Awe and ore can be found in equal measure in Karratha. Known for its iron ore operations, this is the gateway to the marine-life rich Dampier Archipelago, the world’s most prolific prehistoric rock engraving site, Karijini’s four billion year old adventure playground and Millstream’s Chichester National Park. It’s also one of the few locations where you can witness the Staircase to the Moon.
Karratha is a two hour flight or a 16 hour road trip from Perth, and a three hour drive south of Port Hedland. From here, you can join one of many guided tours, or begin your own adventure.
A walk along the Jaburara Heritage Trail, starting from the visitor centre, gives you an introduction to the ancient Jaburara people and their legacy – the largest collection of Aboriginal rock engravings on Earth. Across the Burrup Peninsular, the Jaburara created more than 10,000 artworks, many dating back thousands of years.
A short hop by boat brings you to Western Australia’s hotspot for marine diversity and one of Australia’s best-kept fishing, snorkelling and diving secrets – the Dampier Archipelago. Its 42 islands and islets sit within a 45 kilometre radius of neighbouring Dampier.
Head two hours south of Karratha and find yourself in another world entirely. A lush oasis of tree-lined pools, spinifex hills and lily-filled wetlands awaits adventurous nature lovers at Millstream Chichester National Park. You can also follow in the tracks of early settlers along the Chichester Range Camel Trail and learn about the hardships they endured.
Venture further south to Karijini National Park and enter an outback playground of inviting plunge pools, 100 metre chasms and a 1,235 metre mountain four billion years in the making.
Using Karratha as a base makes perfect sense. As well as the largest shopping centre in the North West it boasts a good selection of accommodation, from luxury to budget-friendly.
If your visit coincides with a full moon between April and October, head for Hearson’s Cove at sunset where you can watch the moon rise over exposed mudflats creating the rare natural phenomenon known as the Staircase to the Moon.