Yaburara Heritage Trail, Karratha

Travelling on North West Coastal highway, the city of Karratha sits concealed on the other side of a range of hills known as Karratha hills.  One morning over the weekend, we set off early on the short loop trail of the Yaburara (pronounced Yabara) Heritage Trail. The short loop trail can be accessed from the visitor centre which is a five minute drive from town. There’s plenty of parking to leave the car and the centre also serve coffee on some mornings.

The sun is low and it’s quite humid already at 30 degrees as we casually walk up a 4WD road to the water tanks.


At this point a view of the City of Karratha is revealed and the construction happening in middle of this photo is the new arts centre.


To the left, we see a stretch of neighbourhoods. It’s a good spot to get an idea about the layout of the city which received its first residents in 1968. Delphine McFarlane from ABC Open writes a good piece about life in the Pilbara here and worth a read whilst visiting the area.


Following a brief rest at the water tanks, we head towards a sign for the short loop trail. There are four trails which form the overall Yaburara Heritage Trail and they can be retraced to the beginning or walked one by one. It’s worth knowing, combining several leads to the local leisure centre which happens to have a sizeable pool and cafe.

The trail terrain is loose rocks of varying sizes, which does take some care and a little longer to walk along but by far worth the small challenge. Wearing closed shoes in this terrain is a must, as is a hat and bringing along plenty of water for hydration.  Although we have been told it’s been a cooler summer in Karratha thus far, we haven’t entirely adjusted to the Pilbara heat, more specifically, the Karratha heat. I won’t lie, we began sweating a while ago from the visitor centre.


The scenery is a collection of white, brown red and green colours, it’s exciting to explore such contrasting scenery to what we’ve seen back in Perth and through the southwest state of Western Australia. The birds are loud in song as we continue to ascend.


The sensational view continues along the trail and extends all the way out to the tidal flats and hills of the Burrup Peninsula. I would say it’s a walk to bring along a good pair of binoculars. A small local Kangaroo called the Euro occupies this area however we are not lucky enough to spot any today. We are also on the lookout for a monitor lizard called a Perentie, Echidna and Spinifex Pigeon.


One of the highlights along the trail is the rock engravings, known as petroglyphs. The brochure from the visitor centre tells us they were produced in the last 6,000 years. The traditional owners of this land are the Ngarluma people and their neighbours the Yaburara.



We pass a large rock pile and add two to the top before moving down the trail.


The descent into the valley and creek line is narrow in places with a few wide steps required before we come to the small creek.

There are a few of the white barked Coolibah eucalyptus trees within these hills and we notice the trees to be located in the gully areas where there is access to water.  This brings me to a line of the bush ballad Waltzing Matilda –  ‘Under the shade of a Coolibah tree where the Jolly Swagman sat by a Billabong’  It was pretty cool to connect a childhood song to the real landscape!


The rocky area is dotted and in some regards dominated with beautiful native spinifex grass. The geology of the Pilbara area is significant for many reasons, the rocks here in the Karratha hills can be different in appearance and their formation millions of years ago to those in the Hamersley Ranges and Karijini National Park. For someone like myself that isn’t well versed in geology, it is for now intriguing to photograph.

I’ll leave my geology thoughts with some news about scientists having recently discovered rocks somewhere in the Pilbara to have a mineral only found in Lunar rocks brought back from the Apollo 11 mission. Interesting stuff!


The local flies begin to chase us when the breeze stops and we talk about purchasing an insect net to go over our heads for future walks like these.


The location of the Yaburara Heritage Trail makes it very accessible for anyone staying in Karratha and the short loop trail is a great starting point for those inclined to experience a bit of the Pilbara landscape. The good news is there are loads of trails throughout the Pilbara to check out. It’s probably worth mentioning that summer is generally not an ideal time to be hiking with the flies (March ones in particular) and hot weather, although well seasoned hikers and locals may be out and about in the very early hours and at sunset. I would definitely check in with the visitor centre for trail conditions if unsure. We tracked 3.3km over 53 minutes and were definitely feeling beaten afterwards but nothing a good lunch and cold drink didn’t solve. The landscape was incredible to see!



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