Karijini National Park: A Novice’s Guide To Taking On The Outback

In Australia
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Karijini National Park is one of Western Australia’s greatest treasures. Situated in the state’s North West Pilbara Region, the park boasts incredible landscapes, magnificent wildlife, and the grand opportunity to enjoy a national pastime: camping.

You thought I was going to say drinking, didn’t you? It’s okay, you can do that too.

The first trip we ever organised was over the Easter weekend in 2015. On a bit of a whim, and running high on Instagram inspiration, three friends and I decided to rent a Mitsubishi Outlander and take off into the great unknown. In the span of approximately a week, we bought a tent, packed supplies, and started driving before our parents had the chance to lecture us about the dangers of four girls on the open road.

Were we as prepared as we could have been? Probably not.
But did we survive? We sure did.

As it turned out, it was the best decision we made that year, which subsequently led us to Karijini 2.0 in 2016, and is presently evolving into Karijini 3.0 plans for 2017.

In my opinion, the national park is one of the most indescribably beautiful places in the state, and is nature’s ultimate playground. If you are considering a visit, I cannot emphasise how worth it the experience will be. I’ve put together this guide, not only to share my experiences, but hopefully to encourage you to follow through and make your journey a reality too.

Background

Camping at Karijini is just about as rugged as you can get. The campsite is known as Dales Camping Area and comprises of cleared lots on unsealed, rocky ground with no electrical connectivity or running water available. There are shared outhouses, no shower facilities (although some can be found at the visitor’s centre 12km away), and limited barbecue pits for cooking. The days can reach scorching temperatures in Summer, and the flies are both abundant and persistent. Equally intrusive is the dust. If you didn’t like the colour of red earth before, you will once you’re done camping, since everything you know and love will be have been tinged by nature’s annoying bronzer.

Still interested? Read on!

Karijini rock formations

Formations at the base of the gorge

When To Visit

Due to the latitude at which the park is located, temperatures at Karijini are a lot warmer than in the southward city of Perth. In Summer, the daytime mercury usually hovers around 40 degrees Celcius, with a drop to the high-20s at night – this is the preferred season for the millions of flies residing in the area. Conversely in Winter, temperatures can be as low as the mid-20s during the day, although the cool and dry nights can get frosty between 0-10 degrees Celcius. Taking into account the semi-tropical climate bringing rainier days from December to March, I would recommend that the most ideal times to visit are during late Autumn and early Winter.

Getting There

The national park itself is approximately a 1,500km drive from Perth (roughly 16 hours straight of car games and bad karaoke), if taking the most direct interior route via the Great Northern Highway. However it can also be accessed on the west side, which affords travellers a more scenic drive, as well as the option of stopping at other popular destinations such as Kalbarri, Carnarvon and Coral Bay. The drive up north to Karijini is well maintained, and the roads are mostly sealed bitumen prior to the park’s entry. Caution should be taken on the roads, nevertheless, particularly in relation to wildlife. I’ve come across both cows and kangaroos on the roads, neither of which you would want to hit.

Having travelled via both directions, my advice would be to base your route on the number of days you have available – anything less than four and I would suggest going by Great Northern Highway to allow you to maximise your time there.

cow

A cow by the side of the road

Cost

The cost of booking a lot at the Dales Camping Area is relatively cheap, at $10 per person, per night. Bookings cannot be made in advance however, and therefore it would be wise to plan ahead and arrive early during busier periods.

Other costs to consider include:

  • Fuel – the price per litre increases the further away you are from a major city
  • Supplies – similar to fuel, food and water will typically cost more if purchased in the outback as opposed to being bought in Perth

As mentioned above, we also made the decision to rent a car. This was largely due to the fact that we wanted a large four-wheel drive vehicle with roo bars (or bull bars, for non-Australians playing at home). We also wanted to be able to take the car off road without having to worry about damage or clean-up later on. This, of course, adds an additional cost element to the trip, so it would be up to your budget and tolerance threshold for dirt. If you think you can keep the upholstery spotless, refer to my earlier comment about how the only colour you will know at the end your trip is red.

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What To Bring

I’ve outlined below a number of important or useful things to bring along on your trip.
This is by no means conclusive, however it can be used as a starting point to determine the essentials.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping gear (mattress or camp bed, sleeping bag, pillow, etc.)
  • Picnic mat or tarpaulin
  • Portable furniture (fold out chairs and tables are useful in food preparation)
  • Portable cooktop
  • Cooking utensils (disposable cutlery and crockery, knives, tongs, pots/pans, cling wrap, foil, sandwich bags, etc.)
  • Food supplies (some classics include tinned foods, two minute noodles, fruit, and general non-perishables)
  • Water supplies (a minimum of two litres per person per day, in addition to water for cooking and washing)
  • Personal supplies (clothing, toiletries, towel, tissues, etc.)
  • Wet wipes (great for keeping as ‘fresh’ as one can get without showers)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect Repellent
  • Hat (if you can attach some sort of netting to keep out the flies – that’s a bonus)
  • Day pack
  • Waterproof/indestructible camera
  • Torch
  • Sturdy footwear (bearing in mind you may have to wade through waterways at times, reef shoes are a great investment)
  • Anything else that might make your trip a little more enjoyable, depending on where on the continuum between camping and glamping you sit (I’ve seen people with inflatables at the waterfalls!)

Things To Do

Karijini National Park contains a series of gorges which are connected via hiking trails, ranging in both difficulty and duration. While excellent for viewing the flora and fauna, these trails also lead to various rock pools and waterfalls, allowing visitors to go swimming amidst the serenity of nature.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife provides a very comprehensive brochure with information about the trails available – this can be obtained from the visitor’s centre, or online at: https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/

Gorges Karijini

A walk through the gorges

Other Tips

Hopefully all the information above has been either helpful or entertaining thus far.
Here are a couple of other handy things to remember:

  • Plan ahead!
    They say if you fail and to plan, then you are planning to fail. You don’t have to be ready for every possible outcome, but in order to give yourself the best chance of returning home in one piece, it’s best that you give your trip some serious thought before hitting the road.
  • Respect your surroundings!
    Know that the park existed long before you did, and the only reason you can still enjoy it is because the people before you stuck to the trails, picked up their rubbish, and didn’t feed the animals.
  • Be careful on the roads!
    Apart from animals crossing your path, one of the most dangerous factors of long distance driving is the driver’s attitude. Don’t be reckless on country roads, and most importantly, don’t drive tired.
  • If you have a rental car, make sure understand the terms and conditions!
    Some companies impose restrictions on kilometres travelled, or types of road you can travel on. Be aware of what your contract entails so that you don’t end up having to pay excessive fees upon return of the vehicle.
  • Have fun!

With all of the above in mind, I hope this guide has been useful in giving you a little more confidence to get out there and make your journey to Karijini National Park happen. If we can do it, you can definitely do it too!
See you on the Easter weekend!

Fern Pool Karijini

A view of Fern Pool

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