I'm a freelance writer living in Perth. Having 2 young kids with endless energy, we are always on the lookout for new outdoor activities.
Published November 9th 2014
Full moon hanging above Kalbarri.
Kalbarri, you'll love it." That's the motto of Kalbarri's Visitor Centre and there are indeed many things to love about the area. Kalbarri is the name of a township about 600km north of Perth and also the name of the national park surrounding it.
The township is located where Murchison River meets the ocean, giving visitors opportunities to enjoy both bodies of water. The national park is most famous for its gorgeous gorges, both the river and ocean varieties. The dark red soils, green gum trees, brown river, dark blue ocean, and white cliffs provide a combination of colours unique to this corner of Western Australia.
Beautiful river gorges at Kalbarri National Park
Murchison River Gorges
Driving inland from Kalbarri town on Ajana Kalbarri Road, you'd enter the national park proper where Murchison River reigns. There are many lookout points provided along the river, the most famous being Nature's Window. To say it as it is, it's a hole in a rock on top of a hill. But the breathtaking views surrounding it renders the description totally insufficient. Looking through it, we could see for miles away, at the river, the gorges, the floodplains, and the horizon beyond. Now if only my bedroom window had a view like this.
Please note that the last part of the 500m walk to Nature's Window could be a bit scary for those afraid of heights, so wear sturdy shoes and put your belongings in a backpack for better balance. For those of you who are not afraid of heights and love hiking, The Loop is an 8km walk trail passing through Nature's Window.
Z-bend lookout located not far from the Nature's Window brings you to the part of the river where it makes a sharp turn after a long straight stretch, and the lookout is located right above the river bend. It gives us quite a dramatic view, as if the river stopped right there 100m below our feet.
Another location worth visiting is Hawk's Head (just under 40km from Kalbarri town). It has a lookout over the river and if you pay close attentions, you might just catch glimpses of animals like feral goats in the bushes by the river. Unfortunately these feral animals are competitors to native fauna and therefore efforts have been made to eradicate them.
Hawk's Head Lookout
From Kalbarri township, the coastal cliffs are at opposite direction from the river gorges. So to get there, you should drive south towards Point Gregory and the cliffs would be on the right hand side of the road.
First stop: Red Bluff. Located just a few km out of town, it heralds the start of the 13km stretch of coastal cliffs in Kalbarri National Park. As the name suggest, the cliffs here are dark red like the Murchison River gorges. One little thing I loved about the lookout here is the sign that says "Cliffs of Beauty and Tragedy." It sounds so romantic and sad at the same time (Oh dear, where's my hanky?) Other than the outstanding scenery, you could also walk down to the beach for swimming, snorkeling or fishing.
Driving further south, there are many turn offs for the cliffs, with interesting names like Mushroom Rock, Pot Alley, and Eagle Gorge. Don't turn back into town until you reach the last turn off about 12km south of Kalbarri, as this one is quite special. It will bring you to Island Rock and Natural Bridge, two phenomena that reminded me of their distant cousins in Victoria's Great Ocean Road. In contrast to the Red Bluff, the cliffs here are very light in colour, making a nice foreground to the dark blue ocean.
Walkers among you would be happy to know that coastal walk tracks are aplenty here, connecting the different lookouts. You could choose one to suit you, for example Eagle Gorge to Natural Bridge is a hefty 8km, 3.5 hours walk, while Mushroom Rock to Rainbow Valley is much shorter.
If you have plenty of time left, you might want to drive even further until you reach Pink Lake on the outskirt of Port Gregory. The pink colour has something to do with the amount of beta-carotene in the water (the same natural chemical that gives carrot its colour). They obviously have so much of this substance as other smaller bodies of water in Port Gregory are also pink in colour.
Pink Lake, near Port Gregory
Kalbarri, although small, is an old township as it was originally the shipping port for the region's mining products. Nowadays, it ably caters for tourists with its many accommodations, eateries and tour operators.
Every morning, it's rise and shine for visitors who would like to participate in the pelican feeding. At 8.45 every morning, people would gather at the lawn by the river and wait for the pelicans to descend. Unlike the faithful dolphins of Monkey Mia, the pelicans here are more fickle and may or may not show up according to their mood. Looking at the bright side, it means that the wild pelicans are not dependent upon humans and wholly able to catch their own fish, thank you.
Waiting for the pelicans
As a last note, if you come in spring time, remember that it's rock lobster season along the coast north of Perth and feel free to gorge yourself on this delicacy, either at Kalbarri or at other coastal townships along the way from/ to Perth. It is not exactly cheap and you can't generally find them in fish and chips shops, but it's fresh when in season, and taste excellent either au naturel or mornay. Enjoy.
I loved Kalbarri when I visited in August 1997. Hired a bicycle for a day and explored the coastline and surrounding attractions.
'Nature's Window' would have the be the most photographed rock formation, through to the river below.
The Grevilleas were in full bloom and I saw the biggest 'balls of yellow fluff' of Australian Wattle.
The West does it best for Wildflowers.
It was 2004, but I remember many choices of accommodation, a beautiful location, perfect weather, great seafood, an amazing John's Wildflower Tour and National Park Tour. Great memories. I recommend it as well.