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The Montebello Islands offer some of the
best fishing in Australia. Whether you’re into
popper fishing for giant trevally, mangrove
jack, coral trout and baldchin groper, fly
fishing for bonefish, queenfish, mackerel,
shark mackerel and tuna, or trolling for
Spanish mackerel, sailfish and marlin, there’s
a catch for you. Most boat charters depart
from Dampier, Onslow or Exmouth from
April to October, and spend at least five
days out. Boats vary in size (most sleep
between seven and 15 passengers) and
amenities (on some you will be expected
to muck in with the cooking and cleaning
and bring your own towels and bedding).
Prices start from about $2590 per person,
but depend on the number of passengers
FORTESCUE FALLS/FERN POOL/CIRCULAR POOL – KARIJINI | Cool your heels at
the park’s only permanent waterfall. Allow at least one hour for the 800m return walk
(start at Fortescue Falls car park) but make sure you leave plenty of time for a dip.
Don’t miss taking the 300m detour which will bring you to Fern Pool, an oasis with
a small wooden jetty shaded by a fig tree. For more of a challenge, try the two-hour
loop to Circular Pool, another popular swimming hole. Both Fern and Circular pools
are special places for the local Aboriginal people, so be respectful.
OXER LOOKOUT/WEANO GORGE/HANCOCK GORGE | Oxer Lookout is 100m
above the junction of four gorges: Joffre, Red, Hancock and Weano. From the Weano
Recreational Area car park, it’s an 800m return walk to the lookout. Here you’ll also
find the beginning of a 1km trail down the gorge into Handrail Pool. As you descend,
you’ll have to clamber over boulders and squeeze through narrow passages. Another
challenging option is the 1.5km trail to Hancock Gorge, which involves descending
a ladder and ‘spider walking’ (moving along with both hands and feet up on opposite
gorge walls) before reaching Kermit’s Pool.
MOUNT BRUCE | Climb the 1235m-high slopes of Mount Bruce, WA’s second
highest mountain, for spectacular views of the park and the Pilbara landscape.
The 9km Summit Track can take up to six hours to complete. An easier trail, a 500m
half-hour walk, will take you to the Marandoo Mine site. There are other walks that
skirt the base of the mountain.
HAMERSLEY GORGE | In the northwest of Karijini, about an hour’s drive from the
main attractions, lies Hamersley Gorge. A challenging 1km walk upstream will take you
to the Grotto, a fern-lined water-filled chasm partially hidden in the side of the gorge,
and Spa Pool, a swimming hole fed by a waterfall. Allow three hours for a return trip.
JABURARA HERITAGE TRAIL | Get a hands-on appreciation of Aboriginal culture on
this informative 3.5km trail, just outside Karratha (access is via the information bay
on Karratha Road). You’ll stumble across ancient rock engravings and artefacts, as well
as stone quarries and a shell midden and grinding area – all evidence of the Jaburara
people’s centuries-old habitation of the region. There are some steep climbs and
descents; allow up to three hours for exploring at a leisurely pace.
DOOLENA GORGE | Access to this little oasis is on your left, just after you cross the
Coongan River, about 40km north of Marble Bar. Get out your deckchair, pour a glass
of wine and watch the sun’s rays light up the cliff face as dusk begins to fall. For an
even better vantage point, follow the 50m track along the creek and climb the gully
to the actual waterfall itself. Don’t forget your camera – and bring a light fishing rod if
you fancy catching a spangled perch for dinner.
and the itinerary. Most charters offer the
chance to take out a dinghy to explore the
archipelago’s deserted beaches and coastal
mangroves, where you might find mud
crabs, or you can dive for painted crayfish.
In the Pilbara, muddies are abundant all
year round and go for just about any bait.
Brown and green mud crabs are available
throughout the coast. They can be caught
in drop nets or by using a pole and hook.
The legal limit is a combined five crabs a day
(green crabs must size up to 150mm wide,
and brown to 120mm): www.fish.wa.gov.au
has all the guidelines. Middle Mangrove
Island, just off Onslow, is a good spot (get
your supplies, as well as some insider tricks,
from Onslow Fishing and Fuel), as are the
low-tide mangroves along Cape Leveque.
The Maitland River is home to mud crabs
too, specifically in Munni Munni Creek –
stock up on crabbing supplies at Adventure
Sports in Karratha, because there are hardly
any stores near Maitland.
DAMPIER BEACHSIDE MARKETS
The markets are a great family outing, with fantastic food, heaps of stalls, and live
entertainment. The markets are open on the first Sunday of the month.
Head to the races for popular days such as the The Roebourne Cup Race
Day, Family Day and Ladies Day. You can also take part in Two Up after the
last race of the day. Jun, Jul.
RED DOG FESTIVAL
Like an ironman competition for two- and four-wheeled transport, this weekend
festival directs participants to make use of buses, bikes, 4WDs and kayaks to cross
the Pilbara... inspired by the Red Dog’s fondness for various modes of transports. It
winds down with a kelpie dog show and party. May.
NORTH WEST FESTIVAL
This pop and rock festival in Port Headland sees some of the biggest names in
Australian music hit the Pilbara. Aug.
Karratha is 1535km north of Perth on sealed roads. Integrity Coach Lines travels to
Broome, stopping at the Karratha Visitor Centre, and the Perth to Exmouth line has
been extended to stop at Tom Price and Paraburdoo. There are plenty of flights in and
out of Karratha and Port Hedland, but demand from the mining industry means you
should book well in advance. If you’re hiring a vehicle, check the insurance policy on
windscreen damage – unsealed surfaces and road trains make chipped glass common.
The lookout over Dales Gorge, Karijini
National Park (photography Simon McBeth).
INSET Pilbara flora (photography Dan Paris).
The one that didn’t get away
(photography Montebello Island Safaris).
Details & online booking at WA’s largest
online events guide SCOOP.COM.AU
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