Recherche Archipelago or The Bay of Isles is a group of 105 islands, and over 1200 rocky outcrops off the southern coast of Esperance, Western Australia. The islands stretch 230 kilometres from East to West and to 50 kilometres off-shore.

The area was named the Archipelago of the Recherche (L’Archipel de la Recherche) by Bruni d’Entrecasteaux during a French expedition in 1792. Matthew Flinders was the first to explore and chart the islands of the archipelago in 1802 as part of his voyage in the Investigator.

Uses in the area now include recreational and commercial fishing, tourism and shipping from the Port of Esperance. Commercial fishing is primarily abalone, Esperance Rock Lobster, pilchard, and sharks.


Woody Island
Is the third largest in the Recherche Archipelago and the only island with public access and usage within the reserve. Breeding ground for the Fleshy-footed shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) and for the Little Penguins(Eudyptula minor). Abundant bird life is found due to the tall Eucalyptus trees that dominate the island and for which the island is named after.

Cull Island
A breeding site for the Recherche Cape Barren Goose (Cereopsis novaehollandiae grisea), a rare subspecies. Also has wild goats which roam the island.

Middle Island
Has had historical activity. It is the largest island in the Recherche Archipelago at 10.8 square kilometres (2,669 acres) and was named by Matthew Flinders in 1802. It also contains a pink lake, Lake Hillier, that John Thistle collected salt samples. The Pirate, Black Jack Anderson, based himself here to launch raids on vessels making their way between Adelaide and Albany.

Sandy Hook
Has a beautiful white sandy beach but is also home to Death Adder snakes.

Cooper Island
A breeding site for the Australian Sea Lion and the New Zealand Fur Seal.

Mondrain Island
This 8.1 square kilometres (2,002 acres) island supports a population of Recherche Rock-wallabys. The highest point of this island is Baudin Peak with a height of 222 metres (728 ft).

Observatory Island
Captain Bruni d’Entrecasteaux and Captain Huon de Kermandec sheltered on the lee side of this island in 1792 during a wild storm. While their ships, Le Recherche and L’Esperance , were at anchor Captain d’Entrecasteaux decided to name the bay after the first ship to enter it – L’Esperance.

Salisbury Island
This 3.2 square kilometres (791 acres) island is a breeding ground for the Australian Fur Seal and the New Zealand Fur Seal. This island also supports a population of Black-flanked Rock-wallabys.

Westall Island
70 hectares (173 acres) and

Wilson Island 90 hectares (222 acres) island supports a population of Recherche Rock-wallabys.

The waters around the islands meet steep faces of granite, the extensive reefs and other features form habitat which supports a rich diversity of marine life. This includes over 450 types of sponge, sea grasses, and soft corals. A coral-like algae species, rhodoliths, form beds which support marine species of spiders, snails, and worms, also acting as a creche for scallops. Marine mammals associated with the islands include two species of seal, large groups of common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), and Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata).

The islands support populations of terrestrial flora and fauna, some of which are unique to the archipelago. New Zealand Fur Seal (Arctocephalus forsteri) and Australian Sea-lion (Neophoca cinerea) breeding colonies are found on some islands. Marsupials include Tammar Wallaby's (Macropus eugenii derbianus), Bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus), two subspecies of Rock Wallabies (Petrogale lateralis lateralis and Recherche Archipelago). Snakes include the Recherche Island Dugite (Pseudonaja affinis tanneri) on Cull Island, and the python Morelia spilota imbricata. Other reptiles include the Barking gecko (Underwoodisaurus milii), Ornate Dragon (Ctenophorus ornatus), and the Southern Heath Monitor (Varanus rosenbergi). Two species of frog are also found on the islands; the Quacking Frog (Crinia georgianaand) and Spotted-thighed Frog (Litoria cyclorhyncha).

Many of the species are unique and/or abundant as they are protected from the threats on the mainland.