THE WARLU WAY PILBARA GEO-HERITAGE ROUTE
NASA SAYS IT'S JUST LIKE MARS...
WE SAY YEAH, BUT WITH PICNIC SPOTS.
ANCIENT WILDERNESS WITH RICH REDS.
HISTORY THAT TELLS A STORY.
EVERY WAY LEADS TO AN EXPERIENCE.
Take a journey back in time to when the Earth began, from preserved remnants of ancient crust more than 3.5 billion years old and fossilised stromatolites, through to early gold rush days and now Australia’s resources heartland.
THE WARLU WAY GEO-HERITAGE ROUTE COVERS THE EAST PILBARA FROM NEWMAN, THROUGH TO NULLAGINE AND ONTO MARBLE BAR.
WARLU WAY GEO-HERITAGE THINGS YOU MUST DO.
1. DISCOVER THE HOME OF RICH RED RESOURCES.
The Newman and the East Pilbara region have been a resources hotspot for over 150 years, ever since gold was discovered in the 1880’s. Sitting on the edge of the Western Desert, the town is dominated by Mount Newman (1053 metres) and named after the explorer Aubrey Woodward Newman. In 1957 a huge iron ore deposit was discovered at Mt Whaleback, which is now the site of the largest single open-cut iron ore mine in the world.
2. HIKE MOUNT NEWMAN FOR GRAND VISTA VIEWS.
For grand views of the Ophthalmia Ranges and surrounding plains, hike to the top of Mount Newman just out of the town of Newman. It stands 1128m above sea level. You’ll be in awe of the red rich colours of the landscape created by the presence of iron ore, which is mined nearby. Take the easy option via a 4WD track halfway up to the summit. Or hike from the base of the mountain at the highway. The hike can be challenging in places. Allow two hours from the four-wheel drive track, or four hours from the base and don’t forget to take water too.
3. BE IN AWE OF DYNAMIC AND EMERGING INDIGENOUS ART.
The Newman region produces some of Australia’s most iconic and unique Aboriginal art. The Martumili Gallery located within the East Pilbara Arts Centre in Newman, is the best place to view current exhibitions and browse ethically sourced Aboriginal artwork and gift items. The gallery and its artists are rapidly establishing an international reputation for innovative and dynamic art. Their art has even adorned the Sydney Opera House.
4. TIME TRAVEL TO 20,000 YEAR OLD ART.
The petroglyphs at Punda sweep you back in time in the development of the human story. Located in the Ophthalmia Range, it’s thought some may be more than 20,000 years old, although they’re actually undatable, but the boulders are said to be in the tens of millions of years in age. The ancient artistry shows stories of boomerangs, kangaroos, emus, human figures, spirit characters, animal tracks and symbols used for waterholes and camps. Being more remote than the petroglyphs at The Burrup Peninsula, Punda gives you a truly humbling experience of human existence.
5. EXPLORE REMOTE 4WD WILDERNESS.
For the advanced 4WD lovers, try the hugely challenging Canning Stock Route. If you’re seeking true remote wilderness drive to Karlamilyi National Park (formerly known as Rudall River). Both the Canning Stock Route and the drive to Karlamilyi National Park are only for those who have extensive outback four-wheel drive experience. Permits to travel the Canning Stock Route are available from the Australian National Four Wheel Drive Council.
6. VISIT WA’S LARGEST & REMOTEST NATIONAL PARK.
Karlamilyi National Park is WA’s largest, and most remote national park. It encompasses over 1.3 million hectares between the Great Sandy Desert and the Little Sandy Desert. Please note – The Department of Parks and Wildlife advises that visitors to Karlamilyi need to be well organised, have at least two vehicles with radio or satellite communications. You must be self-sufficient with all supplies and equipment including fuel, water, food, medical supplies etc. Visitors should not enter the area unless you’re confident about navigation and driving in remote locations.
7. GO WILDLIFE SPOTTING.
There’s plenty for nature lovers around Newman. Weeli Wolli is a permanent freshwater spring providing a haven for fish and birdlife. Kalgans Pool is the perfect place for a cooling dip and the road to Eagle Rock Falls offers a great four-wheel drive adventure.
8. GO KAYAKING, CANOEING, FISHING AND BIRD WATCHING.
Just 20 minutes from Newman, is Ophthalmia Dam. It’s a great picnic, kayaking and canoeing spot. It’s also a great place to observe bird life, with black swans often making the dam home. For the anglers, the dam has Spangled perch and the Fortescue Grunter, as well as other species of perch. The dam was constructed to recharge the underlying aquifer that supplies Newman’s water supply, and is filled by the Fortescue River and Warrawanda Creek during the wet season. Please note – swimming is not allowed at Ophthalmia Dam.
9. TOUR OF THE WORLD’S BRIDESMAID OF IRON ORE MINES.
Check out the world’s second largest single open cut iron ore mine. It was discovered in 1957 by veteran prospector Stan Hilditch, and was named Whaleback due to its resemblance to the shape of the humpback whale. You can take photos from the top of the pit and learn about the iconic mine site. Tours operate throughout April to September 4/5 days per week and less frequently in summer months. Private Tours can also be arranged for large numbers. For scheduled tour dates and bookings, contact the Newman Visitor Centre.
10. HEAD INTO A METEOR CRATER WITH DEEP IMPACT.
While going to Punda Pool and its rock art, you can also include seeing Hickman Crater. It was only discovered in July 2007 by Arthur Hickman when he was using Google Earth. Even though it’s only 36km as the crow flies, it’s actually going to take you about two hours to get there. There’s access to it via the Marble Bar Road. The crater is almost circular with a rim diameter of 250-270 metres. The north, east and southern rims are uplifted 15-20 metres above the surround plateau surface and 20-30m above the flat crater floor.
11. HANG OUT AT THE HOTTEST PLACE IN AUSTRALIA.
Marble Bar gets its name from what was thought to be a colourful Marble Bar that crosses the Coongan River. The rock is in fact jasper. Marble Bar was pioneered during the gold rush days so there are many fascinating and historical places to visit in Marble Bar. Be sure to take an insta posting photo in front of the town’s iconic sunburst sign. Don’t be put off by the heat though. From April to September the area enjoys mild daytime temperatures and cooler nights.
12. MAKE A DATE WITH A HISTORICAL HORSE AND UNDIE RACE.
Why not plan your visit to Marble Bar with the biggest event on the town’s calendar? The Marble Bar Horse Race has been a classic outback social occasion since 1893. Join the locals as they gather at the red dirt racetrack to enjoy the country picnic race day atmosphere. Almost as historical as the town and race meet itself, is the famous ‘undie run’ race, held each year. Punters strip down to their briefs, and race 100m for a cash prize. Legendary!
13. CAMP AND SWIM AT A CRYSTAL CLEAR OASIS.
Carawine Gorge is a hidden gem popular with the Marble Bar locals. It’s 174 kilometres east of Marble Bar and a bit off the beaten track but is worth the effort of finding it. Enjoy swimming or fishing in the crystal clear water. Or just enjoy some chill time and admire the abundant bird life and stunning sunsets. You’re welcome to camp there. We recommended it’s really only for 4WD and off-road campers and caravans to travel there.
14. DISCOVER A HIDDEN RED JASPER SCENIC GORGE.
Another hidden gem is the oasis of Coppin’s Gap. This uniquely beautiful gorge is framed by a spectacular rock face lined with red jasper. Shaded by tall native trees, it’s the perfect place of tranquility to enjoy a relaxing swim in the peaceful waters and soak up the natural scenic serenity.
15. FIND THE SHINY GOLD AND GEMS IN A COMET.
Call into the Comet Gold Mine and Tourist Centre near Marble Bar. You’ll be dazzled by a fascinating selection of local gemstones, rocks and minerals. Its intriguing information displays share the stories of the pioneering gold mine and history, along with the towering 75 metre high smoke stack.
16. WALK ONTO A SECRET WORLD WAR TWO AIRBASE.
During the peak of WW2, a secret airfield operated at the original Corunna Downs homestead site. It was the base for staging aircraft and personnel for raids on Japanese bases and shipping. Two bitumen runways of over 1,500m and 2,000m were built and the airfield was known as the “invisible airfield”. This was down to camouflaged buildings, as well as the natural heat haze which obscured the airfield from overhead. Over 200 operational heavy bomber sorties were flown out of Corunna Downs while it was operating. Now abandoned, it’s still a fascinating experience to see the crumbling foundations, fortifications outlines, and the runways that remain today. For visiting details, contact the Comet Gold Mine museum.
17. TAKE A DIP AT THIS GORGE AND SUNSET SPOT.
When the De Grey River is flowing, Doolena Gorge is another beautiful spot for a shady picnic, a cheeky swim, and it’s always a top place to watch the sunset. The gorge also has a seasonal waterfall up the gully along the track that runs alongside the gorge. You can find Doolena Gorge about 41 kms north of Marble Bar on the Marble Bar-Port Hedland Road. The access road is on your left just after you cross the Coongan River. Please note – the road is only suitable for 4WD vehicles.
18. WALK A LIVING HISTORY HERITAGE TRAIL.
Take a stroll around the living history of Marble Bar following its Heritage Trail Map. You can pick on up the visitor centre and businesses around the town. It gives a fascinating story and insight into early life of this remote outback post whilst walking around the town’s historical buildings and locations.
19. FOLLOW THE NEWMAN WATERHOLE CIRCUIT.
If you love a great swimming hole and camping spot, then the Newman Waterhole Circuit will tick all the boxes. The easiest place to get to is Gingianna Pool as it’s close to Newman. Kalgans Pool is close to town too. On the way to Eagle Rock Falls is Three Pools. It has some permanent deep pools in a steep sided gorge but avoid it if you’re towing a trailer or van, as there’s no turning circle. Eagle Rock Falls along with Kalgans Pool are the more popular spots on the Circuit. The falls are 12 and 60 metres high during the wet season. They also offer spectacular views of the cliffs and Coondiner Gorge. Also on the circuit is Weeli Wolli Creek. It’s a series of permanent pools and small waterfalls and is a garden of eden for fish and bird life.
20. FIND THE TINY TOWN OF GOLD, DIAMONDS AND FOSSICKING.
Nullagine, another gold rush town, was established in 1888. This tiny township north of Newman, is also the site of Australia’s first known diamond find so gem lovers, get your shovels out! Today, visitors love seeking out its red granite hills, winter wildflowers and plentiful waterholes; including Beaton’s Creek Gorge, Garden and Daylight Pools, along with the ancient rocks of Conglomerate Gorge. The area also is a fossickers haven for those hoping to strike it lucky. Call into “the Nully” and meet the locals. It’s a great spot for food, drinks and its general store. It also has accommodation for those passing through.
21. HAVE A COLDIE AT AN OUTBACK PUB ICON.
The Ironclad is one of the Pilbara’s iconic outback pubs. It was erected as Marble Bar’s first hotel in 1892. Like many buildings in early Australia, it’s one of the first two permanent buildings in the town at the time of the gold rush. Today, it’s a great spot to call in for a cold drink and classic Aussie counter meal. It also has small number of accommodation types available.