The Pilbara

The Pilbara region in Western Australia has some of the world’s most ancient natural landscapes, dating back two billion years and stretching over 500,000 square kilometres. 

Deep rocky canyons lead to peaceful plunge pools in the beautiful Karijini National Park. Hundreds of islands with dazzling white beaches and untouched coral gardens are yours to explore on the Dampier Archipelago and Mackerel Islands. And yet the Pilbara is also known as the engine room of Australia - home to a massive mining industry in crude oil, salt, natural gas and iron ore. 

Karijini National Park and Beyond

Walk the mighty gorges of Karijini National Park and Millstream Chichester National Park to discover hidden waterfalls and swim in clear cool rock pools. Or venture deep into the Eastern Pilbara to one of the most remote places on the planet, Rudall River National Park.

The Pilbara’s Coastal Paradise

The Dampier Archipelago and Mackerel Islands sit just off the coast of the Pilbara region, offering world-class boating, fishing, diving and snorkelling. And should you visit in turtle nesting season, between September and April, watch out for female turtles laying their eggs and newly hatched babies scrambling to the ocean. Pristine beaches, beautiful coral gardens and abundant fish beckon you to Point Samson. There is another event on Mother Nature’s calendar that you can experience year-round - the incredible Staircase to the Moon occurs on full moon dates between March and October along the Pilbara coast.

Amazing Indigenous Art and Culture

With over 700 historic Indigenous archaeological sites and 10,000 rock engravings (Petroglyphs), many dating back some 30,000 years, the Burrup Peninsula is now heritage listed. It’s the perfect place to discover the unique art, history and culture of the Indigenous peoples of the Pilbara.

Pilbara Towns and Colonial Past

Karratha is the gateway to the Pilbara region in Western Australia. The pretty port town of Dampier sits just 20 kilometres to the west and the mining town of Port Hedland to the east.. Proclaimed in 1866, Roebourne is the oldest settlement in the North West.Visit the heritage listed Old Roebourne Gaol, now home to a historical museum. Cossack is a ghost town and has many beautifully restored historical buildings which offer an insight to the hardships and successes of the first settlers. Travel inland and you’ll experience the unique communities of the rugged outback, from Tom Price, the highest town in Western Australia, to Marble Bar, the hottest town in the country.

Pilbara Map

View a detailed Pilbara map and start planning your trip.

Couple in mulla mulla wildflowers near Mount Bruce
Couple standing in a field of mulla mulla wildflowers near Mount Bruce

  • Karijini Culinary Experience

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 15, 2015


    After spending the morning exploring some of the gorges of Karijini National Park, my stomach was rumbling and ready for the Karijini Culinary Experience!

    Located in the Karijini Eco Retreat Restaurant the multicourse lunch went down a treat!  The wines by Miles From Nowhere were delicious, hit the spot, and matched the different courses.

    Celebrity Chef Mark Olive and a team of students from the Pilbara Institute cooked up a storm!  The waiters and waitress were also from the Pilbara Insititute and did a great job of replenishing our glasses and serving up course after course of yummy food!

    Karijini Experience menu The multi-course menu had our mouths watering.

    Mark donned a headset and in between cooking, he explained his passion for bush foods and encouraged us to use the bushfood condiments on the table to enhance the flavours of the menu. 

    I couldn't pick a favourite dish. From the marinated lamb cutlet, dusted with Kutjura on a bed of river mint mash, to the seared prawn fettuccine in lemon myrtle butter - it was all delicious.

     Karijini Culinary Experience

    The lamb - yum!

    Even though we were all stuffed to the gills, somehow we managed to fit in a dessert -  desert lime and quandong icecream  - generous scoops in waffle cones served by Mark himself.

    As I waddled off to my eco tent, I was a bit concerned that given the massive amount of food I ate, that Qantas would charge me extra baggage on my return trip to Perth!

    I thoroughly enjoyed The Karijini Experience.  Not only were the events well organised and great fun, bit it was fantastic to see the inland Pilbara community come together and support each other, and show visitors to the region a great time in the beautiful Karijini National Park. I highly recommend the event and am hoping to head back next year.  If you want to know more follow The Karijini Experience on Facebook.


  • Karijini National Park - Gorges Galore!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 10, 2015

    While I was primarily at Karijini National Park to attend events at the Karijini Experience, I was also keen to explore as many gorges as possible.  As the rain had made the gorges too risky to explore on the Saturday, I took this opportunity to chat to Ranger Dan about what gorge I could explore the following morning and he suggested Weano Gorge.

    On Sunday I was up bright and early and met another ranger, Ranger Steve who was leading a nature walk close to Karijini Eco Retreat.  This free walk was fascinating.  Ranger Steve pointed out plant and insect life as we walked towards Joffre Falls. He explained the structure of a termite mound, pointed out birds and we even spotted a wallaby and a frog.

    Ranger at Karijini National Park

    Ranger Steve gave us an insight into Karijini National Park's flora and fauna.

    Returning from the walk to the retreat, one of the Karijini Experience organisers asked if I could take the guest astronomer Alan and his partner Sarah along with me to the gorges.  Not a problem! I’m not an experienced bush walker and the map reading gene seemed to have skipped me completely, so I was happy to have Sarah and Alan along with me.

    As time was limited for us (we had to be back for the Karijini Culinary Experience) we decided to take Ranger Dan’s advice and head to  Weano Gorge.

    The unsealed road took us to car park and I was surprised at how close to the gorge it was – very accessible! As we walked towards the trail to the gorge, we saw a bunch of people dressed in wet suits.  Turns out they were with Pete from West Oz Active Adventure Tours and about to commence on a canyoning adventure.   I haven’t done the tour (yet!) but if you want to see Karijini from a different perspective (ie abseiling and floating on a tube) then this is the tour for you!

    I’m not the most surefooted person clambering over rocks but it was an easier hike through Weano Gorge than what I anticipated.   You just have to take your time, not rush and remember to look up from your feet and pause to enjoy the beautiful surroundings with soaring red rocks and emerald green pools.

    Sarah in Weano Gorge

    Sarah walking through the loose rock.

    We waded through the water. Sarah and I sensibly had Alan lead us given he is taller and so he could gauge the depth.  One bit caught us unaware and Alan was suddenly more than waist deep.  I am fairly short and so the bottom of my backpack got a bit of a drenching (mushy protein bars anyone?) I had been warned that the water could be icy, however it was early May and while the water was certainly refreshing it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be.  I’m a Kimberley girl so I'm used to tropical water temperatures!

    Prepare to get a little wet

    Fellow gorge explorers traipse through the water - it became deeper!

    Weano Gorge starts off as a Class 3 but as you walk towards Handrail Pool it becomes more challenging and turns into a Class 5.  I wouldn’t say I’m the fittest person in the world but I didn’t have a problem – slow and steady works for me!   For detailed information on what gorges are suitable for you to tackle, check out this great brochure by Department of Parks and Wildlife.

    Red layered rock of Karijini

     Depending on how the light hits, the layers of rock took on vibrant red or muddy brown colour.  My images do not do the gorges justice!

    As we reached Handrail Pool (so called I presume because of the handrail that accompanies the steep climb down) we ooohed and ahhed and couldn’t wait to swim in the emerald coloured water. The trick to descending is to climb down backwards holding onto the handrail as if climbing down a ladder one careful step at a time. The one person swimming when we arrived was just leaving and so we had this stunning waterhole all to ourselves. From Weano Gorge we then decided to check out the views from Oxer Lookout.  This lookout is easily accessible and the view didn’t disappoint. 

    Handrail Pool 
    The descent into Handrail Pool.

    Handrail Pool Weano Gorge

    We had Handrail Pool all to ourselves and had a well earned swim. The image doesn't capture how pretty it was!

     We  had time for one more gorge and decided on Hancock Gorge.  Sarah was keen to see Kermit’s Pool at the end of the Hancock Gorge trail (maybe she is a muppet fan?)  I have to say I wasn’t too sure initially about attempting this gorge.   It’s a Class 5 and deserving of this class.  This seemed to be a very popular gorge and there were plenty of people around.   I said to Alan and Sarah that if I felt at any point that it was getting too difficult for me then I would turn back and meet them in the car park.  Karijini can be a dangerous place and if you fall and injure yourself, being in such a remote place, rescue is not easy. It’s important not to take risks and to not take on more than you can safely manage. They can’t just drop someone from a helicopter to rescue you as that can bring on rock falls.  Not playing it safe puts you and your rescuers in danger and sadly there are memorial plaques in Karijini to prove it.  

    Safety warning over, now back to the fun stuff!  Hancock Gorge was awesome! I made it all the way through the gorge to Kermit’s Pool.  The gorge is definitely a challenge with narrow footholds as you move across the cliff face. I also know why the spider walk is called that! You have to spread your arms and legs wide to each side of the rock faces  and creep yourself along by little over a certain part of the gorge . Long legs would definitely be an advantage! Not easy for someone like me who is not exactly tall!  Once I got a rhythm going  there was a bit of an adrenalin rush and I couldn’t quite believe I was doing it.

    We don’t have any photos of this as (a) there was no way we were letting go of the rocks to photograph anything and (b) we thought we might struggle with our daypacks and cameras and left them behind which definitely was the right decision.   Due to the unseasonal rain the water level was high, and we ended up swimming fully clothed, sneakers and all, through part of the gorge and our daypacks would have been very soggy had we taken them.    We saw some people had left their daypacks by some rocks and followed suit. We were unsure if they would still be there upon our return back through the gorge.  They were!  A good tip is to ask people coming out of the gorge what they thought of it, how was the water level and what the trickiest bit was for them so you can arm yourself with as much information as possible.

    Unfortunately for Sarah, Kermits Pool was roped off, although having swam at Handrail Pool she wasn’t too disappointed.  Hancock Gorge was amazing, the red rock face is stunning and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to experience it. 

    With no more time to explore, we drove back to the Karijini Eco Retreat, ready for a shower, change of clothes and a big lunch!

    If you are looking at heading to Karijini National Park I highly recommend jumping on to the Department of Parks and Wildlife’s website to do your research on the different gorges. It’s a great resource and they also have walking trail maps available to download.    


  • Opera at Karijini

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 10, 2015

    One of the highlights of the Karijini Experience was the Opera.  Soprano Deborah Cheetham was to perform in Kalmina Gorge in Karijini National Park

    The previous day Deborah did a sound check in Kalamina Gorge and school children had the chance to do a workshop with her.  As it turned out they were they only ones that got to experience her singing in the gorge. 

    Unfortunately the unseasonal rain the night prior to her performance meant the gorge was not going to work for safety reasons.  The performance was now going to take place under cover at the Karijini Eco Retreat's restaurant. You can't control nature and if any of the audience members were unhappy with the change of venue you wouldn't have known it.The organisers even arranged a free glass of sangria for each guest upon entry (nice work girls!)

    Deborah Cheetham performs at Karijini 

    All thoughts of the gorge disappeared as Deborah had all of us mesmerised from the moment she wove the story of her life into her opera performance.  Her journey to find her family and culture and indeed her story of an Aboriginal women finding her place on the opera circuit moved the audience greatly, some to tears.  And what a voice!  It was a magical performance and one people are unlikely to forget.

    I had an early night as the next day I would adventure into the gorges of Karijini National Park and would also be attending the multi-course luncheon of the Karijini Culinary Experience.


  • How an artistically challenged individual gave basket weaving a go and loved it!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 08, 2015


    Following a visit to Tom Price I headed to Karijini National Park for the The Karijni Experience. I was very much looking forward to this four day event organised to showcase everything from opera to cooking amongst the stunning scenery of Karijini National Park.

    But first things first!  Let me tell you about the accommodation.  I was staying in one of the Deluxe Eco Tents at Karijini Eco Retreat.  With a huge bed and an ensuite I was set for the next few days. Glamping at its best! 

     Karijini Eco Retreat Deluxe Tent

    The interior of the Duluxe Eco Tent - it even had an ensuite!

    Karijini Landscape, Pilbara

    Serene Pilbara landscapes surround Karijini Eco Retreat.

    Unseasonal rain decided to make an appearance that first evening, but that didn't deter the audience from attending the Acoustic Jam Session featuring local musicians resulting in everyone dancing by the end of the night.  Snacking from an antipasto platter, I unwound, enjoyed the music and slept soundly in my tent that night.

    I woke up the next day to rain and headed over to the restaurant. The DPAW Ranger Walk was cancelled due to the weather and it was also recommended skipping the gorges as it can be unsafe and slippery after night's downpour. I spent some time chatting to Ranger Dan who gave me some great advice on what gorges to see in the short amount of time I had (watch out for my blog post on the gorges coming soon!) 

    So what was I to do on this rainy morning?  Well one of the event organisers convinced me to attend the Martumili Basket Weaving.  Not having an artistic bone in my body I tentatively agreed.  We all got cosy in a tent, sitting in a circle as the Martumili ladies showed us their beautiful baskets and demonstrated how to create one for ourselves.  I loved it!  It was so relaxing weaving for hours, it was somehow meditative.

    Martumili Basket Weaving

    One of the participants learning the weaving techniques.

    These wonderful ladies are part of a group of amazing artists living in the communities of Parnpajinya (Newman), Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, Irrungadji and Warralong, 

    Hand woven basket

    A large basket made by one of the Martumili ladies.  A basket of this size sells for approximately $AU700 and after spending five hours weaving a very small basket I can see why - it takes time and a great deal of technique to produce something as beautiful as this.

    At the end of the session I held up my my small grey wonky basket and said aloud that it resembled a dead mouse!  The Martumilli ladies chuckled but were very kind with their comments and very encouraging. I wouldn't mind giving it another go in the future. The other participants in the class (who were not craft impaired like myself) produced some stunning baskets.

    Basket weaving workshop

    Basket weaving students and teachers gather outside the tent to show off the morning's weaving.

    Coulourful baskets

     Top of the class for these students, with their beautiful handmade baskets.

    I thoroughly enjoyed learning the art of basket weaving from the Martumili artists, and if you ever get the opportunity to participate in a workshop I highly recommend it.



  • Tom Price is Top Town!

    by Jo Durbridge | Jul 06, 2015


    I recently visited the inland Pilbara for the Karijini Experience,  a three day event held in the stunning Karijini National Park.

    Travelling from Perth I took a 70 minute Qantas flight to Paraburdoo, whereby I collected a four wheel drive from Avis and set off on a 70 km journey to Tom Price.  It was early morning and I felt like I was driving through a painting with the Hamersley Ranges in the distance.

    Road to Karijini

    Tom Price was constructed in 1965 after a iron ore deposit was made on Mt Tom Price in 1962.  From the original 250 houses the town has grown to 1600 homes and has a population of 5000.

    I easily found the Tom Price Visitor Centre and the friendly staff told me that I was all booked in for the Lestock Rio Tinto Iron Ore Mine Tour.  I collected my hard hat and safety glasses and was welcomed on board the bus.  At only $A30 this tour is great value.    

    Tom Price Visitor Centre

    You can book the Lestock Rio Tinto Mine Tour through the Tom Price Visitor Centre.

    The tour guide ensured we were aware of the safety precautions and with that we headed out to one of the largest open cut iron ore mines in the world!  Over the next hour-and-and-a half our guide reeled off a huge amount of facts about Tom Price and the mine, and delivered them all in an entertaining way.

    Iron Ore Mine Tom Price Pilbara

    The mine is now producing approximately 360 million tonnes of iron ore per annum.

    You don’t realise until you see a mine worker dwarfed by the massive tyres of a haulpack how enormous the machinery is within the Rio Tinto Mine. These massive dump trucks have a carrying capacity of 240 tonne! It’s like giant Tonka toys have come to life!

    Haul pack, Rio Tinto Iron Ore Mine,Tom Price

    It might not look it in the photo but this haulpack is huge and has a carrying capacity of 240 tonne!

    Back in Tom Price I noticed lots of white corellas which I thought were very pretty, but discovered these birds are very destructive!   I was told by a local that these ‘vandals’  pecked through their clothesline and pulled out and chewed their reticulation to bits!

    Corella at Tom Price in the Pilbara

    I discovered the white corellas of Tom Price are very naughty birds!

    I also discovered altitude wise Tom Price is the highest town in WA and sits at an altitude of 747m.  Locals like to refer to it as the ’top town in WA’ and I have to say they ensured I had a top time during my brief visit!

    Next stop Karijini National Park!


  • Staircase to the Moon

    by Jo Durbridge | Oct 25, 2013

    Staircase to the Moon

    Last weekend I headed down to Town Beach in Broome  with a photographer and our Nokia Lumia competition winners  to see the Staircase to The Moon.  No matter how many times I see this natural phenomenon I still think it is breathtaking and I was eager to share this experience with my guests for the evening.

    So what exactly is Staircase to the Moon? its an amazing trick of the light that only happens on certain dates between March and October at a few locations along the Pilbara and Kimberley coast.   It is caused by the rising of the full moon reflecting off the exposed mudflats at extremely low tide - creating a beautiful optical illusion of stairs reaching to the moon. 

    The moon was due to rise at 7.06pm (the moon is very precise!) and so we grabbed a great viewing position on the old  Broome Jetty a good hour earlier.  We are glad we did given how popular this natural attraction is with visitors and locals.

    At first we thought the staircase might be impeded by cloud, but after a few minutes it shone bright with its staircase clearly visible.  My guests were delighted with the spectacle as was James Morgan who sent the resulting photos (one of them pictured above) to media outlets all over the world.

    Afterward we grabbed a couple of wood fired pizzas and some fruit smoothies at the Town Beach Staircase Markets and enjoyed an evening picnic while relaxing to local singers entertaining the crowd.

    Staircase to the Moon is a fantastic experience and once seen it is never forgotten!  It can be viewed in Onslow, Dampier, Cossack, Point Samson Peninsula, Hearson Cove, Port Hedland and Broome and for more information and 2014 dates check our Staircase to the Moon page on our website.

  • Cossack Art Award Celebrates 21 Years

    by Robyn Maher | Jul 25, 2013

    Once again Australia’s North West Tourism was an Associate Sponsor of the Cossack Art Award and travelled to the Pilbara to enjoy the program.

    Journalist Mark Naglazas from The West Australian Newspaper joined me in Karratha to attend this year’s Cossack Art Award staged annually at the historic Cossack settlement within the interesting architecture of the Old Post and Telegraph Office and the Bond Store, with its magnificent granite and bluestone masonry.

    Robyn Maher and Mark Naglazas at Cossack Art Awards

    (Robyn Maher and Mark Naglazas at the Cossack Art Award. Image: Lillian Frost)

    This event is a project of the Shire of Roebourne with Rio Tinto as Principal Partner. The Cossack Art Award is recognised internationally and nationally as the most isolated and richest acquisitive art award in regional Australia.

    Shire of Roebourne staff at Cossack Art Awards

    (Shire of Roebourne staff amongst some of the artwork. Image: Lillian Frost)

    6x6 Arts Forum was the first event for the program.  A relaxed evening of arts conversation and networking with the judges, artists, curators, volunteers and staff behind the art award.  This event featured six artists speaking about their art practice for six minutes.

    Mark and I were fortunate enough to join Archaeologist Ken Mulvaney, acclaimed judges Lindy Lee and Seva Frangos, Ron Bradfield, Tabitha Minns & Gavin Buckley from Artsource, Caspar Fairhall (2013 Cossack Art Award Artist in Residence) and William Barton, world renowned Didgeridoo and classical guitarist for an informative tour of the ancient Petroglyphs at Hearson’s Cove, Burrup Peninsula.  This was an unforgettable experience to view Aboriginal rock art dating back 20,000 years.

    William Barton performing didgeridoo

    (William Barton performing didgeridoo and guitar. Image: Lillian Frost)

    The Sponsor’s Preview night was a wonderful opportunity to view all 293 entries, 108 being from the Pilbara.  MC Verity James ensured proceedings ran smoothly and 2012 ARIA award winner for best classical album William Barton performed the didgeridoo and classical guitar that captivated guests in the stunning surrounds of Cossack’s heritage buildings.

    We also visited the Roebourne Art Group, Yinjaa-Barni Art Centre and the new Roebourne Amphitheatre and learnt all about Weerianna Street Media and Big Hart’s Hip Bone Sticking Out Project.

    The Cossack Art Award Opening Night was buzzing with excitement as we waited to learn the winners.  Total prize money for the awards is $109,000 – 9 Category’s plus Best Artwork by Pilbara Artist and Best Overall Artwork.  

    Mark and Robyn check out Cossack Art Award

    (Checking out some of the 293 pieces of artwork at the Cossack Art Awards. Image: Lillian Frost)

    Judges Lindy Lee & Seva Frangos had the difficult task of choosing the winners.  Best Overall Artwork was awarded to Artist Lesley Munro for  'The Way Back', Prize Money $15,000 and $15,000 Artist in Residence Program.

    Artist Lesley Munro  with her winning artwork 'The Way Back'

    (Artist Lesley Munro and her winning artwork. Image: Lillian Frost)

    Sunday morning the public got to join the judges Lindy and Seva in an exhibition floor talk conversation and tour to discuss the judging process and the value of open art prizes.  Following the Judges Floor Talk was the popular event Cossack Family Day attracting thousands of visitors.  This event showcases the creativity of the community with market stalls, craft workshops and live entertainment including Dorothy the Dinosaur!

    On our last day we travelled to Dampier to join Brad Beaumont from Discovery Cruising.  We cruised to Sam’s Island, Pirates Cove, viewed rock art sites on East Lewis Island and observed loading of salt and iron ore on to massive ships.  The Dampier Archipelago is made up of 42 islands, we enjoyed a taste of these beautiful islands and beaches and enjoyed the stunning landscape from Brad’s boat the “Blue Marlin”.

    Enjoying a cruise on Discovery Cruising's 'Blue Marlin'

    (Cruising the Dampier Archipelago on the 'Blue Marlin' Image: Robyn Maher)

    Special thanks to Sean Turton from ibis Styles Karratha, Vanessa Subramoney Shire of Roebourne, Jen Hourquebie from Archipelago Arts, Brad Beaumont from Discovery Cruising and of course Mark Naglazas for coming to the Pilbara from Perth and his coverage of the awards in The West Australian Newspaper. 

    Interested in visiting the Pilbara?  Find out more: at Roebourne Visitor Centre and Australia's North West. 

  • Is the Kimberley and Pilbara on your bucket list?

    by Jo Durbridge | Mar 10, 2013

    Australia's North West Tourism Display at the Victorian Caravan and Camping Show

    If you are in Melbourne come and see us at the Caravan and Camping Show at Caulfield Racecourse.  Its open again tomorrow and Tuesday.

    Its been great to meet so many people interested in visiting the Pilbara and Kimberley.  The Gibb River Road - 660 kilometres of adventure which takes you through the heart of the Kimberley and some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia - is a high priority for many people I spoke with. Cape Leveque, Horizontal Waterfalls and Karijini National Park are also on many travellers bucket lists.

    Australian swimming legend Lisa Curry (she has dropped the Kenny) came by the display and picked up a copy of the 2013 Australia's North West Holiday Planner.  We have given out hundreds of this free publication which is also available through our website.

    I'm normally based in Broome and was suprised to find they are having a bit of a heatwave in Melbourne so I am feeling quite at home with the blue skies and sunshine!  I'm looking forward to meeting more travellers over the next two days.



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