With The Triffids playing their popular Wide Open Road on the radio, setting a fine driving mood before we even left Perth and hit the Mitchell Freeway, one thing was assured, it was going to be a great day ahead. Though the weather could have been more favourable, during the peak winter season in Western Australia, in August, what better can you expect? The sun was still periodically peeking between the clouds giving the tiny droplets rain a crystal shine. A few quick and timely rainbows were moreover adding up to the charm.
Clearly, if they say that a road trip is the best way to experience Australia, there’s a reason for it. In under 200 km of a driveway, outside the city of Perth, we explored so many different colours, natural settings and landscapes, that such a diversification is impossible to find in many other parts of the world. And if, however, there was one thing that remained constant, it was the undying beauty of the place… of Western Australia!
A day trip to The Pinnacles Desert from Perth, following the Indian Ocean Drive and stopping at a few other highlights on the way — including the popular Lancelin Sand Dunes and Yanchep National Park (to spot some rare Koalas) — may just be an ideal way to get a hang of the amazing Australian roads, and of Western Australia’s in particular. You can self-drive and plan the tour by yourself, or book a tour with one of the tour companies in Perth, covering all the major highlights on the way to Pinnacles, just like I did.
I booked my tour with a tour company in Perth called ‘Aussie Perth Tours’.
The First Part of The Trip: Yanchep National Park
Escaping any possible traffic in Perth, we made our way to the Mitchell Freeway during the wee hours of a Monday morning. At 7:30 in the morning, the freeway on the other side already looked like one long stretch of a parking lot, but we were lucky to be escaping Perth and not approaching it. For almost an hour we followed the highway, before making it to the comparatively narrower and more beautiful driveways. Bypassing the town of Joondalup, popular for the beautiful Lake Joondalup, we hit our first stop of Yanchep National Park.
As it goes with Kangaroos, if you’re visiting Australia, it will be a shame not to spot some native Koalas and go back. Listed as ‘near threatened’ species, Koalas look like living teddy-bears, that sleep of the hours of the day and feed at night when it’s cooler. Mostly found in the tall forests and woodlands of eastern Australia, Koalas first arrived in Yanchep National Park in 1983, from Perth Zoo. And today, the Yanchep National Park offers tourists a real setting to spot some of them during the daylight, when they are fast asleep. Other than Koala spotting, Yanchep National Park is also popular for camping and finding some western grey Kangaroos. We spotted a few too, but camping was never our idea!
After a half an hour of a quick walking tour around the Koala habitation, we hopped in in our van and hit the road again, but this time, only for a better part of the journey, with comparatively better views and a more scenic drive.
Recommended Read: Travel Tips For Backpacker In Western Australia
Part Two: Hitting The Indian Ocean Drive
A coastal road in the Australian state of Western Australia, the Indian Ocean Drive, gives an intrepid traveller a real sense of the state’s alluring, wild and weather-beaten landscapes. As you cross the Yanchep National Park and wind down towards the town of Lancelin, the Indian Ocean Drive takes you through the largest fields of wildflowers in the world (between August to October) offering you an uninterrupted sight of pink and yellow and white. The many glorious clusters of native grass trees and scrubs, that can be found all across Australia can also be found here. Other than taking you to the highlighted Pinnacles Desert, the Indian Ocean Drives also brings to you to a few other attractions on the way, and most popular among them is the town of Lancelin famous for its sand dunes.
We had a short stopover at Lancelin for some quick munchies (I’d fish and chips) and for exploring its sand dunes. Adventure activities like sand boarding and windsurfing are also possible in Lancelin but let’s just say, it is often damn windy here to try that and enjoy.
The Highlight: The Pinnacles Desert
An intriguing landscape of sandstone formation, The Pinnacles desert, in Nambung National Park is one of the tourist highlights near Perth. As you arrive at the Pinnacles and have your first look, you find the landscape eerily unusual…even alien. Protruding pillars dot the barren landscape whilst the ever-changing light adds another dimension.
At first, they appear like termite nests, but as you get closer you find rocks of all different sizes and heights. Everywhere you looked there were rocks/pinnacles. The sky will generally be a beautiful blue meeting the yellow of the desert, and then you have the pinnacles which vary in shades of yellows and browns.
As you enter the park a tiny building of Pinnacles Discovery Centre, helps you get your bearing and learn about the place and the different theories behind the formation of Pinnacles. As provided by it, there are two schools of thought as to how Pinnacles were formed. Some believe that the limestones between the pinnacles were leached away more rapidly in areas where plant roots increased the acidity of the soil; others believe that the pinnacles formed around roots and trunks of buried trees. But in both theories, the pinnacles were formed beneath the ground from the varied influence of acidic water as it moved through the soil.
Speaking of their lifetime the Pinnacles are believed to be very young and scientists today are just beginning to unravel their many mysteries. They are believed to have formed underground some 500,000 years ago during the Ice Ages, but they remained buried for most of this time. Evidence suggests that they are exposed around 6000 years ago, but was again covered by shifting sands until only a few hundred years ago.
There are two ways to explore the park. One, by taking the Pinnacles Drive, a four-kilometre one-way road that takes you around the entire desert doing a loop. The many parking bays along the road allow you to stop and take photographs, or closely investigate the structures. Another way to explore it is by taking a 1.2km walking path that takes you to the centre of the park and to an observation deck. The walk is well signposted from the parking area. If possible, I’d advise exploring it in a car as you can explore more area doing so.
Things To Note
- Unless you’re driving, it’s best advised to book a tour from Perth for convenience and saving time.
- Look for a tour that takes you to Pinnacles as well as Lancelin sand dunes Both are worth exploring. If you want to spot some Koalas and Kangaroos too, stop by at Yanchep National Park on the way. You may have to pay for the entrance fee if your tour does not already include it.
- You can also try sandboarding in Lancelin by renting a sandboard for 10 dollars per hour.
Have you been to The Pinnacles and other highlights on the way? What would you like to add in the list?