Who knew that Australia’s biggest rock is not in fact Uluru. Instead, it is Western Australia that lays claim to having the largest rock in the world.
Mount Augustus or Burringurrah as its known to the local Wajarri people rises 700m out from the surrounding plains and covers almost 5,000 hectares. It’s 8km long and 5km wide and roughly twice as big as Uluru – but who’s comparing?
Rivalry aside, Burringurrah is a spectacular sight and rightfully one of the natural wonders of Australia. Unlike Uluru, which is a monolith, consisting of a single type of rock, Mount Augustus is a monocline or inselberg. The layers of rock were pushed up into their present form about 900 million years ago and despite its enormous size, still only one third of the rock is visible above ground.
Mount Augustus National Park
Mount Augustus National Park encompasses the area around the rock and can be explored along the 49km loop drive trail. The scenic circuit trail provides excellent views and takes in all the main attractions.
The park is rich in biodiversity which can be viewed at its best during springtime when desert wildflowers bloom. Mount Augustus National Park also provides habitat for plenty of wildlife and you can expect to see wedge tailed eagles, red kangaroos, monitor lizards and emus.
There are two permanent waterholes that run along the Lyons river; including the historic Cattle Pool which used to hold cattle in the early 1900’s for the drovers who made the arduous trek to Meekatharra on foot. The pool also hosts plenty of water birds while the river gums provide homes to kookaburras, correlas, kingfishers, as well as fist-sized funnelweb spiders and a plethora of insects.
Cattle Pool also has a walk trail and makes for a tranquil picnic spot and supposedly a swimming hole – provided you can make it past the giant spider webs that hug the branches of gum trees along the water’s edge.
Aboriginal History and rock art
Burringurrah’s spirit features prominently in Aboriginal history and the Dreamtime stories. For the Wajarri people, Burringurrah takes the form of a boy who was speared for breaking Aboriginal law and is lying down to die.
Many of these ancient stories can be viewed in the rock engravings at Mundee, Ooramboo and Beedoboondu. All of these are accessible on the loop trail.
Mount Augustus Walk Trails
Visitors are not discouraged from walking on Burringurrah and there are a number of very scenic walk trails around the national park.
The longest trail is the Summit Trail, a rewarding but challenging 12km walk to the summit. If that sounds too long, there are plenty of shorter walks that lead to spectacular gorges, lookouts, water pools and the aboriginal rock art.
Walk trails are well marked but if anyone else has my sense of direction, it’s not hard getting off trail. If you do intend to hike in the area, I strongly recommend a detailed map of the national park. This can be purchased here from the Map and Chart shop for a small cost before you go.
Mount Augustus Tourist Park
Among the alluvial plains and arid shrubland, the Mount Augustus Tourist Park provides a little oasis with palm trees and green grass.
The tourist park offers friendly accommodation, including basic units, powered and unpowered sites for caravans and tents. There’s a covered camp kitchen, old but clean ablution blocks as well a shop with basic necessities and most importantly fuel.
Dogs are welcome but remember that no pets are allowed inside the national park.
Mount Augustus tourist park is also host to Australia’s biggest barbeque which takes place in September.
The two main ways of getting to Mount Augustus are from Carnarvon via Gascoyne Junction (430km) or from Meekatharra (360km) but it can be accessed from several alternatives routes as well.
Currently all roads to Mount Augustus are gravel. These are well maintained but do expect potholes, dips and riverbeds. The visitor brochure says that Mount Augustus is accessible with a 2WD – this really depends on the vehicle and what you want to put it through.
We took the road from Mullewa along the Landor Mt Augustus Road on the way there and along the the Towera Lyons Road on the way out to Exmouth with a stop at Emu Creek Station. We passed ten cars in our four days of driving and that was during the (busy) school holiday period.
Road conditions will vary depending on the weather and season. Check with the Gasgoyne Junction Shire for up to date information about the roads, especially during times of rainfall in the northwest and take care when driving. There are many riverbeds to cross and it doesn’t take much for these to overflow onto the roads.
Don’t rely on Google Maps for estimating driving times as they are inaccurate. Our average speed was around 60km per hour and that was in a 4WD without towing anything.
Come well prepared with ample fuel, water and first aid essentials. Mobile coverage with Telstra is very sparse, to say the least and non-existant for all other providers. There is WIFI at the Tourist Park.
Fuel is available at the Tourist Park and from the Burringurrah aboriginal community about 50km south from the Tourist Park which operates on limited opening hours. After that, the next petrol station is at least 300km away.
Having said all that – Mount Augustus is an incredible place to visit and well worth the drive and effort in getting there.
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