Great spots to test the 4WD lover
Millstream-Chichester National Park
Northern Burrup Peninsula
To live in the Pilbara you have to love the outdoors and there are few better ways to experience it than to round up the family or a few mates, pack the fourbies, and head off-road for a few days.
One of the joys of four-wheel-driving in the Pilbara is the variety of landscapes to tackle. From sandy beaches and salt flats on the coast to the rocky, rugged and dusty interior, there is plenty out there to test your machine.
When four-wheel-driving it is important to remember to bring recovery gear, plenty of food and water, let people know where you are going and for how long, and always stick to existing tracks so as not to damage the whole reason we go outback in the first place. Ngurrangga Tours owner Clinton Walker said while not as well known as Karijini, the gorges in Millstream-Chichester National Park were just as stunning.
One of the best spots, George’s Gorge, also has a good fourwheel-drive track according to Mr Walker.
“It is in a part of the park which isn’t well known outside of local circles,” he said.
“The track has a lot of dips to drive through and once you get close to the gorge there is a lot of the rough-as-guts stuff, if you like that sort of thing.
“The drive in along the Chichester Range is pretty spectacular.” Once there, George’s Gorge has several swimming holes and walking trails above and inside the gorge.
“You can camp there, so an overnighter or weekend trip would be the best way to get the most out of your trip,” Mr Walker said.
“The best thing is you don’t usually have to worry about anyone else being there.”
Mr Walker warned the track can become boggy after rain.
Murujuga National Park and the jump-up on the Burrup Peninsula need no introduction.
The Pilbara’s love-hate rela-
tionship with the 50m rocky hill climb is evident when seeing all the dented side steps while driving around Karratha.
Some say it is easier than everyone makes out, but there is no doubt it is a rite of passage for four-wheel-drives in the area.
Mr Walker said the reward for taming the jump-up was well worth the effort.
“You have a lot of rocky outcrops up that way, so you get to do a lot of slow crawling and really test your machine,” he said.
“Once you’re over the jump-up there are some beautiful beaches, good camping spots and some great fishing too.
“You can get mangrove jack, bream, barramundi, salmon, trevally, sweetlip, bluebone, crabs, oysters and cockleshells out that way.”
Mr Walker said the “beautiful” blue water and red-yellow backdrop meant a camera was a musthave accessory for trips up the Burrup. While they are far from the toughest of tracks, the Shothole Canyon and Charles Knife drives in Cape Range National Park are certainly scenic, according to Ningaloo Safari Tours operations managers Dave Mongan.
“It is pretty light four-wheel-driving but the geology of the area is amazing. It is basically a dry ocean bed which they say is still moving today,” he said.
“We do 10-hour, 270km round trips out there and you get to see everything including Yardie Creek.
“For those that want to explore further there are plenty of beautiful camping areas.
"Whether you want to go camping, fishing, four-wheel-driving, hiking or snorkelling there’s plenty to do.”
The Yardie Creek to Coral Bay beach drive is a favourite of local four-wheel-drivers but Mr Mongan said it was unadvisable to take the trip at the moment as the creek mouth is still open from cyclone Olwyn earlier this year.
At a casual 350km hop, skip and jump from Hedland, Carawine Gorge is an easily accessible spot for four-wheel-drivers.
The track is unsealed but mostly smooth, giving drivers more time to concentrate on the scenery. Hedland Offroad owner Dallas Little said despite a few washouts, the rocky shale track was do-able for fourbies of all makes and models.
“This drive is more about watching the scenery and relaxing when you get out there,” he said.
“It is perfect in the winter months, but even in the summer it is nice to get out there and go for a swim in the cool waters.”
Mr Little suggested bringing plenty of fuel, ideally in a longrange tank, water and a few beers to watch the world go by.
Gorges are definitely a theme among Pilbara explorers and Gregory’s is perhaps the most exciting trek for four-wheel-drive owners.
Mr Little said the Gregory’s Gorge track offered plenty of different challenges for drivers, particularly after rains when the track can get boggy and river crossings fill up.
As such, it is advisable to travel in convoy and have some experience before taking on the track.
“It is quite nice driving out in the middle of nowhere then suddenly dropping off into this huge open gorge,” he said.
“There can be five or six other groups camping there and you will never even know they’re around.
“With the river crossings you need to check the water speed and depth and just idle through slowly, don’t go full throttle.”
Mr Little said the allure of gorges was usually the combination of cool, still waters and a lack of wind.
Charles Knife and Shothole Canyon
A convoy prepares to head deep into the northern reaches of the Burrup.
Gregory’s Gorge can be a challenge for four-wheel-drives.
Charles Knife Canyon in Cape Range.
Ngurrangga Tours owner Clinton Walker drives through a water crossing at Gregory’s Gorge.