The industrial powerhouse of Australia, the Pilbara is an ancient landscape studded with mountain ranges and deep gorges, where the outback and desert meet the coast. In this landscape of red earth and blue skies Red Dog, the canine larrikin with a wandering heart, became a legend.
Stories about the real Red Dog and his travels are many and varied, and as with all great legends, some of the stories have been enhanced in their telling and retelling over the years. What’s known about Red Dog is that he was born in about 1971 in the Paraburdoo area, travelled thousands of kilometres by walking or hitching a lift in cars, buses, trucks and trains and was loved by the many friends he made during his travels.
As a young dog known as Tally Ho, he travelled to Dampier with his human companion Col Cummins, and soon became a fixture at the Dampier Salt Co and at Hamersley Iron, travelling on the company buses. Red Dog was a chocolate colour, sometimes called red. It’s said that his most well-known name came about from being covered in the famous fine red dirt of the Pilbara, but those who knew him best say he was most often called Tally, Blue or Bluey.
A WA man named John Stazzonelli was Red Dog’s next and last true master and after Stazzonelli's tragic death, Red Dog took to wandering the Pilbara. Red Dog’s many friends looked after him during this time, including the Karratha vet, Dr Rick Fenny. With a bank account and fully paid-up memberships in the Dampier Sports and Social Club, Metal Trades Union and the Transport Workers Union, Red Dog was no ordinary dog.
Here are our top ways to experience the Pilbara like the original Pilbara wanderer!
1. Snap a selfie at the Red Dog Statue, Dampier
Be sure to snap a selfie with the Red Dog statue, at the entrance to the town of Dampier! Featured in the books and movie, this statute was erected in his memory “by his many friends made during his travels”.
Dampier's Red Dog Trail starts from the Red Dog Statue, so keep an eye out for the signs and follow the trail!
2. Discover Red Dog’s top spots in Dampier
Built by Hamersley Iron in 1965, Dampier houses the massive export facilities of Rio Tinto Iron Ore, Dampier Salt and the North West Gas Shelf Project.
Follow the Red Dog signposted trail around town to see get a feel for the place where Red Dog spent a lot of his time and see if you can complete the trail’s online quest! While in Dampier why not also:
- Take a trip to see the 42 islands of the Dampier Archipelago,
- Learn about the traditional rock art on the Burrup Peninsula.
Located 20km east of Dampier, Karratha is the fastest growing town in the Pilbara. It was established in the 1960s to service the tremendous growth of the resources industry.
- Walk the Yaburara Heritage Trail – this 3.5km trail includes panoramic views of Karratha and surrounds and features some significant Aboriginal heritage sites, including rock engravings.
- Karratha is a great base for exploring some of the region’s treasures, with guided tours of the expansive Aboriginal rock art galleries of Murujuga National Park on the Burrup Peninsula, the Millstream Chichester National Park and bush tucker tours all departing from the Karratha Visitor Centre.
- Head to the protected beach at Hearson Cove for a swim, or drive a little further to reach Cleaverville and 40 Mile Beach for coastal camping and the opportunity to cast a line.
4. Port Hedland
A busy working harbour and vibrant town with a rich history, Port Hedland was also visited by Red Dog on many occasions.
While you are in Port Hedland:
- Take a local history and town tour to discover the many layers of Port Hedland’s story, from its establishment in 1896, through to the loss of the SS Koombana, the port's role in World War II, through to its role in major industry today.
- See the Staircase to Moon from the viewing deck at Goode St.
- See a multitude of native wildflowers in the winter months and follow the Pilbara Wildflowers Trail throughout the region.
- Visit the Spinifex Hill Studios to see artworks from talented local Aboriginal artists.
5. Stay on a working cattle station
In Red Dog, True Blue ‘Bluey’ is found by a young boy living on his grandfather’s station and together they embark on adventures around the property and further afield. Step into station life at Cheela Plains Station Stay or Pardoo Station, both working cattle stations offering visitors a chance to stay and explore the beautiful Pilbara outback.
6. Explore the epic landscape and gorges of the Pilbara
Two hours south of Karratha and accessed via the newly named Mauwarra Red Dog Hwy, the 200,000ha of the Millstream Chichester National Park has rolling hills, spectacular escarpments, tree-lined watercourses and hidden rock pools. This area is sacred for local Aboriginal people and with the arrival of European settlers in the area became home also to pastoralists. Today, the original Millstream Homestead houses the visitor centre and museum, and the park has several interpretative walking trails, including Python Pool and the Chichester Camel Trail.
Further inland, Karijini National Park is often referred to as the 'Jewel of the Pilbara', home to deep gorges and emerald-coloured rock pools. You can choose the most accessible sites, including the junction of four mighty gorges at Oxers Lookout, or get adventurous with walking trails that take you deep into the heart of the spectacular gorges!
7. Point Samson, Roebourne, and Cossack
Visiting the Point Samson Peninsula is a must on any Pilbara road trip. Not only are there a number of picturesque beaches ideal for an afternoon's relaxation or some fishing and a range of accommodation options, the historic towns of Cossack and Roebourne also offer a fascinating insight into the region's past. Roebourne also has links to Red Dog, as vet Dr Rick Fenny had his main clinic there.
8. See if you can count the iron ore trucks on the Pilbara Rail trains
Red Dog was famous for travelling by whatever means he could including on the iron ore trains! The Pilbara rail network is the largest privately owned and operated rail network in Australia, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities for train spotting.
A great vantage point is at Redbank Bridge in Port Hedland, where up to 3km-long trains pass by on their way from Mount Whaleback near Newman to Port Hedland. If you are following the Millstream link road, you’ll also spot a train or two, with the Western Creek flyover a popular spot for photo opportunities.