The ultimate Pilbara road trip

Our friends at Australia’s Northwest have put together the ultimate Pilbara road trip, weaving its way through the entire Pilbara, starting coastal in Onslow and finishing inland in Newman. Weave between the awe-inspiring national parks and world-class marine parks, and experience some of the world’s most significant cultural landmarks along the way.

Some roads may need a permit before commencing your drive – check with the local visitor centre before embarking on your journey. This itinerary is intended as a guide only. If you are planning to travel by car, please purchase a detailed map.

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Your starting destination: Onslow
Begin your journey at Onslow, where you’ll find the aptly named Sunset and Sunrise beaches. Stay overnight at the contemporary Onslow Beach Resort. Love fishing and diving? A day trip to the nearby Mackerel Islands will keep you amused or why not book island accommodation and stay for a few days?

Onslow to Tom Price
Approx. five hours – fuel up at Tom Price.

Travelling to Tom Price on the Nanutarra Road? Look out for Cheela Plains Station, a welcome stop with camping accommodation and tours of the surrounding landscape. Stop by Paraburdoo and admire the Resilience sculpture. Once in Tom Price, tour the massive operations at Rio Tinto’s open-cut iron ore mine with Lestok Tours. Drive to the top of Mount Nameless Jarndunmunha for views of the Hamersley Ranges.

Tom Price to Karijini National Park
Approx. two hours – fuel up at Tom Price if needed.

Continue to Karijini National Park. Visit the Karijini Visitor Centre and its interpretative display to fully comprehend its geology, culture and wildlife. Walk the Dales Gorge trail, take a dip in the pools of Fern Pool, Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool.

Check out the stunning Kalamina Gorge to explore the waterfall upstream. Don’t miss the Joffre Falls Lookout and Oxer Lookout at the junction of Weano, Red, Hancock and Joffre gorges. For the fit; descend to the bottom of Hancock Gorge or Weano Gorge and swim in freshwater pools.

Karijini to Millstream Chichester National Park
Approx. eight hours.

From Karijini to Millstream Chichester, journey along the unsealed road adjacent to the longest privately owned railway in the world. Obtain a permit from the Tom Price Visitor Centre to drive on this road. Alternatively, travel the Roebourne Wittenoom Road. Visit Millstream Homestead, which is now the park’s visitor centre. Enjoy a walk around Jirndawurrunha Pool and take in a sunset at Cliff Lookout. Before exiting the park, take a drive to the peak of Mount Herbert for views of the plain. Upon descent, enjoy a swim at Python Pool. Camp in one of several designated areas within the park.

Millstream Chichester to Dampier Archipelago via Karratha
Approx. three hours – fuel up at Karratha.

Travel to Dampier. If fishing is your passion, then consider an extended cruise for a five-day fishing holiday to the Montebello Islands. Visiting from July to September? Keep your eyes peeled for migrating whales. You can also hire a boat and head out amongst the 42 islands to fish. Head to Karratha and dine in the city centre.

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Karratha is your gateway to Murujuga National Park, home to the highest concentration of rock art in the world, with petroglyphs (rock art) created by the Yaburrara (Northern Ngarluma) people dating back to 40,000 years. Head to Hearson’s Cove for a beach sunset.

Karratha to Point Samson via Roebourne & Cossack
Approx. one hour.

Journey to Point Samson, stopping in at Roebourne. Discover the stories of Roebourne on the Heritage Trail. In Cossack, wander around the beautifully restored buildings and enjoy the view from Reader Head Lookout. Arrive in Point Samson, where you can cast a line and enjoy a sunset drink overlooking the coast.

Point Samson to Port Hedland
Approx. two hours – fuel up at Port Hedland.

Travel to Port Hedland via the historic copper mining town of Whim Creek. Marvel at the massive salt piles that act as a gateway to the town. Tour BHP Billiton port facilities, follow the cultural and heritage trail and check out the museum and Court House Gallery. Visit the harbour, the closest vantage point in Australia to observe the massive ore carriers and salt ships passing through. At certain times of the year turtles can be seen nesting on Cemetery Beach.

Port Hedland to Eighty Mile Beach via Cape Keraudren
Approx. two hours.

Driving north from Port Hedland, there are a number of places to turn off to the coast and enjoy a few days of relaxed camping including Pardoo Station. Visit the Cape Keraudren Coastal Reserve. Eighty Mile Beach is a little further along the highway and has a caravan park with cabins, powered and unpowered sites.

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Eighty Mile Beach to Marble Bar
Approx. three hours – fuel up at Marble Bar.

Backtrack from Eighty Mile Beach and turn inland towards Marble Bar. Doolena Gorge offers a great spot to see the sunset cast a glow across the rock. See the ‘marble bar’ and seek out one of several waterholes in the area. Chinaman’s Pool and Marble Bar Pool are popular picnicking and swimming areas. There is a holiday park for the van or camping, and rooms at the local pub.

Marble Bar to Newman
Approx. five hours.

Head back to the highway and make your way to Newman. If travelling in a four-wheel-drive, check road conditions and take the unsealed road from Marble Bar to Newman. Stop by the Newman Haul Pack for a photo opportunity and marvel at its epic scale. Visit the Ophthalmia Dam and take a hike up Mount Newman for great views of the Opthalmia Ranges.

Have you been to the Pilbara? What’s the longest road trip you’ve taken in Australia? Why not share your favourite drive in the comments section below?

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Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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