Dales Campground – Warlu site 113 – $22/night (no generators)
To ensure you get a good site make sure you book online early. We didn’t realise what distances you have to travel to get to the gorges. We missed quite a few places as we didn’t carry enough fuel. So if possible make sure you have full tanks and carry a spare fuel can, unless you are happy to take a trip out to Tom Price.
We were in Warlu 113, not the nicest site especially as we had booked in for 9 nights. We put all the walls and the annex up, which I’m pleased we did as the days are quite warm but the nights are quite cold, on some mornings we put the diesel heater on.
After a walk around the campground we decided that if we come back again we would book early and try to get a site at Dingo which is a little area with no generators. What makes this site special, are the beautiful wildflowers and native plants that border the sites.
We found all the gorges we visited absolutely fascinating, it is nothing like we have seen before. The walls are in layers like steps and consist of a banded iron formation. This is quite consistent throughout the park. Our shoes changed to the colour of the rocks and for the rest of our trip we had this thick reddish rust colour stuck to them. Plunge pools are at the foot of many of the waterfalls and some of them are a permanent water source for the park.
Near the visitor centre there is a water tap where you can fill up for free with untreated bore water. The camp host said to me she uses it for cups of tea, as boiling it would make it safe to drink. We just used it for our showers back at camp. At Dales campground there is a dump point and plenty of composting toilets. If you don’t have showering facilities, you can use the showers at the Visitor Centre for a fee. The Visitor Centre is 12km from Dales Gorge.
Gorge Rim Walk – Class 3 walk
This walk is approximately 2 km, so allow about a 1 hour. It usually takes us longer as we like to sit and admire our surroundings or try to get that perfect photo. Please be advised that this timing does not take into consideration the walk from your campsite. Ours was approximately 1.5km each way to the Circular Pool lookout. Alternatively you can drive your car to the Fortescue Falls car park, which is opposite the Camp Host Hut.
We followed the rim of the gorge from Circular Pool lookout. The lookout does offer spectacular views down to Circular Pool. From here, if you are brave you can go down the very steep steps on the gorge wall to the bottom. It is about a 800m scramble down to the gorge floor, turn left and head to the pool. We didn’t take the steps here and continued on following the path. It is a relatively easy walk with only a few steep sections and a few areas with some steps.
Once you reach the Fortescue Falls viewing area you have completed this walk. From here you can re-trace your steps or walk back through the campsites, we continued onto Fortescue Falls. There are 280 steps to take you down to the gorge floor, once down you are almost at the base of falls. At this point we continued on to Fern Pool, they advise that this section is a class 4 walk. It is only 300m to the pool but I’m not sure I’d class it a 4. It was no harder than what we had just completed. When we arrived there were loads of people and was very hard to get a good viewing point. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful pool with a gorgeous water fall. From here we re-traced our steps back to Fortescue Falls and negotiated our way down and across for the obligatory photos.
Chris completed the Dales gorge walk by himself today and just as he got back the heavens opened up and it absolutely poured. It made it so refreshing after being so hot and dusty. The next day it also rained on and off all day, so we took advantage of this and read books, played games and enjoyed a few afternoon drinks. The next morning when speaking with the Ranger I asked if it usually rains in August. She said not that she was aware of. As you would know, Chris and I are the rain gods however, this time the rain was welcomed.
Weano Gorge – Upper Weano Gorge – Class 4 walk
The drive out to Weano Gorge from the Visitor Centre is 43.5km each way along a dirt road which is signposted as 4×4 only. Not because it is a road in the true sense of being 4×4, because you will shake the guts out of your car and if you want a comfortable drive, you’ll have a 4×4. Alternatively you can take Karijini Drive which is sealed and is 85km each way with only a short section of dirt road to the car park. We of course took the dirt road and didn’t find it too bad.
There is a brilliant picnic area here with BBQ’s, shade shelter huts, table and chairs and toilets. Very well set out and loads of space to rest up between walks. The Ranger does a fabulous job in keeping this area very well maintained.
Once you have made your way down to the bottom of (upper) Weano Gorge there is a formed track to follow with crisscrossing of water and beautiful paperbark trees. Looking up at the rock walls are just amazing with the foliage growing out of the crevices. It was a relatively easy walk and once you have completed the circuit you start your ascent back up the formed steps and it is here you continue to the left to Lower Weano, Handrail Gorge or make your way back up to the top.
Lower Weano, Handrail Gorge – Class 5 walk
I knew this 1km walk would be out of my capabilities so I stayed up at the picnic area and Chris completed the walk. It was relatively easy until you arrive at the handrail and this is when it becomes challenging. It can be slippery and it is recommended to hang onto the rail on your way down. However once down you are rewarded with a beautiful pool to swim in.
Oxer and Junction Pool lookouts – Class 2 Walk
This is a very easy 800m walk for views over Hancock Gorge and Oxer Lookout. A little further on you come to the Junction Pool Lookout. Quite stunning Birdseye views of all the stunning gorges coming to a meeting point.
Hancock Gorge – Amphitheatre, Spider Walk and Kermit’s Pool – Class 5 Walk
I really would have loved to have done this one but I wasn’t kidding myself and Chris again went by himself. There are numerous obstacles and rock steps to negotiate plus some steep metal stairs. Chris absolutely loved the challenge of this walk and said it was like something out of this world. He could only do the first section without getting wet. So he had to leave his bag and camera gear on the trail as the water he had to wade through was neck high.
Dales Gorge – Class 4 Walk
This might only be a 2 km walk however it was for me very challenging. You follow the trail along the creek between Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool Trail. From circular pool you can make your way up and out of the gorge or retrace your steps back to Fortescue Falls. We chose to navigate our way up and out.
The trail is rough in parts with many obstacles with some steep sections. There were a few water crossings as you navigate your way along the bottom of the gorge and few big boulders to cross over but all in all was a very enjoyable walk. We started from Fortescue Falls made our way to the very bottom of the falls. Here you practice your rock hopping skills to step along the stones on the water to get to the other side of the creek.
Kalamina Gorge – Class 4 Walk
Kalamina Gorge is a 25km drive (one way) from the visitor centre once again you need 4×4 for a comfortable drive along the teeth shattering roads. Although it is a 3km class 4 walk not all parts of this walk are difficult. Once you have descended the steps into the gorge you turn right to head to the waterfall. Then re-trace your steps downstream as you take a leisurely stroll amongst the lemon-scented grasses by the stream which you are following. This is one of the most beautiful walks I’ve done. I found it very relaxing and enjoyable. There are lots of cascading waterfalls all along the gorge floor, some you have jump over, some you walk along.
Cheela Plains Station Stay – Un-powered site $30/night
During our stay at Karijini Chris somehow hurt his eye. We were not sure if he got something in it or he had an infection. Regardless it was really bothering him so we left Karijini a day earlier than planned and headed to the Tom Price Hospital. By this stage I was driving as he was in quite a bit of pain. We phoned ahead and they said to come into the hospital and once he has been triaged they will have a Doctor from the medical centre examine him. The hospital staff couldn’t have been more helpful, the on duty triage nurse was amazing. They advised that as we were heading to Exmouth that if the drops they provided didn’t start to take effect to call into the Hospital at Exmouth as that is a bigger Hospital and would have more facilities available. He now had a patch on his eye and was completely out of action for driving. In fact for anything, so these next few days on our way to Exmouth was quite stressful.
After topping up food and fuel supplies in Tom Price, we headed along the 113km dirt road along Nameless Valley Drive and the further 176km sealed Tom-Price-Paraburdoo Road to Cheela Plains Station Stay. That drive along Nameless Valley Road would have to of been one of the most terrible roads to drive along. In fact Chris could not stand my cautious driving (driving too slow) along the terrible corrugations that he ripped his eye patch off and made me get out of the driver’s seat. Luckily for us no-one hardly uses this road and once we made it to the sealed section I took over. When we arrived at the station they asked what way we came. When I told them, they were totally shocked that we even made it along that road with no flat tyres.
The team here are very friendly and go out of their way to make sure you have everything you need. Well maintained amenities with washing machine and clothes line. They use bore water which is fine to shower in or wash or your clothes but you can’t drink it. A word of warning, make sure you have plenty of moisturiser as the water being high in salt, dries out your skin. Also, if you stay for 2 nights then you get to drive along their property out to the water fall. We sat around the fire with everyone else that evening and chatted all night long.
Robin Pensini owner of the property comes over to the campground just before sunset on her horse and is happy to have a chat and tell you all about the history of the property.
Yannarie Rest Area – Free Camping
We had originally planned to stay at Bullara Homestead but as Chris’s eye was not getting any better I just kept driving until I was too tired to drive any further. We found this rest area on the North West Coastal Highway at Yannarie, Barradale. Very well set up with bins, toilets and a dump point. This is an extremely large area and you can certainly camp away from everyone. We found a spot near the bridge, this made for awesome astro photography. The traffic died down by about 10pm or so and then started up again around 6am.
Further upstream there was still a little water in the river and this is where all the bird life could be found. I highly recommend this place as a stop over onto Exmouth.
Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Resort, Exmouth – $40/night unpowered
We booked in for 3 nights, Chris had already prebooked a dive at the Navy Peir and so his focus was to get better before diving on one of Australia’s premier dive sites. After we were set up we headed to the hospital. We really can’t speak highly enough of this group of dedicated doctors at this hospital. After nearly giving Chris a heart attack saying they are going to have to send him to Perth to see an Ophthalmologist, another Dr came in and saved the day. They ended going above and beyond by having a teleconference with the Ophthalmologist in Perth and all agreed on a plan to fix his eye. Luckily for Chris the Dr was also a diver and cleared him for diving. So after a course of treatment his eye eventually cleared but it took many weeks.
Bundegi Beach – National Park
Just out of town is Bundegi National Park, there are a few places you can turn off the main road into it as long as you have a 4×4. If you don’t have a 4×4 then just drive on towards the boat ramp.
We walked quite a way along the beach enjoying the many stingrays right on the shoreline. I’m not sure what they are called but they are a beige colour with turquoise spots on them. We heard what sounded like car doors slamming for quite some time but couldn’t work out where it was coming from. Turns out it was humpback whales breaching in the water, it was just wonderful watching them. There was also a pod of dolphins frolicking. We decided to have a drive along the many tracks, now a word of warning make sure you do have a 4×4 for this, there were some really deep sections of sand, we had so much fun.
Exmouth Navy Pier Dive
The day had come for Chris to dive off the peir. You could not wipe the smile off his face. He chose to dive with Dive Ningaloo in Exmouth. He thoroughly enjoyed his time with this team of professionals. Chris would highly recommend this company if you are in Exmouth looking to dive the pier.
The world famous Exmouth Navy Pier has been voted as one of the top 10 dive sites in Australia and one of the top shore dives in the world.
The 300m long pier is situated just 14kms from Exmouth. It is still an active Navy Pier and is not accessible to the general public and must be dived through a licensed company.
As we don’t have a underwater camera there are no photos of this dive but I can say it is something Chris will ever forget for a very long time.