If we were keeping a tally of places people recommended to us – both when we were preparing for this trip and once on the road – Karijini NP would easily be in the lead. It has been by far the place most recommended to us. The park is famous for its gorges and as well as all the recommendations, we had seen a number of stunning photos so we were really looking forward to it.
We drove up from Newman and after the remoteness and isolation of Karlamilyi NP, Karijini was a bit of a return to the crowds. There is only one campground, at Dale’s Gorge, run by the national park (and one commercial campground) but the campground is large with 140 sites. It is well spread out though and it was far from full. Once again we were thankful we weren’t there is peak season.
On our first day we went to Dale’s Gorge, walking first along the top edge of the gorge which gave us beautiful views down into the gorge.
After a couple of kilometres we dropped down a steep track to the bottom of the gorge and walked to Circular Pool, a beautiful spot where we enjoyed a swim.
From Circular Pool we walked back in the direction we had come but along the base of the gorge. We criss-crossed the river as we walked down the gorge. There were lots of trees and vegetation sprouting out from between the rocks and the river was covered in plants in a number of places.
Towards the end of the gorge we got to Fortescue Falls, a nice cascading fall into a large swimming hole. Hear we found Mum and Dad who had chosen not to climb down the steep path at the other end so walked down the steps which lead directly to the falls.
The final interesting site in Dale’s Gorge was Fern Pool. It’s a much quieter, more serene pool with a lovely little fall flowing into it.
We spent the remainder of the day in our campsite, relaxing with a quick trip to the Visitor Information Centre for ice-creams. Although the weather was still hot during the days the nights were much cooler than they were further north which allowed us to sleep more comfortably.
For our second day we packed our lunch and drove about 40km to Weano and Hancock Gorges, which are very close to each other.
We walked Weano Gorge in the morning and followed a similar track to what we had done at Dale’s Gorge the day before – along the top of the gorge and then back along the bottom.
The far end of the gorge was less impressive than Dale’s, but the highlight was when we got back near the carpark. The gorge narrowed steadily and soon we were wading through chest deep water holding our bags and cameras above our heads.
Then the gorge narrowed even further to a very narrow passage between two cliffs that opens out into Handrail Pool. The pool is a beautiful circular pool set deep in the gorge which gets its name from the handrail that has been installed to help climb down a short section of cliff to get into the pool.
We enjoyed the serenity of Handrail Pool for a while and then ventured further by swimming across the pool and following the creek further down the gorge.
That section was almost swimming only – except that Matthew wanted to be carried so I was carrying him while walking through neck deep water. It became very enclosed and dark, almost like swimming/wading through a tunnel before opening out slightly for a spectacular view further down the gorge. Alas, that was as far as the public is allowed to venture without paying for a guided tour (14 years and older only, to Izzy’s great disappointment).
After lunch back in the picnic area near the carpark we drove down to Oxer Lookout. From there we had incredibly spectacular views down into the gorges and could see where four different gorges meet. For all of the walking through narrow, beautiful gorges seeing them from above was one of the most spectacular sights of our visit to Karijini.
Mum and Dad kindly offered to take Izzy and Matthew back to camp so that Lindy and I could explore Hancock Gorge by ourselves in the afternoon. It turned out to be the gorge I enjoyed the most (and not because we didn’t have the kids – I promise!)
It was a shorter walk than the others and after another steep climb down into the gorge we got straight into narrow sections and wading through pools. I almost left my camera behind before one particularly long wading section but I’m so glad Lindy convinced me to bring it (and my tripod) and found a safe way along where I could walk keeping everything out of the water.
From there, a very narrow section called the ‘Spider Walk’ leads into Kermit’s Pool and, just beyond that, more spectacular views into closed off parts of the gorge.
We enjoyed a swim in Kermit’s Pool and a chat with a few other people and I took my time taking some photos before we finally decided we should head back to camp to relieve Mum and Dad.
That was the end of our visit to Karijini unfortunately. We decided we had to keep moving the next day – the whole broken shocks incident lead to a longer than planned wait in Broome which compressed our timetable a little. There were a number of gorges I would have liked to visit but, as Matthew keeps saying, we’ll just have to go on our second trip.