Australia has an abundance of spectacular national parks. In most cases these parks have been designated as such to protect the unspoiled landscapes, ecosystems, Australian native flora and fauna, and also places of cultural significance. During our caravan travels around Western Australia we visited many of them. One was Kalbarri Gorge National Park.
Where Is Kalbarri
Kalbarri is roughly midway along Western Australia’s Coral Coast, 570 kilometres north of the state’s capital, Perth. It is a picturesque seaside town located on the Murchison River Estuary and is renowned for its rugged towering coastal cliffs just south of the town.
How To Get To Kalbarri Gorge National Park
We took a day trip to this park of marvels by heading approximately 40 kilometres east of Kalbarri on the Ajana Kalbarri Road. The roads into the park are sealed and are accessible by all types of vehicles. We made the decision to exit left into the National Park and stopped to pay our entry fees, before continuing into the park to Z-Bend, Natures Window and the Skywalk.
If you continue along the Ajana Kalbarri Road you can choose to visit another section of the gorge at Hawks Head and Ross Graham. However, on this particular day, we decided to dedicate our time to the northern section of the gorge.
How were the Kalbarri Gorges formed?
We discovered that the Kalbarri National Park covers a staggering 186,000 hectares. On reading the information signage at the entrance to the park, we learned that the spectacular scenery of the park is the result of millions of years of geological formation. As the Murchison River carved its way to the sea, these magnificent russet red and white-banded gorges were formed and cut by the flow. Furthermore, these stunning gorges meander an impressive 80 kilometres through the vast park.
Hikes and walks in Kalbarri Gorge National Park
Our first stop was to the Z-Bend Gorge lookout, considered to offer the most breathtaking views of the park, reached by a 1.2-kilometre return walking trail from the car park to the lookout. The gorge plunges 150 metres down to the river below where red river gums create a striking contrast against the earthy sandstone cliffs.
If you wish to hike further, there are two options:
1. Four Ways Trail – 6 km return, class 4 hiking trail
2. Z-Bend River Trail – 2.6 km return, class 4 hiking trail
Once we’d finished admiring the breathtaking views of Z-Bend, we jumped back into our car and drove 11 kilometres to the other two big attractions of the park – Nature’s Window, and the Skywalk.
We parked our car and headed towards Nature’s Window. This rock comprises a window that frames the river perfectly and is top of the list for photo opportunities. In fact, we had to queue up and wait our turn to sit in the window to take a shot!
But for an even better bird’s eye view of the gorge, we discovered that the Skywalk offered amazing views of the deep gorge 100 metres below us. Both of these attractions are a great way to see the gorge without having to take a long walk.
If you are a more adventurous and experienced walker, like we were on this day, we decided to embark on a hike starting and ending at Nature’s Window. The 8km loop track took us through moderate to challenging terrain with spectacular scenery along the way, from the rim of the gorge.
Midway along the hike, we descended deep down into the river gorge onto the sandy white banks of the river fringed with lovely red river gums. This was a great place to find some welcoming shade and stop for a cool drink and a bite to eat.
For those seeking an even more challenging experience, there are overnight hikes available in Kalbarri National Park. You can arrange this with the Department of Parks and Wildlife Office in Kalbarri. The river gorges in Kalbarri National Park are also popular with adrenaline junkies for abseiling, rafting and canoeing, (but only after heavy rains).
Things to remember when hiking Kalbarri Gorge National Park
1. The day we visited the gorge it was at least 5 degrees hotter out there compared to the township near the coast. So be prepared for a dry heat that can soar during the day. We visited during May and it is recommended that you don’t hike during the months of November through to March. Ensure you wear sunscreen on a sunny day.
2. Bring plenty of water and snacks, a backpack, a decent hat, wear proper hiking attire and shoes or boots. The terrain is rough and rugged so you need the proper protection.
3. There are flies aplenty at the gorge. Seriously they drive you crazy! So come prepared with insect repellent and maybe a net face covering.
4. Always check the class of the hike and make sure your fitness level and ability is befitting the walk.
At less than 600 kilometres north of Perth, Kalbarri Gorge National Park is achievable for those who would maybe like to experience some of Australia’s rugged countryside, rather than trek to North Western Australia and The Kimberley to see similar terrain.
I was completely blown away by the magnitude and the splendour of these wonderful river gorges and Kalbarri town is a pretty little spot to idle away a few days or even a week.
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