The spectacular landscape of Karijini National Park has been carved out over two billion years.
By Kris Madden & Georgia Rickard
Set in the heart of Western Australia’s Pilbara region, Karijini National Park is Western Australia's second largest national park and will take you on a journey through two billion years of the Earth's natural history. Descend into ancient cavernous gorges, scale some of the oldest rocks on the planet, paddle in crystal-clear waterways and cool off with a swim beneath cascading waterfalls. Camp under an uutback sky or enjoy back-to-nature luxury in an eco-retreat. There is also an amazing network of walking trails, ranging from easy to challenging, that wind through some of Australia’s most awesome scenery.
- Swim in spring-fed pools beneath Fortescue Falls
- See Oxer Lookout’s unforgettable views over the junction of four mighty gorges
- Stay at an Aboriginal-owned eco-retreat in a national park
How to get there
Karijini National Park is approximately 1400 kilometres (870 miles), or a 17 hour drive, from Perth. The road trip is an experience in itself, but you can also fly to the towns of Paraburdoo or Newman from Perth. Both towns offer a limited number of hire cars (4WD is recommended if you want to access all sites); alternatively you can take a bus transfer from Paraburdoo Airport to the town of Tom Price, where you can join a Karijini day tour. Once you’ve entered the park, its wild, weathered landscapes are surprisingly accessible with waterfalls, emerald pools and plunging gorges beginning just beyond the car park. Bring walking boots for the huge selection of walking tracks, which range from easy to arduous and snake through the stunning scenery.
Top things to do in Karijini National Park
Swim in freshwater pools
Located within Dales Gorge, on the eastern side of Karijini National Park, you'll find a wonderful swimming hole at Fortescue Falls. From the carpark it will take you roughly one hour to walk down a staircase and along clear paths to the falls, but you'll be well-rewarded for your efforts. You can also swim nearby in the refreshing, spring-fed Fern Pool, or tackle the two-hour return hike to picturesque Circular Pool, at the gorge's other end.
Learn about Aboriginal culture
Begin your exploration of Karijini National Park at the Karijini Visitor Centre. Designed to represent a goanna moving through the country, an animal with strong significance for the local Banyjima Aboriginal people, the centre has a range of interactive displays showcasing geology, plants, animals and Aboriginal culture.
Stay at an eco-retreat
In the heart of Karijini National Park (within walking distance of Joffre Gorge) you'll find Karijini Eco Retreat. This haven, owned by the local Gumala Aboriginal Corporation, has a range of accommodation options, from camping sites to deluxe eco tents with full facilities. The on-site open air restaurant serves hearty meals with a traditional outback flavour.
See Oxer Lookout’s unforgettable views
The short walk to Oxer Lookout will gift you with spectacular views over the junction of four gorges: Weano, Red, Hancock and Joffre. Many consider the view from Oxer Lookout to be one of the most spectacular sights in Western Australia; the vantage point offers a unique perspective of the area's enormity and grandeur. Oxer Lookout is also easily accessible via an 800 metre (half a mile) walk from the Weano Gorge Day Use Area carpark.
Tour Hancock Gorge
The hike into Hancock Gorge has been described as a “journey to the centre of the earth” for its steep descent into multi-hued, layered rock. After climbing down a ladder you'll walk deep into the gorge itself through narrow chambers and past rock pools, before arriving at Kermit’s Pool (named for its striking green hue), where you'll want to take many photographs and perhaps a cooling swim. As this walk can be challenging, it's advisable to explore Hancock Gorge accompanied by a local guide; tours can be booked at Karijini Eco Retreat.
Wander among wildflowers
Karijini’s rugged red gorges boast abundant native vegetation such as spinifex, mulga, ghost gums and fig trees. Between June and September, colourful wildflowers such as wattles, lemongrass and northern bluebells bloom across the landscape. You may also spot rock wallabies, dingoes and the abundant birdlife that call Karijini home.
Climb Mount Bruce
Travellers with abundant energy will love the challenging 10 kilometre (6 mile) hike to the summit of Mount Bruce and the reward of soaring views over the spinifex covered plains and surrounding Hamersley Range. At 1234 metres (4048 feet), it will take you approximately six hours. Do not attempt this walk on your own.
Swim in a natural spa
The natural, heart shaped "spa pool" at Hamersley Gorge is coloured a striking ice-blue and is so named for its natural bubbling fed by a gorgeous waterfall. It's a challenging one kilometre (0.6 mile) hike through a thin, tree-lined chasm to get here via the Hamersley Gorge Walk, but you'll see why people often return here: spa pool is a haven for bathers and photographers alike.
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