It’s a desert like you haven’t seen before: funny looking limestone sculptures shaped by wind and water, rising up in their thousands from a yellow sandy desert. The Pinnacles Desert in Western Australia is a must if you enjoy nature at its rawest and most creative.
What? The Pinnacles Desert at Nambung National Park.
Where? At a 3 hour drive from Perth in Western Australia, along the Coral Coast.
Why? Because it’s like walking on a different planet… And the desert is a habitat for grey kangaroos so you have a good chance of spotting a few in the wild.
How it happened
25,000 to 30,000 years ago, millions of seashells were blown inland. They broke down into lime rich sands and then eroded by water and wind, with thousands of pinnacles in different weird and wonderful shapes and sizes as a result. The tallest pinnacles in the park are 3,5 meters high! Some of them resemble termite hills, others look like tombstones or even animals. It’s said that the pinnacles were only exposed about 6.000 years ago, covered up again by shifting sands over time and then exposed again in the last few hundred years. And that process is still going on today!
Park your car, take a walk
We had high expectations of the Pinnacles desert, especially because it was our second-last stop before heading home. We weren’t as blown away by the spectacle as we were when we saw the colossal cliffs of Kalbarri, the gorgeous waterfalls and gorges in Litchfield or the jaw-dropping beach sides at François Péron national park. Nonetheless the Pinnacles still made it to our top 10 of places to see when driving along Australia’s West Coast. You can either visit the park by foot (1,2 km walking trail) or by car (mobile homes not allowed). Or combine the two and drive the 4 km loop and get out now and then to explore the desert on foot. There are a few spots where you can park your car without causing a hold-up. Make sure to walk all the way to the lookout points to enjoy the views!
Visit the park in the early morning or better yet, just before closing time (the park closes just after sunset). The air is cooler, the colors are brighter, there are fewer people and the low sun creates long, intriguing shadows over the rippling sands. Don’t expect to be alone though, because the twilight hours are a great moment to take beautiful shots of the sun peeping between the sculptures. If you’re wandering what the best spot is to catch the sunset through a lens, just look for a long line of parked cars. The most avid photographers have taken a seat in a folding chair, armed with a tripod and a towel to protect their faces from the flies. We arrived in the late afternoon and while others rushed to find a good sunset spot, we took our time and let the other cars pass. Our patience and silence was rewarded: we spotted a grey kangaroo zigzagging between the pinnacles!
Good to know:
- The interpretive discovery centre at the entrance of the park has a neat little souvenir shop. You can also learn about the history and formation of the pinnacles here.
- There are no lodging or camping sports inside the park. We stayed overnight at the Pinnacles camping in Cervantes, right next to the park. It was the only camping we could find in the area but it turned out to be the perfect spot.
- The park is fringed by idyllic beaches like Hangover Bay. You can reach them via a side road of the Indian Ocean Drive.
- Got more time? At the park’s northern end (close to Cervantes), you can see thrombolites in Lake Thetis. They’re rock-like micro-organisms, similar to stromatolites. Another great place to see stromatolites in Western Australia is near Shark Bay, along the Denham-Hamelin road.