Join us where the ancient rugged outback meets white sand beaches. Venture through national parks etched with river gorges, dramatic rock formations, blankets of wildflowers and remote, natural plunge pools.
The Pilbara is home to some of Australia’s most stunning ancient natural landscapes, dating back to over four billion years old. With over 700 historic Indigenous archaeological sites and 1,000,000 rock engravings (Petroglyphs), many dating back some 30,000 years, this region is the perfect place to discover the unique art, history and culture of the Aboriginal people of the Pilbara. Encounter fascinating wildlife, both inland and in the underwater paradise that is the Coral Coast. Step off the shore and swim a few metres through the clearest turquoise water on earth and drift over the worlds largest fringing reef, World Heritage listed, Ningaloo Reef. An underwater paradise.
Day 1 – Arrival Karratha
Welcome to Karratha! On arrival, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Taking its name from one of Western Australia’s early pastoral stations, from which the land was resumed, Karratha is an Aboriginal word meaning “good country” or “soft earth”. For many centuries, the region has been home to Aboriginal communities, and the nearby Burrup Peninsula features the world’s most prolific Aboriginal rock engraving sites, with over 10,000 identified examples.
This evening, meet your fellow travellers for a welcome dinner at the Ranges Restaurant & Bar.
Overnight The Ranges Hotel or similar
Day 2 – Burrup Peninsula & Murujuga National Park
This morning, meet up with your local Indigenous guide, as you set off to explore the Murujuga National Park. This park has the highest concentration of rock art in the world. You will rediscover the petroglyphs (rock art) created by the Yaburrara (Northern Ngarluma) people. The rock art has been dated back to before the ice age ended and is around 40,000 years old and there are up to 1 million rock art images scattered across the entire Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago. You will experience a traditional Welcome to Country, before exploring sacred sites and learning of traditional stories. Visit the Flying Foam Massacre Site which was a series of confrontations between white settlers and Aboriginal people around Flying Foam Passage on Murujuga.
You will also visit Hearson Cove Beach, which is a small sandy cove with steep rugged hills to the south and west and an outlook across Nichol Bay. At high tide, it’s an ideal swimming spot, and at low tide, you can walk for hundreds of metres on the exposed tidal flats, walk to the turtle islands and try to spot the turtles in the coral cay. Hearson Cove is the historic site of the landing of the Northwest Exploring Expedition led by F.T. Gregory in 1861. This expedition laid the basis for the rapid development of pastoral and pearling industries across the Pilbara region in the 1860s.
You will see incredible sites known as shell middens in the area, which are distinct concentrations of shell. They contain evidence of past Aboriginal hunting and gathering, as well as food processing activities. Learning about traditional bush medicine is also a highlight of your morning.
Continue to explore the Burrup Peninsular with its large range of habitats, a diverse array of wildflowers and wildlife. Visit the natural gas facility before reaching the pretty port town of Dampier, which is named after the English buccaneer William Dampier, who visited in 1688. Enjoy lunch at the Mermaid Hotel.
Visit historic sites such as Pirates Cove where Privateer William Dampier landed or hear how our early pioneers ventured to make their mark through setting up a Sheep Station. Whaling and Pearling industries also started up despite the remote location. Enjoy sundowners and nibbles in a secluded location as the sun starts to set, before returning to your hotel for the evening. (B,L)
Overnight The Ranges Hotel or similar
Day 3 – Port Hedland
This morning you will travel to beautiful Port Headland. Enoute you will visit Roebourne and the local jail. As the North West’s first gazetted town, Roebourne played an important administrative role for the region and the heritage listed buildings dotted around the town are a lasting reminder of this period of the town’s history. The Old Gaol is a reminder of the harsh times endured by prisoners during the colonial era. In its early phase the precinct of the police station, gaol and courthouse acted as the centre for law and custody for the whole of the Northwest and prisoners from across the region were imprisoned here. Some prisoners were transported further to be imprisoned at Rottnest Island. One notable prisoner was Ellemara, a Bunbuba man from the Fitzroy River area who was arrested for killing stock. Ellemara, who was an uncle to Bunuba warrior Jandamarra, escaped from the gaol and walked over 950 kilometres home to his native ranges. The Roebourne Old Gaol Museum is an unusual octagon shaped building, designed so that one gaoler could supervise all four wings. While the building was intended to house up to 14 prisoners in each wing, in practice each wing often housed up to 40 prisoners. Continuing on, drive to Point Sampson and enjoy lunch by sea. After your stomachs are full, visit Cossak, an amazing town which has a fascinating pearling history that pre-dates Broome. You will also visit the Japanese cemetery. Arriving into Port Hedland late afternoon, take a tour of the export Iron ore loading operations settling into your hotel. (B,L,D)
Overnight Esplanade Port Hedland Hotel or similar
Day 4 – Millstream Chichester National Park
This morning, enjoy a brief presentation at the Seafarers Centre, followed by and a lap around the harbour in one of the working Seafarers Launch Service boats. You will be accompanied by an informative member of the Seafarers Centre Staff who will provide commentary and to answer any of your questions, while picking up seafarers wishing to come back to the Seafarers Centre.
Please note, you will need to wear closed in shoes (joggers or boots – NO thongs). Light coloured clothing and skirts/dresses are NOT recommended.
Continuing on, you will travel to Millstream Chichester National Park which is an oasis in the desert. Covering an area of approximately 200,000 hectares around the Fortescue River, this lush oasis of deep gorges and palm-fringed rock pools provides a stark contrast to the surrounding landscape of rocky escarpments and rolling spinifex-covered hills.
Permanent pools are fed by springs that draw water from the underground aquifer within porous dolomite rock. The Millstream area has been a sacred land since well before the arrival of Europeans to the area, and the Yinjibarndi people still gather here as the traditional custodians of their country.
Enjoy lunch on arrival, before spending the afternoon to explore the park. This evening, enjoy a dinner prepared by your guide and get ready for a night under the stars. This is safari-ing in style. (B,L,D)
Overnight Camping in Style
Day 5 – Karijini National Park
Enjoy breakfast this morning before you depart towards Karijini National Park. As you stand amongst the ancient geological formations of Karijini National Park, you feel awestruck at the red layered cliffs that line the spectacular gorges eroded by nature over billions of years. The Pilbara’s gum trees, termite mounds and expansive plains give way to picturesque gorges, refreshing waterfalls and the emerald waterholes of Karijini National Park. A soothing oasis of trees and ferns provide shady refuge, as you explore the wonders of this Western Australian National Park.
Located in the north west corner of Karijini National Park, Hamersley Gorge is the most remote of the gorges. It offers a tremendous view of folded bands of coloured ancient rocks, with stepped waterfalls at the base of the gorge. From the trailhead, it is a 400m walk down roughly hewn steps to the gorge floor. Hamersley Gorge is somewhat wider than other gorges in the park and offers more expansive views on the descent into the gorge itself. Here you will clearly see how the layers of rock bent and buckled before they pushed their way to the surface millions of years ago. At the base of the gorge, take a dip in the delightful gorge pool and relax in the shade of the trees.
Continue on to a secret pool, known as Spa Pool that rests inside large curved walls. This is due to a rock formation as old as time itself. The Spa Pool is an ice blue pond that appears to have gorged out its home over billions of years. Today, it’s the perfect swimming hole fed by a gorgeous waterfall. No wonder it’s a natural Mecca for explorers and photographers alike.
The Spa Pool is reached by following a thin tree lined chasm. It sits inside rock walls that change from grey to red, depending on your point of view. Get up close and you can see the details of every layer of the strata. This grotto that seems to take you deep inside the earth, will certainly take your breath away. (B,L)
Overnight Karijini Eco Retreat or similar
Day 6 - Karijini National Park
Spend time exploring the east and west of Karijini National Park. You will explore Dales Gorge, where you can enjoy a refreshing swim at Fortescue Falls, or take in one of the prettiest settings in Western Australia at Fern Pool. Fortescue Falls is the only spring-fed waterfall in Karijini National Park. The water cascades down the gently sloped rocks into a pool at the base of Dales Gorge.
Fern Pool with its small twin waterfalls, is one of the most beautiful spots in the park. A wooden deck at the edge of the pool allows visitors easy access for swimming. Fern Pool is a sacred place for local Indigenous people, who ask that visitors treat the area with respect.
Visit Junction Pool Lookout, Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge and Red Gorge which meet at a viewing platform that is most spectacular in the mornings and evenings when the sunlight deepens the red colour of the rock faces.
Joffre Gorge is also on your list, which is a stunning natural amphitheatre with a spectacular curved seasonal waterfall. You will also visit many other incredible sites over the next two days of sheer and incredible natural beauty. (B,L)
Overnight Karijini Eco Retreat or similar
Day 7 – Ningaloo Reef
Today you depart towards Ningaloo Reef. It is a full day of driving and exploring. Your destination is the Bullara Station, where the Shallcross family offer you an authentic station stay experience. Edwina and Tim Shallcross invite you to experience the wonders of the raw Australian outback on their working cattle station. Staying in the traditional shearers lodge, you will be surrounded with stunning scenery and native wildlife, delivered with rustic charm and first-class country hospitality. Enjoy damper by the fire with dinner prepared by your guide in the Bull Bar. Spend the night around the fire taking in the incredible ambience of this station. (B,L,D)
Overnight Bullara Station or similar
Day 8 – Coral Bay
Today you will have the entire day to explore the beautiful Coral Bay. Coral Bay is a marine paradise with beautiful coral gardens which lie just metres from the pristine white sandy beach. Enjoy a three hour glass bottom boat tour of the reef with uninterrupted views, as you cruise the pristine waters of the bay. The flat bottom boat, specifically designed for Coral Bay’s shallow waters, allows you to travel over the stunning coral formations. You will also visit the Turtle Sanctuary. Experienced crew and their in-depth knowledge of our local turtles species and behaviour, will show you the best way to view these amazing animals.
The remainder of the day is yours to participate in optional activities or simply explore at leisure. Return to Bullara Station. For those who wish to swim with the whale sharks, humpback whales or manta rays, depending on your departure season, this is full day activity which can be organised. Please note as these are wild mammals, sightings cannot be guaranteed. Please advise if you are interested in this activity and we can provide the supplement. (B,D)
Overnight Bullara Station or similar
Day 9 – North West Cape Range National Park
Farewelling the family at Bullara Station, set off for Exmouth and the North West Cape Range National Park which boasts spectacular rocky gorges carved by ancient rivers that adjoin one of the most pristine and beautiful coastlines in the world.
A highlight to any Cape Range experience is a trip to Yardie Creek, which flows between sheer cliffs. The ancient gorge has deep blue water, red limestone cliff faces and a wonderful array of birds and wildlife, including the rare black-footed wallaby, wallaroos and red kangaroos.
For even more snorkelling, step into the pristine waters of the aptly named Turquoise Bay and you’re swimming within a few metres of Ningaloo Reef. Known as one of Australia’s best beaches, the white, sandy shores give way to stunning coral reef gardens just metres from the shore. Enter the water at the southern end of the beach and let the current take you over the reef for a fantastic drift snorkelling experience.
Later this afternoon, head to the base of Vlamingh Lighthouse for sundowners and nibbles. This view point has the distinction of being one of the few places in Australia where you can watch the sun rise and set. The Lighthouse was built in 1912 and stands on the northernmost tip of the Cape Range. This is also an incredible location for whale watching. (B)
Overnight Exmouth Escape Resort or similar
Day 10 – Departure
Following breakfast, the day is yours at leisure until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)
- Return airport transfers
- 9 nights accommodation
- Meals as per the itinerary
- National Park & entrance fees
- Services of an English speaking guide
- Private transportation
- Sightseeing as per the itinerary
- Swimming towel
- International and domestic airfares
- Travel and medical insurance
- All services, meals other than those indicated above
- Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
- All items of a personal nature e.g. laundry, telephone calls, tips etc.
**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 4 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of 30% per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
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