The Pilbara region is one of the oldest landscapes on earth. It covers a vast area of magnificent ranges, gorges and deserts. The Pilbara is generally accessed by two major road arteries - the North West Coastal Highway, which is best for accessing the west of the region and the fringing coastline of the Gascoyne or the Great Northern Highway, which passes through Newman in the east of the region.
This Trek Note however, explores the east side of the Pilbara via the Shay Gap offroad track departing the North West Coastal Highway near Eighty Mile Beach (east of Port Hedland). The route then traverses through abandoned mining settlements, remote gorges, and remote tracks to the east of Marble Bar, Nullagine and Newman. This has long been an area with idyllic campsites, however Cyclone Faye in early 2004 has made a devastating effect on Eel Pool (Running Waters) and the campsites at Carrawine Gorge.
(Note - further east of the Telfer Road you can access Australia's most remote National Park - Rudall River and even further east along the Wapet Track pick up the Canning Stock Route trek note near Well 33 and the Kunawarritji Aboriginal Community (fuel, supplies).
How to Use this Trek Note
Click the "Map" tab below to see the route we've provided. Icons on the map are the POIs you'll need for navigation purposes. Be sure to check the list of Nearby Places
on each POI page.
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- You can print a paper copy of the text using the print icon button shown above, near the social media buttons. For the best output it is advised to open each tab/section to load all images and artwork. You will still need to click open each Place page (listed in Where to Stay, What to See) to print off all available information.
- If you have a Hema Navigator or use Mapping Software such as OziExplorer, or TrackRanger AND you are an ExplorOz Member, then you can click the Download Trek button at the top of this page to obtain the raw data files (eg. GPX) for this Trek.
- If you're not a Member, or you'd like to batch download the entire Treks database you can obtain this by buying a product called EOTreks Route Files from our online shop.
region can be divided into 3 distinct areas: a large coastal plain, inland ranges and an arid desert region extending into Australia
’s dry centre (which on ExplorOz we categorise as the Western Deserts
is predominantly arid, with high temperatures, low and variable rainfall and high evaporation. The temperate averages 25°C in winter to 32°C in summer. The north-west of the region is influenced by the summer monsoon, bringing cyclones. The town of Marble Bar
in the eastern Pilbara
actually holds the record for the longest hot spell in the world with 160 days over 30°C. It is commonly referred to as "Australia
's hottest town".
is one of a handful of locations in the world where rocks older than 3.2 billion years are preserved at the surface of the Earth. Geologists call the period they were formed the "Early Archaean". No-one knows for sure when life first began on Earth, but looking at the rocks of the Pilbara
, scientists have found signs that life may have been present when the rocks were deposited - 3.2 billion years ago. The best signs currently available include structures known as stromatolites or "layered rocks" of which there are numerous sites in the Pilbara
Based on archaeological evidence, it is believed that thirty distinct socio-linguistic Aboriginal groups lived in the Pilbara
region prior to European settlement
Although Dutch explorers
visited the Pilbara
coastline in the early 1600s, settlement of the Pilbara
region did not occur until the 1860s, some 30 years after the colonisation of Perth
. Pastoralism and prospecting dominated the region’s economy for about 100 years. The Pilbara
was declared a "Goldfield" in 1888 with prospectors flocking to Bamboo Creek, Marble Bar
and the Nullagine
In 1968 the introduction of a pastoral award meant farmers could not afford to pay full wages to the station workers. This resulted in a massive movement of Aboriginal people away from the inland stations to the coastal towns.
Almost every imaginable mineral has been found and mined in the Pilbara
region, peaking with the nickel and iron boom times of the 1960s and 70s which resulted in the establishment of nine new towns - Dampier
, Tom Price
, Paraburdoo, South Hedland, Newman
, Wickham, Pannawonica, Goldsworthy (now closed) and Shay Gap
In the 1960s and 1970s, discoveries of oil and natural gas off the north west shelf were also made, and in the 70’s and 80’s the development of these resources expanded the region’s economy and population
Today, tourism is playing an ever-increasing role in the regions economy.