With river gorges carved by the meandering ways of the Murchison River and dramatic coastal cliffs, the natural beauty of Kalbarri varies dramatically.
Where the river meets the ocean, the town of Kalbarri thrives as a year round holiday centre and as the centre of the Kalbarri National Park that protects these two vastly different landscapes.
From July to October, Western Australia’s famous wildflowers carpet the park and become their own attraction.
The Murchison River Gorges
The Murchison River is the second longest in Western Australia. It starts in the Robinson Ranges north of Meekatharra. Eight hundred kilometres long, it twists and turns to the coast creating a diverse landscape. In the wet season, huge floodplains are created…a sight I’d love to see! When a cyclone hits Meekatharra, the waters can take three weeks to reach the coast.
Lookout points have been created through out the gorges to see the different landscapes that have been carved over millions of years by the Murchison River.
The first nineteen kilometres of the road to see the The Loop, Natures Window and Z-Bend are sealed but the remaining twelve kilometres are not but are still driveable for a non four wheel drive car.
Heavy rains the weekend before we arrived meant that the unsealed road had been closed and only opened the day before we visited. How lucky were we!
West Loop Lookout
Wander down the steps and follow the trail that leads you to the well known and iconic attraction Natures Window. There’s a bit of easy rock climbing needed to reach here but it’s worth the effort to see this natural rock formation and the river it frames.
For the adventurous or those with time, the eight kilometre Loop Hike, starts from here. You continue along the path you can see running along the top of the gorge in the picture below.
At the other end of the road, is the Z-Bend Lookout…a view that I thought was one of the best.
The panoramic view follows the Murchison flowing through the one hundred and fifty metre tall tumblagooda sandstone gorge, taking the bend and opening into a wider part of the gorge where red river gums grow on the waters edge. A demanding 2.6km walk to the river’s edge is possible.
Hawk’s Head and Ross Graham Lookout
As we left Kalbarri the next day, we stopped at these lookouts that weren’t far from the main road.
The Ross Graham Lookout offered an easy 700m trail down to the river’s edge which will give you a closeup view of the river.
The Kalbarri Cliffs
For a completely different view of nature’s illustrious work, head to the ocean.
Excellent lookouts have been created in the national park to view the most dramatic of the red Kalbarri cliffs and the features that have been sculptured in them by the wind and water over their lifetime. The furtherest point, Natural Bridge, is about thirteen kilometres from town.
From here you can walk along the Bigurda Boardwalk, a 1.2 kilometre raised walkway that will take you past Island Rock to Shellhouse Grandstand.
Whilst you are standing on the cliffs, don’t forget to keep an eye out for pods of dolphins or whales which you may see from May to September. We happened to see six spouts from migratory whales whilst we were at one of the lookouts.
Aptly named, Natural Bridge is the southern most lookout. It’s particularly beautiful at sunset when the sun lights up the red cliff walls.
Not far from here is Island Rock. Once part of the cliff face, water and wind erosion has created this feature which reminded me of the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria
Red Bluff is another well known lookout at the northern end of the Kalbarri National Park it is the highest point in the area. In one direction you can see the rock formations of the coastline whilst in the other, Red Bluff Beach beckons.
You can then walk from here to the beach or take a 3km nature trail walk to Mushroom Rock and Rainbow Valley.
Closer to the township, you will find many fabulous beaches…soft, white sand and clear blue water.
Surfers may recognise the name Jakes Point. This beach is a famous surfing break and now a national national surfing reserve…one for the experts! Just around the corner, protected from the breeze, Jakes Bay is for the rest of us as is the adjoining Siphons Beach.
If you like snorkelling, Blue Holes is the place for you. The partly submerged limestone reef that runs along this part of the coast creates fabulous little holes hiding many different types of fish, coral and sponges. It’s been declared a Fish Habitat Protection Area so there’s no fishing allowed here.
So much to do……
Unfortunately we did not spend enough time in Kalbarri. It’s a popular holiday destination, especially in the winter months and there’s a lot to do. Had we had longer I would have loved to walk some of the trails in the Kalbarri Gorges, even kayaked down the Murchison. There’s also fishing tours to take, abseiling to do, quad bike tours, cruises on the Murchison river, scenic flights and photography tours.
Feeding the pelicans is a popular free activity that takes place at 8.45am everyday on the waterfront just up from the visitor centre.
If you’re coming from Perth, don’t forget to stop a the Pinnacles on your way up the cost. Just past Northampton, take the turnoff for the Kalbarri Scenic drive. Port Gregory’s pink lake could be worth a stop and if you’d like to see Australia’s only seceded state, stop at the Hutt River Provence and meet Prince Leonard himself. You can even get your passport stamped!
We stayed at the Kalbarri Edge Hotel….a Best Western Hotel that was perfect for a couple of nights.
Don’t forget Kalbari is very popular, especially in the school holidays, so you should book your accommodation in advance.
We ate breakfast and lunch at the Gorges Cafe… a great little spot on River Road
Dinner was at the Black Rock Cafe….huge serves, entree was enough for me!
Other articles on Western Australia that you may enjoy:
The Mysterious Pinnacles National Park
Keeping Busy in Broome
Looking for Fremantle
Sunset in Broome