If you are looking for what to do on your trip to Kalbarri, this local’s travel guide provides all the information you need to plan your holiday plus a list of the top 10 things to do in Kalbarri Western Australia.
Kalbarri is a popular destination for tourists as well as locals who want to escape Perth for some fun, adventure, and natural beauty. You won’t be stuck for natural attractions with the Murchison River, Indian Ocean, and National Park all close by.
Where is Kalbarri?
Kalbarri is in Western Australia, about 600 km north of Perth, on the Coral Coast.
If you are arriving from overseas or interstate, there are car hire companies at Perth airport. We usually use Europcar as they offer the most competitive pricing with a good reputation.
There is also the option to take a bus run by TransWA which takes 8.5 hours from East Perth to Kalbarri. It runs three days a week.
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How to get from Perth to Kalbarri
There are two routes that you can take from Perth to Kalbarri and both are around a 6 to 7-hour drive.
The first is to travel via Brand Highway and then onto the North West Coastal Highway at Geraldton.
The second (and the way we went) is the Indian Ocean Drive, which takes you just south of Dongara. You then take Brand Highway until Geraldton, then onto the North West Coastal Highway.
Tip: Make sure to take the Port Gregory turn off at Northampton. This is the more scenic coastal route into Kalbarri and allows you to see the Pink Lake at Hutt Lagoon.
We stopped in Port Denison (just south of Dongara) for a break and then again in Geraldton.
Kalbarri Brief History and Population
I would like to respectfully acknowledge the Nanda People, the Traditional Owners, and First People of these lands. I would like to pay my respect to the Elders past, present, and future, for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture, and hopes of the Nanda People.
Nanda are the salt water people, keepers of the land and sea, and were recognised as traditional owners of the land in 2018 . They believe in mythical Dreamtime and that the Rainbow Serpent, Beemarra, formed the Murchison River and the land we see today. Beemarra heard the sound of waves and travelled down the Murchison River in search of the noise. She followed a creek, then disappeared underground, later emerging at the Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs. Frightened by the waves, Beemarra quickly took off back to the safety of the river. Where she rested on her return journey, fresh water was left, the springs of which are still there today.
According to Landgate’s Town Name History, Kalbarri was named after an Aboriginal man from a local Murchison tribe. It is also the name of an edible seed. Prior to this name, it was known as Wurdimarlu.
Two mutinous crew members from The Dutch East India trading ship, Batavia, were put ashore in 1629. The vessel was shipwrecked nearby off the coast of the Abrolhos Islands.
Kalbarri became a popular fishing place in the 1940s and was declared a townsite in 1948. The main industry was fishing (fish and lobster), but the number of boats have halved in recent years due to the fishing regulations as Western Australia work towards ecologically sustainable standards. Kalbarri now relies heavily on its tourism, attracting over 100,000 visitors each year.
Kalbarri Weather & Best Time To Visit
Kalbarri weather in summer (December to February) is dry and hot. Day time temperatures average 33°C, but can reach as high as 45°C. This is one of the most popular times to visit Kalbarri, so accommodation prices will be high. It’s a good time for beach activities like swimming, snorkelling, and surfing.
Autumn (March to May) has an average day time temperature of around 26°C. Kalbarri can be very windy, so this time of the year is popular due to little wind. This makes the calm waters great for fishing and family holidays.
Winter (June to August) is mild with occasionally heavy rain and day time averaging about 22°C. It’s the best time for hiking and the wildflowers are starting to appear in a blaze of colour. The perfect time for hiking and wildflower viewing.
Spring (September to November) is humpback whale season with daytime temperatures averaging 26°C. November is quiet so the ideal time for the traveller seeking some peace.
Flies can be a problem in a lot of places in WA. They are usually worse in spring and summer, after rain. We visited in April and didn’t have hardly any, however, that doesn’t always mean that they won’t be around. I recommend buying a flynet and some insect repellent. You may think you don’t want to look silly, but believe me, you won’t care once you’ve experienced flies at their worst. Look at something like this.
Top 10 Things To Do in Kalbarri
Your first stop has to be the Kalbarri Visitor Centre located at 70 Grey Street. It is open Monday to Saturday 9 am – 5 pm and Sunday and Limited Public holidays 9 am – 1 pm (closed Sundays during February).
The friendly staff will provide you with up to date information on the area as well as tours and accommodation.
Feeding of the Pelicans
Every morning at 8.45, volunteers feed the local Pelicans on the Kalbarri foreshore opposite Murchison Caravan Park.
It’s a free event but they do ask for a gold coin donation (totally worth it).
The kids also get to feed the pelicans with the help of the volunteers.
We arrived at 8.30 and got seated fine but there weren’t any left by 8.45
Allow 30 minutes for this activity.
Kalbarri National Park Inland Gorge
Kalbarri National Park covers 186,000 hectares. There are two different landscapes in Kalbarri National Park; the inland gorges and the coastal cliffs.
The Murchison River runs 80km through Kalbarri National Park and over the past 400 million years has cut through the sandstone rocks to form gorges. This river is the second longest in WA, at 820 km long, and has a catchment area of 82,000 km². Starting in Meekatharra, the Murchison River travels across dry plains, hills, salt lakes, and gorges. Cyclones in the north drop huge amounts of rain into the catchment area which reaches Kalbarri up to three weeks later. You can see the moody brown water flowing into the ocean after extreme floods.
Being a National park, you do need to buy a pass. These can be purchased in advance at the Visitor Centre or on the day at the park entrance for a cost of A$15 per vehicle per day. Kalbarri National Park is open from sunrise to sunset.
All the roads are sealed and accessible by 2wd, except for Pot Alley which is not suitable for caravans or motorhomes.
There is no camping allowed, no pets and no drinking water available, so ensure you have at least 3 to 4 litres of water per person with you. It will be 10°C hotter in the gorges than in town so also bring a hat and sunscreen. There are toilets and picnic areas
Natures Window and Loop Trail
Kalbarri’s iconic Natures Window is a 1km return walk from the Loop Car Park. It is a grade 3 trail as there are a few rocks that you need to traverse. Allow 45 minutes, including photos.
A staircase leads down to the path which takes you to Natures Window. The walk passes by the river gorge with its red and white striped sandstone. The ripple effect was formed by waves over the tidal flats.
The window itself is a sandstone rock that has been eroded by wind and frames the Murchison River.
Try to arrive as early as possible as it gets very busy due to it being one of the top things to do in Kalbarri. We had to queue for 5 minutes to take photos. As mentioned previously, it is a lot hotter here than town so be prepared. We had finished this walk by 10 am and it was very hot.
Natures Window is the start and finish of an 8km loop trail walk. It’s a class 4 hike and you should allow 3 to 4 hours to complete it. It is challenging and you will need to be there early in the summer months as it can easily reach 50°C along the loop and there isn’t much shade. The trail is closed after 7 am from November to March inclusive because of this.
Once you climb down some rocks after Nature’s Window, the trail leads you along the clifftop. The views down into the gorge from here are incredible. The path is rocky and involves a bit of climbing, but it’s not that strenuous. There are distance markers every 500m, not great at the start but an incentive towards the end of the trail.
As you make your way along the clifftop, there are a couple of sections where you need to climb up the rocks. It’s not difficult but you do require a certain level of fitness and flexibility.
Make sure to stop for photos as the views from up there are spectacular and look out for wildflowers if you are visit late winter and spring.
Once you’ve descended down into the gorge, you’ll see a sign warning that there’s another 5 km to go and this will be the hardest part of the trail. It advises that if you are feeling tired or don’t have enough water, then you should turn around and retrace your steps.
The view from the river bed is spectacular and really puts the cliffs into perspective. Keep an eye out for mountain goats on the cliff opposite.
The trail follows the river and this is where the hardest section of the trail is (in my opinion). You have to walk along a narrow ledge near the waters edge. It isn’t high but the water didn’t look too appealing so I didn’t want to fall in! The worst part for me was the overhang so I had to get quite low to get through the gap.
Once you pass the ledge section, you make your way back up, climbing up the rocks. Pay attention to where the signs are as we saw a few people miss them and carry on along the waters edge.
Once up a bit higher, you walk under some river red gums, which provide some shade. The remaining part of the trail involves sandy sections with broken boulders but is easy to navigate.
As you come close to the end, you start ascending back to the trail head at Natures Window. This is a short and steep climb but relatively easy as the rocks have been made into steps. We were lucky enough to spot a euro (common wallaroo) here.
We ended up completing the Kalbarri Loop Trail in 2 hours and 40 minutes, including taking photos and water breaks. The time of year helped as it was in July and the temperature was about 18C. Our teens enjoyed the challenge of this walk and the varied trail conditions. For me, it’s up there in my Top Western Australian Hikes.
The Z Bend Lookout and Trail
The Z Bend lookout is a 1.2km return class 3 walk from the carpark. It offers spectacular views of the gorge which plunges 150m down to the Red River Gum trees and sandstone rocks.
The Z Bend trail is a 2.6km return Class 4 hike that you can get to from the path leading to the lookout. It’s a demanding trail that has steep descents, ladder climbs, and slippery rocks.
The first part of the trail was the easiest, with sand and a few rocks so beware of tripping over. It then becomes harder as you have to descend large fallen boulders that are slippery due to sand and possible water. There are ladders at certain parts but these are easy to go down.
Near the river is the hardest part of the trail where you have to step across a crevice to reach the ladder. Once through this, there are multiple rocks that are positioned in stair formation.
At the bottom, you will be treated to the Murchison River up close with some extraordinary rock formations.
The return journey is much easier as it involves climbing instead of descending.
Once you reach the fork, follow the sign to the lookout that has a great vantage point of the Z Bend.
We found the trail to be busy and had to wait at parts of the trail so consider getting there early.
Four Ways Trail
Four Ways Trail is an unmarked Class 4, 6km strenuous hike which descends to the Murchison River. We didn’t do this hike after reading that it has potentially dangerous terrain with parts requiring you to swim through various pools.
Hawk’s Head Lookout
Hawk’s Head is a 200m return Class 1 walk and was named after the shape of a rock seen from the lookout. Kalbarri’s gorge views from the lookout are spectacular or you can enjoy gorge views from the sheltered picnic area.
Ross Graham Lookout
The Ross Graham Lookout is a Class 3, 200m return walk which is named after Kalbarri’s first school teacher. The lookout provides breathtaking views over the gorges and then a short walk takes you down to the river. Once there, you can scramble over rocks to see more of the river.
Meanarra Hill Lookout
Meanarra Hill Lookout is 5km east of the town and 207m above sea level. It’s an easy walk along a concrete path to 360-degree views of Kalbarri, The Murchison River, and the Indian Ocean. It is fully accessible with ramps up to the lookout and offers seating and shade. This lookout is an excellent place to watch the sunset.
The Grade 3, 1.5 km loop Mallee Fowl Trail starts here.
The two 100-metre-high cantilevered lookouts allow you to walk out for views of the spectacular gorge and Murchison River. Easy access is provided to the viewing deck along with undercover seating, toilets, and a kiosk.
The mesh walkways can be a bit daunting for those afraid of heights, but the structure is extremely sturdy providing a sense of security. The view 100m down below your feet is incredible as are the views from the barriers, looking down.
Kalbarri National Park Coastal
This part of the National Park is free of charge. If you are here between June and November, keep an eye out for migrating whales.
All along this coast, you will see layered Taumblagooda Sandstone cliffs that are 480 million years old. These were deposited as sand and silt from rivers. The white rocks of the top part of the cliffs are made from the younger Tamala Limestone. Wind blown from sand dunes over the past 2 million years converted to limestone and is what you see today.
A good way to see a different perspective of these incredible cliffs is on a Sunset Coastal Cliff Cruise. This tour take you up close to Jacques Point, Red Bluff, Mushroom Rock, Rainbow Valley, Pot Alley and Eagle Gorge while the sun dips into the ocean and the rocks take on their red colour. View the sunset tour here.
Natural Bridge and Castle Cove Lookouts
Natural Bridge Lookout and Castle Cove is a 200m return Class 1 walk. It provides stunning views up and down the coastline. From the Castle Cove Lookout, you get an impressive view of Island Rock.
You will pass many plant species that have adapted to this harsh coast with many of them having small prickly leaves to reduce moisture loss as well as salt and sun damage. Please keep away from this fragile vegetation as it provides protection for seeds that aid rehabilitation.
The wind, waves and salt spray from the Indian Ocean have carved out this incredible landform.
The Bigurda Boardwalk
The Bigurda Boardwalk connects Natural Bridge to Island Rock. You can get to it from either carpark.
It’s an easy 1.2km walk but keep to the boardwalk and be very vigilant with children as there aren’t any railings and sheer drops off the cliff.
Island Rock was once part of the mainland but is now a solitary sea stack. The best views of it are from Castle Cove Lookout and along the Bigurda Boardwalk.
The Shellhouse Grandstand is best viewed at sunset when the red glow of the sun looks spectacular against the sandstone cliff. The name came about from fishermen at sea that thought they could see a shell-shaped house on the side of the cliff.
Eagle Gorge and Bigurda Trail
The lookout and beach for Eagle Gorge can be accessed by paths from the car park. This is also where the Bigurda Trail starts. It’s an 8km Class 3 walk which will take approximately 3-5 hours and ends at the Natural Bridge. The views along here are stunning and you might even see dolphins or humpback whales.
Watch out for the wedge-tailed eagles that nest here and you might see them trying to catch prey.
Pot Alley got its name by a local fisherman after losing many of his lobster pots to this treacherous cove. The view south from the cliffs captures the pure ruggedness of the coastline. You are able to take a rocky walk down to the beach here but swimming is not recommended.
Red Bluff Lookout
Red Bluff Lookout is a 1km Class 1 return walk along a paved path. Signage along the trail details the history of the area. Red Bluff has the highest elevation of the National Park Coastal Cliffs with 100m of cliff face.
You can hike down from Pederick Lookout to Red Bluff Beach but it is steep in parts and slippery. It’s a Class 4 walk and you should allow 30-60 minutes.
From the lookout, you have views across the Indian Ocean and beautiful rock formations. It’s a great place to look for whales when they are migrating.
The beach is a popular spot for fishing and the contrast of the white sand against the red rocks is spectacular, especially at sunset.
Rainbow Valley & Mushroom Rock
The 3km loop Class 4 trail from the Rainbow Valley carpark to Mushroom Rock takes you through the valley and along the clifftop. Signs along the path explain about the ancient Tumblagooda Sandstone and its features. If you walk this trail around dawn or dusk, you may see the kangaroos feeding amongst the coastal bush and rocky outcrops.
The Pink Lake
Hutton Lagoon, or Pink Lake, is near Port Gregory and half an hour drive from Kalbarri. The best time to visit Pink Lake is mid-morning to midday on a clear day.
The lake lies below sea level so consequently seawater seeps into it. During winter the levels increase but by mid-summer, 95% is a dry salt flat. We visited in April and it was quite dry.
Pink Lake gets its colour from the presence of the algae Dunaliella salina, which produces carotenoid. This site is the world’s largest microalgae production plant.
The best place to view it is on Port Gregory Road where there is also parking.
The most popular beach in Kalbarri for families is the one closest to town, Chinaman’s Beach. It is at the mouth of the Murchison River and protected so it is very calm. You can also hire Canoes, Kayaks, Paddleboats, Sup boards, Sailboats and motorised dinghy (no skippers ticket needed). There are outdoor cold-water showers at Chinaman’s Beach too.
Back Beach is great for watching the sunset and surfing.
Blue Holes is part of a limestone reef that has parts submerged creating “holes”. Around 70 species of fish are home here which makes it ideal for snorkelling. As it is protected by the reef, it is good for swimming too.
Take a boat up the Murchison River
If you don’t have your own boat (like us), hire one from Kalbarri Boat Hire. They don’t require a skippers ticket, are easy to drive, and big enough for a family of five. Rates start at A$70 for an hour.
It was very windy on our way back in the afternoon and a bit of a bumpy ride (we all got wet and cold so take a towel or waterproof jacket).
From June to November, about 22,000 Humpback Whales pass the Kalbarri coast. They leave Antarctica and head north for warmer waters to give birth and then return with their calves.
If you can afford it, a memorable way to view Kalbarri is from the sky. There are plenty of scenic flights to choose from including the Pink Lake, the Abrolhos Islands, the Zuytdorp Cliffs, and Murchison River gorges.
Kalbarri Quadbike Safaris have tours to the Murchison River Reserve and Murchison House Station. The Quad Bikes are suitable for beginners as well as those who have used them before. I’m sure it would be a fun way to see these beautiful sights.
If you’re keen on fishing, there are a few different options in Kalbarri:
Off the foreshore jetties – cod, bream, and mulloway
Sand spit in front of Sea Rescue building – whiting
Murchison River – mud crabs and blue swimmer crabs
Red Bluff Beach and Wittecarra – tailor and mulloway
Deep Sea Fishing – pink snapper, coral trout, red emperor, and baldchin groper
Fishing is not allowed at Blue Holes or Chinamans Beach. Check the department of fisheries for up to date information regarding a fishing licence, bag and size limits, and fishing rules.
Camping is not allowed in the Kalbarri National Park, nor is there any free camping in Kalbarri. However, you can choose from Kalbarri Red Bluff Tourist Park, Murchison River Caravan Park, Kalbarri Anchorage Caravan Park, and Kalbarri Tudor Holiday Park.
We camped at Kalbarri Tudor Holiday Park on an ensuite site. This caravan park was centrally located and within walking distance to restaurants and the seafront. The campers’ kitchen was clean as were the amenities. Kangaroos were also frequent visitors to the campsite.
There’s a free dump point located in the Light Industrial Area, adjacent to the Shire Depot in Porter Street.
We recently stayed at the Kalbarri Seafront Villas in the townhouse as this was the only villa left. It sleeps up to eight, with four bedrooms. The double-storey unit has a full kitchen, laundry, bathroom, dining table and lounge area downstairs with all the bedrooms, another bathroom and lounge upstairs. It also has a large balcony with an outdoor setting and barbecue with river views. Kalbarri Seafront Villas also offer studios and one and two-bedroom apartments.
We lived upstairs as the views were beautiful from the lounge and balcony. The downstairs area looked tired and the townhouse only had evaporative air conditioning with oil heaters provided for the winter. There wasn’t any heating in the bathrooms which made it cold having showers.
Kalbarri Tudor Holiday Park also have villas to stay in. We have booked one for our Perth to Exmouth Road Trip in July.
Next time I would look at booking one of these:
River Retreats is for adults-only to enjoy the tranquillity with spotless rooms and an outdoor swimming pool.
Nautilus Retreat Kalbarri B&B is another adult-only accommodation that offers the choice of a continental or gluten-free breakfast.
Kalbarri Red Bluff Tourist Park is a popular choice for families with kangaroos frequent visitors to the gardens.
Murchison View Apartments are located 100m from Chinaman’s Beach on the Murchison River. The large apartments are apartments are clean , well-equipped, and in a great location.
Book early to avoid disappointment as accommodation gets booked up quickly during peak season and school holidays.
Places to eat in Kalbarri
Some of the best places to eat in Kalbarri are:
- Upstairs Restaurant (currently closed due to cyclone but check their website for up to date information)
- The Gorges Café
- Wild Ocean Indonesian (take away)
- Buddha’s Bites
- Finlays Kalbarri
- Kalbarri Hot Bread Shop
A couple of tips for Kalbarri restaurants. Make sure you book! We made this mistake and couldn’t find anywhere popular that had a table on our first night. Also, restaurants shut early in country towns so don’t leave it too late to eat (I would suggest about 7 pm).
The Kalbarri Hot Bread Shop is a bakery that sells not only bread, but pies, sausage rolls, and delicious sweet treats. Their sausage rolls are wonderful with light flaky pastry and the fresh jam donut oozed jam.
If you’re after a take away and like Beef Rendang, I recommend Wild Ocean Indonesian, it’s delicious. Their Mee Goreng and Nasi Goreng are also popular. This street food truck is only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 5.00 pm to 7.30 pm Friday and Saturday and until 7 pm on Sunday. Due to its popularity, there could be a bit of a wait for your food during peak times like school holidays. It’s worth the wait though.
We enjoyed our meal at Finlays restaurant. It is an outdoor restaurant that specialises in seafood. It was extremely busy when we visited so book ahead. I had the seafood linguine which was $32.
Our Tips on visiting Kalbarri
- If you are visiting in the wildflower season, consider taking a detour on your road trip to see some of the best wildflowers in Western Australia.
- The drive is long (around 6 hours) so don’t drive tired. It’s a killer.
- Pay attention on the drive to Kalbarri. The roads are long and boring, but wildlife can jump out at any moment.
- Try to finish your road trip before dusk, this is when kangaroos are most active, and you risk hitting them.
- Go to the National Park gorges early in the morning. It is incredibly hot there in summer.
- Take plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat to the National Park.
- At certain times of the year, the flies are REALLY bad. Don’t worry about what you look like, buy a fly net (we didn’t experience many in April though).
- Take good walking shoes.
- Be careful of cliff edges and slippery rocks.
- Book restaurants if you want to eat out as they get booked out far in advance.
- Visit the beaches in the morning before the ocean breeze starts to blow.
- Kangaroos gather at the oval on Porter Street around dusk.
How far is Kalbarri from Perth?
Kalbarri is nearly 600 km north of Perth.
What is the population of Kalbarri?
The Kalbarri population was 1,557 according to the 2016 census, but it can easily increase to 8,000 at peak holiday times.
Is there a supermarket in Kalbarri?
Yes, there is a supermarket in Kalbarri. The IGA is located on the foreshore.
How long should we stay in Kalbarri?
I would recommend at least four days in Kalbarri, but preferably longer if you want to do a lot of hiking or fishing.
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