Our retirement bucket list for our road trip around Australia always included visiting Karijini National Park. We had never heard of Karijini National Park until we began researching Western Australian destinations on Pinterest. We then saw stunning photos of the natural landscape in Karijini National Park. Once we saw these images we were sold. There was no doubt in our mind. Karijini National Park was on our retirement travel “Must See” list.
Yet, we didn’t even know where Karijini Natioanl Park was! Initially we thought Karijini was in the Kimberley. That’s how little we knew.
Facts About Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park is located in the Pilbara, and is the second largest of the Western Australian National Parks. The rock formations in and around the gorges of Karijini formed more than 2500 million years ago. Some rocks in the Hamersley Ranges have been in existence for at least 3500 million years. It’s amazing how ancient the landscape is. These ancient rocks are rich in iron and silica, and are subsequently rich in colour.
The best time to visit Karijini is between May and September.
The main road into Karijini National Park is sealed. Many roads are listed as 4WD. During our visit we were able to visit all the sites mentioned below without needing to use 4WD. Check Karijini road conditions at the Karijini Visitors Centre.
Retirees Enjoying Travel at Karijini National Park.
We visited Karijini National Park in late June 2017. This was a perfect time to visit. The weather had just started to cool at night, but it wasn’t cold. The weather was wonderful during the day.
We camped for 5 nights at Dales Gorge Campground. This campsite is within walking distance to Dales Gorge. We travelled by car to other gorges from our base at Dale’s Gorge. We also did a day trip to Tom Price and enjoyed a tour of the Tom Price Mine (recommend).
Karijini National Park Gorges and Lookouts
1. Dales Gorge – 12km from Karijini Visitors Centre.
At Dales Gorge we enjoyed a 3 ¾ hour walk. We walked along the Gorge Rim, to Circular Pool, along the Gorge floor to Fortesque Falls, and onto the Fern Pool. We enjoyed three waterfalls, each completely different, and stunning scenery.
a) Gorge Rim
Grade 3 Walk
This walk is along the Gorge Rim, between Fortesque Falls and the Circular Pool Lookout. Along the walking track we enjoyed great views into the gorge.
The white barked Snappy Gums looked striking against the colourful landscape.
At the lookout we could see down to the Circular Pool.
b) Circular Pool
Grade 4 Walk
We climbed down into the Gorge, via a steep, rough track nearby the Circular Pool Lookout. Once at the bottom of the Gorge we walked to the Circular Pool. As we walked along the trail we had to negotiate large rocks, terraced rock shelves, and waterways with multiple rock pools. On occasions we needed to climb and clamber over difficult natural obstacles. For baby boomers we believe we managed very well. There was only one point where we were challenged by the height of the rock we had to climb onto.
At the Circular Pool we found quite a crowd enjoying the beauty of the area. Many enjoyed a swim, while others were simply resting on the large boulders surrounding the pool. While the water in the pool was chilly, we couldn’t resist swimming over to the waterfall. Here we enjoyed warm water flowing over us.
From the Circular Pool we walked along the bottom of the Gorge, towards Fortesque Falls. At times we needed to negotiate water crossings. The vegetation in the gorge is lush and green.
c) Fortescue Falls
Grade 3 Walk
We arrived at Fortesque Falls after walking along the bottom of the gorge. The sight of the waterfall was breath taking. We were surprised to see a crowd of tourists sitting along the cliff face adjacent to the waterfall. The rocks here are a rich colour of red and purple.
This is a spring fed permanent waterfall – the only permanent waterfall in the park. The pool below the waterfall is perfect for a swim.
Access to Fortesque Falls is also available via a steep hand railed staircase from the car park directly above.
d) Fern Pool
Grade 4 Walk
A brochure we read said the Fern Pool was an optional 300m detour from Fortesque Falls. In our opinion, there isn’t an option. Fern Pool is a definite “must see”. It is only a ten minute walk from Fortesque Falls. This area is truly picturesque and one of Karijini’s highlights. The beautiful waterfall, and pool surrounded by ferns, is breathtakingly beautiful.
2. Joffre Gorge (4WD) – 29.5km from Karijini Visitors Centre
a) Joffre Lookout
Class 2 Walk
From Joffre Lookout there is a wonderful view of Joffre Gorge. From here we saw the steep cliffs of the large gorge and the beauty of curved waterfall.
b) Joffre Falls
Class 5 Walk
We had seen many photographs of this stunning, huge waterfall. These photographs had inspired us to visit Karijini National Park.
The track to the Joffre Waterfall is rough and unformed and crosses the Joffre Creek. A couple of smaller waterfalls cascade down to the major waterfall.
The main waterfall is curved, forming a natural ampitheatre in the gorge.
The richly coloured rocks surrounding the Joffre Falls look particularly stunning, especially when wet. Then the dark rocks can delight with a show of emerald colours, as purples and pinks shine through.
Most of the walk at Joffre Falls is grade 4. Sadly, the last 150m descending to the gorge floor is graded class 5, due to a difficult descent. We were worried we might get down the bottom and then be retirees needing rescue. So, we didn’t get to see the view from the bottom of the gorge – much to our disappointment.
3. Knox Lookout
From Knox Lookout you look into the deep chasm of Knox Gorge. This area is renowned to be at it’s best at sunrise or sunset.
We enjoyed the spectacle of watching a group of young men swim in the gorge. They looked tiny below. We were amazed when they jumped off the rocks how long it was before they entered the water. Perspective is lost as the cliff walls are so tall.
4. Weano Gorge (4WD) – 43.5km from Karijini Visitors Centre
a) Lower Weano
Once we descended into Weano Gorge we turned right and walked along the trail. Along this walk we needed to wade through pools of water and climb along narrow rock ledges.
b) Handrail Pool, Weano Gorge
Grade 5 Walk
Access to the Handrail Pool is at the end of the Lower Weano trail. On this walk we enjoyed the challenge of negotiating our way over boulders and through narrow passage ways. Throughout the narrow passages there is a stream of running water, with slippery rocks.
To descend into the Handrail Pool we needed to climb down, you guessed it, a handrail. Here we enjoyed the beauty of a waterfall entering a plunge pool. This area is surrounded by stunning cliffs. Some people ventured on, through the deep pool. We decided we were happy with what we had seen.
5. Kalamina Gorge (4WD) – 25km from Karijini Visitors Centre
Grade 4 Walk
In the Kalamina Gorge we enjoyed yet another waterfall. At this waterfall there is a permanent pool surrounds by ferns.
As we followed the trail into the gorge we walked along a tree lined waterway, with multiple rock pools, and beautiful rock walls.
6. Other areas of Karijini National Park to visit
- Hancock Gorge
- Hamersley Gorge
- Mount Bruce
- For many Kermits Pool was a favourite, particularly for those with children. (Grade 5)
Karijini National Park Camping
Camping is available at various sites within Karijini National Park. Park visitor fees apply.
- Dales Gorge Campsite
- Karijini Eco Retreat
- Savannah Campground
For us as retirees enjoying travel Karijini National Park did not let us down. Every gorge we visited was different and stunningly beautiful. Apart from the natural beauty of the landscape is the adventure of exploring these ancient gorges. If you are interested in adventure travel this is the place to come. Everyone we spoke to enjoyed their visit to Karijini, regardless of age and physical ability. For us Karijini National Park is one of Australia’s top National Parks. We highly recommend you visit.
What about you?
Have you visited Karijini? What did you enjoy most? Which National Park is your favourite in Australia? Have you visited a National Park Overseas? Which National Park are you dreaming of visiting? Please join in the conversation.
Wishing you happy and safe travels
From Estelle and Greg – Retirees Enjoying Travel