When travelling through Western Australia in a car or camper, Karijini National Park is an absolute must do! It offers some of Australias most stunning scenery and natural beauty. Situated about 3 to 4 hours south of Port Hedland and about 6 to 7 hours east of Exmouth, Karijini lies in the remote Pilbara region.
So why should you visit Karijini National Park?
First up, what more can we say about the landscape and the sheer expanse of the park?! It’s the second largest park in Western Australia covering a huge geographical region.
Second the vast array of colours. Whether it’s the red rock contrasting with the blue sky or the ancient green trees. It really does feel like you’ve set foot in Jurassic Park.
Thirdly the number of hikes and activities you can do here, from exploring the many gorges by foot, to swimming in natural water holes, to camping under the stars – Karijini National Park provides so much at such little cost. The National Park pass cost $13 per day per car, however if you’re exploring other National Parks in Western Australia or spending longer at Karijini then look into buying a month long Holiday Pass for $44 like we did.
Visiting Karijini National Park was such a privilege, due to the history and cultural significance. It’s now become one of our favourite places in Australia, and you’ll quickly realise why once you visit too.
Pre Trip Information
Be sure to come prepared, because accommodation in and around the park is limited and all the attractions can be up to two hours from each other via sealed (white) or unsealed (grey) roads. To get an idea of the park and how the roads connect everything, check out this map:
If you’re coming from Exmouth, make sure to stop in Tom Price to fuel up and grab supplies so you’re ready for the National Park. As there are no fuel or vehicle repair facilities in the Karijini area, make sure you are well prepared with adequate supplies and necessary car checks in place before you come here – we received a slow puncture inside the National Park and had to drive (very) slowly all the way back to Tom Price to get it fixed!
The best time to visit Karijini National Park is preferably during the cooler months from April to October, when the temperature and rain is significantly lower. However, we visited in mid-March and although it was over 40°C, it was bearable because of the many swimming holes filled with water. If you do go in the cooler / dryer season, it might be too cold and too dry to be able to go for a swim here and there.
The following itinerary is suited for travelling west to east (e.g. Exmouth – Tom Price – Karijini – Port Hedland). If you’re going the opposite way, basically just turn it around and do the opposite.
Day 1: Mount Bruce and Hamersley Gorge
Start the first day by climbing the second highest mountain in Western Australia. It’s a fairly challenging 10km return hike, but well worth it for the amazing views over the Karijini mountain range.
You should start this hike as early as possible, especially in the warmer months from November to April. That means you should be back by midday and you can then spend the afternoon relaxing and hanging out at Hamersley Gorge. It’s a beautiful, swimmable gorge on the north-western edge of Karijini. It is definitely a bit out of the way of the other attractions in Karijini National Park, but well worth the detour if you’re planning to spend a couple of hours here. We loved it so much we spent the day chilling down at the gorge and exploring the surrounding area!
Signs have recently been put into place saying please don’t climb up the waterfall to the next set of pools, including the famous ‘spa pool’ but let’s just say you’ll be missing out if you obey these signs 😉
Day 2: Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge, Joffrey Falls and Knox Gorge
The western part of the park offers a wide range of challenging but fairly short walks ranging from a few hundred metres to around three kilometres. If you have extra time, you can split this up into two days, which would allow you to take in the swimming holes and views for a longer time. It is certainly doable in a day though, if you start early.
The best option is to either stay at the Karijini Eco Retreat or the Savannah Campground within the National Park the night before, so you can make the most of your day there. If you’re more into free camping there are a number outside of the National Park, and we suggest you download WikiCamps App for more details.
Weano Gorge: Handrail Pool
We suggest you start the day with this short hike down to Handrail Pool. It’s only 150 metres return however it’ll take you around 30 minutes to complete due to steep and rough surfaces down to the bottom. As you guessed it you’ll need to hold onto a handrail (which can get very hot during the midday sun) and scramble your way down.
Hancock Gorge: Amphitheatre and Spider Walk to Kermit Pool
This was our favourite gorge by far and one not to be missed. It requires a bit of agility, but please don’t let that put you off! It’s a short 1.5 kilometre return however it’ll take around 2 hours to complete due to numerous obstacles including ladders, walking through water and navigating the famous Spider Walk (don’t worry there are no spiders!).
Once you reach the end, you’ll get to Kermit Pool a stunning swimming hole surrounded by towering red rock. Please note: the trail ends at Kermit Pool so do not proceed past this point.
Oxer Lookout + Junction Pool Lookout
If you love stunning lookouts and natural scenery this one is for you. Just a short walk from the main car park you’ll get to two viewing platforms looking out onto Weano Gorge. The hiking map suggests a 30 minute return walk to both lookouts but honestly it’s more like 10 minutes!
Joffrey Falls and Knox Gorge
Unfortunately after hiking to the lookouts, we noticed a slow puncture in our tyre and needed to head back to Tom Price to get it repaired. Thus, we missed out on Joffrey Falls and Knox Gorge sadly. From other travellers, it’s a beautiful curved waterfall forming a natural amphitheatre. It’s a 1.5 kilometre hike taking around an hour to complete.
Knox Gorge is a deep chasm that intersects Wittenoom Gorge just along from the Knox Lookout. This trail takes you down into the gorge past fig trees which cling to the rock walls. There are rocks to scramble over and beautiful pools which you can swim in. This is the longest hike on the Western side at roughly 3 kilometres return taking 2 hours to complete.
Depending on where in the park you’re planning to sleep (Karijini Eco Retreat / Savannah campground on the western side, or Dales campground on the eastern side), you can either visit Kalamina Gorge this evening or the next morning.
Be sure to know the road conditions of the connecting access road, because it can vary quite a lot depending on how recently it has been graded. We couldn’t go because of our tyre, but when we went, it was perfectly fine for all types of cars. Otherwise you’ll have to go on a detour along Karijini Drive and miss out on Kalamina Gorge.
Day 3: Dales Gorge including Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool
The eastern side of Karijini National Park consists mainly of Dales Gorge. The longer hike in Dales Gorge leads you to Circular Pool and takes roughly an hour each way. The much shorter hike to Fortescue Falls and onwards to Fern Pool is equally as rewarding and our favourite in the side of the park.
The best place to stay the night before if you’re able to camp or staying in a camper-van is Dales Gorge Campground costing $11 per person per night. If you’re only renting a car then the Eco Retreat is your best bet. From the Dales Camping Area, you could actually walk to all the sights!
What to Take to Karijini National Park
Along with the usual kit, there are a few things that we found would be especially helpful to take to Karijini National Park…
- 3-6 Litres of water per person per day depending on how much hiking you’ll be doing.
- Headlamp for dusk/dawn walks.
- Good water shoes or light walking shoes (you don’t need boots for the day walks).
- Sunhat for protection.
- Insect Repellent.
- Swimwear for gorge pools.
- Good camera like our Sony A7Rii or Sony A77.
- GoPro Hero 5 (UK Based GoPro).
- Hiking daypack to carry it all in.
- Fly needs in summer.
Have you been to Karijini National Park? Or heading there soon? We’d love to know!
Do you have Pinterest? Save it for later!