By Alison Fox
February 06, 2020

Pristine blue waters and gorgeous coral make the Houtman Abrolhos islands off the coast of Western Australia a site to behold. And now, the dazzling islands have become Australia’s latest national park.

The islands — which were first discovered about 400 years ago by Dutch explorer Frederik de Houtman, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation — sit off the coast of Geraldton just under 260 miles north of Perth, are surrounded by crystal clear water and is home to 90 species of seabirds as well as the Australian sea lion.

Houtman Abrolhos Islands in Western Australia
Credit: SammyVision/Getty Images

"The story of the Batavia and the Abrolhos islands is one of the most remarkable stories in the history of this country," Premier Mark McGowan told the ABC. "To have been there, as I have, and to see the spot and see the beauty of the Abrolhos islands, I think it is entirely appropriate that we declare the Abrolhos a national park… Making sure they are protected is the real key to the Abrolhos.”

The new designation for the island archipelago allows the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, to encourage sustainable tourism, according to Australian Geographic. The government has committed to spending $10 AUD million to upgrade infrastructure, including boardwalks and an airstrip.

Houtman Abrolhos Islands in Western Australia
Credit: SammyVision/Getty Images

“A biologist I met many years ago described the islands to me as Australia’s Galapagos,” Dr. Chris Surman, a marine ecologist, told Australian Geographic, adding that it’s the furthest north Australian sea lions will go.

The environment is helped by the Leeuwin Current, which brings tropical water south and then mixes with other currents. According to Australian Geographic, this causes nutrient upwelling.

“This is pretty much the most important seabird breeding place in Australia and, so far, it has not received much attention,” Surman said.

Geraldton mayor Shane Van Styn told ABC that the designation was “one of the hugest announcements we are going to see, it is going to take 10 years but it is going to be big.”