Ancient Life at Lake Thetis, Cervantes: What You Need to Know

It’s not often you get the chance to see a prehistoric living life form.  So when the opportunity presents itself whilst we are visiting Cervantes and the Pinnacles we jump at the chance to say we have seen living life dating back to the Bronze Age. This ancient living life comes in the form of grey cauliflower-shaped Stromatolites at Lake Thetis.

As we explore these fascinating life forms we learn all about the facilities and accessibility at Lake Thetis plus other attractions in the area.

In this Article on Lake Thetis You Will Learn:

Lake Thetis boasts examples of 3500-year-old stromatolites and thrombolites. Learn what to expect at Lake Thetis located near Cervantes and the Pinnacles.
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Lake Thetis

It is an easy 2.2 km drive from the Cervantes townsite down an ochre gravel road to Lake Thetis, where the ancient life forms of stromatolites and thrombolites are located.  Pulling into the car park the lake is quite unassuming at the boardwalk entrance.

Lake Thetis boasts examples of 3500-year-old stromatolites and thrombolites. Learn what to expect at Lake Thetis located near Cervantes and the Pinnacles.
Lake Thetis

Signs at the entrance to Lake Thetis remind us to stay on the 1.5 km boardwalk that loops the lake to help preserve the natural surroundings.  The sign also informs us that the main examples of the stromatolites are located a mere 300 metres from the car park.

We pass over water, reeds and a few of the stromatolites as we stroll along the raised silvered wooden deck.

Reaching a wide section of the decking, large grey stone cushions dot the water’s edge and limestone sandy banks of Lake Thetis.  Whilst the stromatolites and thrombolites look like stepping stones – they are not, and signage reminds us that they are clusters of minute living organisms.

The living stromatolites in lake Thetis. Learn what to expect at Lake Thetis located near Cervantes and the Pinnacles.

As Lake Thetis is a self-guided tour there are metal signs to inform you of all sorts of facts and figures about these microbial communities, including how the stromatolites were created.

Signs explain how the stromotilies were formed at Lake Thetis. Learn what to expect at Lake Thetis located near Cervantes and the Pinnacles.
How stromatolites and thrombolites are formed

We also learn the difference between stromatolites and thrombolites.  The stromatolites are a build-up of layers of microbes.

Stromatolite up close at Lake Thetis. Learn what to expect at Lake Thetis located near Cervantes and the Pinnacles.
Stromatolite up close

Whereas the thrombolites are clusters of cyanobacteria, that look almost like a large overgrown grey cauliflower.

Looking acroos he 3500-year-old stromatolites at Lake Thetis. Learn what to expect at Lake Thetis located near Cervantes and the Pinnacles.
The stromatolites and thrombolites

It is quite awe-inspiring to think these fossils at Lake Thetis are 3500 years old.  Yet they are some of the younger stromatolites found in Western Australia.  There are another four sites to find examples of the prehistoric life form – the oldest (3.5 million years old) is further up the Coral Coast at Hamelin Pool.

Top Trip Tip: The boardwalk is wheelchair and pram friendly

Hansen Bay Lookout

We drive a few minutes up the gravel road from Lake Thetis to discover another breathtaking view.  It is a steep climb up the 70 wooden steps to Hansen Bay Lookout.  But it is well worth it to see the view from the peak of the white sand dune, held in place by the low lying coastal scrub.

The turquoise blue water gleams against the white caps of the ocean as it crashes against the coral reef.

Located near Lake Thetis is Hansen Bay Lookout. The view looks out acoss the Indian Ocean.
The view from Hansen Bay Lookout

Hansen Bay Lookout offers a great vantage point to take in the reefs and islands located off the Coral Coast at Cervantes.

Views from Hansen Bay Lookout located near Lake Thetis.
View of the coral coast

There are also great views inland to the town of Cervantes, in the distance to large white sand dunes and at the horizon the yellow glint of the Pinnacles Desert.

Discover what to expect when you visit the…

Views from Hansens Bay Lookout to the Pinnacles Desert.
Views to the Pinnacles (far right corner) from Hansen Bay Lookout

Gripping the railing I make my way carefully back down the steep rickety steps of Hansen Bay Lookout, I gaze out and see Lake Thetis.  It looks just like a simple little lake and had we not just visited, you would be unaware of the ancient secrets it holds.

View from Hansens Bay Lookout to Lake Thetis.
Lake Thetis

Top Trip Tip: Take it easy climbing the stairs and wear sensible shoes – the stairs aren’t in the best condition

Plan Your Visit to Lake Thetis and Hansen Bay Lookout


These are the Australian Coral Coast official tourism websites.


Lake Thetis is located 2.2 km from the town of Cervantes.  The road is gravel but easily accessible for a two-wheel drive car or a walk.  Hansen Bay Lookout is a further 2 km down the road.

Entrance fee and opening hours

Visiting Lake Thetis is free and open all day.  As is Hansen Bay Lookout.


The boardwalk around Lake Thetis is wheelchair friendly (though do be careful when turning).

The steps up to Hansen Bay Lookout are steep with sand blown over parts of the wooden steps.  Do make use of the rail for safety and take your time going up if you feel puffed.  There is no wheelchair access.

More things to do near Cervantes

Find out about all the…

Places to stay in Cervantes

There are three accommodations available in Cervantes.

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  1. My son is very much into fossils right now so this place would definitely be a bucket list item for him. I like how there are explanatory signs so you can learn more about the area. Need to remember Lake Thetis when we finally get to visit Australia.

    1. Your son would love this area Christina, so many more places with ancient natural wonders.

  2. Looks both education and entertaining. We always love going to sites where the kids can learn something. Our oldest daughter would love this she is right into fossils and such

    1. Your daughter would love the whole area Mark. The Pinnacles nearby are also really interesting, educational and ancient.

  3. despite being West Australian I have never heard of this place!!! We are hoping to get back to the Pinnacles this year so will definately go here too!!! awesome!

    1. I’m West Australian as well and I hadn’t heard of it either. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time at Cervantes and the Pinnacles – I was so impressed with how well set up everything was including the stops along the highway to access the vantage lookouts. Hansens Bay is about the only one that hasn’t been done up.

  4. Despite living in Australia for three years, I have to admit that I had never heard of Lake Thetis before reading this post. It sounds like a fascinating place to visit – my kids would love discovering the fossils – as well as being really beautiful.

    1. I’m a West Australian Katja and spent much of my childhood exploring the state – I had never heard of Lake Thetis before either.

  5. We visited these about 6 years ago on a WA roadtrip, so this post brought back some lovely memories. I think it’s fantatsic how they’ve built the boardwalk – makes it accessible to all.

    1. I’m glad I brought back some happy memories for you Jenny. Gosh without the boardwalk I’m sure the stromatolites and thrombolites would have been being trodden on all the time – so tempting to do.

  6. Mother Nature is certainly amazing, as are the views from up on the dunes. Interesting trip – and it looks like you had the place mostly to yourself. Coupled with the Pinnacles, these have to be some of the most unique wonders in Australia – maybe the world! #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. There were only a handful of other people at Lake Thetis and the Hansens Bay lookout. Completely different from the Pinnacles that were packed. The area is just the tip of the iceberg for unique wonders in Western Australia Rob and Ann – you will have to make time to come down to Aus and explore.

  7. Very interesting post, Sally. I’ve never heard of stromatolites and thrombolites before. From what you are describing they are very similar to the corals, aren’t they? This seems to a very beautiful area to visit. I would have jumped on the opportunity also. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. I suppose a little bit similar Anda. From what I have read on the Great Barrier Reef that whilst it dates back 500 000 years the current living coral lives and builds its home on the old dead coral. So the current living coral isn’t that old unlike the stromatolites and thrombolites which just are thousands of years old.
      Isn’t nature just fascinating 🙂

  8. They do look just like rocks! It’s a good thing they have those signs up or people would just step all over them. Very cool!

    1. I know Michelle. I would have been tempted to hop all over them had the signs been there to explain exactly what they were.

  9. Those views are beautiful, definitely worth the steps! And so nice that it is free. I am fascinated by the fossils too. #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. We are really lucky Anisa, that a lot of our natural attractions here in Western Australia are either free or a low cost to enter.

  10. Oh how cool! Never heard of such a thing before! I wouldn’t have known and just thought they were normal rocks! #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    1. I hadn’t heard of them before either Lolo and then to discover there are more locations for them in Western Australia really surprised me.

  11. The stromatolites are also responsible for the formations In Mono Lake, California. In here, they are tall and wide (so, I think they are older). I can’t believe there are other similar lakes on other parts of the planet. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. I didn’t realise that had some in California as well Ruth. When I was doing a bit of research on them I did see some photos of taller stromatolites.

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