limestone pillars in the middle of a desert

Pinnacles Western Australia Review: Local’s Guide

Hi fellow adventurers! If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have a passion for exploring our stunning state. Today, I’m exploring the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park. This is one of the most popular day trips from Perth.

So, why am I the go-to authority on this incredible locale? First and foremost, I’ve been a resident of Perth for decades and have made it my mission to explore every nook and cranny of Western Australia. Over the years, I’ve visited the Pinnacles more times than I can count. I’ve walked through its otherworldly landscape in the scorching heat of summer and the mildness of winter; I’ve photographed the ancient limestone formations at the crack of dawn and under the silvery light of the full moon.

So, when it comes to the Pinnacles, you could say I’ve got a ‘rock-solid’ understanding of what makes this destination a must-visit. Read on to find out how you can make the most of your trip to this Western Australian wonder.

our pick
limestone pillars in red sand in desert

Pinnacles Desert Sunset Stargazing Tour

Rating: 5/5⭐️ with over 570 reviews

Tour Length: 9 hours

This tour has won a badge of excellence from Viator and is currently number one Pinnacle Tour on TripAdvisor.

Visit the Pinnacles at sunset, the best time of day to see them. Enjoy a sunset dinner in the desert, and stay after-dark for an incredible stargazing experience.

📍 Location: Nambung National Park
☀️ Best Time to Visit: Sunset & Sunrise
💵 Cost: A$15 per vehicle
🐶 Dogs: Not Allowed
Open: 24 hours
🚗 Parking: Free
🚻 Facilities: Toilets
🛣️ Unsealed Roads: Yes but ok for cars

Where are the Pinnacles?

The Pinnacles are in Nambung National Park 189 km north of Perth and 29 km south of Cervantes.

How to get to the Pinnacles

The easiest way to get to the Pinnacles is by car or on a tour from Perth. The drive will take about two hours from Perth along Indian Ocean Drive.

The sealed road to Nambung National Park is well-maintained, and once you arrive, there’s a car park if you don’t want to drive on the unsealed track through the Pinnacles. However, the hard compacted sand track is suitable for 2wd cars most of the year. You don’t need a 4wd to visit the Pinnacles.

If you need to hire a car, we use Discover Cars to compare renatl companies.

Pinnacle Tours from Perth

🤩 Read this post on Pinnacle Tours to find out my favourite Top 3!

Questions I’m asked about The Pinnacles in WA

What month is best to visit the Pinnacles?

The Pinnacles is a year-round attraction but the best months to visit the Pinnacles are September and October, when Perth’s weather is mild and wildflowers are blooming.

What is the best time of day to see the Pinnacles?

The best time of day to photograph the Pinnacles is sunrise and sunset when there’s an orange glow.

Do I have to pay to see the Pinnacles?

The cost is A$15 per vehicle to enter Nambung National Park to see the Pinnacles.

Can you touch the Pinnacles?

The Parks and Wildlife Service ask that you don’t touch the pinnacles as they are fragile and can break easily.

How long do you need at the Pinnacles?

You should allow about an hour at the Pinnacles.

How far & hard is the Pinnacles walk?

The Desert View Walk Trail is an easy, 1.5 km, 45-minute return walk through the pinnacles from the discovery centre car park.

Is it worth visiting the Pinnacles?

The question of whether it’s “worth” visiting the Pinnacles is subjective and depends on your interests. Many people enjoy the experience for several reasons, including the unique landscape, photography opportunities, the proximity to Perth, and the geology of the formations.

I think the Pinnacles are worth visiting if you are heading up the Coral Coast or have a spare day to explore the Indian Ocean Drive.

wendy and the girls walking through the pinnacles in numbung national park

How to see the Pinnacles

A 4 km loop drive, which has plenty of pull-over bays, takes you through the Pinnacles Desert with opportunities to walk around and visit the Desert View Lookout. This road is unsealed and vehicles longer than 7m and caravans and trailers are not permitted on the track and should be parked in the long vehicles bays in the car park.

The Desert View Walk Trail starts at the Discovery Centre, with the first 200m being wheelchair accessible, leading to the Pinnacles View Lookout. From here you can see the ocean, one of the few places in the world that you can see the ocean from the desert.

an information sign for the pinnacles wa

How Long You Need at The Pinnacles

The amount of time you’ll need at the Pinnacles varies depending on your interests and what you want to get out of the visit. Here are some general guidelines:

Quick Visit: 30 – 60 minutes

If you’re pressed for time, you could drive through the Pinnacles Loop, stopping at viewpoints for quick photo ops. The drive itself can be done in about 30 minutes, but you’ll likely want to admire the scenery, so allocate at least an hour.

Half-Day: 2 – 4 Hours

A half-day gives you ample time to not only drive through the Pinnacles Loop but also to explore some of the walking trails around the formations. You can visit the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre and maybe have a picnic.

Full-Day: 5 – 8 Hours

With a full day, you can explore other areas of Nambung National Park in addition to the Pinnacles. Visit nearby beaches like Kangaroo Point or Hangover Bay. This would also give you the best opportunity for photography, capturing the Pinnacles in different lights as the sun moves across the sky.

Overnight: 24 Hours or More

If you decide to stay overnight in the nearby town of Cervantes or camp (please note that camping is not allowed within the park itself), you could witness the Pinnacles at sunset and sunrise – when the play of light and shadows make for magical photos. An overnight stay also allows you to explore the surrounding region more thoroughly, including the opportunity for stargazing in the clear desert skies.

What Are the Pinnacles?

The Pinnacles consist of thousands of weathered limestone pillars, formed approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago. Coastal winds eroded the surrounding sand dunes, leaving the limestone pillars exposed to the elements. 

Tamala Limestone (aerolian calcarenite or wind blown calcium carbonate), found along the coast of WA, was swept inland by wind and waves. When it rained, calcium carbonate in the sand leached through causing the lower levels of the dune to solidify into a soft limestone. Due to drier weather and erosion, the top soil and sand were blown away, leaving these formations.

You can learn more about the formation at The Pinnacles Discovery Centre, open daily 9.30 am – 4.30 pm. 

limestone pillars in red sand in desert
The Pinnacles WA

History of the Pinnacles and Numbung National Park

The Nambung National Park belongs to the Yuat and Wajuk language people and was important to these semi-nomadic Aboriginals because of water. During the wet season, the Nambung River (Nambung meaning crooked or winding) made waterholes throughout the area, with the water streaming into caves. These cave waterholes became vital in the survival of these people for hundreds of years.

The Pinnacles are sacred to Indigenous women where the women gathered to camp, give birth, hold ceremonies, and look for food. According to legend, some men would walk along the path to this woman’s sacred place and the gods punished them for it, burying them alive. However, the young men begged forgiveness and wielded their weapons through the sand and are now fossilised ghosts stuck in the form of limestone pillars.

a sandy gravel road through limestone pillars
The loop drive in Nambung National Park

How to Look After The Pinnacles

  • Don’t light fires. Visitors can use gas appliances or the free gas barbecues at Hangover Bay and Kangaroo Point.
  • Put rubbish in the litter bins on the entry road into Cervantes or take it with you.
  • Pets are not allowed in Nambung National Park. However, free basic dog kennels for park visitors are located at the Cervantes Ranger Station, which is open 7 days per week between 8am and 5pm. Call (08) 9688 6000 for more information.
  • Respect the Pinnacles and do not climb, sit or stand on the formations. Stay on the roads marked and follow the signs in the park.

Other Things To Do near Nambung National Park

Lake Thetis

Lake Thetis is a small inland saline lake and is one of only a few places in the world with living marine stromatolites, or ‘living fossils’. The rock-like structures have been dated to about 3,370 years old and built by microbes similar to those found in 3,500 million-year-old rocks, resembling the earliest forms of life on Earth.

You can walk around an easy 1.5 km loop trail, which provides opportunities to see and learn about the fossils, geology, flora, fauna and Indigenous culture. The first 300m has an accessible boardwalk, which passes the best examples of stromatolites in Lake Thetis.

The best time to visit Lake Thetis is in summer when it’s dry so that you get a better view of the stromatolites.

You can also see stromatolites in Hamelin Bay, in the Shark Bay region.

stromatolites in a lake
Lake Thetis stromatolites

Hangover Bay

With its sandy beach, Hangover Bay is close to the Pinnacles, and is great for snorkelling, swimming, and surfing. Bottlenose dolphins often frequent the area and you may spot sea lions.

Beach shacks were present in the 70’s and 80’s, mainly belonging to farmers that would head to the coast for summer holidays. It is said that Hangover Bay got its name from people visiting the beach after New Year’s Eve festivities!

Hansen Bay Lookout & Thirsty Point Lookout

Hansen Bay Lookout gives you a panoramic view of Hansen Bay, the surrounding islands, Lake Thetis and Cervantes.

A bush and beach walk trail connects the lookouts between Thirsty Point and Hansen Bay. It’s especially interesting during the wildflower season and can be extended along Hansen Bay Road to take in the Stromatalites at Lake Thetis, then returning to town via Cervantes Road.

red gravel by a beach with lots of seagrass washed up
Cervantes foreshore

Where to stay near the Pinnacles

Our go-to accommodation close to the Pinnacles is the RAC Cervantes Holiday Park

The RAC Cervantes Holiday Park have two and three-bedroomed villas that feature a fully equipped kitchen, large living room and private bathroom facilities. The facilities include a nature playground, BBQ area, swimming pool, and kids’ activity area with a pool table, table tennis, and large screen TV’s.

The Pinnacles Edge Resort have air-conditioned one and two-bedroom apartments and studios that feature either a kitchenette or fully equipped kitchen. The resort has a swimming pool, restaurant, and bar and is a 5 minute walk from Cervantes Golf Course.

Perth to the Pinnacles WA

You can stop at Yanchep National Park, Guilderton or Lancelin on your way to the Pinnacles.

Yanchep National Park has a fee to enter, but you can buy a National Park pass if you plan on visiting more than one park (you need to pay to enter Nambung NP to see the Pinnacles). Here you can do several hikes, see koalas and kangaroos, take a tour of Crystal Cave, learn about the culture and history of the Noongar people or even go ziplining!

Guilderton is where Moore River meets the ocean and a great place for water activities and a picnic.

Lancelin sand dunes are the largest in Western Australia and an incredible sight to see. For some fun and adventure, you can hire a sandboard or drive around them if you have a 4wd. You can find out other things to do in this guide on the Lancelin sand dunes.

a man sand boarding down a large white sand dune
Lancelin sand dunes

Are you planning a trip to see the Pinnacles? Have any more questions that I haven’t answered? Join our Facebook Group Community to ask for recommendations or help planning.