Kalbarri National Park

A short detour from Highway 1 between Perth and Exmouth will take you to Kalbarri National Park, a cool combination of Central Australian-ish sandstone gorges in the northern section and colourful Western Australian sea cliffs in the southern section.

Coming south from Perth, the first attraction off the Northwest Coastal Highway is the pink lake of Hutt Lagoon, just out of Port Gregory. The pink colour comes from an algae that produces carotenoid and varies in intensity depending on the concentration of algae in the waters. Beta-carotene is sourced from this algae and used as an additive to various food products and health supplements. It wasn’t at its most vibrant when we saw it but still quite beautiful!

The beautiful pink lake of Hutts Lagoon

Continuing on towards Kalbarri, our next stop was Lucky Bay, the bush camp we used as our base to explore the Kalbarri region. Most people know of the Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park just out of Esperance in the south of the state, but this Lucky Bay is just as spectacular and usually much quieter than its southern counterpart. It’s a great beach to park up for the day and go fishing or snorkelling in the deep channel just north of the campground. The campground has been recently taken over by WA Parks, which may mean that online bookings are now required.

Lucky Bay beach…what a stunner!

The southern section of Kalbarri National Park comprises of the spectacular sea cliffs jutting out over the Indian Ocean with lots of hidden nooks. It’s quite reminiscent of the Great Ocean Road in southern Victoria. Starting from the south you have Island Rock, a singular sea stack separated from the coastline long ago, and Natural Bridge.

Island Rock along the southern portion of Kalbarri NP

Further along is Shellhouse Grandstand, which is so named because fishermen believed they could see a house in the shape of a shell in the cliffs here. Other great spots include Eagle Gorge and Pot Alley, which both have beautiful secluded beaches. Be aware these beaches are not swimmer friendly due to rough seas.

Pink sandstone at Pot Alley

Swimmer-friendly spots are found a bit closer to town, such as Blue Holes, a stunning Fish Habitat Protected Area perfect for snorkelling, or Chinamans Beach in town. Surfers will want to head to Jakes Beach to tick Jakes Point, a National Surfing Reserve, off their bucket list.

Plenty of beautiful beaches to choose from around Kalbarri town

Going into the northern section of Kalbarri National Park, we really felt like we had been transported back to Central Australia, with the towering gorges and sandy river beds. These magnificent gorges have been carved out over millions of years by the Murchison River, the second largest river in WA, which is topped up by cyclones occurring in the northern part of the state.

The Murchison River from Hawks Head Lookout

Caravans and trailers are not permitted in the northern section of the national park, so if you are towing, you’ll have to unhitch before entering the park. The most popular attraction here is Nature’s Window, a natural rock frame overlooking the gorge. It’s extremely popular so if you’d like it a bit more to yourself get there at the start or end of the day. We arrived early in the morning to enjoy a stunning sunrise watching the rays gradually peak out over the horizon perfectly framed by the rock window.

The famous Nature’s Window

The Loop Hike is a stunning walk that leaves from Nature’s Window, continuing along the ridge before dropping down into the gorge and following the riverbed until it circles back around to the start. It’s a 9km walk and you are required to start the walk by 7am, and for good reason – daytime temperate in the gorge can reach 50+ degrees Celsius, and there is little shade along the trail. Fatalities have occurred on this walk from people not heeding the warnings, and rescuers have been hospitalised in attempts to retrieve distressed walkers. And don’t forget your fly net; we have never experienced more flies anywhere else in Australia! According to the ranger, if we had been two weeks earlier or later, there would have been pretty much no flies…just our luck…

Some of the amazing views along The Loop walk

Another (small) negative about our timing was we missed the Skywalk, a cantilevered lookout over the Murchison River, which opened mid 2020. Apparently it’s quite spectacular so don’t miss it if you go for a visit!

At the opposite end of the Z-Bend Road is the Z-Bend lookout, which probably has the best lookout over the gorge, and a couple more walking trails that follow the river. Further into the park are two more lookouts: Hawks Head and Ross Graham lookouts, both with offer great views of the gorges. Ross Graham also has an easy 600m return walk down to the river’s edge.

The riverbed is easily accessible from Ross Graham Lookout

After a week in Kalbarri, we had truly had our fill of this beautiful place. Many travellers go past Kalbarri without setting foot in it, either on their way north to Exmouth or south to Perth and Southwest WA, but we reckon it’s well worth the small detour to spend a few days in this natural beauty with its many treasures!

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