Things To Do in Kalbarri National Park: Local’s Guide 2024

Today, I want to share one of Western Australia’s most breathtaking destinations – Kalbarri National Park. Nestled along the Coral Coast about 485 km north of Perth, this park is a mosaic of river gorges, stunning ocean cliffs, and diverse wildlife.

Kalbarri National Park covers 186,000 hectares and is split into two parts: the inland gorges and coastal cliffs.

Living in Western Australia, I’m lucky to visit Kalbarri NP on a regular basis. It’s a place that holds a special spot in my heart, and I can’t wait to share my experiences and tips to help you plan your visit.

History and Cultural Significance

Before we dive into the adventure, let’s pay homage to the rich Aboriginal heritage of the area. The local Nanda people have a deep spiritual connection to this land. Their stories and culture are intricately woven into the fabric of Kalbarri. It’s not just a park; it’s a living, breathing testament to Australia’s ancient history.

Adventure and Activities – Inland Gorges

Kalbarri National Park is an adventurer’s paradise. The park offers numerous hiking trails, each promising a unique experience. I recommend the Loop Walk – a challenging but rewarding trek that offers stunning views of the gorges. For water enthusiasts, there’s canoeing along the Murchison River. And if you’re into adrenaline-pumping activities, rock climbing and abseiling are available too!

Natures Window Walk Trail Hike

⭐️ RATING: 4.7/5 Stars | Grade 3

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. This is a must-do in Kalbarri.

a family hiking in kalbarri national park loop trail which is one of the best things to do in kalbarri western australia
Our family at Natures Window Trail at Kalbarri National Park

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. Waves over the tidal flats formed the ripple effect.

two girls sitting on a bench overlooking kalbarri national park gorge
Our daughters in Kalbarri National Park

The window is a sandstone rock eroded by wind and frames the Murchison River.

Try to arrive as early as possible, as it gets swamped due to it being one of the top things to do in Kalbarri. Our family had to queue for 5 minutes to take photos. As mentioned, it is hotter here than in town, so be prepared. We had finished this walk by 10 am, and it was sweltering.

two girls sitting in natures window kalbarri national park

Our daughters at Natures Window Kalbarri National Park

Loop Trail Hike

Grade 4 | 9 km

The loop trail is a continuation of the Nature’s Window trail. It’s a difficult 9 km hike but one of the best hikes I’ve done in Western Australia.

It’s a class 4 hike, and you should allow 3 to 4 hours to complete it. It is challenging, and you must arrive early in summer as it can reach 50°C along the loop, and there isn’t much shade. Because of this, the trail is closed after 7 am from November to March.

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.

view of the loop trail from natures window kalbarri
The loop trail from Natures Window

As you make your way along the clifftop, there are a couple of sections where you need to climb up the rocks. I didn’t find it difficult, but it does require a certain fitness and flexibility level.

a steep rocky trail to climb on the loop trail hike kalbarri
The Loop Trail

Make sure to stop for photos, as the views from up there are spectacular. Look out for wildflowers if you are visiting in late winter or spring.

views of the gorge from up high on the kalbarri loop trail

Once you’ve descended the gorge, you’ll see a sign warning that there’s another 5 km to go. I found this the most challenging part of the trail. It advises that if you are tired or don’t have enough water, you should turn around and retrace your steps.

The view from the river bed is spectacular and puts the cliffs into perspective. Keep an eye out for mountain goats on the cliff opposite – I saw quite a few there.

gorge and cliffs in kalbarri national park
Look for mountain goats on the cliffs

The trail follows the river, where the hardest section of the hike is. You have to walk along a narrow ledge near the water’s 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 relatively low to get through the gap.

a rocky ledge on the side of the river on the loop walk kalbarri
The hardest part of the loop trail was this ledge

Once you pass the ledge section, you make your way back up, climbing up the rocks. Pay attention to where the signs are as I saw a few people miss them and carry on along the edge of the water.

Once up a bit higher, you walk under some river red gums, which provide shade. The remaining part of the trail involves sandy sections with broken boulders, but it is easy to navigate.

As you come close to the end, you ascend back to the trailhead at Nature’s Window. This is a short and steep climb but relatively easy as the rocks have been made into steps. I was lucky to spot a euro (common wallaroo) here.

a euro common wallaroo in the wild kalbarri
A euro (common wallaroo)

My family completed 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. My daughters 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 Z Bend River Trail Hike

⭐️ RATING: 4.7/5 Stars

The Z Bend lookout is a 1.2km return class 3 walk from the car park. It has spectacular views of the Z Bend gorge, plunging 150m down to the Red River Gum trees and sandstone rocks.

a map of the z bend trail in kalbarri national park

The Z Bend trail is a 2.6 km return Class 4 hike you can get to from the path leading to the lookout. It’s a demanding trail with steep descents, ladder climbs, and slippery rocks.

I found the first part of the trail the easiest. There was some sand and a few rocks, so beware of tripping over. It becomes more challenging as you 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.

the rocky desct on the z bend trail kalbarri
The descent to the river – Z Bend Trail

Near the river was the hardest part of the trail, where you have to step across a crevice to reach the ladder. Once through this, multiple rocks are positioned in stair formation.

hikers descending through a crevice on the z bend hike kalbarri
Us hiking the Z Bend Trail

At the bottom, you will be treated to the Murchison River up close with some extraordinary rock formations.

the murchison river with red cliffs each side in kalbarri national park
The beautiful Murchison River at the end of the Z Bend trail

The return journey was 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.

I found the trail busy and had to wait at parts of the track so consider getting there early.

a gorge running between rocks in kalbarri

Four Ways Trail Hike

⭐️ RATING: 4.6/5 Stars

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.

a trail with a sign for 4 ways trail

Hawk’s Head Lookout

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

Hawk’s Head is a 200m return Class 1 walk 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.

view of the river from hawks head lookout kalbarri
Hawk’s Head Lookout

Ross Graham Lookout

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

The Ross Graham Lookout is a Class 3, 200m return walk named after Kalbarri’s first school teacher. The lookout provides breathtaking views over the deep 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.

the river and rocks at Ross Graham Lookout kalbarri

Meanarra Hill Lookout

⭐️ RATING: 4.6/5 Stars

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.

girl looking over the landscape from Meanarra Hill Lookout kalbarri
Isabella at Meanarra Hill Lookout

Kalbarri Skywalk

⭐️ RATING: 4.8/5 Stars

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 and undercover seating, toilets, and a kiosk.

Kalbarri Skywalk is free once you have paid for the entrance to Kalbarri National Park.

view of the gorge and kalbarri skywalk jutting out
Kalbarri Sky Walk

The mesh walkways can be daunting for those afraid of heights, but the structure is extremely sturdy, providing a sense of security. The view 100m below your feet is incredible, as are the views from the barriers, looking down into Murchison gorge.

view of kalbarri skywalk

Adventure and Activities – Coastal

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. The wind that blew from sand dunes over the past 2 million years converted to limestone and is what you see today.

Natural Bridge and Castle Cove Lookouts

⭐️ RATING: 4.7/5 Stars

view of a island rock a stand alone limestone pillar off the coast

View of Island Rock from Castle Cove Lookout

Natural Bridge Lookout and Castle Cove is a 200m return Class 1 walk, which provides stunning views along the coastline. The Castle Cove Lookout offers an impressive view of Island Rock.

You will pass many plant species that have adapted to this harsh coast. Many of them having small prickly leaves to reduce moisture loss and salt and sun damage. Keep away from this fragile vegetation as it provides protection for seeds that aid rehabilitation.

a natural bridge formed by weathering of limestone on kalbarri coastline
Natural Bridge Kalbarri

The Bigurda Boardwalk

⭐️ RATING: 4.6/5 Stars

The Bigurda Boardwalk connects Natural Bridge to Island Rock. You can get to it from either carpark.

bigurda boardwalk close to cliff edge near island rock kalbarri
Balgurda Boadwalk close to the cliff edge near Island Rock

It’s an easy 1.2km walk, but keep to the boardwalk and be vigilant with children as there aren’t any railings and sheer drops off the cliff.

a sign about the natural bridge and castle rock in kalbarri national park

Island Rock

⭐️ RATING: 4.6/5 Stars

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 view of a limestone stack called island rock from Bigurda Boardwalk in kalbarri
Island Rock as seen from the Bigurda Boardwalk

Shellhouse Grandstand

⭐️ RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

The Shellhouse Grandstand is best viewed at sunset when the sun’s red glow 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.

the views of the coast from shell house grandstand lookout kalbarri
Shellhouse Grandstand

Eagle Gorge and Bigurda Trail

⭐️ RATING: 4.6/5 Stars

Paths from the car park can access the lookout and beach for Eagle Gorge. 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 here are stunning; 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.

views of eagle gorge from the lookout
Eagle Gorge Lookout

Pot Alley

⭐️ RATING: 4.6/5 Stars

Pot Alley got its name from a local fisherman who lost many lobster pots to this treacherous cove. The view south from the cliffs captures the pure ruggedness of the coastline. You can take a rocky walk down to the beach here, but swimming is not recommended.

view of the coast and cliffs from pot alley
Pot Alley

Red Bluff Lookout

⭐️ RATING: 4.6/5 Stars

Red Bluff Lookout is a 1km Class 1 return walk along a paved path. Signage along the walking 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, so 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.

view of beach and rocky coastline from red bluff lookout kalbarri
View from Red Bluff Lookout

Rainbow Valley & Mushroom Rock

⭐️ RATING: 4.3/5 Stars

The 3km loop Class 4 trail from the Rainbow Valley car park 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.

a rock in the shape of a mushroom on the coast of kalbarri
Mushroom Rock

Natural Wonders and Landscapes

The Murchison River runs 80km through Kalbarri National Park. It has cut through the sandstone rocks over the past 400 million years to form dramatic 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 vast amounts of rain into the catchment area, reaching Kalbarri up to three weeks later. You can see the moody brown water flowing into the ocean after extreme floods.

My personal favourite spot? The Z-Bend – a lookout point offering spectacular views of the river gorge. The Kalbarri Skybridge also has amazing views.

Best Times to Visit

Timing is key for the best experience. I suggest visiting between May and October when the weather is mild. For a full run down on the seasons, see this guide on the best time to visit Kalbarri.

Kalbarri National Park Cost

You need a pass for the inland National Park, which you can buy at the Visitor Centre or the park entrance. The cost is A$15 per vehicle per day.

The coastal part of the park is free.

Kalbarri National Park Opening Times

Kalbarri National Park is open from sunrise to sunset.

Kalbarri Accommodation Options

You cannot camp in Kalbarri National Park but there are accommodation options in Kalbarri town.

Travel Tips and Essentials

Pack light but don’t forget essentials – sunscreen, water, a hat, and sturdy walking shoes are a must. Always stay on marked trails for your safety and respect park regulations to help preserve its natural beauty.

No drinking water is available, so ensure you have at least 3 to 4 litres of water per person with you.

Dining and Local Cuisine

After a day of exploration, nothing beats a good meal. Kalbarri has some good dining options that offer delicious local seafood.

Conservation Efforts

Kalbarri NPis not just a tourist destination; it’s a conservation effort in progress. I always make sure to follow the ‘leave no trace’ principle. Remember, we’re just visitors in the home of countless plants and animals.

Getting There and Around

The road trip from Perth to Kalbarri is scenic and enjoyable.

In Kalbarri National Park, all the roads are sealed and accessible by 2wd. The exception is Pot Alley, which is unsuitable for caravans or motorhomes.

Conclusion

Kalbarri National Park is more than just a destination; it’s an experience that stays with you. Whether you’re seeking adventure, tranquility, or a bit of both, Kalbarri NP has something special for everyone.

If you visit, please leave a review in the comment to let other travellers know your experience.

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