Nestled in the rocky red sands of Western Australia’s Kimberley Region, Purnululu National Park is a geological wonder. The infamous striped domes known as the Bungle Bungles dot the semi-arid landscape high above the savannah grasslands.
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Purnululu is so spectacular, it’s been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with some of the most impressive rock formations in the world. The park boasts stunning hiking trails through dramatic gorges and ancient cliffs with a rich Aboriginal heritage.
We had the pleasure of adventuring through the park in our 4WD Troopy and it was absolutely amazing. If you’re looking for a dose of natural beauty, here’s everything you need to know about visiting Purnululu National Park.
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About the Park
Purnululu National Park is an Australian World Heritage Site located in the Kimberley Region of Western Australia. This region is known for its ancient geological phenomena and natural, untouched wilderness. World Heritage-listed Purnululu National Park is a prime example with its bizarre black and orange banded domes that look like a beehive.
These beehive-shaped domes, called the Bungle Bungle Range, are an outstanding example of cone karst made from sandstone. The word purnululu actually means sandstone in the local Aboriginal language.
The area has been around for 350 million years and is unlike anywhere in the world. The cone karst sandstone has eroded over the past 20 million years, forming impressive gorges and one of Australia’s most unique landscapes.
Only known to the masses since 1983, the rock formation rising 250 metres above the surrounding semi-arid grasslands was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003. Now, the Bungle Bungle Range attracts land and air tours for those wanting a taste of the savannah and its spectacular scenery.
How to Get There
We won’t lie, getting to Purnululu National Park is not an easy feat. The park is located in north Western Australia, almost straddling the border of Northern Territory. Getting to the Spring Creek Track from Broome takes about 8 hours and it’s over 30 hours away from Perth.
The nearest main town to Purnululu National Park is Kununurra, which is 250 kilometres away. You can fly into Kununurra from many Australian cities like Perth, Darwin, and Broome.
From Kununurra, you can book scenic flights over the Bungle Bungles or join a guided 4WD tour. But if you’re like us, the adventure of a self-drive is long but totally worth it.
Follow the Great Northern Highway to the park turn-off 100 kms north of Halls Creek and follow the Spring Creek Track for a wild ride! The track is only 53 kilometres but is heavily corrugated and takes 2-3 hours to complete. There are a fair few creek crossings and winding corners that make it challenging to ride on top of the corrugations.
Is Purnululu National Park open?
Purnululu National Park is only open during the dry season, from April-November but can vary with the weather. Always check the park alerts before your trip to avoid any park closures.
Things to do in Purnululu National Park
The beauty of the Bungle Bungle Range is best enjoyed on foot or from the air. Even if you choose to see Bungle Bungles on a scenic flight, getting up close and personal on the spectacular walking trails is a must.
Top Attractions in the Southern End
The Southern End of the Purnululu National Park is home to the main attractions in the region. This is where you’ll find the iconic Bungle Bungle domes and plenty of hikes for all fitness levels.
You can easily spend a whole day exploring the southern end of Purnululu National Park, so plan accordingly. Keep in mind that the majority of the track in the Southern End offers little shade, so hiking in the early hours of the morning or later afternoon is recommended to avoid excessive sun exposure.
Domes Walk (1 km)
This easy 1 km loop is a great way to see the beehive-shaped rocks up close. The trail winds around the orange base of the domes’ rugged ancient beauty.
Cathedral Gorge Walk (2 km)
The Cathedral Gorge Walk is a must-do for the reward of a rock amphitheatre with incredible acoustics. The journey takes 1-2 hours and follows the sheer cliffs of the meandering gorge. You’ll have to test your singing voice in the amphitheatre and listen to the sounds bounce off the rocky walls.
Piccaninny Creek Lookout (2.8 km)
Make an easy stop at the Picaninny Creek Lookout for sweeping views over the Bungle Bungle Range. It’s the tamest section of Picaninny Creek to explore and takes about 1 hour.
Whip Snake Gorge (10 km)
Along the Piccaninny Creek, Whip Snake leads to another one of the striking Purnululu gorges. This gorge is shady and filled with ferns, figs, and brittle gums with a small rockpool at the end. The walk takes about 4 hours.
Piccaninny Gorge Walk (30 km)
Piccaninny is the largest of all the gorges in Purnululu National Park. This is a challenging overnight trek that is suitable only for experienced backcountry hikers. The trail is unmarked and has many obstacles along the way with no facilities nearby. Permit is required and can be obtained at the visitor’s office ahead of time.
Our Tip: Start exploring the Southern End early in the morning to avoid the crowds and escape the heat. Head all the way to Whip Snake Gorge first, making stops at Picaninny Creek Lookout, the Window, finishing with a visit to the Domes and Cathedral Gorge. Tour busses tend to arrive in the Southern End around 8am. They visit Cathedral Gorge and the Domes, but do not go all the way to Whip Snake Gorge.
Top Attractions in the Northern End
The northern end of the park can be explored in a half-day but do be mindful of the hot sun. Wear a hat and sleeves, drink lots of water, and walk in the shade whenever you can.
Echidna Chasm Walk (2 km)
The Echidna Chasm Walk is an absolute must when visiting Purnululu National Park World Heritage Site. This 2 km trail takes 1-2 hours to complete with a short climb at the end. The walk follows a creek bed into the chasm where 200 m rock walks and Livistona palms tower over you. We recommend going at mid-day to catch the sunlight lighting up the chasm walls around 11:30 AM-1 PM.
Mini Palms Walk (5 km)
This relatively challenging hike takes about 3 hours to do with some boulder scrambling toward the end. But it’s well worth it for the beautiful lookouts over the gorge and arena of rocks and palms. This was our personal favourite in the North!
Escarpment Trail (3.6 km)
The Escarpment Trail is a flat walk that follows the edge of the escarpment from Echidna to the Bloodwoods Carpark. This is the route you’ll take to reach the Mini Palms Walk.
Make a quick stop after the Echidna Chasm for an outstanding view of the Osmand Range’s rugged landscape. It looks especially lovely in the early morning or late afternoon light.
Homestead Valley Walk (4.4 km)
If you have time, the Homestead Valley Walk takes about 2 hours and ventures deep into a rocky red valley. The trail is steep at times but has handrails for assistance.
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Where to Stay in Purnululu National Park
The Parks and Wildlife Service of Western Australia operate two different campgrounds inside the park. Outside of the park bounds, there are options for caravans and campers.
Campgrounds in the Park
Located in the southern end of the park, Walardi has 37 campsites with pit toilets and picnic tables. This campground has close access to Cathedral Gorge, Piccaninny Gorge, and the Domes Walk. Camping is $13 per person per night and must be booked online.
In the northern end of the park closer to the visitor centre, Kurrajong has over 100 campsites. There are pit toilets and picnic tables on-site and a beautiful sunset lookout. This campground has closer access to Echidna Chasm, Mini Palms, and the Homestead Valley trails. Camping is $13 per person per night and is reserved on site at the Purnululu Visitor Centre on a first come first serve basis.
Outside of the Park
Those with caravans and 2WD vehicles can spend the night at the Bungle Bungle Caravan Park by the park entrance. The park has a range of facilities for powered and unpowered camping, cabins, and safari tent glamping. It’s a great choice for Bungle Bungles accommodation because they also offer 4WD Tours and flights over Bungle Bungles. Camping is $15 per person per night or $35-50 for caravans.
Other Ways to Visit Purnululu National Park World Heritage Site
If you’re not keen on the rugged drive, you can still visit Purnululu National Park on flight or 4×4 guided tours. Kingfisher Tours offers incredible scenic air tours that give you a striking perspective of the sandstone formations from above. They also have land tours where local Aboriginal guides share insight into the magic of the landscape of sculptured rocks.
How Many Days Do I Need in the Park?
We recommend spending a minimum of 2 nights in the park. Ideally, 4 nights is perfect to explore at your own leisure and have the weather on your side. During the hotter months, keeping hikes to early mornings and late afternoons is a must.
Tips, Advice, and FAQs
Can You Drive to the Bungle Bungles?
Yes, you can drive to Purnululu National Park to see the Bungle Bungle Range as long as you have a high clearance 4WD vehicle.
How Do I Get to Bungle Bungles?
You have two options for getting to the Bungle Bungles: drive with a 4WD vehicle or fly in. See the How to Get There section above for all the details.
Road Conditions and What to Expect
The road is unsealed and can be pretty rough. We found the road to be slow, windy, and very corrugated so it’s best to leave caravans at home. It’s recommended only for high clearance 4WD vehicles but even still, it can be tough on your suspension. Be sure to check for road closures ahead of time here.
Where are the Bungle Bungles Located?
The Bungle Bungles location can be a bit confusing, as there is no specific trail or sight called Bungle Bungles inside Purnululu National Park. Instead, the term Bungle Bungles refers to the beautiful domes that can be found in the Southern End of the park.