Karratha : The Pilbara Paradise

Photo by Jim Bendon

Karratha is a beautiful city located in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia bordering the port town of Dampier. It is a fairly isolated city located just off the North West Coastal Highway. The city’s name is derived from an aboriginal word which roughly translates to ‘soft earth’ or ‘good country’. The city is 1,535 kilometers from Perth and about 240 kilometers from Port Hedland. Established in the 1960s to accommodate the industrial workforce of the mining industry in the region, the city has grown becoming the administrative and economic capital of the local government area. With a population of 16,000 residents, it is a relatively small city with a diverse range of attractions which attracts many tourists to the city year-round.

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Karratha : The Pilbara Paradise:table of contents

1. Yaburara Heritage Trail

The Yaburara Heritage Trail is part of a statewide network of trails developed in 1988 as part of the Bicentenary commemorations by the Western Australia Heritage Committee. The trail starts at the Karratha Visitor’s Center located just off Karratha Road and ends at the Karratha Leisureplex on the Dampier Highway. It covers a distance of over 3.5 kilometers with lookouts, steep climbs and descents, aboriginal sites, and a nature trail along the way. Originally the home of the Yaburara aboriginal tribe, the trail highlights the region’s natural beauty, history, and cultural heritage making it a must visit while in Karratha. It is also a good location for walking, running, and riding as you marvel at the beauty of the landscape.

2. Millstream-Chichester National Park

The Millstream Chichester National Park is a vast natural park nestled within the Chichester rocky ranges. It is a desert oasis courtesy of run-off from the Fortescue River and underground aquifers that have been a treasured source of water for centuries. It covers an area of approximately 200,000 hectares and is home to over 120 bird species, 150 reptile species, 30 species of mammals, and over 500 plant species. The Python Pool is one of the most popular attractions in the park and a nice place to take a swim in the hot desert sun. There are many camping sites located throughout the park allowing visitors to explore the vast park extensively and at a leisurely pace.

3. Staircase to the Moon (Hearsons Cove)

Photo by BRONWYN GUDGEON/shutterstock.com

While in Karratha, go and witness the Staircase to the Moon, a natural wonder that occurs when the full moon rises over the vast mud flats at low tide creating an illusion of a magical staircase to the moon. You can experience it at different lookouts including at Port Headland, Dampier, Onslow, Hearson’s Cove, and Cossack, Point Samson. During high tide, Hearson’s Cove is also a popular swimming and fishing spot and as soon as the water recedes at low tide, the exposed tidal flats are a fun place to stroll about. The phenomenon occurs from April to October so check in at the visitor’s center so you can plan your visit accordingly.

4. The Warlu Way

The Warlu Way follows the trail of the dream-sea serpent or warlu through a sacred and ancient land rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. According to traditional folklore, a mighty Warlu came from the sea and passed through the region forming the vast waterways as he moved. The 2,480-kilometer scenic drive will take you through Karijini National Park and Millstream-Chichester National Park with vast red earth landscapes, towering cliffs, rugged ranges, vast gorges, and secluded swimming holes along the way. The presence of interpretive signage along the way also aids in identifying the hidden gems of this rich land.

5. Dampier Archipelago

The Dampier Archipelago is a chain of 42 islands, rocks, and islets located off the coast of Dampier and Point Samson in Western Australia. Twenty-five of the islands are protected nature reserves renowned for their marine biodiversity which includes over 650 fish species, seagrass, sponge gardens, and coral reefs. The islands are an aquatic playground offering an excellent opportunity for snorkeling, camping, boating, and fishing. The sandy beaches are also popular relaxation and swimming spots with scores of visitors making it a lively place to visit. The best diving spots are found at the outer islands and reefs such as at Kendrew, Delambre, Enderby, and Rosemary. There are also public boat ramps at Karratha Back Beach, Dampier, Cossack, Johns Creek, and Point Samson.

6. Murujuga National Park

Photo by Janelle Lugge/shutterstock.com

Murujuga National Park is a heritage-listed park that is home to the largest collection of ancient rock art in the whole world. It is located 35 kilometers from Karratha and five kilometers north-east of the town of Dampier. The aboriginal people are thought to have lived in the region for more than 50,000 years a fact substantiated by the engravings with some dating back up to 37,000 years ago. There are also other archaeological materials including stone artifacts scatters, graves, ceremonial sites, and rock arrangements that act as a refuge to fire-sensitive plants. The park is also home to a variety of wildlife including the Pilbara rock python, Rothschild rock-wallabies, northern quoll, and many more.

7. Montebello Islands Marine Park

The Montebello Islands are a group of over 250 low-lying islets and islands located off the Pilbara coast. The marine park covers over 58,000 hectares of ocean and is only accessible by boat with fishing charters operating from the town of Karratha. The park is extremely gorgeous with a wide variety of wildlife and marine biodiversity making it a popular destination for fishing, snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. From April to September, camping is also allowed on Hermite, Crocus, Renewal, Bluebell, and Primrose islands adding to the park’s allure. Pack adequate supplies and fuel as open fires are not allowed and the park offers no services nor facilities. That said, a visit to the park makes for a memorable time, one that you will not forget anytime soon.

8. Red Dog

Photo by Travolution360

The Red Dog is a statue of a Kelpie/cattle dog cross that is arguably one of the best-known dogs in the world. The statue is located at the entrance to Dampier making it a popular attraction as scores of visitors stop to take a picture with him. Believed to have been born in Paraburdoo in 1971, the dog travelled throughout the region gaining the moniker ‘The Pilbara Wanderer’. Wherever he went he became an object of fascination for his weird ways. Upon his death in 1979, he was buried in the region with his story being the subject of numerous songs, books, and a movie.

9. Cossack

Photo by Philip Schubert/shutterstock.com

Cossack is an abandoned town in Western Australia with well-restored buildings offering an insight into the past of the region. The town was once the center of the mining activities in the region as well as being a vital port for pastoralists as they passed through the land. The town was dissolved in 1910 following the opening of Point Samson jetty and by 195o, it was completely abandoned. Visit the beautiful bluestone buildings in the town and gain an insight into the day to day lives of the first settlers. Follow the Cossack Heritage Trail that will take you around the town’s main sites including the Tien Tsin lookout and the courthouse which is now a museum. After your tour, you can grab lunch at the café in the restored customs building or head to Settlers Beach and relax.

◎ Closing

Karratha is a truly magical place with a host of attractions and activities for you to engage in as you learn more about this beautiful region rich in history and culture. With a variety of attractions both inland and out on the many islands, your stay in Karratha will be fun-filled as well as highly satisfying. Learn the history of the region as well as the culture of its people as you interact with the lovely and welcoming residents. Simply put, Karratha is a hidden gem waiting to be unearthed.

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