Trip Report: Big Caravan Trip Part 3 – Broome to Coral Bay

This part of our trip covered the Pilbara region including Karijini National Park and it’s gorges and the amazing Ningaloo Reef.

The Pilbara and lots of big things…..

We spent a day in Port Hedland getting the car serviced and the amount of activity in the area is overwhelming. There is a constant stream of trains, road trains and ships moving an incredible volume of iron ore around (and probably other stuff). We spent about 45 minutes at a playground near the port and in that time we saw 4 loaded bulk carriers leaving port. It was all very interesting and impressive but I wouldn’t want to live there.

How do you overtake a road train with 4 trailers that is 60 metres long when you are towing a caravan? The answer is very slowly. Luckily the roads are long and straight.
It is hard to see in the photo, but this iron ore train at Tom Price goes from the bottom right of the photo all the way to the top left (click to enlarge). It is 2.5km long and has about 240 carriages. It is bloody huge and these trains are running all around the Pilbara all day and night. Apparently they now have some autonomous trains operating that they control from Perth.
As the empty train enters the Tom Price mine, a full one departs for Dampier.
Rio Tinto’s Tom Price mine as seen from Mt Nameless. Apparently Tom Price is a drinking town with a mining problem.
We did a tour of the Tom Price mine and saw them blow up a chunk of the mountain. As you can see in this picture, most of the mountain has been already been shipped to China.
Sunset at Mt Nameless through the “Pilbara Fog”  which is the red dust that hangs in the air.
Amy_Trump1
Amyo rubbed the orange dirt of the Pilbara on her face……..resulting in a remarkable likeness to Donald Trump

Karijini National Park

Many people have never heard of Karijini but for nearly every traveller we met in the north of WA it is an essential part of the itinerary. And if you like incredible geological formations and swimming in deep gorges it is not to be missed. Unfortunately it is bloody long way from anywhere.

Rock formation at Hamersley Gorge. The colours of the Pilbara are fantastic.
Hamersley Gorge
Hamersley Gorge
20170831_Big_Trip_3040
Handrail Pool – Weano Gorge
Kermits Pool – Hancock Gorge
Somewhere near Hamersley Gorge
Fern Pool at Dales Gorge
Fern Pool at Dales Gorge
Dales Gorge
Dales Gorge
Hancock Gorge
Hancock Gorge
Hancock Gorge.

The gorge trails are classified as Class 2 to Class 5 with Class 5 being:

These trails are difficult and a high level of fitness is required. Trail markings are minimal, and steep sections with vertical drops are common. Expect to encounter natural hazards including large boulders; pools of water; slippery, wet rocks; and narrow, high ledges.

We did all the Class 5 trails we could find with no problems, but kids younger than ours or old people may find it difficult. I slipped onto by butt in one section but luckily it was only my ego that was bruised.

If you want to get into the more extreme sections of the gorges there are some companies that offer canyoning tours with ropes and harnesses.

Weano Gorge. Sometimes the only way though the gorge is to get wet.
Circular Pool at Dales Gorge
Fortescue Falls at Dales Gorge
Knox Gorge
Knox Gorge
Knox Gorge
Joffres Gorge

So that was a lot of gorges and swimming holes. And yes they were spectacular and lots of fun – but after a couple of days walking and swimming through these gorges they all started to look the same and it was time to move on.

Mount Meharry and the State 8

If you haven’t heard about the State 8 check it out here, but basically it is a challenge to climb the highest mountain in each of Australia’s 8 states and territories. Mount Meharry is the highest mountain in Western Australia (but the lowest of the State 8) and as we were only a couple of hours away it seemed like a great opportunity to cross it off the list for my goal of one day dragging my family to all 8 peaks. This is sort of a poor man’s version of climbing all 14 peaks over 8,000 metres (see details here) but much safer and easier.

In fact it is so easy that you can drive right to the top of Mt Meharry which is exactly what we did. The only real challenge is that it is in a very remote area.

The summit of Mt Meharry. If you don’t have a good 4WD with low range and know how to use it you should walk up from the base as the track is moderately steep and quite rough.

There is not a lot of satisfaction from bagging a peak in your car so the next morning I went for solo dash on foot up Mt Bruce which is WA’s second highest mountain.

Mt Bruce
It is about 5km to the top of Mt Bruce and I went up in the dark so I could watch the sun rise over Karijini.
Many people have left their names and words of wisdom on the cairn, but I am still trying to work out what “Everybody is sausages” means…..
Sunrise at Mt Bruce and it was damn cold – I made it back to camp in time to cook breakfast for my kids.

Ningaloo Reef

Everyone knows about Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, but if you want the reef experience without the crowds and the long boat ride you should check out the Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth.

We had planned to to camp at Cape Range National Park, but as it turns out you need to book in advance and we couldn’t get a camp site. So after a day trip to Cape Range we headed to Ningaloo Station for 4 nights – and it was just awesome. Not only was it our favourite spot on this trip – it is probably my favourite campsite ever.

We were lucky to swim with turtles and thousands of amazing fish on the Ningaloo Reef.
We camped on the beach at South Lefroy Bay at Ningaloo Station
South Lefroy Bay at Ningaloo Station. I was a bit cautious about driving on the beach with the caravan but it was fine.

Why was Ningaloo Station so good?

  • We camped right on the beach and there was hardly anyone else around (but I believe it can get busy at times)
  • There is awesome snorkelling right off the beach. Heaps of fish, turtles and dolphins. You don’t need a boat.
  • It is very cheap. It cost us $70 for 4 nights for a family of 4.

Why you may not like it?

  • It is a bloody long way from anywhere
  • There is about 50km of dirt road to get to South Lefroy Bay (we let our tyres down to 20psi and it was fine)
  • You need to be self sufficient in terms of water, toilet, food etc. There are no amenities or services
The view of Coral Bay was great from “the front row” at the People’s Caravan Park – but it felt like we were in a retirement home. Someone described it to me as “God’s waiting room”.

In contrast to the great value at Ningaloo Station, we paid $79 for 1 night at Coral Bay, which is pretty steep when you can’t even drink the water provided on the caravan sites. We had to pay to fill up the caravan tanks with potable water from the Bayview Caravan Park. But if you want to experience the Ningaloo Reef and like your creature comforts then Coral Bay is the place for you. The snorkelling off the beach was OK but the water was very cloudy on both days we were there making it pretty difficult to see. On a previous trip to Coral Bay 11 years ago I found the snorkelling to be much better – but we had the use of a boat which provided access to some great snorkelling spots.

Coral Bay

So after 1 night in Coral Bay it was time to start heading south and start making our way back home. Stay tuned for the next and final installment of our trip report.

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One thought on “Trip Report: Big Caravan Trip Part 3 – Broome to Coral Bay”

  1. Still love your work guys. I worked all over the Pilbara for 6 years recently as an operator for mining construction. Your images bring back fond memories of the vastness and raw beauty of the area. It still feels like pioneering country and offers challenge to explore and appreciate. I used RDOs to wander and climb rough hills that felt like no one had ever walked on before. There is a purity to the landscape and its fauna and flora i.e. some wonderful indigenous plants unique to those semi desert regions. Its remoteness from urban Australia is appealing to me and I must re visit soon esp Ningaloo. Is Prado the best vehicle for travelling the outback for a lone adventurer?
    Keep up the excellent reports. They are inspirational….and travel safe,
    Cheers,
    Ian de Kam

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