Long known as a fly-in, fly-out mining town, Karratha's tourist side has been an afterthought for people seeking a West Australian holiday. Now as the mining boom subsides more and more is being done to promote what really is a wonderful and unique part of our great state, and one just begging to be explored.
4WD the Burrup Peninsula Like fishing, you will be hard-pressed to find a local who doesn't enjoy getting their fourbie out on the weekends. The Burrup Peninsula is a treasure trove for activities and one of the best ways to see it all is by 4WD.
Heading past the industry you get to the locally infamous jump up, which is notorious for claiming side steps and mud flaps. Beyond there there are several pleasant drives taking you through low-lying scrub, slat flats and out to some very impressive and isolated beaches.
Visit Roebourne As the oldest town in the North West, Roebourne has a lot to offer in terms of indigenous and European history. There are plenty of old colonial era buildings still standing on the main street and the Visitor Centre itself is housed in the old gaol.
Besides history, there are art galleries home to some very respected local indigenous artists. The Mount Welcome lookout provides a nice vista over the surrounding area and the Harding River meanders its way past the town. Further inland is the Harding dam, a huge body of water sitting between the red rocks of the Pilbara which makes for a great day trip.
Find the rock art The Karratha region is home to some of the oldest petroglyphs in the world. Murujuga National Park on the Burrup Peninsula the most well-known spot for rock art, with more and more being discovered on a regular basis.
Petroglyphs are surprisingly hard to find even if you know you're in the right spot, but once one has been pointed out to you, thousands more suddenly appear. One of the best ways to find rock art and learn about its history is through local indigenous tour operator, Ngurrangga Tours.
Fish the creeks Fishing to the Pilbara is like soy lattes' to city-slickers, it is what the regions' residents live for. The creeks dotted in the mudflats and beaches along the coast are great for a wide variety of fish, crabs and shellfish.
Popular catches include Spanish mackerel, blue bone, barramundi in season, mangrove jack and, of course, mud crabs and oysters.
Walk the Yaburara Trail You do need a bit of fitness to take on this trail given its rocky and undulating terrain, and the fact it is in the Pilbara which means heat is always a factor. But it is well worth it, with every point of the hilltop trail offering fantastic views over the City of Karratha area.
The trail is also dotted with rock art and other places of significance to indigenous people. Signs have been erected to point these out and some new artworks have been installed up the top to celebrate its ties to indigenous culture.
Swim at Hearson's Cove
While the water is very nice in the lead up to Summer beaches are not the Pilbara's forte. Still there are a few nice locations to go for a dip, one such being Hearson's Cove on the Burrup Peninsula.
Hearson's Cove is a shell beach surrounded by the deep red rocky hills of the Burrup. At low tide the mud flats stretch out for ages and it is a great spot to watch staircase to the moon. When the water is up the sheltered bay and warm waters are absolutely perfect for swimming, fishing and other water-based activities.
The best thing? You can drive your car right up to the waters edge, bring your dog, bring a few drinks, and nobody will tell you off.
Get up close to heavy industry
Yes, the heavy industry on the Burrup is controversial, but it is also very interesting to check out. It is surprising just how close you can get to these mega-projects which have been driving the Australian economy for the past decade. Pluto and the North West Shelf are the two big ones but there is also the Yara fertiliser and ammonia nitrate plants, and Rio Tinto's iron ore port operations.
From the endless maze of piping to the sometimes huge gas flares the heavy industry here can be quite photogenic, especially when juxtaposed against the nature surrounding it. For those wanting to get closer industry tours run from the Karratha Visitor Centre as well.
Eat fish and chips at Point Samson
Like many places in the world, the Point Samson Tavern claims to have the best fish and chips. While it may not actually hold that title in my own opinion, that is not to say they aren't darn good at what they do.
The two-storey Point Samson Tavern is a nice, relaxing spot to watch the afternoon and evening go by. You can watch the sun set over the beach with one of the regions best selections of beers, wines and spirits at your fingertips.
Look at the night sky
The Pilbara is big sky country and you don't even have to leave the city lights to see plenty of stars. Of course, it is better if you do though, and just minutes' drive away from the lights the night really lights up.
Staircase to the moon, one of the better known night sky events
The milky way is crystal clear most nights and you can often see meteors, planets, constellations and shooting stars with no great difficulty.
Go to The Mermaid
Pubs don't come much more iconic than The Mermaid Hotel in Dampier. The classic pub has quite a reputation and was highlighted in the Red Dog movie.
It is a typical country pub with relaxing views over Dampier at sunset, good food, a decent beer selection for the region and a very popular all you can eat barbecue feed on Sundays.
Of course, if you have longer to stay, there are plenty of attractions nearby including Karijini and Millstream-Chichester National Parks, the islands off Dampier, the Whim Creek Hotel, station stays and many unique Pilbara towns to discover.