© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Existing models of coastal occupation, in one form or another, embrace the assumption that changes in mean sea level were the prime driver for shifts in coastal resource productivity of consequence to coastal foragers. Focusing on the North West Shelf of Australia, this paper considers the role of physical sedimentary processes in understanding both past coastal resource productivity and the archaeology of drowned coastal landscapes. From a review of up-to-date literature on sea-level related coastal formation process related to the North West Shelf, we describe the complex interplay of sea-level change and sedimentary processes in determining (i) coastal resource availability, and (ii) archaeological site preservation potential through time. We argue that human behavioral models that have been linked solely to changes in sea level change from ca. 45 ka onward along the Australia continental shelf have inadequately accounted for local sedimentary regimes. It is not past sea-level per se, which is of relevance to coastal productivity and human behavioral ecology models but changes in tidal regimes, coastal configurations and sedimentation. We conclude that our understanding of maritime adaptations for Sahul (Greater Australia) remain incomplete without investigating former coastlines and archaeological information that now lies submerged offshore.