Step back in time and follow in the footsteps of the early settlers who came to the Pilbara in search of their fortune. Marvel at the beauty of the century-old bluestone buildings, stroll along the unspoilt shores of Settlers Beach or discover the region’s rich history on the Cossack Heritage Trail.
Located at the mouth of the Harding River on the coastal strip between Point Samson and Dampier, Cossack is an ideal base to start your Pilbara adventure. Read more about Cossack.
Old Roebourne Gaol
The Old Roebourne Gaol is today home to a Museum, the Roebourne Visitors Centre and the Roebourne Arts and Crafts Group.
In 1884 the Roebourne lock up was proclaimed a Gaol. In 1887 it was decided that the original small wooden cells were dangerous and they were replaced by four new stone cells. These cells featured an iron ring in the centre of the floor so prisoners could be manacled for extra security. The ruins of the original stone cells can be viewed at the rear of the complex.
In 1896 the present building was constructed. It was designed in the decorative mode of the 1890s in the style associated with George Temple Poole.
Building plans show that the cells were denominated by the skin colour of the expected prisoner population. The larger four cells, radiating from an octagonal courtyard were for Aboriginal prisoners, with separate cells for European, Asian and female prisoners.
In 1924 the Gaol was closed due to the demise of the Cossack port and the subsequent decline in the population of the Roebourne area. The Gaol was refurbished and reopened as a prison in 1975 and operated until 1984, when prisoners were transferred to the new Roebourne Regional Prison.
As you wander through the complex, take your time to reflect on the prisoners who lived within these walls. In the Museum you will gain a glimpse of what life was like for Aboriginal Australians after white settlement, as well as an insight into the experiences of European and Asian settlers to the region.
The Visitors Wing is set up with tea and coffee facilities, tourist pamphlets, seating and photographs and video of the Pilbara region.
Wing 2 Museum
Colonial History – photographs, artifacts and stories of the first station owners, miners and Roebourne residents.
Wing 3 Museum
Hidden Histories – discover a pictorial history of Aboriginal people in the Pilbara since white settlement, as well as a display on the experiences of indigenous and non-indigenous women in the region.
Roebourne Visitors Centre – friendly staff will assist you with information, tour bookings and directions. A wide selection of books and maps are available for purchase, as well as souvenirs, cool drinks and snacks. A gold coin donation will give you entry to the Museum.
Rear Courtyard – contains a display of farming and mining equipment used in the early days and a display of Pilbara rocks and gemstones.
Yaburara Heritage Trail
The Yaburara Heritage Trail is a 3.5km walk commencing at the water tanks overlooking the town centre and accessed via the information bay off Karratha Road. The trail ends at the Pilbara TAFE College car park. Two short and three longer branch trails follow the ridge top and a nature trail along two major valleys. Allow two to three hours to enjoy the full trail at a leisurely pace.
The trail highlights the Karratha district’s natural history and cultural heritage, in particular that of its traditional inhabitants, the Yaburara (pronounced “Yabura”) Aboriginal tribe. It covers rugged country with some steep climbs and descents and features a number of Aboriginal sites including rock engravings and artifact scatters.
There are a number of lookouts along the trail, including the Dampier Salt Shakers Lookout, which is only a 10-minute walk from the start of the trail.
The Yaburara Heritage Trail is part of a statewide network of Heritage Trails devised in 1988 by the Western Australian Heritage Committee as part of the Bicentenary commemorations. The trail was developed as a joint venture between the Dampier Salt Shakers group and the Rotary Club of Karratha with the assistance of specialist archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, geologists, botanists and Aboriginal advisors.
Maps of the Yaburara Heritage Trail and further information on associated flora, fauna, geology and indigenous heritage are available from the Karratha Visitor Centre.
- The trail does not return to the starting point and trail users are advised to arrange transport at the end of the trail near the Pilbara TAFE College
- The trail should only be attempted by those who are reasonably fit and able-bodied
- Sturdy, comfortable footwear is essential
- No water supplies are available along the trail
- Walkers should take adequate precautions against sunburn and heat stress, particularly during hot weather – take a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and plenty of water
- No rubbish bins are available along the trail, please carry any litter with you
- Under the Aboriginal Heritage Act it is an offence to damage or alter any Aboriginal site or to remove an Aboriginal artifact from a site
- Persons using this Heritage Trail do so at their own risk
Located around two hours drive from Karratha or Roebourne and covering an area of approximately 200,000 hectares, Millstream is a lush oasis of palms and cool permanent water in stark contrasts to the surrounding landscape of rocky escarpments and rolling spinifex-covered hills.
The area was extensively used by early European settlers as an active pastoral station for more than 100 years and now the original homestead building is used as the Millstream Visitor Centre.
Aided by the run-off from the Hamersley Ranges via the Fortescue River, the waters of the Millstream oasis are fed from an underground aquifer or natural underground reserve, believed to contain in excess of 1,700 million cubic metres of water and cover an area of almost 2,000 square kilometres.
Why not stay overnight? There are well-maintained public camping facilities including bush toilets, gas barbecues and wood for campfires. Permits and maps of the Millstream National Park can be purchased from the either the Karratha or Roebourne Visitor Centres or from the Visitor Information Centre within the park.
The Millstream National Park can be accessed by your own vehicle either via the Roebourne/Wittenoom Road or the privately owned Hamersley Iron Access road, for which a permit must first be obtained. Permits are available from the Roebourne and Karratha Visitor Centre.
Covering an area of some 627,445 hectares, the Karijini National Park is the second largest in WA and recognised as one of the most spectacular sights within the Pilbara region.
'Karijini' is the name the traditional owners call the Hamersley Ranges which feature rock formations over 2.5 billion years old. There is an abundance of gorges, waterfalls, fern pools and stunning scenery best viewed at sunrise or sunset when the vivid colours of the area come to life. A magnificent display of wildflowers reflect vivid contrasts from the natural outback colours when the wildflower season lays its carpet of purples, reds and yellows in the heart of the winter months.
Camping areas with bush toilets, gas barbecues and rubbish bins allow visitors to stay longer to enjoy the tranquility of the Pilbara bush and the rich colours of the morning and evening sunlight.
- 330 km south of Port Hedland via Great Northern Highway
- 200 km north-west of Newman via Great Northern Highway
- 350 km east of Nanutarra via sealed road
- 90 km north-east of Tom Price via sealed road
A permit is required to travel on the Hamersley Iron Access Road.
Details are available from the local visitor centres. Locations for great views of Karratha and environs are readily accessibly by car from the Water Corporation [Two Tanks] Lookout behind the Karratha Visitor Centre and from TV Lookout on Millstream Road in Karratha.
The Burrup Lookout, a vantage point near the corner of the roads to Dampier and the North West Shelf Gas project, is a little out of the way, but offers fantastic views for 360 degrees around the Burrup Peninsula. Several more out of the way spots such as the Rotary Lookouts along the Jaburara Heritage Trail offer a different perspective of Karratha.
The walk or drive to the top of Mount Welcome in Roebourne, is rewarded with excellent panoramic views of the Roebourne township and Harding River. Experience beautiful views of the ocean and surrounding countryside from Tank Hill in Wickham.
Reader's Head in Cossack offers spectacular panoramic views of the Pilbara landscape, surrounding the township of Cossack and the ocean to Jarman Island.
Mt Herbert, Wittenoom Road, Chichester Ranges, Roebourne
The top of Mount Herbert gives a splendid view of the Savannah lands of Pyramid, Sherlock and Warambie Stations.
Chichester Range camel trail is an 8km downhill walk to Mt Herbert and should take about three hours (one way). Stout shoes are required, and it is recommended that a vehicle meet you at the end of the trail at Python Pool.
Phone the Roebourne Visitors Centre on 9182 1060 or the Karratha Visitors Centre 9144 4600 for further information.
The Burrup Peninsula was named after Mount Burrup during the planning stage of the North West Shelf Gas Project in 1979. Woodside Petroleum Pty Ltd onshore operations are located on the peninsula.
Mount Burrup was named by the Government Surveyor, FS Brockman, after Henry Wood Burrup, one of two men mysteriously murdered at the Union Bank in Roebourne in 1885.
The North West Shelf Gas Project is the largest resource project ever undertaken in Australia. Gas is drilled at an offshore platform 130 km north of Dampier and piped to the onshore treatment plant on the Burrup Peninsula. From here the gas is carried in a 1450km pipeline to domestic and industrial gas users in the south of the State.
Construction has now been completed in the Liquefied Natural Gas [LNG] phase of the project which involves the export of LNG gas to Japan, which commenced in October 1989. King Bay Supply Base services the offshore operations and onshore treatment plant.
Burrup Lookout overlooks the north west shelf onshore operations on the Burrup near the Visitors Centre offering a great view at night.
For the adventurous, a trip further out along the Burrup Peninsula towards Withnell and Conzinc Bays will reward you with untouched scenery, amazing rock formations and pristine, sandy beaches. Access is however strictly 4WD and only for experienced drivers with caution, especially through the mangroves and over a short very rough and steep incline called the Jump Up.
On the way back at the junction of the Burrup and Dampier roads, take the unmarked track to the left to the Burrup Lookout on the hill with a radio transmitter for fantastic 360 degree views of the Burrup Peninsula and surrounds. This track is a little bumpy towards the top but is accessible with a two wheel drive vehicle with care.
Picnic and park areas
Cattrall Park off Balmoral Road and Millars Well Reserve off Gawthorne Drive in Karratha are two hidden gardens of cool serenity ideal for family picnics with plenty of well-maintained lawns under shady trees.
Just 20 minutes away in Dampier and closer to the ocean is Jurat Park, another secluded park ideal for a relaxing picnic under shady palms.
Located on the beach front at Point Samson, Point Samson Park offers yet another spot for a relaxing family picnic with large lawn areas and gas barbecues under shady trees. A tasty fish and chip takeaway restaurant is nearby.
Cossack has a large grassed picnic area amongst the historic buildings with seating available. The fishing wharf has gas barbecues with seating. Relax while throwing out a line.
Harding Dam is an ideal destination for a days drive and picnic, with free gas barbecues and shady gazebos set amongst grassed areas on the edge of the downstream water.
Some of the most popular and easily accessible beaches in and around the Central Pilbara Coast are Hearson's Cove; the Dampier Foreshore; Point Samson; Honeymoon Cove and Cossack. There are also numerous beaches on the Dampier Archipelago and the Montebello Islands; tours are available through the Karratha and Roebourne Visitor Centres.
Stairway to the Moon from Hearson's Cove and Cossack
From April to October, a natural phenomenon caused by a full moon reflecting off the exposed mudflats at Hearson's Cove at extremely low tides, creates a beautiful optical illusion of a magical staircase reaching to the moon. The stairway can also be viewed at Cossack from the lookout at Reader's Head and the rest stop picnic area. Ask the Visitor Centres or check the City of Karratha Calendar of Events for full details of dates and times.
The Dampier Archipelago
The Dampier Archipelago comprises 42 islands, islets and rocks lying within a 45km radius from the towns of Dampier and Point Samson. Many of the islands resemble the rugged Burrup Peninsula, with coastal cliffs and steep-sided rock piles separated by valleys, sand plains and pristine beaches ideal for swimming and snorkelling, or just lazing the day away.
The archipelago offers excellent boating with many world-class fishing spots for deep water, reef or sheltered inlet fishing. Public boat ramps are located at Nickol Bay, Dampier, John's Creek, Point Samson and Cossack. Always check the weather and tides and let someone responsible know where you are going and when you expect to return. Better still, allow our experienced charter boat operators to take you there. For further details on charter boat operators contact the Karratha and Roebourne visitor centres.
Twentry-five of the islands of the archipelago are incorporated into reserves for the conservation of flora and fauna and are managed by the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions. The plants of the islands can best be seen by walking, however, on some islands native rats and wedge-tailed shearwaters live and nest in burrows that can easily collapse underfoot, so please take care.
Camping on the islands is permitted only up to 100m inland of the high-water mark on beaches zoned for recreation and for no more than five nights. It is not permitted in conservation or special conservation zones at anytime.
Green, loggerhead, flatback and hawksbill turtles use the beaches for nesting, along with 26 species of birds. These include the Fairy and Bridled Terns during their breeding season. Six species of marine mammals are often sighted in the waters around the islands including the dugong and bottlenose dolphin, while humpback whales are often seen between July and September as they make their way to temperature subtropical waters to mate and give birth.
The Montebello Islands
Located about 130kms west of Dampier, the Montebellos is a group of nearly 100 limestone islands surrounded by white sandy beaches and turquoise green waters. With a 6m tidal range, the islands are perfect for snorkelling, beachcombing and exploring, as well as providing fertile fishing grounds.
The Montebellos can lay claim to WA's first shipwreck, the 300 tonne Tryal, which ran aground and slowly sank back in 1622. The islands were also the site of atomic bomb detonations by the British in 1952. Despite this ominous history, the Montebellos provide a fantastic getaway for those looking for excellent diving, fishing or just some peace and quiet. For further details contact the Roebourne or Karratha Visitor Centre.