DESTINATIONS - TRAVEL DESTINATIONS
Two of the must-visit sites in Western Australia are Karijini National Park and Mount Augustus National Park, although neither place requires a tough 4WD. The access roads to both areas are gravel and that’s the extent of the driving adventure.
Karijini is renowned around the
world for its amazing gorges and Mt Augustus has been described (wrongly) as a ‘monolith’ that’s twice the size of Uluru.
Like most sites in WA the distance between this desirable pair is considerable: around 460km by the shortest, corrugated-gravel-road route. Those who want to hug the bitumen Great Northern Highway or North West Coastal Highway for most of the trip will need to travel twice that distance, of which some 200km is on gravel.
The shortest route between Karijini and Mt Augustus is via the Ashburton Downs Meekatharra Road and the combined Dooley Downs and Pingandy Downs Roads.
When the OTA Team drove it in June 2016 and Linda White captured these great images, this route was corrugated and low speed was the order of the day. The countryside is pastoral with many dips at the southern end.
Karijini National Park has few 4WD-recommended routes and so doesn’t offer any driving challenges, but at least you don’t have to walk kilometres to appreciate its highlights.
The Park’s weathered landscapes are surprisingly accessible, with waterfalls, emerald pools and plunging gorges beginning close to well-located car parks. There is also a network of longer walking trails, ranging from easy to arduous, snaking through this wild country.
At Dales Gorge there’s a two-kilometre rim walk and a one-hour return walk takes you to Fortescue Falls, the park’s only permanent waterfall. At the bottom, you can swim in the spring-fed pools beneath the Falls or in nearby Fern Pool or make the two-hour return hike to picturesque Circular Pool, at the gorge’s other end.
Oxer Lookout provides views over the junction of four deep gorges: Red, Weano, Joffre and Hancock. An easy trail leads to Weano Gorge and the swimming hole at Handrail Pool.
Hancock Gorge is best experienced with a Karijini tour guide. After climbing down a ladder, you walk deep into the gorge, through narrow chambers and past beautiful rock pools.
Short trails lead to lookouts
over Joffre Gorge and Knox Gorge, or you can hike to the gorges themselves. A three-hour walk around Kalimina Gorge leads to Rock Arch Pool.
If you’re feeling energetic, the climb to Mt Bruce’s summit offers wide views over the dotted spinifex plains and the much less attractive
Marandoo mine site…
Spinifex, mulga, ghost gums and fig trees are the principal native vegetation types you’ll see in and around Karijini’s red gorges. Between June and September colourful wildflowers dot the landscape.
Animals include rock wallabies, dingoes, lizards, goannas and birdlife galore.
In 2017 a day pass was $12 per car, or $6 for seniors and $6 for motorbikes. A four-week pass (valid in all WA national parks) was $44 and an annual pass was $88 per vehicle ($55 per vehicle for concession cardholders).
Camping is available in Dales Campground, which is accessible via a sealed road. All sites in Karijini are suitable for caravans, tents and camper trailers, and are unpowered, but there are generator sites. Toilets and gas barbecues are provided.
Unpowered sites are also available at the Savannah campground, which is part of Karijini Eco Retreat. Bookings can be made directly with Karijini Eco Retreat.
BYO water and no open wood fires are permitted in the National Park.
Mount Augustus is known as Burringurrah
to the local Wajarri Aboriginal people. The park was gazetted on 22 September 1989 and is made up of former parts of Mt Augustus and Cobra Stations.
The Mount Augustus Sandstone, at about 1.6 billion years old, is about three times older than the sandstone of Uluru, but because Mt Augustus is composed of multiple rock types it is inaccurate to call it a monolith – meaning one rock type – or claim that it is the ‘world’s biggest rock’.
The easiest views of Mt Augustus are from the 49km Loop Drive. It’s possible to view rocky creeks and gorges, open plains and Aboriginal rock engravings (petroglyphs).
River gums thrive on water seepage from the mountain and mulga, gidgee and wattles grow the plains. Goannas and red kangaroos are frequently seen on the plains.
At Cattle Pool on the Lyons River, a tributary of the Gascoyne, permanent pools attract waterbirds.
There’s a walk trail for everyone, from the climb to the summit taking 5-8 hours and requiring a high level of fitness to short walks on flat terrain of 300 or 500m.
There is no camping available in the National Park and open fires are not permitted.
Camp sites are available at the Mt Augustus Outback Tourist Park. The tourist park is privately owned and operated by the owners of Mt Augustus Cattle Station. Fuel and basic supplies are available from the Tourist Park.