The Pinnacles (WA) truly feels like you’ve landed on another planet.
Nestled along the Coral Coast of Western Australia, these massive limestone pillars have been sculpted over thousands of years.
It’s crazy to think this desert was once under the ocean… Each pinnacle is made out of layered sea shells!
You can see these famous pillars up close after entering Nambung National Park, 200 km north of Perth. You can either drive here or book a tour for a more immersive experience (our top 5 tours are below).
There are several things to do here, including hikes for varying levels of fitness. We discuss that and more in this guide to The Pinnacles.
This guide is for you if you want to plan a full-day trip to this incredible spot, or if you want to add it to your itinerary of places to visit on a road trip along the Coral Coast!
Table of Contents
What is The Pinnacles?
The Pinnacles are unique limestone pillars found in the desert of Nambung National Park, in Western Australia. They formed around 25,000-30,000 years ago, back when the area was under the ocean.
As sea levels changed, the shells of different marine creatures accumulated on the floor, layer upon layer. Over time, they transformed into limestone through a process called “lithification”.
All these years later, their remains created one of nature’s most intriguing landscapes.
There are thousands of these amazing natural limestone structures, each with its unique shape and size. Some are no taller than your knee, while others tower over you at +3 meters!
How to get to The Pinnacles Desert?
The Pinnacles Desert is a 2.5-hour drive north of Perth and it’s part of the world-renowned Coral Coast. The drive itself is a treat, as you’ll go through Indian Ocean Drive.
You have to pay a fee to enter Nambung National Park – $15 per vehicle (more details on entry fees here).
But other than that, exploring the area is completely free. There are toilets and it’s wheelchair accessible.
Thankfully, you don’t need a 4WD to access The Pinnacles! The track is well kept so it’s suitable for any vehicle.
You can also visit with a tour operator, as many of them offer full-day tours from Perth.
Honestly, this is the best choice if you want a truly special experience – like sunset activities, stargazing in the desert, etc. We included our top 5 tours further down.
When is the best time to visit the Pinnacles?
For us, the best time to visit the Pinnacles is during the wildflower season, from July to November.
The entire region bursts into colour. It’s an explosion of pinks, yellows, purples, and reds all over the previously sandy landscape… It’s truly spectacular.
That said, you can visit the Pinnacles year-round. You’ll still feel like you’re in a sci-fi movie either way!
But regardless of the time of your visit, always check road conditions or closures that may affect your trip. You can do so on the Park Alerts System website.
5 Things to do at The Pinnacles Desert
Before getting into all the cool things you can do here, there’s one thing you absolutely cannot do.
Please, do not climb on the pinnacles themselves! It’s not safe and it’s our responsibility to preserve these structures.
With that in mind, here are some things you should 100% do during your visit:
1) Check out the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre
This well-equipped visitor centre is your gateway to this geological wonderland. You’ll learn all about the natural history of the region through interpretive displays and documentaries.
We recommend stopping here before exploring – understanding how the pinnacles were formed truly enhances the whole experience.
Park rangers are also there to answer any of your questions and give you tips for a more enjoyable visit.
You can also stop here at the end of your visit and use the shaded areas for a nice picnic.
2) Do the Pinnacles Desert driving trail
This 4.5km driving trail starts and ends in the Discovery Centre. It’s a comfortable way to explore the area, with several stops along the way to see the Pinnacles up close.
It takes around 30 minutes to complete, but we recommend allowing 1 hour. You’ll want to stop a few times, including at the Lookout!
3) Stop by the Lookout
The lookout platform is in the middle of the driving loop and it’s wheelchair-accessible.
The views from this spot are mind-blowing, you really feel like you’re on another planet.
The contrast between the surrounding sand and the blue sky is absolutely stunning, with the unwavering pillars forever pointing up. It’s a sight you’ll never forget.
4) Hike one of the walking trails
You can also walk along the driving trail, all the way to the Lookout and back. This makes for a truly unique hike that takes at least 1.5-2 hours, as you’ll stop a few times to take in the views.
But if you don’t want to walk that long in the desert, there’s the Desert View Walk.
This is a short 1.6km loop trail that also begins in the Discovery Centre. It’s a well-signed walk that will give you a different perspective of the park.
Regardless of which walk you decide to do, carry sufficient water, more so during summer. And always follow the signage.
5) Enjoy the flora and fauna at Nambung National Park
The peculiar limestone formations are not the only attraction here!
The sand dunes are a haven for different plant species that have adapted to thrive in these harsh conditions.
There’s a wide variety of birdlife as well including emus, honeyeaters, and parrots that bring life and colour to the landscape. And keep an eye out for the native reptiles – geckos and skinks!
Top 5 Tours to the Pinnacles
Several tour operators offer half and full-day trips from Perth city centre. It’s the most comfortable way to visit this attraction, as you only have to focus on relaxing and enjoying the scenery.
But besides transport, these guides provide bucket-list experiences you’ll hardly get anywhere else. Here’s our top 5:
Note: All of these tours start and end in Perth. For more options, we recommend checking out Viator.
1) Best Value For Money: Sunset Stargazing Tour
This award-winning tour takes you to two awesome spots before finishing the day at The Pinnacles for a truly magical experience.
Your tour will start in Lancelin Sand Dunes, where you can try out sandboarding! Then, you’ll continue to either Nigel Lookout or Hangover Bay, depending on the season.
And then, the best part of the tour – a sunset visit to The Pinnacles. There, you’ll have a BBQ dinner under the stars, followed by a stargazing session with telescopes and astro-binoculars.
2) Best For Families: Pinnacle Desert Stargazing Tour
This tour starts at Yanchep National Park, which is home to grey kangaroos, koalas, and a myriad of birdlife! Kids and adults alike will love this experience.
After visiting these beautiful creatures, you’ll go to The Pinnacles desert for a sunset tour. Then, you’ll go to the nearby town of Cervantes for a traditional dinner.
Finally, you’ll go back to The Pinnacles for a stargazing session.
3) Best Jam-Packed Tour: Pinnacles Desert, Cervantes, Koalas and Sandboarding Day Tour
This intense tour starts at the Caversham Wildlife Park, where you’ll meet koalas, kangaroos, and wombats.
Then, you’ll continue to Cervantes, where you’ll take a tour of a lobster processing plant. Your jaw will drop when you stand on the catwalk, above 20 tons of live rock lobster.
After lunch, you’ll go to the Pinnacles for a guided tour! And your day with finish with a 4WD adrenaline pump along Lancelin’s dunes. If you have energy left, grab a board for a sandboarding experience.
4) Best For Foodies: Pinnacle Desert, Yanchep & Swan Valley Day Tour
This full-day tour will take you to Yanchep Nationa Park first, so you can meet the koalas and kangaroos that call this place home.
Then, you’ll continue to the Pinnacles Desert for a guided tour along the pillars, as you learn about the natural history of the place.
This will be followed by a visit to Cervantes, where you’ll do a tour of the lobster processing plant and a delicious fish-and-chip lunch (included in the price!).
Before heading back to Perth, you’ll make a final stop at Swan Valley for a taste of the famous chocolate, nougat, and gourmet nuts of this region.
5) Best 7-Day Tour: 7-Day Explorer Tour To Exmouth
This 7-day tour starts and ends in Perth, taking you through the most famous spots of the Coral Coast:
- The Pinnacles desert
- Monkey Mia
- Coral Bay
It includes transport, accommodations, all entry fees, and most meals. It’s a must-do if you are visiting the area for a short time and want to hit as many spots as possible!
Summer is rough here, as temperatures are very high. Make sure to bring enough water and wear sun protection.
Also, if you’ll do a self-guided visit to The Pinnacles, make sure to stop by Lake Thetis!
This hypersaline coastal lake is in Nambung National Park too, and it’s well-known for its unique features – thrombolites.
These are million-year-old structures formed by microbes, which have helped scientists understand the early days of life on Earth.
Thrombolites are considered living fossils, and this lake is one of the few places in the world where you can see them actively growing.
Did you know?
Rainwater percolates through cracks in the limestone, dissolving parts of it as it travels underground. Over time, this dissolution creates cavities within the rock formation.
Also, the coastal winds blow sand grains into the exposed limestone, giving it its distinct appearance.
How long should you spend at the Pinnacles?
You should spend between 1-3 hours at The Pinnacles. This will allow you to check out the Discovery Centre, do the driving trail with as many stops as you want, and do the walk Desert View Walk.
How long does it take to walk the Pinnacles?
The Desert View Walk takes around 30 minutes, while the Driving Trail may take 1.5-2 hours, depending on how many stops you make and how long you spend in the Lookout.
What is special about the Pinnacles?
The Pinnacles are tens of thousands of years old and are a testament to the natural history of the Earth. These huge limestone pillars rise for up to 3.5 metres – it’s crazy to think they are made of sea shells!
The bottom line
Visit Nambung National Park for the life-changing experience of seeing the Pinnacles. Honestly, most pictures don’t do justice to how incredible this place is.
If you can, book a stargazing tour. There’s nothing more awe-inspiring than seeing the Milky Way in the middle of the desert. It’s something you’ll never forget.
But whether exploring independently or joining a guided tour, take your time while exploring the Pinnacles. Give yourself a few moments of peace to enjoy nature’s masterpiece, embrace the vibrant colours, and keep your eyes peeled for the resident wildlife.
Also – this attraction is a must-stop if you’re doing a road trip from Perth to Kalbarri! Check out this guide to help you plan that trip from start to finish.
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