The Pilbara W.A.
The Pilbara is characterised by the rich red colour of the dirt, which seems to grow out from the ground and form the gnarly red hills of the landscape. Low shrubs and trees pepper the largely flat terrain, which is carpeted in sock-shreading spinifex. It's a hot, hard, unforgiving place of immeasurable beauty and contrast. Dry as a bone in most places, the terrain benefits from only occasional rainfall - reluctantly given up from seasonal cyclones.
At over half a million square kilometres, The Pilbara is about the same size as Spain - it's a vast, sparsely populated region, bordered on one side by the Indian Ocean and reaching through the desert into the east to find the Northern Territory border.
Huge mining operations dominate the few towns in the area, which mostly exist as a by-product of the mining and transport industries.
Exploring the Pilbara involves covering large distances and much like the Kimberley region to the north, it's the landscape that rewards the curious traveller. Rugged mountain ranges, red desert plains and perhaps the most stunning gorge system in Australia, at Karijini.
Facts about The Pilbara
Area: 502,000 km²
Population: 49,000 approx. with about 15% of aboriginal descent.
Geography: Desert, Sandplain, Low red mountain ranges made up of sedimentary rocks and granites. Some of the oldest rock formations on the planet.
Flora: Dominated by Spinifex grasses and Acacia trees. Coastal Mangroves, Red Gum, Snappy Gum, Sturt Desert Pea.
Fauna: Euro, Red and various Kangaroos and Wallabies. Numerous frogs, large 'Bungarra's' (sand monitors), lizards, snakes and other reptiles. Possums, Bilbys, Bandicoots and various marsupials. Bats, flying foxes and numerous species of birdlife.
Most Pilbara attractions involve being outdoors in the sun. Climbing down into gorges or up to the top of rugged hills generally means getting an early start. Plenty of drinking water, good all-terrain shoes and cool clothing go towards making for a great experience.
- Karijini National Park and The Hamersley Range
- Millstream-Chichester National Park
- Mount Bruce
- Cape Keraudren Nature Reserve and Eighty Mile Beach
- Carawine Gorge
- Karratha and The Burrup Peninsula
- Marble Bar
- Historic Roebourne and Harding Dam
- Port Hedland Mining Operations and Wharf
- Historic Town of Cossack
- Dampier Archipelago and the Mackeral Islands
- Karlamilyi National Park (Rudall River)
- Abundant Aboriginal rock engravings
Onslow, Paraburdoo, Tom Price, Newman, Pannawonica, Nullagine, Marble Bar, Dampier, Karratha, Roebourne, Wickham, Port Hedland.
Getting Around The Pilbara
Getting around in the Pilbara is much like getting around in the Kimberley - self reliance is the best bet.
Port Hedland has an international airport which is more about flying well paid mine employees out to Asia for a holiday than it is for landing large numbers of foreign tourists. Most other towns have local domestic airports to service the Fly In - Fly Out workforce and car and 4WD rentals are plentiful.
Tour buses run thick and fast in the tourist season with a constant stream arriving at iconic destinations like Karijini.
Like most of Australia's north, transport can be problematic. Distances are huge, 600km between some towns and services are limited.
By far the easiest and most economical way to see the Pilbara is in your own vehicle. If you want to get right off the beaten track then a four wheel drive with high ground clearance is essential. Otherwise a regular sedan will get you into most of the sightseeing hotspots without difficulty.
Camping grounds in the Pilbara are abundant and a camper van or camper trailer mean it's easy to find a secluded spot to watch an outback sunset.
Best Time to Visit
The Pilbara gets seriously hot. In November temperatures are already well over 40°C and a constant stream of caravans evacuate for the cooler climes of the south. By December the Pilbara is deserted apart from the locals.
If you can handle the heat then it is possibly the best time to catch the gorges and national parks in a near deserted state. Stunning creek side locations like Millstream or water holes like Python Pool are frequented by only the most determined tourist in summer. Mind you as summer temperatures climb above 45°C the coastal fringes and inland waterholes are definitely the place to be.
For the sane adventurer then the winter months of April - October offer temperatures that range from a night time 14°C to balmy days of 30°C and it's a pleasure to be outside day or night.
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