unusable harbour) in 1801 by French navigator Louis-Henri de Saulces de Freycinet. He described it as a “very pretty small harbour but which unfortunately, being closed in by a sandbank on which there is not more than three feet [90 centimetres] of water, can never admit a vessel of any size”. It officially became Useless when the French maps were translated in 1858.
What’s it really like? Far from useless, the mining town owned by Japan’s Mitsui Group produces 1.4 million tonnes of salt annually to ship to Asia. Although about 130 people call it home, it’s a company town off limits to travellers. Surrounded by Shark Bay World Heritage Area, the region’s highlights include the dolphins and dugongs of Monkey Mia, Shell Beach and Denham, Australia’s westernmost town.
Not to be confused with: Success, also in Western Australia, or Never Fail Dam in the Northern Territory.