This day would take us to the Pilbara.
Day 4 Carnarvon to Coral Bay
Next morning, on the way out of Carnarvon, we stopped at some plantations to buy some fruit.
The North West Coastal Highway crosses Western Australia’s longest river, the Gascoyne, at Nine Mile Bridge. Most times of the year one could walk across the river.
The turnoff to Coral Bay is 133 kilometres further north.
Coral Bay is in the Ningaloo Marine Park, another world heritage listed area. The 260 kilometre long Ningaloo Reef is Australia’s largest fringing coral reef and the only large reef located so close to shore. At Coral Bay it is possible to swim to the reef.
Day 5 Coral Bay to Tom Price
The main attraction of Coral Bay is of course Ningaloo Reef and no visit is complete without a trip aboard the glass bottom boat to view the amazing coral in all its different colors and forms.
Time to leave the Coral Coast and head to the Pilbara – spinifex, iron ore mining, long distances, contrasting colors, sweeping plains, spectacular gorges and big everything.
We returned to the North West Coastal Highway via Birkett Road, a drive of 140 kilometres. 110 kilometres up the road is Nanutarra Roadhouse alongside the Ashburton River, well known for expensive fuel and even more expensive roadkill. The turnoff to Tom Price is another five kilometres north.
There was a marked change in the country as we moved into the Pilbara.
Late in the afternoon I drove through a dip and the Patrol bottomed out. A short time later I felt the unmistakable signs of a flat.
A surveyor stopped to help me change the wheel. On return to his vehicle he noticed he had a flat. I was able to return the favour and help him change his wheel.
It was late afternoon by the time we got going again. Night fell when we were a few kilometres short of Tom Price. Again, the unmistakeable sounds of a flat. I stopped in a very inconvenient spot, got out, assessed the situation and drove on the deflated tyre for a few hundred metres to a safer (relative term), more level location. The tyre was cactus.
It was late in the evening before we got to Tom Price Caravan Park.
Day 6 Tom Price to Karijini
We woke up to a bright, sunny Pilbara morning and last night’s tribulations were forgotten.
The Pilbara is a place where everything is on a giant scale but it also a place of spectacular beauty.
More than a quarter of the world’s known iron reserves are here. The mines are huge and they literally move mountains (Mount Goldsworthy has disappeared). The trains that take the valuable ore to ports are the longest in the world. The ships that transport the ore to its destination are gargantuan as are the ports that handle them. Everything about the Pilbara is big.
But this was not a ‘Pilbara Trip’ so we were just passing through – Karijini excepted. And it was time to see world famous Karijini National Park.
First stop was at the Visitor Centre.
Covering 600,000+ hectares Karijini National Park in the Hamersley Range is Western Australia’s second largest park. Its climate is tropical semi-desert. A highly variable, mainly summer rainfall of 250–350 mm, often associated with thunderstorms and cyclones, is accompanied by temperatures frequently topping 40 degrees Celsius.
Its massive mountains, escarpments, gorges, and stony, tree-lined watercourses are over 2,500 million years old. This world class National Park is the most stunning in Australia.
After we had set up camp we walked over to Dales Gorge – about 300 metres away. There was enough daylight to visit Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. Dales Gorge was named in 1948 after a well sinker who worked on Mulga Downs Station.
Day 7 Karijini to South Hedland
We started the day with a walk along Dales Gorge. The combined gorge rim walk and walk along the bottom of the gorge takes about two hours. We walked into Circular Pool at the eastern end of Dales Gorge.
From Circular Pool we set out to walk the floor of the Gorge.
We did a section of the Gorge Rim Walk.
It was time to leave Karijini and head further north. We drove out to the Great Northern Highway and refuelled at Auski Roadhouse. Highway 95 meets the North West Coastal Highway just south of Hedland.
We found our overnight stop at the South Hedland Caravan Park.