From the South West, through the Pilbara to Carawine Gorge

Wednesday, Jun 24, 2009 at 00:00


Heading back to Central Australia

In 2009 we left home 13 June and returned 8 November after having driven almost 22,000 kilometres and travelled through six states/territories, effectively doing a lap of Australia. Our highest priority priority targets were to see some of the northern part of the Northern Territory particularly Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, Darwin, and the fossil country of northern Queensland. Otherwise it was to follow roads and see where they took us.

Part one sees us head north from our South West home into the Pilbara, although this journey includes some places previously visited, we take in some new sights as well.

See lots more photos and read this travelogue in detail in the Travelogues from 2009 on Australia So Much to See, and watch as our further adventures are loaded.

Taking the Great Northern Highway through a wheat belt to Pithara, we drove east towards Kalannie to spend a peaceful night at Petrudor Rocks. Resuming our journey on the Great Northern Highway next morning we continued north.

At Mount Magnet, we drove to Warramboo Hill Lookout over the early and modern mines near the town. These mines are now all closed.

There was water and abundant bird life in Lake Nallan, which is a popular spot to stop alongside the highway to the north of Cue. We had travelled along a narrow isthmus onto a virtual island, however access to this particular section is no longer permitted for conservation reasons, and camping around the lake has since been curtailed and confined to the south side only.

Having been on the Great Northern Highway before, we continued on through Meekatharra and Newman without further sightseeing, stopping at a lovely rest area at Mount Robinson. Behind us was a small gorge and the start of a track up to the top of Mount Robinson. It was starting to rain so we did not walk far up the hill.

We turned and drove through Karijini National Park, but did not visit the gorges as we had done so previously. Climbing higher, we headed towards Tom Price, crossing a pass at the highest point of our Western Australian travels at over 800 metres above seal level.

A huge iron-ore deposit at Mount Tom Price was discovered in 1962, and the Hamersley Iron Project was established. The mine, the towns of Tom Price and Dampier, and a railway line between the two were established. Today, the neat mining town is an oasis in the dry red countryside. On the western end of the Hamersley Range at an altitude of 747 metres, Tom Price is the state's highest town.

Next we visited the mining town of Paraburdoo. The town was not as neat and green as Tom Price, and the spinifex covered hills gave way to lower hills covered with scrub. Just north of Nanutarra Roadhouse, we turned onto the Highway and headed north.

At Port Hedland, the salt works is a busy operation. Someone has places ‘shark fins’ in the evaporation pond alongside the highway, and they are now encrusted with salt. A constant stream of road trains loads and takes salt to the wharf for shipping. There is a good look-out to pull off the highway near the salt operation, however it is mainly to get a good view of the very long iron ore trains as they come into town. The iron ore is also taken to the port for export.

We turned off the Highway and headed towards Marble Bar. Approaching Marble Bar, an entry statement has a map of Australia with a cut out section on the map showing the extent of the Shire of East Pilbara which runs from the coast at Cape Keraudren to the Northern Territory border, covering an area of over 371,696 square kilometres, almost 15% of Western Australia.

The drive east from Marble Bar along the Rippon Hills Road was lovely, with soft green spinifex and orange hills. Much of this area is now the Meentheena Conservation Park, and was formerly a station.

Shortly after crossing the Oakover River, we turned south onto the Woodie Woodie Road for a short distance to take the dry weather track in to Carawine Gorge.

In early 2004 Cyclone Faye took out many of the trees along this section of the river. Remnants can be seen in the thick layer of stones which have been deposited well above the normal water line. The stones are not as firm as they appear when driven on with a heavy rig, but that is another story!
We woke in the morning to find it raining. After the rain passed, the walls of the gorge reflected in the still water. Trees are re-growing along the water’s edge.

Read more detail about this trip and see lots more photos in our 2009 Travelogues South West WA to Carawine Gorge

Our next blog takes us through the Gary Junction Road to Alice Springs.


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