Discover one of Australia’s most intriguing landscapes: the Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park.
These amazing natural limestone structures, some standing as high as 3.5 metres, were formed approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago, after the sea receded and left deposits of sea shells.
Over time, coastal winds removed the surrounding sand, leaving the pillars exposed to the elements.
In addition to the amazing Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park is also known for its beautiful coastal dune systems, low heathland rich in flowering plants, and white-sand beaches at Kangaroo Point and Hangover Bay.
At the northern end of the park near the town of Cervantes, there is a loop trail and boardwalk at Lake Thetis where you can see fascinating rock-like structures called stromatolites, created by micro-organisms too small for the human eye to see.
Nambung National Park covers an area of 174km² (67mi²), providing natural habitat for an extensive array of native animals and bird life.
Look out for kangaroos and emus, particularly in the early-morning and in late-afternoon.
From August to October, the native vegetation bursts into flower creating a memorable spectacle for visitors.
Wildflowers commonly found during late winter and spring include wattles, quandong, yellowtail flower, thick-leaved fan flower, white clematis, cockies tongues, parrot bush and banksia species.
Just offshore lies a stunning reef system protected within the Jurien Bay Marine Park – the perfect spot to watch sea lions.
The Pinnacles Desert and Nambung National Park are located near the coastal town of Cervantes around 200km (124mi) north of Perth – a two-hour drive.
Learn more about this fascinating region at the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre.
Interpretive displays, soundscapes, videos and objects explain the geology of the pinnacles formations as well as the cultural and natural heritage of the area including its unique flora and fauna.
The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre lies in low heath at the edge of the yellow sands of the Pinnacles Desert.
The Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre is open daily (except Christmas) from 9.30am to 4.30pm.
The building has been designed to blend with the surrounding environment and incorporates solar power, passive solar building design and rainwater collection. Just behind the visitor centre sits the Pinnacles View Lookout.
Desert View Trail – Take this easy, 1.5km (1mi), 45-minute return walk through the pinnacles. The Desert View trail departs from the Discovery Centre car park.
Take time to wander among the thousands of huge limestone pillars that rise from the stark landscape of yellow sand to form one of Australia’s most intriguing landscapes.
Parking bays are provided at various points along a one-way drive for those wishing to stop and explore the fascinating Pinnacles Desert on foot.
In places, the pinnacles reach up to 3.5m tall. Some are jagged, sharp-edged columns, rising to a point, while others resemble tombstones.
Features that provide clues to the origin of the Pinnacles are visible: for example, many pinnacles display cross-bedding structures, where the angle of deposition of the sand changes very abruptly. This indicates that the dunes from which the limestone bed was formed was originally laid down by the wind.
Some pinnacles have a mushroom-like shape, due to remnants of a calcrete capping. The mushroom shape has formed because the capping is harder than the limestone below it and therefore weathers at a slower rate.
For more other-worldly experiences, continue to Lake Thetis (located off Hansen Bay Road) to marvel at the stromatolites and strombalites – some of the oldest living fossils on Earth that provide insights into what life was like at the dawn of time.
Like the famous stromatolites of Hamelin Pool in Shark Bay, the rock-like structures on the edge of Lake Thetis are built by micro-organisms too small for the human eye to see. Within the structures are living communities of diverse inhabitants with population densities of 3000 per square metre.
The stromatolite-building micro-organisms of Lake Thetis resemble the earliest forms of life on Earth. The discovery of modern examples helped scientists to understand the significance of micro-organisms in the environment and unravel the long history of life on Earth.
Today, living examples of these once completely dominant organisms are restricted to only a few places.
Lake Thetis Loop Trail – This easy 1.5km (1mi) return trail follows the lake shore and provides opportunities to see and learn about these communities and the interesting environment that supports them. The first 300 metres of an accessible boardwalk passes the best examples of stromatolites in the lake.
Relax at this popular local beach. To the north-west you can see Cervantes at Thirsty Point. Out to sea, within the Jurien Bay Marine Park, lie the Cervantes Islands.
Look out for birdlife including swallows and ospreys. Facilities include barbecues, shelters and toilets.
Hangover Bay offers a wide sweep of sandy beach, with good snorkelling, swimming, windsurfing and surfing in the waters of Jurien Bay Marine Park.
Look out for bottlenose dolphins and sea lions. Local vegetation along the access road is composed of summer-scented wattle, coastal banjine and other common coastal species.
Bobtails and other reptiles such as Gould’s monitors and carpet pythons (which are completely harmless) may also be seen. Facilities include barbecues, shelters and toilets.
Boasting an extensive limestone reef system and a large shallow lagoon, Jurien Bay provides the perfect habitat for Australian sea lions, dolphins and a myriad of juvenile fish.
Extensive seagrass meadows inside the reef shelter armies of marine animals such as western rock lobsters, octopus and cuttlefish that are the favourite food for young sea lions.
The marine park also surrounds dozens of magnificent and ecologically-important islands that contain rare and endangered animals found nowhere else in the world.
The marine park is the perfect spot for scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, windsurfing, surfing and fishing.
Several bommies can be found just 20m from the Jurien Bay Town Beach in about eight metres of water. There is a snorkel trail for youngsters and the area makes a good night dive.
Located just off Island Point at the southern end of Jurien Bay, Boullanger Island offers some great diving and sheltered anchorages. The island’s western side is a seagrass meadow and is a great spot for snorkelling.
Fishing is permitted in most of the marine park (outside sanctuary and scientific reference zones). There are restrictions on spear-fishing, crabbing, rock lobster fishing and netting in some areas so make sure you ‘know your zones’.
Jurien Bay Marine Park is located 26km (16mi) north of Cervantes.
Turquoise Way Trail – Hire a bike (or use your own) and follow this 14km return fully-sealed trail along the scenic coastline from Jurien Bay Marina to the Hill River Mouth (almost half-way to Cervantes).
Mainly flat for the northern half of the ride, with a more undulations in the southern half, the Turquoise Way Trail is also suitable for walking, running and jogging.
There are numerous access paths to the beach along the way. Quite a few provide bike stands and roofed shelters with picnic tables.
The trail passes the Dobbyn Park foreshore area that has beautiful grassed picnic spots and gazebos, public toilets, beach access, playgrounds, outdoor gym, outdoor shower, drinking water fountains and easy access to cafés, restaurants and other town amenities in Jurien Bay.
Recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot, Lesueur National Park is one of the most important flora conservation reserves in Western Australia.
The park erupts into colour in late winter and spring as the park’s diverse flora blooms, making it a paradise for wildflower enthusiasts.
Covering an area of 9.8km² (3.8mi²) Lesueur National Park is home to over 900 plant species – 10 percent of Western Australia’s known flora – including acacias, hibbertias, leschenaultias, melaleucas, gastrolobiums.
You can see different orchids including pink enamel, purple enamel, cowslip, blue lady, white spider and donkey orchids. Several varieties of kangaroo paw are predominant during spring.
Birds and reptiles are abundant: carnaby’s cockatoo is among the 122 species of native bird found in the park. There are 52 reptile species. The park is particularly rich is geckoes and legless lizards. As with plants and birds, many of the reptiles in the park found here are at the southern or northern limits of their range.
Landforms in the park vary from salt lakes and remnant coastal dunes in the north-west through to laterite ridges in the east. The flat-topped laterite mesas of Mount Lesueur and Mount Michaud are features of the park.
You can get around the park quite easily by car and on foot. The Lesueur Scenic Drive traverses one of the most scenic parts of the park, taking in Mount Lesueur and Cockleshell Gully.
A choice of walking trails include the 400m Botanical Path, 2.5km Gairdner Trail and 4km trail to Mount Lesueur at Drummonds and the 8km Yued Ponar Trail at Cockleshell Gully.
Lesueur Scenic Drive – This one-way 18.5km (11.5mi) sealed road loops around the park to and from Cockleshell Gully Road – especially perfect in spring, between August and November, when a vast array of weird and wonderful wildflowers burst into bloom
Lay-bys provide the opportunity to park and take a closer look at the scenery as well as follow marked trails up to Mount Lesueur, down into Cockleshell Gully or deeper into the bush.
Shaded picnic benches and disabled-access toilets are provided in a woodland setting toward the end of the Lesueur Scenic Drive.
Cockleshell Gully – A short trail leads down into Cockleshell Gully. The first few hundred metres of the walk trail is wheelchair accessible.
Yued Ponar Trail – This 8km (5mi) trail loops through a varied landscape above the Cockleshell Gully Picnic area. A good level of fitness and bushwalking experience is recommended; allow 3 to 4 hours to complete the circuit.
The trail climbs steadily, with some steep sections before following the edge of a plateau toward Mount Peron. A short spur trail leads to the summit where there are sweeping views toward the Indian Ocean and inland across the park toward Mount Lesueur.
The trail then traverses 600m to reach the Kada Boodja lookout before returning to the valley floor.
The Yued Ponar Trail passes through low heath, small sections of wandoo woodlands and winding creek lines with a high diversity of plant life typical of the park. Information along the way gives an insight to the traditional lives and resources of the Yued Noongar people.
Drummond's parking area offers the best place to stop for scenic views and to explore trails leading deeper into the bush, including the following…
Botanical Path – This 400m return trail from the Drummond car park to the Iain Wilson Lookout is accessible for wheelchair and pram. Interpretive signs along the way explain the biology and traditional uses of some of the 900 plant species in the park.
Mount Lesueur Trail – After following the Botanical Path for 250m, this 4km (2.4mi) return trail leads towards the almost flat-topped Mount Lesueur. The way is flat for the first kilometre before a steeper rocky section.
The summit lies across the top of the mesa with spectacular views to the south, east and west. Allow 1 to 2 hours.
Note: Please use the scrubbing station before beginning your walk.
Gairdner Trail – Starting from the Drummond car park, this 2.5km (1.5mi) loop trail follows the Botanical Path for the first 250m then meanders through kwongan heath and low woodlands of wandoo to the sandstone outcrops of Gairdner Ridge. Allow 1 to 1.5 hours.
You can combine the Lesueur and Gardner trails by heading through the heathland up to Mt Lesueur along the Lesueur Trail before looping around the Gardner Trail's circuit; this walk is filled with a brilliant display of wildflowers at every turn.
Lesueur National Park is located 27km (16mi) northeast of Jurien Bay and 250km (155mi) north of Perth on the Brand Highway – a three-hour drive. Entry is from Cockleshell Gully Road which, although unsealed, has a good surface and is suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles.
Note: Lesueur National Park is relatively free of the soil-borne plant pathogen dieback. Boot cleaning stations are provided on bushwalking trails in the park. Please ensure you use them and stay on marked roads and trails. There are no camping facilities or drinking water in the park. Entry fees apply.
There are no camping areas in Nambung National Park but a full range of accommodation options are available in the nearby towns of Cervantes and Jurien Bay.
Jurien Bay Motel Apartments
Location: 7 Murray St, Jurien Bay
Prices: from AUD181 per night
Description: Jurien Bay Motel Apartments is located just steps away from the Jurien Bay beach and within five minutes walk from the town centre. The complex features 21 spacious fully self-contained two bedroom and one bedroom configured apartments. There are also two studio apartments with limited kitchen facilities. Facilities include air conditioned, flat screen television, Foxtel along with Wi-Fi & internet access.
Pinnacles Edge Resort
Location: 7 Aragon St, Cervantes
Prices: from AUD145 per night
Description: Deluxe accommodation with a choice of studios, spa suites or spa apartments. Located in the town centre of Cervantes just a short walk to shops, beach and visitors centre. Just 15 minutes to the Pinnacle Desert. Shares reception and the Europa Anchor Restaurant with Cervantes Pinnacles Motel.
Find the best deal, compare prices and read what other travellers have to say about these and more accommodation options in Cervantes and Jurien Bay at TripAdvisor.
Anytime; the park is interesting year-round and makes a great day trip from Perth.
However, for nature lovers, the best time to visit Nambung National Park is during September and October, when the wildflowers are blooming and vistas of wattles stretch from horizon to horizon.
Average seasonal temperatures for Cervantes and Jurien Bay are around 30°C (86°F) from December to February; 26°C (78°F) from March to May; 20°C (68°F) from June to August; and 23°C (73°F) from September to November.
The Pinnacles Desert and Nambung National Park are located around 200km (124mi) north of Perth – a two-hour drive.
Nambung National Park is easy to access by car: heading north from Perth, Wanneroo Road - Indian Ocean Drive leads directly to the Nambung National Park. The road into the Pinnacles Desert is sealed.
Alternatively, head north along the Brand Highway and turn left at the sign to Cervantes. The Pinnacles car park is around 16km (10mi) from Cervantes.
Heading south from Geraldton, Cervantes is around 220km (136mi) via the Brand Highway and Indian Ocean Drive.
Latest update: Pinnacles Desert & Nambung National Park: 2 February, 2021
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