All of West Australia is beautiful, but the North West…is something else. There is a vast variety of landscapes and natural wonders you can experience. Gorges, waterfalls, natural phenomenons, mountains, spectacular reefs, unique coastlines and white sand beaches. This road trip guide will be focusing on some of the best spots in the Pilbara and Kimberley. This guide doesn’t nearly cover the half of what you can see and do, so do a bit more research because there is so much more to explore.
If you have the time, you could easily spend a month of two just in this part of the North West. I’ll definitely be driving up again when i have the time, would love to do the Gibb River Road! This isn’t an itinerary, rather more a road trip guide. However, you can drive this in the order listed. Ill give a couple of tips at the end of the blog on how you can change it to suit your plans.
Table of Contents
Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park can be found about 1380 km from Perth. It offers waterfalls, gorges, swimming holes, mountains and impressive hikes. A visit to Karijini should definitely be on the list for your Pilbara and Kimberley travels. There is plenty to do in the National Park, so I’m going to narrow it down to what I think is a must. If you want a more in depth guide about Karijini National Park, visit my blog here. This park has entry fees.
- Hamersley Gorge: Multiple swimming holes and the famous ‘spa’ pool, found on instagram. The walk to the waterfall can be slippery and requires rock scrambling. Do not attempt his if you are not physically able and wear suitable shoes!
- Mount Bruce: A 9 km hike to the summit, with spectacular views. The second highest peak in West Australia. I’d recommend this to experienced hikers and to be completed in the morning.
- Joffre Falls: They recently made this easier to access the pool by adding staircases. A short 1.5km walk to the bottom of the pool.
- Hancock Gorge and Kermit pool: A beautiful walk through the gorge, some swimming or rock scrambling is required. Be careful with this walk, it can be very slippery, hiking experience is recommended.
- Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool: Located near Dales campground and the most impressive falls in the National Park.
- Dales Campground: A DPAW campsite, with multiple spots. Can be booked online or on arrival. I do recommend booking in advance as it does book out during peak times. Priced at $11 per night per person.
- Karijini Eco Resort: Offering unpowered campsites, eco cabins and eco tents with or without private ensuites. Prices ranging from $22 for campsites and $220 for eco cabins/tents.
- Rest stops: There are two rest stops that are close to the park, these are the cheapest options if your happy to drive into the park each day. There is a rest stop on the corner of Karijini Dr and Tom Price-Paraburdoo Rd, it is close to the trains but it is a good spot to camp for the night (no bathrooms). The last one is, Albert Tognilini rest area, the most scenic rest stop in WA. This has plenty of spots to stay, and you can leave your locked caravan (wouldn’t recommend leaving a tent). This rest stop doesn’t have toilets.
Millstream National Park
Located 1520 km from Perth and 286 km (roughly 4hr drive) from Karijini. This National Park is usually missed by many travellers, Karijini being the more prefered park. Such a shame as Millstream has so many beautiful places to explore! Covering approximately 200 000 hectares around the Fortescue River, offering stunning gorges and rock pools. Similar to Karijini, there are many things to see and do, these sites are at the top of my list. This park has entry fees.
- Python Pool: The most popular pool, with bbq area and several walks. Venture up to the top of Python pool to experience an infinity pool with impressive views.
- Deep Reach Pool: Another large swimming hole, great for kayaking, swimming or canoeing.
- The Camel Trail: The walk starts at Python Pool and takes you along the Chichester Ranges, McKenzie Spring and to the base of Mt Herbert. This trail is 8 km one way, and will take roughly 6 hrs for a return trip. Be sure the bring plenty of water with you.
- Stargazers DPAW campgrounds: As you probably guessed by the name, a great place to see the stars. This campground requires bookings. Non flush toilets, BBQs and picnic tables are available. This campground is generator free and not suitable for large vehicles.
- Miliyanha DPAW campgrounds: This campground is close to Millstream creek and is suitable for all vehicle types (generators permitted). Non flush toilets, BBQs, picnic tables and dishwashing facilities can be found at this campground. Bookings required.
Cape Keraudren/Pardoo station
This is a great little stopping point to enjoy the North West coast for a day or two. It is on the way to broome, so it’s a great place to stop to break up the driving. Cape Keraudren is roughly 440 km from Millstream (about 5.5hrs) and Pardoo station is 407 km (about 5 hrs).
Entry fee into Cape Keraudren is $12 per vehicle and $10 per adult per night. I stayed here on my most recent trip and how would I explain my stay? Well..first of all get yourself some sandfly protection because I got eaten alive and had to deal with super itchy legs for the rest of my trip. It wasn’t pleasant. Second, the weather was a bit temperamental during my 1 night stay. When I arrived it was super hot and humid, then cooled down heaps at night. In the morning it was blowing a gale, I got woken up by the wind!
Would I still recommend stopping here? If you are happy to drive all the way to Broome, I wouldn’t bother. I’m not saying its a bad place but I’m not saying it’s the best. There are a few camping spots available, I stayed at the top of grassed area and got great views of the ocean all to myself.
TIP: Try stay away from the mangroves, you WILL get eaten alive.
I haven’t had the pleasure of staying at Pardoo Station, but have heard good things. The only accomodation available here are powered sites, priced at $40 a night. You can access some great beaches via vehicle from this station. I’d recommend staying here if you have a caravan.
Wouldn’t be a North West trip without a visit to Broome! A great place to relax and explore. This is going to be controversial, but I think you only really need 1-3 days in Broome to see everything. Spend the other time exploring the Dampier Peninsula. If your not like me and like to spend some time doing absolutely nothing, you could easily spend longer and just relax in the sun.
- Gantheaume point and dinosaur footprints: Only 10 mins from Broomes town centre a good little day trip. You can only see the dinosaur footprints at very low tide, preserved in reef rock. Just after high tide, go for an explore around the point and you might be lucky enough to find some secret rock pools. TIP: look for the chimney and follow it down to the ocean.
- Reddell beach: Unusual rock formations along a white sand beach, great spot to relax for the day.
- Willie Creek: Go and check out the Pearl farm or even go on a tour. During low tide is a great time to fly the drone and get some unique shots of the sandbanks. You will need a 4WD to get here as the roads are sandy and corrugated.
- Town beach: Another good spot to fly the drone and get some instagram shots. The different colours of the mangroves, sand and ocean make for a unique colour palette.
- Coulomb point: This is out on the Dampier Peninsula and can be a little hard to find. You will need a 4WD to get here. Visit during low tide and you will be rewarded with rock pools to swim in! Another good spot to fly to drone.
- Coconut wells: Another one to visit just after low tide for some drone shots. This is one of those spots you’re going to have to go to and do a little wondering to find. Google maps will take you to a car park via a sealed road, from here you will need to take the 4WD tracks to the beach. I can’t give you an exact point where you’ll find them so you’ll just have to go do a little exploring!
- Dampier Peninsula: A must do! I only went a little further then James Price Point (description below), but you could easily spend 2-3 days out here exploring. You can drive via 2WD to Cape Leveque, you will need a 4WD to do the off roads towards the coastline. I definitely recommend doing this if you have the time.
James Price Point
One of my favourite places I’ve visited in the North West. The contrast of the red cliffs meeting the blue ocean is something needed to be seen in person. Getting to James Price Point will require a high clearance 4WD as the tracks in are corrugated and sandy in some spots. I’ll take about 1-2 hrs to drive from broome, depending on how fast you drive along the corrugations.
James Price has some camping spots with the best views and they are all free! Take the time to drive to different parts of the cliffs to find one that suits you, you can camp on the beach or on top of the cliffs. You need to be fully self contained, so make sure you bring and take everything with you after you’ve visited. I’d recommend staying 1-3 days out here, or stay 1 night and explore the rest of the Dampier Peninsula.
Wolfe Creek Crater
Wolfe Creek Crater is 2780 km from Perth, or 843 km from James Price if you follow this list. The road to Wolfe Creek Crater is rough corrugation and has the worst bull dust I have ever experienced, I’m still finding it in all the crevices of my car. If you decide to trek out to the crater, beware it is literally in the middle of nowhere. Bring plenty of water and supplies with you. How would I describe the crater? I’ll be honest..it’s one of those places you go visit once and check off your bucket list. I’m not saying the crater isn’t very impressive to see in person and walk around, just that’s the only thing to do out there so once you’ve done it, well…you’ve done it.
Wolfe Creek Crater, DPAW campsite: This was one of my favourite campsites. It is that silent out there, you can hear the desert and the sky is full of stars. A campers dream really. This campsite just has drop loo toilets, with a mixture of large and small campsites. There are no bookings for this campsite, it is a first come first serve basis and will cost you $8 for the night.
Purnululu National Park
My all time favourite National Park (so far). You will find Purnululu National Park roughly 2820 km from Perth, 300 km (4.5hr drive) from Wolfe Creek Crater or 291km from Kununurra. This is where you will find the famous beehive domes and all I’ve got to say is it’s a MUST visit. I’ve written a more indepth blog about Purnululu National Park, so I’m going to keep this one short. If you’d like to read the blog you can access it here.
- Echidna Chasm: An impressive 2km return walk which leads you through the gorges. If you complete this walk at the correct time of day you will be rewarded with the gorge filling with sunlight, creating a remarkable glow. Check with the visitor centre for times.
- Mini Palms Gorge: A bit of a longer walk, 4.4km return from the carpark. On this walk you will be rewarded with contrasting colours from the palms and the gorges. This walk follows a river bed, so it can be uneven and uncomfortable on the feet.
- Cathedral Gorge: The most popular walk in the National Park. A 2km return walk from Piccaninny car park, the Piccaninny and gorge trail is accessible via this track. At the end of this walk you will get to experience a beautiful natural amphitheatre which was created by rushing water over time. The acoustics are fantastic.
- Kungkalanayi lookout: This is the best lookout to watch sunset. I recommend going to Piccaninny car park for sunrise.
I’ve put Kununurra on this list because it is a great place to base yourself if you are planning on flying up and renting a car. This is aso the best place to make base if you plan on doing tours and not self driving into any of the National Parks. Majority of the tours going to El Questro, Purnululu National Park, Lake Argyle and others leave from here. You will also find some of the best helicopter flights depart from here. I only stopped in Kununurra for 1 night as it made it easier to do my helicopter flight in the morning. That not saying there are places to explore here!
- Mirima National Park: This National Park is only 2 km outside Kununurra. It is locally known as the mini Bungle Bungles. It has some impressive walks with great views, and I do recommended visiting for an hour or so if you are up there.
- Ivanhoe Crossing: This is the old crossing over the Ord River, you will need a 4WD. This is a great place to fly the drone for some impressive shots. There are crocs in this area so beware when getting out of your car/crossing. Unfortunately I could not cross when I was up in Kununurra as it was too deep, and I currently don’t have a snorkel on my car. Next time!
- Black Rock Falls: Only a short 35min drive (32 km) from Kununurra, you will find this beautiful waterfall and swimming hole. You will need a 4WD to access this falls.
Helispirit Scenic Flight: This is a great way to see the Kimberley’s from above! From Kununurra you have a variety of flight options from, waterfalls, Lake Argyle, Bungle Bungles and croc spotting. I booked the private waterfall swim and picnic helicopter flight. It was amazing! Had a great pilot who knew heaps about the area, we flew over lake Argyle and the ranges before landing at our very own private waterfall. The waterfall was freezing, but it was nice to have it all to ourselves. If you’re happy to slurg a bit, definitely go on a helicopter flight!
A hikers and nature lovers paradise. El Questro has some of the best hikes in the Kimberley’s, and some of the best scenery. Located 103 km (about 1.5hrs) from Kununurra, you will need a 4WD to access El Questro, after the wet season expect some river crossings. I spent 2 days here but could easily of spent up to 5 days. I was very unfortunate that when I visited a lot of the hikes were closed due to flooding. Due to this reason I would recommend going later in the dry season, only downside is the waterfalls may not be running.
If you are not into hiking, there is still plenty to do. 4WD’ing, fishing, helicopter flights and other adventures are all available to experience at El Questro. Check upon arrival about where you can swim or not. After a heavy wet season saltwater crocs can make their way down to El Questro. A visitor permit is needed to visit El questro, $22 per adult and $11 per child.
- Zebedee springs: The best spot to visit in my opinion and my dads (he didn’t want to leave). These springs are a short walk from the car park and are so relaxing after you’ve done a lot of hiking. These springs are only open to the public from 7am- 12pm, so make sure you plan right so you don’t miss out. I recommend either going first thing in the morning or just before closing. It does get busy, you are very unlikely to have these to yourself. I may of been the first to arrive at the gate before opening (6.30am), done a sneaky run once in to secure a good spot for my dad and I. Worth it, we go a little pool to ourselves for almost 2 hrs.
- Emma gorge: Just a note that this walk doesn’t actually start in El Questro, it starts at Emma Gorge resort. Best to do this walk on your way in or out of El Questro. A very picturesque 3.2 km return walk. You will walk by crystal clear watering holes into the rugged cockburn ranges, to be rewarded with a fresh waterfall at the end. Suitable footwear is recommend, as you will need to scramble over some rocks which may be slippery.
- Amalia gorge: This trail is a bit more difficult then the Emma gorge trail. I’d definitely recommend some hiking experience, suitable footwear and to be at least a little bit fit (then again my 63 yr old dad could do it). One this walk you will need to climb around a large boulder (there is a chain to hold onto), climb up a few different rock faces and scramble across a few rocks. At the end you will be rewarded with a beautiful waterfall and swimming hole! I will say, I am an experienced hiker and I found some of the climbs a bit hairy, especially the one after Ochre pool. There are plenty of swimming holes along this walk, apparently there is a freshwater croc that lives here, but I didn’t see him!
- Pigeon Hole 4WD track: A fairly easy 4WD track with a few river crossings. This is a great place to come and watch the sunset.
- Saddleback Ridge 4WD track: I do not recommend this track if you have little to no 4WD’ing experience. This track is very steep and has multiple switch backs which can make it difficult to navigate if you have on coming traffic. If you have to pick one track to do I recommend Pigeon hole, it has better views.
- Champagne springs: Closed when I visited.
- Moonshine gorge circuit: A 5km return hike, closed when I visited.
- El Questro gorge trail: A 7.2 km return hike. I didn’t complete this hike as the road was extremely flooded.
- Helispirit helicopter flights: If you have the money I recommend going on a helicopter flight. You will get to see some parts of El questro which are not accessible via car.
- El Questro Homestead: The most expensive option with rooms prices from $2155 per night. If you can afford that, this would be such a nice place to stay. You get your meals, drinks, and tours included with this accommodation.
- EL Questro Station: The station offers garden or river view rooms starting from $485 a night. There are multiple camping options, including camping tents, private riverside camping, powered or unpowered campsites. These campgrounds have a kitchen, bathroom and laundry facilities. I stayed at this campground, and the sites are really small. There is a tall sprinkler right in the middle of each campsite which is super annoying and inconvenient. The Station has a pub and entertainment, so it does have a good vibe. I’ll be honest, this was probably my least favourite campsite on my Kimberley’s trip.
- Emma Gorge Resort: Prices start at $350 per night. Accommodation includes 60 powered safari style tents with ensuites.
Lake Argyle is WA’s largest freshwater reservoir, part of the Ord River Irrigation System. Located very close the Northern Territory border, 173 km (roughly 2hrs) from El Questro and 71 km (roughly 1 hr) from Kununurra. There are plenty of things you can do in Lake Argyle from boat cruises, helicopter flights, scuba diving, water sports, hiking, mountain biking, the list goes on! I only got to spend 1 night at Lake Argyle, so I spent that time enjoying the view from the famous instagramable infinity pool. Take it from me it has the BEST views, absolutely freezing cold though. The coldest pool I’ve ever been in, it’s worth it for the views. I didn’t have time to explore any other parts of the lake which was unfortunate, however you could easily spend 2-5 days here.
Lake Argyle Caravan Park: This place has the BEST vibes, hands down best caravan park I’ve stayed at. A range of accommodation is on offer from lake view villas from $399 per night, cabins from $299 per night, powered campsites from $31.50 per night and unpowered campsites from $19.50 per night. The park comes with facilities including bathroom, laundry, restaurant, pub and the famous infinity pool. If you do not wish to stay at the caravan park you can purchase a day visitor pass.
TIP: If you want to save time on driving and don’t mind renting a car, fly to Kununurra and rent a car to drop off in Perth. This means you can do this road-trip backwards and save a few long days of driving. Another option is visiting Karijini and Millstream on your way back to Perth. This means instead of a 3 day drive home you will only have a 15 hr drive.
TIP*: If you are planning on visiting more than 1 National Park on any of your trips, I recommend buying a Park Pass from the DPAW website.
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