The Pinnacles Desert is one of the most popular West Australian attractions. These incredible geological structures are located in Nambung National Park and are easily reached on a day trip from Perth. Pinnacles are unique limestone formations that were created over tens-of-thousands of years and create an eerie lunar-like landscape not seen anywhere else in the world.
The Pinnacle Desert is located in the Nambung National Park in Western Australia, near the coastal town of Cervantes.
The Perth to Pinnacles drive is 200 km and will take approximately 2-hours from the city centre. From Perth, the most scenic way to get to the Pinnacles is along the Indian Ocean Drive on the beautiful coral coast.
The Australian Pinnacles are limestone formations that may have been formed up to 500,000 years ago. The Pinnacles desert expands over an area of more than 17,000 hectares. The tallest pinnacle is over 3.5 metres high.
The Pinnacles originated at sea from shell fragments that were repeatedly broken down to form lime-rich sands that were then blown inland to create the vast range of sand dunes.
However, how this process created the lunar-like pinnacle formations is subject to debate and there are several theories that scientists haven’t yet agreed on.
Aboriginal tribes have a long connection to the Pinnacles and the formations feature heavily in Dreamtime stories. The Pinnacles were also spotted by early Dutch explorers in the 1600’s who first mistook these strange structures as a lost city.
The Pinnacles can be visited year-round. There’s no ideal time in the year to visit the Pinnacles, but like everything else, a clear sunny day is best.
Many people favour very early morning or late afternoon to see the Pinnacles, as the shadows create an even more unique aura. The sunset also changes the colours of the Pinnacles.
The busiest time at the Pinnacles is usually mid-to-late morning. This is when the tour buses and day trip visitors arrive.
During school holidays there’s usually a queue of cars waiting to get in. However, it’s rarely a problem and once inside the crowds disperse. But, if you’re interested in photography you may want to avoid the crowds.
Once you arrive at the Pinnacles, there’s a 4 km driving loop through the limestone formations. The road is on a hard gravel track and is suitable for 2WD vehicles and smaller campervans.
Caravans and large motorhomes can be parked in the carpark after the entrance gate and you can easily walk to the pinnacle trail from there.
Once on the loop trail, there are plenty of places where you can park the car and explore on foot.
I suggest doing the loop two times as you always miss seeing something the first time around.
There’s also a 4-5 km Pinnacle Walk Trail through the Nambung National Park that is worthwhile doing if you have the extra time and the weather is not too hot.
The walking trail leads to the Pinnacle lookout which gives spectacular views of the area and out to the Indian Ocean.
The Pinnacles Discovery Centre is located near the carpark area. The Centre has interpretative displays and more information about the pinnacles as well as other regional information.
There’s also a souvenir shop, as well as picnic areas, toilets and gas BBQs. Note there is no cafe or restaurant at the Pinnacles.
If you’re planning to visit the Pinnacles on a self-drive day trip from Perth, it’s best to leave early in the morning.
I recommend going straight to the Pinnacles on the way there and then taking your time on the way back. It’s best to pack a picnic with food and drinks as there aren’t many convenient places to stop along the way.
A good stop along the way is at the Nilgen Lookout. The lookout turnoff is located about 20 km after the Lancelin turn off and about 1.5 hours from Perth. Here you’ll find picnic tables and good views of the surrounding sand dunes and the ocean. There’s also a short walk trail and the opportunity to see wildflowers during springtime.
You can make a detour to Lancelin to view some of WA’s most impressive sand dune and go sandboarding. However, from the Indian Ocean Drive turn off to Lancelin it is a 15 km trip one way and all up this will add an hour or two to your trip. For more on Lancelin see the article here.
For a self-drive tour to the Pinnacles a 2WD vehicle is adequate and you don’t need an SUV or a 4WD.
Once at the Pinnacles Desert, allow 1-2 hours to visit the formations and the Discovery Centre.
After your visit to the Pinnacles you can drive further north to visit the coastal town of Cervantes.
The highlight here is a visit to the Lobster Shack for an impressive seafood lunch. Alternatively, head to Seashells Cafe at the RAC Caravan Park for a bite to eat and a coffee.
Cervantes is also a good place to swim and you can visit the stromatolites and thrombolites at Lake Thetis which are some of the oldest living organisms on earth.
For a picnic lunch or a swim, head to Hangover Bay or Kangaroo Bay, which are both located on the Indian Ocean Drive, just south of Cervantes. Both spots have great views of the bay and if it’s not too windy are a nice place for a swim.
On your way back to Perth, take a stop at Yanchep National Park. In the afternoon, the green laws are full of Kangaroos and there’s also an enclosure with Koalas.
There’s a wide range of tours to the Pinnacles from Perth. Most of these are Pinnacles day tours and leave Perth in the early morning and take in other sights such as Yanchep National Park or Lancelin along the way.
For a unique experience, I recommend the Pinnacles Sunset and Stargazing Tour from Perth. This includes the opportunity to view the amazing West Australian night sky through a telescope and includes a sunset BBQ.
See a full list of Pinnacle Tours here.
The essential items to bring for a visit to the Pinnacles is water and sun protection. If you’re visiting on a hot, windless day I also recommend bringing a fly-net to cover your face.
There’s no restaurant or cafe at the Pinnacles, so you may want to bring your own provisions.
Dogs are not allowed at the Pinnacles as it is a National Park.
Entry fee to the Pinnacles is $13 per vehicle. Entry fee is covered if you have a Western Australia National Park Pass.
Pay the entrance fee at the gate. The entry booth is not always manned, especially in off-peak times. Instead, you need to fill out an envelope with your details including car registrations and put the money in an envelope.
For this reason, It’s best to bring the loose change for the case that no-one is there and you can fill out an envelope and leave the change in there.
The nearest place for accommodation near the Pinnacles is Cervantes. Pinnacles to Cervantes is an approximate ten-minute drive.
Accommodation options at Cervantes include the excellent RAC Cervantes Caravan Park which has cabin style accommodation as well as camping and caravan sites.
There’s no camping at the Pinnacles Desert. For a fantastic free camping option consider Cliff Head north of Leeman.
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