The ancient landscape around Kalbarri on Western Australia's Coral Coast is one where time almost stands still, and the outside world quickly becomes but a distant memory. Tick off these ten amazing things to do across the region.
The Western Australian coastal town of Kalbarri is cocooned by two distinctive and diverse landscapes, which add to the town’s allure as a holiday retreat.
From spectacular Kalbarri National Park to the east, with its deep gorges, ancient rock formations, and 150-metre-high rusty red cliff faces, to the soaring coastal cliffs and pretty beaches to the south, this is a region that will take your breath away.
Kalbarri is located 570 kilometres north of Perth; a road trip of six-or-so hours. Here, the mighty Murchison River (Western Australia’s second longest waterway) enters the Indian Ocean. Boasting a year-round Mediterranean-style climate, Kalbarri is the ideal place for coastal and river-based activities such as fishing, boating and swimming, as well as walking the many trails that meander along the coastline and within the national park. With a plethora of other unique things to do and see, this picturesque and popular town is an ideal destination for all types of travellers, and a great place to make memories.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Kalbarri.
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1. Gaze through Nature’s Window
Nature’s Window is arguably the most visited and photographed natural landmark in the region. Situated within Kalbarri National Park, 30 kilometres north-east of town, this rock formation perfectly frames the Murchison River for that obligatory photo for Instagram. From the carpark, it’s an 800-metre walk down to the Window. The magnificent cliff faces you see are mainly sandstone, and the vibrant red colouring is due to the high iron content within the rock. The view through the Window itself is nothing short of stunning.
For the more adventurous explorer, a nine-kilometre loop walk along the clifftop will allow you to observe how the Murchison has carved its gorges into the landscape. The walk continues down to idyllic sandy beaches, where you can cool off in the river before facing the climb back up to Nature’s Window.
We have been out here twice now, and each time I am in complete awe of what nature has created. With sheer cliffs towering above the river and the richly coloured country, this part of Kalbarri National Park is a must see.
2. Stroll along the Kalbarri Skywalk
Just a few minutes’ drive from the Nature’s Window carpark, the amazing Kalbarri Skywalk provides yet more unforgettable views of the Murchison River gorges. There are two parts to the Skywalk; the first projects 25 metres out from the cliff edge, and the second, 17 metres. It feels like you’re suspended in mid-air as you take an exhilarating walk along each elevated platform — 100 metres above the river. From this vantage point, the vistas of the surrounding landscape are unsurpassed. Interpretive boards and artworks share some of the cultural heritage of the Nanda First People (the Skywalk’s entry sign reads ‘Kaju Yatka’ — Nanda for ‘sky’ and ‘walk’). The Skywalk also boasts a great little café and plenty of picnic tables.
3. Hike to the Z Bend
Before making your way back to town, head south from the Skywalk to see the epic Z Bend. Aptly named, this enormous z-shaped bend in the river gorge has been carved out over an estimated 400 million years. From the carpark, it’s a relatively easy 1.2-kilometre-return walk to the cliff-top lookout, where you’ll stand captivated by the ancient terrain.
4. Admire the view from Red Bluff Lookout
It’s time to explore what lies south of Kalbarri, starting with Red Bluff Lookout (situated an easy 10-minute drive from town). Follow the fully formed pathway out to the highest point of the bluff, where you can take in the spectacular vistas of the Indian Ocean and dramatic coastal cliffs. The Bluff is also a good place to spot humpback whales during their migration north, along with playful dolphins. It’s interesting to note that the vivid colour of Red Bluff was used by Dutch ships to aid navigation along this rugged stretch of coastline in the late 1600s.
5. Explore more of the coastline
There are several other locations past Red Bluff where visitors can soak up the panoramic beauty of this part of the 1,100-kilometre Coral Coast. You may want to check out Pot Alley, Mushroom Rock, Eagle Gorge, and back towards town, the Blue Holes. We have our favourite spots, but I’ll leave you to make your own mind up on that score.
6. Visit the Pink Lake
If you’re up for a longer drive, cruise 60 kilometres south of Kalbarri to the coastal town of Port Gregory. There you can experience the wonder of Hutt Lagoon — also known as the Pink Lake. A lookout just outside the town offers great views across this blushing body of water — coloured by a type of algae. The best time to see it is between 10am and 2pm when the sun is high overhead. Spend some time afterwards exploring the historic town centre.
7. Go horse riding by the river
What better way to explore more of the sprawling wilderness around Kalbarri than by horseback? Big River Ranch’s friendly and experienced staff will team you up with a horse to suit your riding capability. Relax on a ride along the edge of the Murchison River, and cool off in the crystal clear water as the horses enjoy a splash. The ranch also runs pony rides each morning for those children who aren’t quite ready to ride high.
8. See a sunset from the water
Western Australia’s Indian Ocean sunsets are legendary, and Reef Walker Charters makes seeing one even more special. Their sunset cruise travels south from the mouth of the Murchison, sticking close to the coastal cliffs. As the sun slips below the horizon, sit back and marvel at the dramatic colour change on these craggy rock faces. The sky lights up as well, making for a most colourful day’s end. Keep your eyes peeled along the way for humpbacks, dolphins, and other marine life. This cruise is very popular, so book early to avoid disappointment.
9. Stop and photograph the flowers
There’s always something flowering in Kalbarri National Park. The main wildflower season starts in July and continues through to November, transforming the landscape into a kaleidoscope of colour. Robust banksias, grevilleas, bottlebrushes, kangaroo paws, and delicate orchids are just some of the 1,200 different types of flowering plants to be found in this diverse environment. If you’re anything like me, you’ll take great delight in photographing these bush blooms.
10. Feed the pelicans
One of Kalbarri’s signature experiences began way back in the 1970s. At 8.45 every morning, visitors join local volunteers down on the foreshore to feed fish to the resident pelicans. This simple, but delightful activity is enjoyed by both the young and young-at-heart.
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Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Kalbarri? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Cover image: Tourism Western Australia. Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Shez Tedford’s love of photography began twenty years ago when she discovered her first high country hut in the Victorian Alps. She has since camped out in all weather conditions to find and photograph huts, and has written a book showcasing these pioneering structures. Shez and her husband now travel fulltime and love exploring remote parts of regional Australia. She is just as happy in the arid and dusty outback as she is high up in the huts.