I dream of (Kari)jini. This is one of Australia’s most stunning national parks, yet few folks know of it. Glorious (albeit icy) waterholes, precipitous rock faces and cascading waterfalls are just a few of Karijini’s highlights. Visit during wildflower season, like we did, and you’ll enjoy a kaleidoscope of colour which adds to the magic of this place.
I’m Melissa (Liss) Connell and this is my personal travel blog. The Slow Lane chronicles my Aussie adventures in my 1974 Kombi, with my furry sidekick Sandy. As the co-founder of Exploring Eden Media, I write articles (and post books) as I travel. Check the postage stamp on your book order and you’ll see where I am right now!
For this adventure, I left behind Sandy dog and the Kombi, jumping into a 4×4 with my friend, Grace, to explore the corrugated and dusty roads of Karijini. We camped out in swags under the stars, using double doonas to warm our bodies against the winter chill. Each day was full of adventure and there was much to explore. Here are my Top 8 Highlights from our trip. For a more in-depth look at Karijini and the Coral Coast, check our our book, 100 Things To See On Australia’s Coral Coast.
Camping in Karijini
There are 2 campsites to choose from. My tip is to spend a few nights in each, giving yourself time to go back to your favourite attractions more than once.
Dales pricing (unpowered sites): $11 adult per night, $7 concession card holder per night, $3 child per night (over 5 and under 16 years)
Savannah Campground (at Karijini Eco Retreat) pricing (unpowered sites): $20 per adult, per night. Children up to the age of 12 stay complimentary on Campsites.
When to go
May – September (the dry season) is nicest for temperature. June – September is wildflower season 🙂 During October, daytime temps can reach almost 40°C.
If you’re planning a 2022 adventure to Karijini National Park, read more about our guide to the region – 100 Things To See On Australia’s Coral Coast +Karijini National Park.
1. Dales Gorge trail – 2km
I’m mentioning this first because of the amazing experience that we had swimming here, while many folks rushed past to get to the better-known swimming spot (Fortescue Falls). The water was a ‘must-see-to-believe’ teal colour (see video below). We spent hours here, jumping out of a snappy gum (tree) and then sunning ourselves on the rocky ledges next to the trail. This 2km trail leads between Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool, though Circular was closed for us due to a recent rockfall.
Enjoy swimming here when the midday sun is directly overhead. The water sparkles. Magic!
2. Fortescue Falls – 800m
Descend the stairs 800m from the carpark, or continue along Dales Gorge trail to find yourself at Fortescue Falls, a gorgeous cascading waterfall that enjoys sunlight for much of the day. Relax in the cascades or dive in to the big swimming hole below. Another Karijini gem!
3. Fern Pool – 1.1km
Follow the trail another 300m from Fortescue Falls (1.1km from the top carpark) to find the aptly named Fern Pool. This stunning swimming hole has a thinly veiled waterfall that you can sit behind. Fern Pool is a special place to Aboriginal people who request that visitors enter the water quietly and avoid making loud noises. Sooo … as tempting as it is to jump from that rocky ledge to the left of Fern Pool’s waterfall, avoid it to be respectful.
4. Circular Pool – 800m
Due to a recent rockfall, this pool was closed while we were visiting. But, we had a good look from above and it was amazing. This is also a special place for local Aboriginal people, who request that you enter the water quietly. From Circular Pool, you can walk the aforementioned trail through Dales Gorge to end up at Fortescue Falls. Alternatively (or additionally), there’s the 2km Gorge Rim trail that offers amazing views into Dales Gorge.
5. Hamersley Waterfall + Gorge (including Spa Pool) – 400m
This gorge is right up in the north-west of Karijini National Park, nowhere near the other gorges but certainly worth a visit. There’s a sealed road into the carpark and then a steep (and, at times, dangerously slippery) trail leading down into the gorge. We witnessed two accidents during our half day in Hamersley Gorge. Thankfully, there’s phone reception in the carpark to phone for help. Take your time, especially clambering over the slippery rocks, and enjoy this gorgeous waterfall and the stunning geological formations that envelope it.
Hamersley Gorge is about one hour’s drive from the Karijini Drive/Hamersley Mount Bruce intersection.
Tucked away at the top of Hamersley Gorge is Spa Pool. Folks line up to awkwardly slide into this tiny enclave and get their picture taken. I saw ‘awkwardly’ because the entrance is super slippery, so the best approach is getting as low as possible – sliding, is best. A woman dislocated her shoulder in front of us while trying to clamber out of the pool. We saw some others slip over also.
For great photos, Spa Pool is best when the sun is overhead, otherwise there’s a shadow over the pool.
Hot tip: After you’ve plunged into the cool waters of the pool, quickly heat your body by lying on the adjacent slate. Just be careful … it’s verrry slippery climbing up the slate!
6. Joffre Falls – 3km
Whether you’re viewing from above the falls, or you’ve climbed down into the gorge, this natural amphitheatre waterfall is absolutely spectacular. Soak in the serenity and take a plunge into the frigid waters. The towering gorge walls are a haven for birdlife and they create the perfect frame for a happy snap. Don’t feel like clambering down into the gorge? The top lookout is only 100m from the carpark.
7. Mount Bruce (Punurrunha) – 9km
It can be hard to wake up in the cold darkness to hike almost 3 hours (each way) to the top of a mountain, but if you’re going to do it, Mount Bruce is the spot! This is W.A’s second tallest peak, with glorious 360 degree views and a (not so glorious) view over Marandoo Mine Site. The trail to the summit took us about 6 hours return, though we were walking pretty slowly. If you don’t want to walk the whole way to the summit, take the Honey Hakea Track which is 4.6km.
Hot tip: Continue on from here to Hamersley Gorge (# 5 on this list).
8. Weano Gorge (including Handrail Pool 1km)
There’s a sign as you enter this gorge that mentions the possibility of hypothermia. Yep, pack a warm towel and prepare for the icy waters of Handrail Pool. Walking from the carpark, you’ll descend into Lower Weano Gorge, navigating slippery sections and tight spaces before the gorge opens up into the gorgeous Handrail Pool. You’ll need to swim to get through and see the next part of the gorge. Also nearby is Kermits Pool in Hancock Gorge, worth checking out too.
Thanks for reading! Drop back from time-to-time as I continue my journey around Western Australia (I will upload more blogs – read them all here). And please – if any of the information has changed or if you know of more great spots, please leave them in the comments below 🙂
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