Soaring sandstone gorges on your one side, colossal coastal cliffs on the other… It doesn’t matter how many national parks you’ve seen in Western Australia, Kalbarri National Park will still amaze you. A few of the highlights.
What? Kalbarri National Park in Western Australia isn’t like any other park. It has a unique combination of inland and coastal highlights. Both the inland gorgeous, carved by the Murchison River and the 13 km long stretch of coastal cliffs are fairly easy to admire from different lookouts.
Where? 500 km north of Perth, along Australia’s Coral Coast.
Why? Because the natural gorges and rugged cliffs offer some of the most stunning views we’ve seen during our road trip from Darwin to Perth.
Our schedule suggestion: start at Ross Graham lookout and work your way up north, ending with Nature’s window. Spend the night in Kalbarri and visit the coastal lookouts the next day. You could do both the inland and coastal highlights in a day if you wanted to, but trust us: on several occasions you’ll want to sit down for a while and take in the views. If you don’t make too much noise, you’re guaranteed lots of lizard encounters, from little dragon lizards to big sand goannas.
The inland gorges
Ross Graham Lookout
We visited at the end of the dry season, probably not the best time to see the Murchison River at its finest because of the very shallow water. The overall view didn’t leave as much of an impression as the other lookouts in the park. It’s still beautiful though, a great way to start and build up the expectations!
Another easy accessible lookout over the Murchison River gorge. The view by itself was so impressive that we didn’t even pay attention to the giant ‘Hawk’s head’ rock sticking out of the cliff edge.
One of Western Australia’s most iconic natural attractions! The natural rock arch stands high above the river and serves as a great photo opportunity. There’s a 500 meter that path will automatically take you there. If you want to make it a day hike, there’s an 8 km Loop walk trail too (and several multiple day hikes in case you just can’t get enough).
The most spectacular part of this lookout is the giant and sudden 150 meter drop right in front of you. Below is where the Murchison river flows. There are two platforms here, both offering different perspectives.
The coastal cliffs
Not the most spectacular lookout, but get out of the car anyway, just to build up the tension. While you take in the view, keep this in mind: the coastal cliffs are made from 430 million year old sandstone and limestone! They say this is a good lookout to spot some humpback whales along the shoreline, all the more reason to have a look. The annual migration runs from June to November.
Our favorite spot. You can hear and feel the immense power of the water, see the sea attacking the base of the red cliffs and some fisherman practically risking their lives on these cliffs. Stunning! There’s a path that takes you all the way down to a secluded beach. Careful near cliff edges: the winds can be treacherous.
The Natural Bridge
Another spectacular lookout with a wind and water eroded rock formation that has an opening underneath. Wait for a big wave to come crashing on the rocks! I hate to spoil the beauty, but you should know that this is a spot where the bush flies will bug you quite a bit (third worst place after Nambung National Park and Litchield National Park). They don’t bite, but they buzz around your face all the time and will even try to get close to your ears and eyes. We bought a fly and moquito headnet in a gass station for 4,5 AUD. Sure it looks ridiculous, but it was the best buy ever!
The Island rock
Our final lookout along the ocean shoreline, with more impressive rock formations sculpted by the sea. Some of these cliffs plunge hundreds of meters into the sea! A short 1.2 km return walk connects both the Natural Bridge and Island Rock lookout.
Good to know
- Remember: the more you descend into the inland gorges, the hotter it gets. Temperatures in the gorges can reach 50°C (122°F) in summer… it didn’t get that hot during our visit in September, but there was a distinct temperature rise inside the gorges.
- No drinking water in the park… Make sure to bring enough of your own!
- The road to the Loop and Z-Bend is unsealed. Campervans are recommended not to drive there, but since we had a 4WD campervan, we did it anyway without any problems. Due to roadworks, the road is intermittently closed until July 2017 so check with the park calendar to check when you can get through.
- Don’t pick the wildflowers, they’re protected.
- It will take you about 45 minutes longer to drive the coastal route from Kalbarri to Northampton as it will take you via the NW Coastel Highway, but take it anyway. It’s a really lovely scenic drive trough rolling hills with rewarding views of the dunes and sea.
- We had an overnight stay at the Tudor caravan park. The plot was tiny, but it was very nice and convenient to be at walking distance from the beach. Not a lot of restaurants around but we had a decent meal at Gilgai tavern.