The rugged beauty of Karijni National Park with its incredible gorges, waterfalls and swimming holes is an absolute highlight of many a Big Lap.
Spanning more than 600,000 hectares, the park in north-west WA promises – and delivers – the ultimate Outback adventure. It’s got everything from stunning scenery and jaw-dropping wildflowers to amazing walks and abundant wildlife.
Despite its remoteness, access to this Pilbara gem is surprisingly easy and, for most of the year, 2WD vehicles can get into the scenic northern sections of the park.
Millions of years of erosion have carved the park’s stunning landscape out of ancient rock. The number and beauty of the gorges within the park is fairly overwhelming, and this is definitely not the sort of place you shoot though after a couple of days. Those who choose to set up camp and truly explore the area will be richly rewarded.
Dales Gorge is one of the highlights and a hike down to the hidden gardens of Circular Pool, and a visit to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool make for a memorable day. There are great walks marked throughout the park but visitors need to use their commonsense and be aware of potentially hazardous footing, possible extreme temperatures, and the sheer physical demands of lengthy walks.
Access to the stunning Hancock Gorge is particularly tricky. Visitors have to climb down a ladder, and then walk through narrow chambers deep into the gorge. It’s a very special experience.
Most grey nomads also enjoy a dip in the natural spa pool at Hamersley Gorge, and there’s an awesome lookout at Joffre Gorge from which you can admire the natural amphitheatre and perhaps enjoy the cascading waterfall if there has been some recent rain.
One of the most spectacular panoramic lookouts in the Pilbara though is the Oxer Lookout which is located at the junction of four gorges. The views isn’t bad either from the top of the second tallest peak in WA, Mount Bruce. There are a few different walks around the mountain, but the hike to the summit is a gruelling nine kilometres … and is not to be taken lightly.
As mentioned earlier, the wildflowers here can be quite stunning in the right season … and the wildlife isn’t bad either. As well as rock wallabies and echidnas, you may be lucky enough to spot the rare pebble mouse. These tiny mice build mounds of pebbles that can be 500mm high and cover up to nine square metres.
There is upmarket, luxury accommodation available at Karijini Eco Retreat near Joffre Gorge but, not surprisingly, most nomads opt for the adjacent and more basic Savannah Campground, or the campsite at Dales Gorge where scavenging dingoes are common visitors.
Karijini then is a location that rarely disappoints. It is a place though that requires some planning to make the most of your time and a visit to the Karijini Visitor Centre is recommended. You don’t want to risk missing anything!