Western Australia is all about the national parks and the endless beauty of it's vast emptiness, there are not many places left in the world where you can drive for days on end and not see a soul. Two of the best known national parks on the West Coast are Kalbarri and Karijini, both spectacularly different and both absolute must-sees on your way through the territory. Sadly for us, when we passed through Kalbarri National Park, we found most of it was closed due to ongoing works to build a skywalk around one section of the park - but the small parts that were open to us were still beautiful enough to inspire me to write about everything you can do in the park - not just the parts I saw. After all, this blog is all about sharing my experiences and knowledge so that it can inspire others to travel in the future.
Planning for your trip to Kalbarri National Park
When arriving at the park you want to ensure you have done your research beforehand as the phone signal (even with Telstra) is pretty rubbish in the park. Make sure you check which parts are open and for any announcements on the Park's official social media channels and website or you could end up driving a LONG way just to find out the park is closed. Make sure you take plenty of fuel with you, all the water and food you will need as shops are very limited and expensive in the centre and there are no water points. Drop into the visitor's centre on arrival to pick up a parks pass, book any tours/trips and to ask about the best spots for camping either for free or for a small cost.
What did I see and do?
We drove into Kalbarri and decided to start with Hawks Head and Ross Graham as we had seen signs that other parts were closed. We did the 200m return walk to Hawks Head Lookout, and the 400m return walk to Ross Graham Lookout - both offered stunning views over the gorges and far across Kalbarri National Park. Then we went down and completed the 1.4km River Trail walk through the Ross Graham Gorge where bright red cliffs and crystal clear waters awaited us. It was beautiful down there but you definitely feel the heat so take plenty of water and a hat to shade yourself from the intense sun. Sadly, just as we finished the walks, we bumped into a rage who told us we had to leave as a helicopter was coming through to shoot goats!
What else is there to see?
Kalbarri has so much more to offer than we were able to see, so if you're visiting once the park reopens, be sure to make the most of it and really see everything there. From the small taste I got of the park, I could tell it had so much more to share and that I had barely scratched the surface.
Head inland to the river gorges
There are so many amazing walks to explore during your visit and all of them are accessible with 2WD, although some do start along unsealed roads. Starting early in the morning to beat the heat, you should make your first stop Meanarra Hill Lookout where you will find 360 degree views of Kalbarri and the Murchison River flowing into the Indian Ocean. Of course, it wouldn't be a visit to Kalbarri without seeing Nature's Window, stroll 3.1km along a picturesque trail to one of WA's most iconic natural attractions.
Then if you're in the mood for breathtaking views and spectacular scenery, check out the Z-bend Lookout at 1.2km, or the Z-bend River Trail at 2.6km if you fancy attempting the steep descent and ladder climbs down to the river bed. Then for those who fancy a longer hike, the 4.6km Four Ways Trail is a must for those interested in geology and landforms, while the 4.8km Loop Hike offers well-prepared walkers a challenging but impressive hike.
Don't forget the Wild West's coastline
Kalbarri's rugged coastline is meant to be absolutely spectacular and with walk trails alongside sandstone cliffs that plunge dramatically more than 100m to the ocean, it is easy to see why. Look for amazing rock formations along the decaying cliffs, and don't forget to keep watch for dolphins, whales and much more in the crashing waters.
For stunning coastal views check out the short walk to the Natural Bridge, then wander along The Bigurda Boardwalk (1.2km) which joins the Natural Bridge with Island Rock, a sea stack that now stands against the forces of nature. Later for sunset, you'll want to head for Shellhouse Grandstand, a terraced rock face that gives the impression of a shell-shaped house to fishermen at sea and is best viewed at sunset with glowing light on the sandstone cliff.
For a bit more of a challenge, try the 16km return Bigurda Trail along which walkers will find a vast array of wildflowers, plus pods of dolphins and humpback whales. Or stroll along the 3km Mushroom Rock Nature Trail to step back in time 400 million years as you discover the strange rock formations.
What was your favourite part of Kalbarri National Park? Can you recommend any other national parks in Australia?