Dating back two billion years and stretching over 400,000sqkm, the Pilbara’s rugged landscapes are some of the world’s most broad and ancient. Stunning island peninsulas, beaches, reefs, underwater gardens, ancient wildernesses and modern industrial sites…the remote and largely undisturbed Pilbara is a landscape of contrasts that has to be seen to be believed.
The true beauty of this land can be found in Millstream Chichester National Park, and further inland at Karijini National Park, the jewel of the north and a destination that deserves to feature on everyone’s bucket list.
More pristine beauty can be found on the Dampier Coast’s dazzling white beaches, at the Montebello Islands, and the Mackerel Islands, near the seaside town of Onslow. Charter a boat or plane to take you out over untouched coral gardens, and you can cast a line, or snorkel with turtles and dolphins. Whales can be seen migrating from July to October.
There are more than 31 Aboriginal language groups in the Pilbara region, and, for many of the Indigenous inhabitants, traditional law practices and custodianship obligations are an essential part of their identities. Visitors are encouraged to be respectful of culturally significant sites, including the Burrup Peninsula.
The fragile Pilbara has been labelled ‘the Engine Room of Australia’, and is home to massive mining operations for crude oil, salt, natural gas and iron ore. Don’t be disturbed. When you fly over the Pilbara you realise the mining operations are mere pin-pricks in this vast, resource-rich region.
The two largest Pilbara towns, Karratha and Port Hedland, both owe their existences to mining. Port Hedland was established in 1896, but truly took off in the 1960s, when iron ore was discovered at Mount Whaleback. Servicing ships of a quarter of a million tonnes, the port now handles the greatest tonnage in Australia. Karratha has had a similar rags-to-riches tale: established in the 60s to accommodate iron-ore miners, it’s been a base for the Dampier’s offshore natural gas-drilling platforms since the 80s. Various tours are available and worth doing to appreciate the magnitude of these operations.
Mining town locals looking to enjoy some hard-earned R&R head to the resort town of Point Samson at the eastern tip of the Dampier Archipelago.
Qantas, Virgin and Airnorth fly from Perth to Karratha, Port Hedland, Paraburdoo, and Newman.
The Pilbara is a 1481km drive from Perth. Take either the North West Coastal Highway or the Great Northern Highway.
Places to stay
Karratha and Port Hedland have accommodation options from motel and hotel, to holiday park, caravan park, self-contained and hostel.
At Karijini National Park, you can pitch a tent at Dales Campground (first in, first served). Alternatively, Karijini Eco Retreat offers campsites, eco tents with ensuites, dorm-style eco tents, and cabins.
Camp sites are available at Millstream Chichester National Park. Peak season is mid-April to early October.
Eighty Mile Beach caravan park has 150 powered and unpowered sites, plus cabins, a mini-mart and fresh water on tap. No bookings necessary.
The Pilbara is also home to luxury lodges and station stays, including the working station of Cheela Plains, which is the perfect overnight stop en route from Karijini to Carnarvon, with a space for camping.
You’ll find a wide range of accommodation in Point Samson, from resorts, chalets and boutique bed and breakfasts to modern caravan parks and holiday homes – all on the beautiful Indian Ocean. Take a stroll at sunset or sunrise along the beach at Honeymoon Cove, or have a picnic or barbecue on the grass as the sun sets over the water.