There are few places that literally take your breath away and at the same time quite difficult to explain the beauty in words. It will not fail to impress and most definitely worth a visit, or a few. The scale and magnitude of Karijini National Park really is amazing. Located in the Hamersley Ranges the Karijini National Park truly is a spectacular experience. There are sparkling rock pools, sheer cliff faces, waterfalls and breathtaking gorges. Karijini National Park is over 2 billion years old and still stunning! Over many millions of years, these iron-rich deposits gradually turned into the tough well-bedded rock you find in the park today.
The expansive Karijini National Park is Western Australia’s second largest spanning 627,422 hectares (WA’s largest National Park is also located in the Pilbara called Karlamilyi National Park). Formerly called Hamersley National Park by European explorer F.T. Gregory who explored the area in 1861 and named the Hamersley Range, a major feature of Karijini National Park, after his close friend Edward Hamersley.
The most popular time to explore is May through to September as the temperatures are more mild but be aware that if you are staying the night there the temperature can plummet to zero and is very frosty. In summer the temperatures can reach 40+ degrees Celsius!
There is a visitor centre embedded within the park. The building itself represents a goanna moving through the country and is symbolic to the local Banyjima Aboriginal people. The design of the building is where the goanna tail represents the Aboriginal history with the head representing the future of the traditional owners. Aboriginal Law is in the stomach (the centre of the goanna). The information centre is on the eastern side of the park and is open from 9am – 4 pm, however, it is closed during cyclone season (December to February).
Does Karijini cater for those in wheelchairs? There is assisted wheelchair access to Junction Pool Lookout, the Weano Day Use area and Circular Pool Lookout and some of the other gorges have vantage points at the top so there is the ability to view the scenery although some aspects are not wheelchair accessible such as Fern Pool.
You can enter Karijini National Park from Tom Price, Karratha, Port Hedland or Newman. Tom Price is the closest town about 1-1.5 hrs away. Newman being the next closest at 4 hours, Port Hedland takes a little over 5.5 hours and Karratha takes 7.5 hours unless you get a permit and take the Tom Price Rail Rio Access road where it reduces the time to approx 5 hours although the majority (all bar 90 km) of this is on an unsealed road.
There are many gorges but by far the most popular are Dales Gorge, Joffre Falls, Hamersley Gorge, Weano Gorge, and Circular Pool. Aside from the gorges the wildflowers are beautiful and depending on the season will depend on which wildflower you will see. There is also an abundance of wildlife you may see, but not guaranteed, birds, kangaroos, dingoes, snakes, gecko’s, echidna’s, emus….
The colours of the rocks and cliffs really has to be seen to appreciate the brightness and crispness of the colour. Photos don’t seem to capture it entirely.
Let me tell you more about two of the most popular gorges to give you a taste of the scenery. The National Park has a selection of walking trails that cater to all levels from beginner to adventurous. Hancock Gorge for example it is recommended to visit with a tour guide to be best appreciated and for safety as you scale down a ladder which narrows into a huge chamber.
Dales Gorge – This gorge is located on the eastern side of the park. To reach the bottom and explore the gorge and all it has to offer you scale down the 286 steps down to the gorge and you will be greeted with Fortescue Falls cascading down the rock face into a permanent pool of water. You can also do through to a few hundred metres to Fern Pool. Fern Pool is approx a 10 minute walk through and is by far the most popular and picturesque settings in the entire park. You can camp at the nearby campground. Fees are applicable although you are not able to book a camp spot in advance of your arrival.
Hamersley Gorge– This gorge is located on the north west edge of the park. The unusual colours of this gorge set it aside from the rest and the definition of the rock formation. This gorge is a popular photographers paradise for that reason. This is a popular gorge due to the ease of accessibility for families to reach and swim. There is no camping available here.
It is a National Park and so there are fees that apply. They are very reasonable and worth the cost. There is a point at the entries to pop the fee into a box. If you pay via this method be prepared with change as it is not manned and therefore have correct change or run the risk of paying more than the fee with a note.
If you plan on visiting this National Park or other National Parks in WA it may be more economical to purchase a annual pass which enables limitless entries within the year per car. Alternatively, if you are on holidays to WA you can also purchase a holiday pass which will cover numerous entries into National Parks for 4 weeks. There are senior discounts.
Day Pass: $13 per car, $7 for seniors
Holiday Pass: 4-week Pass: $46 (all parks in WA)
Annual Pass: $92 per vehicle (all parks in WA) or $58 for concession holders
If you are a local you can purchase a Annual Local Pass: $23 per vehicle.
Option 1: Dales Gorge campground which is located near the gorge namesake. It is a perfect place to explore the eastern side of the park. There are 140 unpowered sites available, however, you can not pre-book a site prior to arrival. There are basic bush toilets, BBQ’s and picnic tables. Fees do apply for this campground.
Option 2: Savannah campground which is located within the Karijini Eco Retreat. Here there are 82 unpowered sites although you can use a generator between 4-8 pm if necessary. As it is on the retreat grounds you have access to solar powered hot showers, toilets (not bush toilets proper flushing toilets), covered bush camp kitchen and BBQ and of course accessibility to the facilities of the restaurant, bar and kiosk of the retreat. There is a public pay phone.
Option 3: Karijini Eco Retreat which provides a Eco friendly, sustainable accommodation option. This is bar far the more expensive option, however, if you don’t have your own camp gear and would like to stay this could be an option. There are a few ‘glamping’ tent configuration options and the prices range from just over $200 to over $500 per night depending on the package, tent, etc. The resort is solar powered. Booking can be made through the retreat for a stay and bookings are essential for the restaurant.