Living in Western Australia for most of my life I’ve grown up hearing many amazing stories of the natural beauty of Karijini National Park. Each time I heard one of these dreamlike stories (that described rocks that looked painted with bands of red and yellow split into narrow gorges that ran with clear aquamarine waters) my desire to see Karijini grew and grew.
For 26 years I never had the opportunity to visit the park – It sits just over 1,000km from Perth but is extremely isolated with only a few small mining towns nearby.
Finally, when we decided to drive around the world in our car I made certain that our path would cross Karijini so I could witness all the beauty first hand.
Thank god I did!
We arrived in Karijini on a balmy May evening and almost as soon as we entered the park I saw my first ever Dingo hiding behind a few bushes on the side of the road. Trusting that dingo’s only eat human babies (if even that), we decided to drive to the northern most point of the park and set up camp on the other side of the park’s border.
The next three days we spent exploring the five famous gorges, their pools, waterfalls, rocky crevices and walking trails.
Here are our favourite experiences ranked best to least-best (seeing as everywhere we went was amazing) so you can make the most of visiting the park.
1. Hancock Gorge and Kermits Pool
This was by far our favourite place in Karijini – the walk through the gorge to Kermit’s pool was a fun challenge that saw us wade through shin deep crystal clear water, slide along a narrow ledge for 5 metres and complete the aptly named ‘spider walk’ with one foot on each side of the gorge as running water flowed underneath us.
The weather was perfect with sun gleaming off the water and casting shimmering reflections on the layers of deep red rock that jutted out around us.
It almost felt too perfect to be true – a mix between a natural Disneyland and an obstacle course that rewarded you magnificently for finishing the course with the soft, curving edges and perfect aquamarine waters of Kermit’s Pool.
We spent hours relaxing in the cool, clear water there and lying on the many natural steps that let down to the pool.
2. Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool
These two amazing pools can be found very close together at the western end of Dale’s gorge. After a steep descent on a set of metal stairs you’ll get your first glimpse of Fortescue Falls – a medium sized waterfall of red rock steps surrounded with lush vegetation and a large, calm pool of enticing green water.
If you take the track further west from here you’ll walk through some fairytale-like tunnels made from lush foliage and trees until you get to an enormous pool of perfectly green water surrounded with soft reeds and fronds and with a little cliff face and waterfall at one end.
This whole area is a literal oasis in the middle of the Pilbarra’s sweltering hot and sparse landscape. Its so verdant and lush that you feel like you’ve been transported to another world where you’ll find gnomes hiding in holes in the tree-trunks and fairies flittering over the water.
3. Handrail Pool at Weanu Gorge
Unfortunately we arrived at Karijini after a long, dry spell meaning some of the waterfalls and gorges were running with significantly less water than normal. Weanu gorge was one of these, and although the water was just a trickle over the rocks and in pools here and there, the amazing rock formations of this gorge and around Handrail Pool made up for the lack of water in a massive way.
As you walk further and further down the gorge, the red rock cliffs and natural stairways slowly enclose on you until you’re literally squeezing your way through the gaps. These were my favourite spots and I loved the adventure of walking through the incredibly coloured rock that has been worn smooth with millions of years of rainfall. The cherry on top of the cake is when you squeeze through the last of these tight spaces and come out at Handrail Pool, a 70 metre high perfectly rounded hole in the earth that holds a body of cool, green water. The sides of the pool are pure, soft-edged red rock that are almost vertical with the exception of a staircase down to the pool next to a chute of water that must be magnificent after more rains.
For this reason we’ve ranked it at number three on our list.
4. Circular Pool
Circular pool can be found at the other end of Dale’s Gorge. The walk between Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool is well worth it – a 2km trail that runs along the almost flat bottom of the gorge. You’re surrounded with incredible rock cliffs all the way along and are rewarded with cool, incredibly clear pools of water here and there that you can refresh yourself in.
The coldest of all the pools is Circular Pool as its placed on the south side of an immense cliff covered in mosses and ferns.
Chutes of water come out of the rock all around the body of water, creating natural infinity pools of shallow water where you can lay back and enjoy the view or jump from into the deep waters of Circular Pool below.
5. Knox Gorge
With a loose, rocky decent down to the bottom, Knox Gorge is for the adventurer! You’ll start by scrambling down the edge of the gorge for a good 200 metres before arriving at the rock strewn and water laced bottom. You can take a walk in either direction of the gorge and find trick rock ledges and pools to pass on either side. A stream of water laces from side to side of the bottom of the gorge and creates the perfect environment for trees, reeds and sub-tropical foliage to grown where it would never have the chance just 100 metres higher up.
Take a left at the bottom of the descent into the gorge to end up at a small, steep sided rock pool where you can have a splash.
6. Joffre Falls
This waterfall is famous for its perfect step-like formation where thousands of rock ledges run at 90 degree angles down to the bottom of the gorge and a mass of water flows over the staircase. Unfortunately due to the lack in rainfall we didn’t arrive at the best time to witness it’s beauty but were still impressed with the massive rock sides of the gorge where you’ll see trees growing from tiny cracks and at incredible angles. The nice surprise along the Joffre Falls track is that you cross the creek at the top of the falls on your way down. The water flows in, around and under rocks here and sparkles in the sunlight at the top of the gorge which you won’t see at any other place.
7. Kalamina Gorge
Kalamini gets overlooked by a lot of Karijini visitors as its placed smack bang in the middle of the four-wheel drive track that joins the two ends of the north part of the park. Even so, its worth driving down to Kalamina especially for families and groups with young kids. The track is relatively easy and the creek running at the bottom of the gorge is shallow yet pools in places where you’ll be able to take a dip. Another incredible waterfall can be found to the right of the gorge entrance and is a spectacular sight with trees growing out among the falling water.