Only a two and a half hour drive from Perth, the Pinnacles Desert has become a popular day trip. The Pinnacles Desert is part of Nambung National Park. Thousands of up to four meter high narrow rock columns make up the Pinnacles Desert. You can explore the desert by foot on a 1.5 kilometer long walk or self drive your car on an almost 5 kilometer long loop. As it is part of the National Park network of Western Australia, an entry fee of $12 per vehicle is charged unless you have a pass.
The Pinnacles Desert Drive
Between the walk and the Pinnacles Drive, we chose to do the drive as it is longer and covers more ground. The 4.5 kilometer long drive is one way and on a compacted sand road, which can be managed with virtually any kind of vehicle. Along the drive are plenty of bays to stop your car, get out and explore the Pinnacles.
Shortly after you start the drive, you’ll see the first strange looking rock formations poking out of the sand. Hundreds of different shaped and sized rocks are standing close together making for very surreal scenery. Some of the rocks are up to four meters tall and come in the strangest shapes. We parked our car multiple times to hop out and walk between the pinnacles. It took us a little over an hour to complete the drive. If you get lucky (we didn’t), you might be able to spot wild emus roaming around the Pinnacles Desert or other parts of Nambung National Park.
Getting there & stops on the way
The easiest way to get to the Pinnacles Desert is with your own car. From Perth it should take you roughly two and a half hours to get there (it’s 200 kilometers from Perth). As the Pinnacles Desert is in the middle of Nambung National Park, there is no public transport. If you don’t have your own car, you could join an organized tour from Perth. The drawback to an organized tour are the high costs (expect to pay over $100) and that you’ll be stuck to a fixed schedule. If you’re flexible on time, you could ask around in backpacker forums (eg on Facebook), if someone is planning a trip and has spare seats.
We got to the Pinnacles around 11am on a Sunday and while it was quiet in the beginning, shortly after big groups of tourists arrived. Try go as early as possible so you can have the place almost to yourself. If you’re planning on staying the night in the area, there are multiple campsites in different price ranges around. You can check out this free app to find campsites around Australia. The closest bigger town for supplies and accommodation is Cervantes.
On the way to or from Perth, you can stop off at the Lancelin sand dunes. These are the biggest sand dunes in WA. They are popular with locals and tourists for quad riding and sand boarding. Basic sand boards can be rented at the dunes for $10/hr and if you have a 4×4 you can drive on the dunes. Another great stopover is Yanchep National Park, an hour north of Perth. You can visit multiple national parks on the same day for the one fee, so you may as well make the most of the day. Yanchep has nice bushwalks, loads of wild kangaroos (best time to see them is in the morning or late afternoon) and koalas. Even though the koalas have been brought in (they aren’t native to WA) and are kept in an open air enclosure, it is still a great possibility to see them in WA.
The Pinnacles Desert is definitely worth the trip from Perth, especially if you can combine it with another stop or activity on the way.