New Years in the Pilbara

After Christmas, we left Broome and started the drive across the Pilbara.

Eighty Mile Beach

Sunset over Eighty Mile Beach.
Sunset over Eighty Mile Beach.

To break up the long drive across the northern coast, we stopped to camp at Eighty Mile Beach. As its name suggests, it’s an eighty mile long beach. You aren’t supposed to swim (due to sharks, jellyfish, crocodiles, etc.), but walking along the beach itself is pretty exciting because of all the weird marine stuff that lives there. Chris was pretty fascinated by all the crabs, snails, and unidentified wriggly things in the tidal pools.

Snail!
Snail!
Eighty Mile Beach has really big seashells.
Eighty Mile Beach has really big seashells.

The other special thing about Eighty Mile Beach is that it’s a flatback turtle rookery. Since we were in turtle nesting period I was pretty excited about this. Of course the turtles only come ashore to lay eggs in the middle of the night, but I managed to get up and go for a midnight walk, where I saw several turtles digging nests, laying eggs, and then slowly making their way back into the ocean. Chris pretended to be asleep because he didn’t want to get out of bed.

Turtle tracks!
Turtle tracks!

Port Hedland

We continued west, with an overnight stop in Port Hedland before heading inland. Port Hedland is an industrial town, with iron ore being the big thing, and it definitely looks like it. The whole town seemed to be built of corrugated metal. That combined with all the orange dust and the fact that everything was still closed for the holidays meant that driving around town sort of felt like the zombie apocalypse.

Really big salt stacks in Port Hedland.
Really big salt stacks in Port Hedland.

We watched some of the huge ships in the bay and took a walk along the beach, where we saw a little octopus in a tidal pool. Our stay at the Cooke Point Holiday Park was uneventful, except for the part when the sprinklers went off in the middle of the night and soaked our tent. Not cool. I think that is the last time we will stay at a BIG4 park.

Octopus!
Octopus!
Port Hedland coast.
Port Hedland coast.

Karijini National Park

We decided to spend New Years in Karijini National Park. It’s a few hours inland and pretty remote, but has lots of beautiful gorges and is super ancient, with some 2.5 billion year old rocks that Chris was pretty excited about. Those rocks were created in the shallow seas when the only lifeforms were algae, so, pretty old.

The first night we camped by Dales Gorge so we could hike to the nearby Fortescue Falls, Circular Pool, and Fern Pool. Gorge bushwalking is pretty exciting because it generally involves a really steep descent to get to the bottom, then a lot of clambering through narrow chasms and wading through water.

Fern Pool.
Fern Pool.
Circular Pool.
Circular Pool.

We experienced our first Class 5 walks in this park, which is basically the most “adventurous” level of walk that you can go on without a trained guide and special equipment. Based on the number of warning signs we saw and what we overhead from the park staff, injuries in the park are not uncommon. There have even been a few deaths, since flash floods can occur in the gorges when it rains. There is a volunteer rescue force in one of the nearby town that gets called quite often during high season it seems. We managed all our walks mostly unscathed, though Chris (as usual) banged one of his knees on a large rock while swimming.

Adventure bushwalking in Dales Gorge.
Adventure bushwalking in Dales Gorge.
Fortescue Falls.
Fortescue Falls.

Since it was New Years Eve, we decided to splurge and spend two nights “glamping” at Karijini Eco Retreat and stay in a safari tent instead of at the campground. This was partially due to the fact that rates were almost 50% off for the low season, which meant we could afford it (sort of). The retreat was also doing a special Australian BBQ buffet for New Years Eve, so we got to stuff our faces with steak and prawns.

Our safari tent!
Our safari tent!

Our tent was pretty sweet, hotel room-sized with a king bed and ensuite bathroom that had bonus adorable frogs living in the sink. It also had fun mood lights that I used for some long exposure photos.

Fun with long exposure.
Fun with long exposure.
Frog friend.
Frog friend.

On the way to the retreat we visited Knox Gorge and Kalamina Gorge, which had some lovely swimming holes with crystal clear water. We were the only ones visiting them that day it seemed, so they were extra nice. Knox Gorge ends in a big chasm, and Kalamina Gorge ends at a sweet rock arch you can climb up into.

Knox Gorge.
Knox Gorge.
The rock arch in Kalamina Gorge.
The rock arch in Kalamina Gorge.

From the eco retreat we went to the nearby Weano Gorge, where there are a couple of pretty adventurous walks.

Weano Gorge.
Weano Gorge.
Exploring Weano Gorge.
Exploring Weano Gorge.

These Class 5 walks take you into Handrail Pool and Handcock Gorge. Quite a bit of swimming and “spider walking” is involved, which is pretty fun.

Handrail Pool.
Handrail Pool.
Enroute to Handcock Gorge.
Enroute to Handcock Gorge.

From our tent we could also walk to Joffre Gorge. The waterfall wasn’t flowing, but the swimming hole in the gorge is really long (it was labelled “Olympic Swimming Pool” on the map), which was pretty cool and also tiring.

Joffre Gorge, a very long swim.
Joffre Gorge, a very long swim.
Taking a dip in Joffre Gorge.
Taking a dip in Joffre Gorge.

On our way out of the park we stopped by Hamersley Gorge. The pool there is quite nice, although it is also the easiest to access and thus the busiest, so there were a number of families there. Hamersley Gorge is the place where we saw the billion year old rocks, much to Chris’s delight.

Hamersley Gorge.
Hamersley Gorge.
Really old rock formations.
Really old rock formations.

Point Samson

After that, it was back up to the coast! Our first stop was Point Samson, a teeny coastal town. I went for a run and discovered the whole town is only about a kilometre squared, so it wasn’t a very long run. We stayed at a nice caravan park right next to Honeymoon Cove, where we did some snorkelling and saw some pretty crazy creatures. The caravan park had a sweet adults only theatre room, which we had all to ourselves since there were very few other people at the park. We took the opportunity to make a lot of nachos and have a small Archer marathon.

Honeymoon Cove.
Honeymoon Cove.
Nudibranch!
Nudibranch!

The other excitement of our visit was getting our car majorly bogged in the sand while driving along the coast looking for other snorkelling spots. Thankfully a friendly Australian came and helped us out.

Karratha

After leaving Point Samson we stopped for a day in Karratha to get the oil changed in our car. We didn’t do anything except wander around the mall, so the only picture I have is of these amazing McDonald’s McDelivery cars!

McDelivery Cars!
McDelivery Cars!

Once our car was good to go, it was on to the much-hyped Coral Coast!

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