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Peter Hammond and Nirbeeja Saraswati have visited more than 50 Aboriginal
rock art sites around Australia. Here they share their top sites in the Pilbara –
best visited in the cooler weather from April onwards. Bear in mind that in
summer some access roads may be cut off due to flooding.
Deep Gorge, near Hearson’s Cove, Burrup Peninsula, Pilbara
The Burrup Peninsula has the world’s highest concentration of rock art –
up to a million works – yet remains largely unknown. Deep Gorge, near
Karratha, is the easiest site to find and has a huge number of petroglyphs
(rock engravings). Many portray animals, including kangaroos, emus,
lizards, whale sharks and possibly even the now-extinct thylacine. Spirit
beings are also portrayed, looming high above you on the rocky hills.
How to get there
Travelling from Karratha to Dampier, turn right onto the Burrup Road.
Take the turn-off to Hearson’s Cove after about 5km. Travel about 500m
and turn right onto the unmarked dirt track to the Deep Gorge carpark.
From the carpark, a pathway leads you along a narrow valley between
towering hills of giant boulders, many of which contain petroglyphs.
Take your time and be careful of your step as you climb the boulders.
And remember not to step backwards to get a better photo!
Wanna Munna Aboriginal rock art site, Newman region, Pilbara
This art site is home to many hundreds of petroglpyhs – some intricate
beyond belief – engraved onto boulders and rock faces surrounding a
beautiful waterhole on the Weeli Wolli Creek. Considering the extremely
hard surface and the available tools, these are amazing works of art. Many
works portray animals and some show spirit beings. But for us, the best
works here show ferns and plants, with fine detail of leaves and fronds.
How to get there
The turn-off is approximately 80km from Newman off the Great Northern
Highway between Newman and Port Hedland. As you travel from
Newman you turn right (north). When we visited the site the turnoff was
unmarked, so keep your eyes peeled. A reasonable 4WD track will take
you about 2km straight to the waterhole and art site.
Two Mile Ridge art site, Port Hedland
This one’s a surprise. The site is right near the centre of Port Hedland, on
a stretch of apparent wasteland. Walk around a flat limestone shelf, right
next to the imposing BHP processing plant with its manicured entrance
lawns and gardens, and you’ll find hundreds of petroglyphs. The shelf once
sat beside a coastal estuary that was reclaimed to form part of the town.
Many of the artworks portray sea creatures, including dugongs. The shelf
and artworks extend for hundreds of metres. This is the least remote of the
five sites but we’re certain that very few people are aware of its existence.
How to get there
The limestone shelf is on the south side of main road Wilson Street, as you
travel towards the centre of Port Hedland. Park beside the road as you
approach the turn-off to the BHP processing plant – you can’t miss it.
The most impressive petroglyphs are protected within a fenced-off area.
Contact the Port Hedland Visitor Centre to organise a key to gain access to
this area. For more on Peter Hammond and Nirbeeja Saraswati’s travels, see
Deep Gorge, Burrup Peninsula
A rock engraving of a dolphin, head at
right, at Two Mile Ridge, Port Hedland
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