Sun shines on land of op­por­tu­nity

Sophia Con­stan­tine looks at land-based activities to do in the awe-in­spir­ing Pil­bara.

Pilbara News - - Lifestyle -

Hav­ing re­cently been crowned the sun­shine re­gion of WA, it comes as no sur­prise tourism is an emerg­ing in­dus­try for the Pil­bara with ex­cit­ing po­ten­tial.

While heavy em­pha­sis is of­ten placed on the Kim­ber­ley at the ex­pense of the Pil­bara, there are a plethora of things to see and do at this time of year as the cooler weather sets in.

From the an­cient gorges of Kar­i­jini Na­tional Park to the pris­tine waters of the Dampier Coast, the awe-in­spir­ing Pil­bara has some­thing for ev­ery­one.

Na­tional parks

Known best for it’s spec­tac­u­lar gorges, rock pat­terns, swim­ming holes, and camp­ing spots, Kar­i­jini Na­tional Park, the sec­ond largest Na­tional Park in Western Aus­tralia, is a must-see for all trav­ellers.

It is 80km North-East of Tom Price and 1400km north of Perth.

Tour com­pany West OZ Ac­tive pro­vides activities for ad­ven­tur­ous types in­clud­ing ab­seil­ing, climb­ing, shoot­ing, and hik­ing.

The rare beauty of its an­cient riverbeds and deep, rugged gorges at­tracts vis­i­tors from all corners of the globe.

The owner of the com­pany said a min­i­mum of three days was rec­om­mended to ex­plore and ab­sorb the nat­u­ral beauty.

“We go down to the deep­est part of the canyons where we have some of the old­est rocks on earth,” she said.

“There are loads of gorges to see at Kar­i­jini and they are all very dif­fer­ent.

“There are fam­ily-friendly gorges on the east side and five walk­ing trails on the west side which are more tech­ni­cal and re­quire abil­ity.”

West OZ Ac­tive op­er­ates from April-Oc­to­ber and its busiest pe­ri­ods are dur­ing the April and May school hol­i­days.

Mill­stream Chich­ester Na­tional Park is another landmark of great Abo­rig­i­nal sig­nif­i­cance and is com­monly la­belled as an oa­sis in the mid­dle of the desert.

The lush get­away is the heart­land of it’s tra­di­tional own­ers: the Yind­jibarndi peo­ple.

It cov­ers around 200,000ha of land around the Fortes­cue River and is about a two-hour drive from Kar­ratha. It has sev­eral me­an­der­ing wa­ter cour­ses, swim­ming spots, bi­cy­cle and walk­ing trails and is a great op­por­tu­nity for camp­ing.

Town tours

There are plenty of tours avail­able in dif­fer­ent parts of the Pil­bara which show off the re­gion’s vi­brancy while invit­ing vis­i­tors to gain an un­der­stand­ing of how the min­ing in­dus­try op­er­ates.

FORM re­gional com­mu­ni­ca­tions co-or­di­na­tor Nur Ha­lik en­cour­ages vis­i­tors to the re­gion who are trav­el­ling through Port Hed­land to ex­plore the lo­cal street art and con­sider one of the many tours on of­fer.

Ms Ha­lik rec­om­mended a his­tory tour with lo­cal his­to­rian Julie Arif, who takes vis­i­tors around on a bus and teaches them about the early Pil­bara days while re­veal­ing some of the more quirky sides of Port Hed­land.

Tours of the BHP Bil­li­ton Nel­son Point fa­cil­ity can be booked through the Port Hed­land Vis­i­tors Cen­tre from Tues­day to Thurs­day and a Sea­far­ers tour can be booked Mon­day-Satur­day.

“We have a unique, vi­brant com­mu­nity which is what sets it apart from ev­ery other min­ing town in Aus­tralia,” Ms Ha­lik said.

“A lot of peo­ple that come here are pleas­antly sur­prised.

“We’re a beau­ti­ful, friendly com­mu­nity that has so much to of­fer.”

Tom Price is a tran­sient min­ing town which is a hive of ac­tiv­ity dur­ing peak sea­son as it is close to Mill­stream, Wit­tenoon, Mt Name­less and other unique lo­ca­tions.

Ninety-minute tours are avail­able to ex­pe­ri­ence the Rio Tinto open-cut mine, which pro­vides vis­i­tors with an in­sight into its op­er­a­tions.

You can also share in lo­cal knowl­edge with an ex­pe­ri­enced guide on a tour to Kar­i­jini, 80km north-east of Tom Price.

Tom Price Vis­i­tor Cen­tre of­fi­cer Rachel Ditch­burn re­ferred to the town as “a lit­tle oa­sis in the mid­dle of a dust ball”.

Ms Ditch­burn said the area was “ramped up” with peo­ple com­ing through as peak sea­son was ap­proach­ing.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful, well-kept town; very green and vi­brant,” she said.

A site worth vis­it­ing is the Jarn­dun­munha moun­tain which, at 1128m in height, is the third-high­est moun­tain in WA and can be ac­cessed by ve­hi­cle.

It is the per­fect lo­ca­tion for breath­tak­ing views of Tom Price and is a van­tage point for fan­tas­tic pho­tographs.

Not only pop­u­lar for its fas­ci­nat­ing wa­ter activities, Ex­mouth also boasts some of the Pil­bara’s most ex­cit­ing sa­fari and quad bike tours, which run from Ex­mouth to the stun­ning Cape Range.

Nin­ga­loo Vis­i­tor Cen­tre com­mu­ni­ca­tions co-or­di­na­tor Ben Knaggs said the re­gion was ex­pect­ing good vis­i­ta­tion af­ter a strong end to last year’s sea­son.

“Tourism in the area has def­i­nitely grown and we’re lucky to have some amazing op­er­a­tors,” he said.

“We hope to see tourism start to be­come one of the ma­jor in­dus­tries across the Pil­bara and Gas­coyne.”

Tours to swim with hump­back whales are avail­able in Ex­mouth from the start of Au­gust through to Novem­ber.

Whale shark tours op­er­ate from March-Au­gust.

Pil­bara pubs

The Whim Creek Tav­ern is not only one of the Pil­bara’s best-known pubs, it is also listed in the Na­tional Geo­graphic’s top 10 out­back pubs in Aus­tralia.

The ex­pe­ri­ence in­vites vis­i­tors to step back in his­tory and browse the walls of the pub, which are dec­o­rated with his­tor­i­cal pho­tographs. Gen­eral man­ager Bob Bon­giorno said tourism was “shap­ing up re­ally well” af­ter an ear­lier-than-av­er­age start.

He said the his­tory of the pub was the cat­a­lyst for the large num­ber of peo­ple who vis­ited all-year-round.

“We’re get­ting be­tween 15 and 20 car­a­vans park­ing up the front each day,” he said.

“We have some large events planned this year in­clud­ing the North West Box­ing Champs, the Whim Creek Rodeo, the Tat­too Fes­ti­val, and a few other ma­jor events.

“Whim Creek Ho­tel was built by an English com­pany who only ever had two con­struc­tions in Aus­tralia; this and the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge.”

Fur­ther down the road lies the Mer­maid Ho­tel and tav­ern, a 68-room pub­lic ho­tel and mo­tel with ocean views of the sweep­ing scenery in Dampier.

Ho­tel owner Mick Bond said while tourism in the area was still emerg­ing, more vis­i­tors had started to ap­pear this year than last.

Sunny Dampier is home to the Bur­rup Penin­sula Abo­rig­i­nal rock art, one of Aus­tralia’s most sig­nif­i­cant her­itage sites, and the Red Dog statue — which has in­creased in pop­u­lar­ity since the re­lease of the movies Red Dog and Red Dog: True Blue.

“We don’t have a great deal of busi­ness from tourism yet . . . but we’re get­ting more peo­ple com­ing through this year than we have in pre­vi­ous years,” Mr Bond said.

“This time of year we have the Wood­side Mu­seum open from 9-4 ev­ery day out at Bur­rup Penin­sula, which is fas­ci­nat­ing.”

The Iron Clad Ho­tel is in the re­mote town of Mar­ble Bar, which also hap­pens to be the warm­est town in Aus­tralia.

The her­itage-listed, char­ac­ter­filled pub is 124 years old and opened in 1893.

It is the only pub in Mar­ble Bar and show­cases some great mem­o­ra­bilia. For many, a trip to Port Hed­land can­not sim­ply be had with­out a night out at the Pier Ho­tel, with a guar­an­teed sin­ga­long to the lyrics of Clos­ing Time by Semisonic.

Races and rodeos

Races and rodeos are some of the big­gest, most sig­nif­i­cant events on the Pil­bara cal­en­dar and at­tract peo­ple from all over WA.

The Pan­na­won­ica Rodeo, first es­tab­lished in 1995, is a three-day event held on the first week­end of Septem­ber ev­ery year and draws a large crowd of spec­ta­tors and com­peti­tors.

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Michael Percy said the event at­tracted a large num­ber of com­peti­tors and around 2000 spec­ta­tors from as far afield as the Kim­ber­ley.

“We get peo­ple com­ing down from Hed­land and Kar­ratha ev­ery year, spec­ta­tor-wise, who en­joy camp­ing for the week­end, along with com­peti­tors from all over the re­gion,” he said.

“It’s a re­ally good fam­ily event, with a lot of fam­i­lies com­pet­ing.”

Pan­na­won­ica has sev­eral short-term car­a­van bays, which are handy for peo­ple trav­el­ling through.

The in­au­gu­ral Whim Creek Rodeo, held in Oc­to­ber, drew a crowd of more than 3600 last year.

The event is held over two days and in­volves de­li­cious food, live mu­sic, and camp­ing.

Bus ser­vices are avail­able from Point Samp­son, Wick­ham, and Roe­bourne.

Train­ers, jock­eys, and spec­ta­tors travel to the Pil­bara for rac­ing sea­son each year, which starts in late May in Port Hed­land and ends in Au­gust in New­man.

Pop­u­lar events on the rac­ing cal­en­dar in­clude Roe­bourne Cup Day, Port Hed­land Ladies’ Day, Port Hed­land Cup Day, and New­man Cup Day.

The Nor West Jockey Club, home of the Roe­bourne event, is the sec­ond-old­est race club in Aus­tralia.

It has hosted rac­ing events since 1867, which have grown to be­come well-at­tended so­cial oc­ca­sions. The New­man Cup Day is held at the East Pil­bara Race Club on Au­gust 22.

In­dige­nous tours

For those who want to sink their teeth into the in­dige­nous cul­ture and his­tory of the Pil­bara, there are sev­eral in­dige­nous tour com­pa­nies which al­low guests to see the sights through the eyes of a tra­di­tional owner.

Ngur­rangga Tours was started by Clin­ton Walker, a de­scen­dant of the Ngar­luma and Yind­jibarndi peo­ple.

Mr Walker uses his lo­cal knowl­edge to ex­plore ar­eas which en­cap­su­late the full colour and beauty of Kar­ratha and its sur­round­ing ar­eas.

The rock art tour, Bar­rim­irndi Day Tour, and Bush Tucker Tour are some of the tours avail­able.

Kar­layura Tours is another Abo­rig­i­nal-owned tour com­pany which val­ues cul­tural aware­ness and the de­vel­op­ment of self-sus­tain­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

Cul­tural leader and di­rec­tor Brian Tucker es­tab­lished the tours to pro­vide employment op­por­tu­ni­ties for Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Deep Reach at Mill­stream-Chich­ester Na­tional Park.

A lasso event at the New­man Rodeo.

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