The Pinnacles of Western Australia

The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park

Photo: Matt Brand on FlickrLink opens in a new tab/window.

Hidden away amongst the lonely dunes and windswept heathland of Western Australia’s Turquoise Coast there is a barren, otherworldly desert of stone pillars rising up out of the golden sand.

Ranging in size from less than a foot to about 3m high, these mysterious rocks form ghostly shapes and shadows.

This small desert is known as “The Pinnacles” of Western Australia. It is one of Western Australia’s iconic tourist attractions and a main stop for travellers on road trips up and down the coast.

The Pinnacles, Western Australia
The Pinnacles, WA
Visiting The Pinnacles, Western Australia

An aerial view of The Pinnacles, Western Australia

I Remember my first visit to The Pinnacles of Western Australia almost like it was yesterday…

My first visit to the Pinnacles desert was on a family road trip when I was only three or four years old. While the grown-ups stood around admiring the curious geological spectacle, my young cousin and I ran around, overjoyed to be out of the cramped confines of the car in the biggest, vastest natural playground we’d ever seen.

We had so much fun climbing on those rocks. Some were small and easy to climb, while others were taller and more challenging.

I remember being fascinated by this strange landscape, by the weird and wonderful rocks that with a bit of imagination assumed the shape of camels, monsters, gravestones and castles.

We were there at sunset, the most atmospheric time of day to visit the Pinnacles. As the sun went down, the colours softened and the golden tones glowed pinkish in the fading light. The shadows were long and the air was cool and still. We made wishes on the Evening Star and didn’t leave until well after dark.

My Recent Visits to the Pinnacles, Western Australia

The Pinnacles are close enough to Perth to visit on a longish daytrip or one-night getaway over a weekend, so I’ve been back a number of times over the years since that memorable first-ever visit when I was a young child.

Pinnacles, Western Australia

I find that when I visit the Pinnacles as an adult the ghostly rocks don’t hold quite the same magic and mystique to me as they did 20 years ago. The rocks now seem more fascinating and unique as opposed to magical and awe-inspiring.

No matter how many times I see it, I always find the Pinnacles landscape interesting and beautiful to look at. I really enjoy wandering around looking at all the different shaped rocks and thinking about how they came to be there.

Where are the Pinnacles in Western Australia, and How Do You Go About Visiting Them?

Getting There

To get to The Pinnacles your options are to either drive there yourself or join a bus tour. As with most of WA’s natural wonders, there are no public transport stops near by!

1. Driving from Perth to The Pinnacles Drive Following the Indian Ocean Drive:

The Pinnacles desert is part of the Nambung National Park, not far south of the fishing towns Cervantes and Jurien Bay. There’s been a sealed road from Cervantes to The Pinnacles for quite some time, but now that the Indian Ocean Highway has been completed, they’re easier to get to than ever by car, only 2.5 hours from Perth.

The Pinnacles are within day tripping distance by car, however if you have time I highly recommend visiting them on a 2 or more day trip if you’re driving yourself. This way you will feel less rushed and probably enjoy yourself a lot more (provided you’re the sort of person who doesn’t mind hot sun, sand and strong wind!), and you will have the chance to make detours down to the coast and experience some beautiful lonely windswept beaches and typical WA fishing towns.

This coastline (known as the Turquoise Coast) is fantastic for fishing, wind surfing and four wheel driving, so if you’re into any of those activities you could easily spend a week exploring and hanging out along the coast between Perth and The Pinnacles!

2. Bus Tours to The Pinnacles

The other option for getting to The Pinnacles is to visit them on an organised tour. Pretty much every tour of the west coast north of Perth will stop off at The Pinnacles along the way, or you can do a day tour from Perth. If you only have one day to see The Pinnacles, then definitely consider doing a day tour rather than driving yourself, even if you’re not usually the sort of person who enjoys tours.

For a fun, small group day tour to The Pinnacles from Perth suitable for backpackers and solo travellers on a budget, I can personally recommend Tours With A Twist. Read about my experience on their tour, or see below for their website link.

How much does it cost to visit The Pinnacles?

The national park entrance fee for Nambung National Park is $12/vehicle (the standard for WA’s national parks with fees).*Last checked: December 2013

The Pinnacles in the Nambung National Park near Cervantes, Western Australia

The Pinnacles are located among the sand dunes of Nambung National Park near the coast.

Exploring the Pinnacles Desert

The first thing you notice when you get there is the big carpark and Discovery Centre. The Pinnacles of Western Australia are no longer the travel secret they were only a few decades ago, when you could only get to them with a 4WD and they didn’t even appear on the maps.

Aerial view of the carpark and The Pinnacles Discovery Centre - Nambung National Park, Western Australia

Aerial view of the carpark and The Pinnacles Discovery Centre

I don’t mean to be a downer but this kind of spoils it for me a little bit as far as first impressions go. I prefer natural wonders like The Pinnacles to remain in their rugged and natural state as much as possible – so I’m not the biggest fan of bitumized roads and boardwalks and “discovery centres” taking over the landscape.

But the first impression is deceptive. Luckily the carpark and buildings are built fairly low to the ground behind a ridge, so once you are you in the midst of The Pinnacles the views in all directions are completely natural and it doesn’t feel too much like a big over-developed tourist attraction.

If you’re there during opening hours, make a quick stop at the visitor centre before setting out to explore the desert. It is here that you pay the national park entrance fee, and it’s worth having a look at the displays to learn about the natural history and wild life of the Pinnacles and the Nambung National Park.

The Pinnacles Desert Scenic Loop Drive

The Pinnacles Scenic Loop Drive

The Pinnacles Scenic Loop Drive

A 4km-long roughly circular track amongst The Pinnacles is marked out in the sand by small rocks on either side. It’s hard and compact enough to drive any car on.

So you don’t need a 4WD to explore The Pinnacles Desert?

This has been a frequently asked question in the comments, so in case you’re also wondering…
A 4-wheel-drive is not necessary for the Pinnacles loop track (despite the desert-like terrain) – ordinary cars can handle it just fine.

But, you may have some difficulty towing a trailer or caravan, or driving one of those massive caravan-sized motorhome vans. And if you will be driving a hire car, check the small print so you know where you stand about rules regarding driving on unsealed roads.

Driving along the Pinnacles Loop Track gives you some good views of the landscape and the ever-changing shapes and scenes. You can stop the car whenever you want to along the way and get out to take some photos or go for a walk.

The sandy loop road through The Pinnacles

Photo: Ian Sanderson on FlickrLink opens in a new tab/window.

A Virtual Drive Around the Pinnacles, Western Australia:

There’s no better way to tell you about the scenic drive other than to say watch the video below. You’ll feel like you’re right there driving the scenic loop! It starts in the big carpark at the visitor centre, but quickly the landscape changes into the strange yellow desert of the Pinnacles…

This video was shared on my Western Australia facebook pageLink opens in a new tab/window. by Ross HallLink opens in a new tab/window..

The Pinnacles Walk Trail and the Lookout

Better yet is to get out of your car and explore. You can wander around wherever you so choose, but if you want to find the Pinnacles Lookout – or just don’t want to get lost and would prefer to follow a marked trail – there’s a route to follow that will guide you up to the lookout and back. Just follow the arrows from one arrow to the next.

Nambung National Park, Western Australia

Some Pinnacles in the distance

Climbing The Pinnacles, Western Australia

A Note on Climbing The Pinnacles:

I’ve mentioned how I used to like climbing the Pinnacles when I was a kid, but this is now against the rules stated on the “rules and regulations” signs.

I guess with so many hoards of tourists passing through the Nambung National Park each year, the natural processes of weathering and erosion could be accelerated if everyone who visits wanted to clamber all over the rocks. We don’t want The Pinnacles to weather away before their time!

So, Are The Pinnacles Western Australia Worth Visiting?

Yes, it is definitely, 100% worth it to visit The Pinnacles! Western Australia travel is all about these many small but unusual natural curiosities (eg The Pinnacles or the Stromatolites) – just as much as it is about the spectacular, awe-inspiring scenery of places like the Bungle Bungles or the Esperance coastline.

Just don¬ít be disappointed if the Pinnacles aren’t quite as amazing as the tourist brochures lead you to believe ;-).

Nambung National Park - The Pinnacles Desert

Nambung National Park – The Pinnacles Desert

The Pinnacles Desert is pretty small to be called a “desert”, as you can see from the picture above, taken from The Pinnacles Lookout. It’s actually more like a large, barren clearing.

That being said, when you’re in the middle of the Pinnacles, they seem to go on and on as far as the eye can see! It really is quite a spectacle, that makes you wonder, “Just how many Pinnacles are there?”

In Summary

The Pinnacles of Western Australia is a uniquely beautiful and fascinating place and is a famous tourist attraction for good reason.

  • I would say The Pinnacles are one of the “must-visit” places to stop and have a look for anyone doing a road trip up Australia’s west coast.
  • If you don’t have time for an overnight stay or extended trip up the coast, The Pinnacles are within daytripping distance of Perth. It is well worth the long drive if you’re interested in natural history and unique landscapes.
  • The best time to visit is very early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is soft and casting long shadows – especially in summer when the midday sun is hot and bright and the flies are out in force.
I hope my honest review and guide to The Pinnacles of Western Australia was helpful to you. If you have been to The Pinnacles and have any thoughts to add, or if you’re thinking of visiting and want to ask a question, please leave a comment in the form below.

Last Updated: 16th June, 2014.

First posted on 3rd December, 2013 by Bonny.

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Comments

  1. Fabulous! Thank you so much. The trip is just long enough without getting boring and also not too short to leave one wishing for more! I have not been yet, but its definitely on my list of musts when I am back home again.

  2. I’ve never been to the Pinnacles, but your honest and useful review has definitely piqued my interest, and the next time we drive north we’ll definitely stop by.

    • Bonny

      I’m glad I’ve inspired you to visit The Pinnacles, Jo. It’s definitely one of those places you have to see at least once if you live in WA!

  3. Ian

    If you are in the area don’t forget the stromatolites at Lake Thetis. If you are the sort of person who thinks stromatolites are cool. They don’t move much, but they are very, very ancient critters.

    • Bonny

      Hi Ian, that’s a good point. I agree the Lake Thetis stromatolites are worth a look for anyone interested in natural history/geology and the views and walk around the lake are nice too.

  4. teoh

    I am going to perth 24/12/13-1/1/14
    I am excited to visit pinnacle but I was wonder to take the tour from perth is better or find a place nearby and visit by self drive. .
    where can stay if want to go pinnacles besides stay at perth city and take tour from perth?
    I need a budget and economic tour plan as the accommodation in perth for 8days are very costly. .. :(

    • Bonny

      Hello Teoh,

      I think one of the cheaper day tours would end up being less expensive for you – unless you find a really good deal on car hire (depends a lot on your age and whether or not you have an Australian/UK drivers licence).

      On a day tour you’ll get a good look at The Pinnacles and stop off at several other tourist attractions on the way and close by, such as the Lancelin sand dunes. But the good thing about spending the night near The Pinnacles is that you’ll be able to see them around sunset and if you like the beach there are some nice spots to swim nearby and good snorkelling too.

      The town of Cervantes is very close to The Pinnacles. It doesn’t have a huge range of accommodation, but there are a few places you could stay. Unless you have a tent, the cheapest option in Cervantes would be a dorm in the Cervantes backpackers lodge. It’s clean, comfortable and reasonably nice for a backpackers hostel.

      You could also have a look for accommodation in Jurien Bay which is not far north of Cervantes and The Pinnacles.

      Another option would be to hire a campervan if you can find a good deal, because then you’d have your transport and accommodation in one.

      I hope I was able to help you out somewhat. Let me know if you have any further questions.

  5. loh

    thk and it is very informative . our family planning to visit perth in april 14.
    we will certainly take yr advice to visit pinnacle . keep on writing .

  6. Kelvin Tee

    Great article Bonny!

    My family is planning to visit the Pinnacle in early June and would appreciate if you could share with us some of the
    – due to its desert-like terrain, can the 4-km track be accessed using 2 wheel drive (2WD) vehicle or only 4WD vehicle is allow? As we will be renting a 2WD, I really hope that would not be any issue. Otherwise, what other alternative to cover the entire length leisurely?
    – are there any recommended stop-over along the 4-km track?
    – I am not too sure about the weather there early June but is the place still accessible if it rain? What kind of clothing is recommended during that time? Pardon me for being ‘ignorant’ about the weather there:)

    • Josh

      Hi Bonny & Kelvin,

      Great question, we are travelling there on the 14/6 and are concern if our 2WD Tarrago will work. We are still in conflict if we should take the tour bus option or drive ourselves. Any comments?

    • Hello Kelvin and Josh,

      The good news is that The Pinnacles are completely and totally accessible for 2WD’s. There is a good sealed road (Indian Ocean Drive) running the length of the Turquoise Coast from Perth to The Pinnacles and beyond! The road to the discovery centre and carpark is also an ordinary bitumen road.

      The 4km loop track through the desert is unsealed and sandy, but fine for normal cars – no 4WD necessary. A 2WD Tarago will work, so no need to join a tour if you’d prefer to drive yourself.

      Kelvin, a 2WD rental vehicle will handle the sandy track fine and I’ve seen rental cars on the track before, but be sure to read the fine print in your contract so that you’re aware of any potential issues the company may have with the car being taken on unsealed roads.

      There are no specific places I’d recommend stopping along the drive – just drive slowly and stop whenever you see a good photo opportunity or feel like going for a wander around the rocks! If you’re lucky you can often spot wild life among The Pinnacles including emus, kangaroos and cockatoos along the way.

      This is a tourist attraction accessible year round, so no need to worry about winter rains making roads inaccessible. Actually, winter can be a good time to visit because the landscape looks extra-eerie (and photogenic) under a stormy grey sky.
      Recently posted by Bonny: Sunset and Sting Rays at Hamelin BayMy Profile

      • Kelvin Tee

        G’day Bonny,

        Thanks for the prompt reply and all the advice.

        Being forgetful as I am due to ‘wiser’ age, luckily you mentioned the need to check the contract fine-print.

        With possibility of spotting wild emu, kangaroo and cockatoo along the way, that would be totally awesome! As we will be walking along the trail, what is the likelihood of stumbling upon snakes in the desert? Any incident of someone bitten by snakes? Not a big issue but perhaps it is good to know.

        Keep up your good work! I will recommend others to this site should they inquire.

        – Kelvin -

        • Josh

          Thanks Bonny, will definitely check the contract for unsealed road. We are still undecided but might go with Kandu holidays as our boys want to sand board and I don’t know where to rent boards for them on the trip.

          Hi Kelvin, the car rental company we’re using which is by far the most reasonable in pricing is bayswatercarrental.com.au. They are also rated high on tripadvisor. We are not related to them in any way but just thought we’ll share our research.

          Cheers,
          Josh
          Singapore

          • Hi Josh, the sandboarding happens in the town of Lancelin, which is on the way to The Pinnacles. You can hire sandboards from the petrol station and several other shops in town. A tour might be a good idea if you are not heading further north and want to fit lots of destinations and activities into one day.
            Recently posted by Bonny: Sunset and Sting Rays at Hamelin BayMy Profile

        • Hi Kelvin, the likelihood of seeing a snake at The Pinnacles is small, especially in winter when they spend more time sleeping. In general the snakes in Western Australia only attack if you get too close and corner or startle them. This is unlikely to happen at The Pinnacles as you won’t be walking through vegetation that could conceal a snake from view.
          Recently posted by Bonny: Sunset and Sting Rays at Hamelin BayMy Profile

  7. Yen Lim

    Hi Bonny,

    Thank you for creating this informative blog. I am very glad to find this as I hope you will be able to help me.
    I will be travelling to Perth on the 23rd June 14, Which is very soon. It is a self drive holiday for the 10 of us. We have planned 1 day trip up to the Pinnacles from perth city. I wish to book a 4WD bus ride called the desert storm adventure from lancelin. I cant seem to find their website online now. Is the company still in operation? Will I be able to purchase a ride when I get into Lancelin? Please advice. Thank you very much in advance!

    Warm Regards, Yen.

    • Hello Yen,

      I remember the Desert Storm (Big Foot) 4WD bus, I went on it with my mum when I was about 12 and it was amazingly good fun.

      But last I heard, it was out of action with no plans to bring 4WD adventure tours back to the Lancelin dunes. Sadly there was a crash a few years back where the bus rolled over onto its side on the dunes and some people were injured.

      Even without the option of 4WDing, the Lancelin dunes are still worth a look on the way up to The Pinnacles.
      Recently posted by Bonny: 7 Fantastic Western Australia Links and Resources to Inspire Your TravelsMy Profile

  8. Hetal Shah

    Hello,

    I am planning to travel end of December to Pinnacels via perth – i was hoping to do self drive. Is this tour suitable for senior citizens?

    Also i want to know if there are tours at the park for a 4 wheel drive to the pinnacles as i will be coming there with a 2 wheel drive.

    Thanks, Hetal

  9. hansa

    What is the latest in the evening in December should one visit the pinnacles.

    I am driving up from Perth airport,leaving about 3pm.

    thanks

    • Hi Hansa, the sun sets around 7-7:30pm in December 2014 (see http://sunrisesunset.willyweather.com.au/wa/wheatbelt/cervantes.html), so you should be able to get there in time to see The Pinnacles before nightfall. But if you plan on driving back to Perth or further north afterwards, it will be nighttime so it might be a good idea to book accommodation close to The Pinnacles for that night, especially if you’re tired after a long flight or are not used to driving in Australia.

      • hansa

        Hi Bonny,

        thanks for getting back so quickly. Appreciate your additional suggestions. Yes, we will be staying the night in the vicinity and then moving on to Kalbarri the next day for some outdoor fun and adventure there for the teens.

        Found the comments and responses to the others helpful too especially about the types of vehicles and rentals and small print issues.

  10. May

    Great informative site. My friends and I are planning a self-drive day trip from Perth in mid November. I noticed that some day tours include a visit to New Norcia on the way to the Pinnacles. Would that be too far a detour? There are 3 drivers in the group so we plan to take turns to drive.

    • Hello May,

      New Norcia and The Pinnacles are both very interesting places worth a visit, but they really both deserve their own day trip! I think a trip over 2 days with a night in either New Norcia or Cervantes/Jurien Bay would be a better way to go than trying to cram them both into one day. It would be so much more relaxing and enjoyable and would leave you enough time to properly experience both places – with time left over for a bit of spontaneity and stop-overs at other towns, beaches and nature reserves you come across along the drive.

      While it’s certainly possible to visit both New Norcia and The Pinnacles in one day, this would involve a lot of driving (6 hours +!) which doesn’t leave much time outside the car to experience the destinations. I would only recommend doing this if spreading the trip over 2 days or doing 2 separate day trips is not at all an option for you, and you are deadset determined to visit both and can’t choose between one or the other.

      Let me know if you have any further questions.
      Recently posted by Bonny: Redgate, Margaret River – Spectacular Beaches, Rocks and a Shipwreck TaleMy Profile

  11. Ellen

    Me and my family is visiting Pinnacles in late November 2014 including sand boarding. We were told it’s not suitable for people with back problems. Is there any reason for this? My mum in her 80’s has slight back problem. Would appreciate your advice on this.

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