Western Australia: Picky about the Pinnacles

By Kate Roff

Kate Roff sees the desert's bizarre yet spectacular formations in a new light.

The Pinnacles at Nambung National Park, formed about 25,000 years ago, attract almost 200,000 visitors a year. Photo / Supplied
The Pinnacles at Nambung National Park, formed about 25,000 years ago, attract almost 200,000 visitors a year. Photo / Supplied

As I stare out over the spectacular Pinnacles at Nambung National Park, I am beginning to feel some pangs of regret.

You see, when relatives visited Western Australia many years ago, I told them to skip the Pinnacles on their tour of the coast. As a largely self-absorbed teenager - and in my defence, what teenager isn't? - I believe my exact words were: "What, that bunch of rocks in the desert? Why would you want to go see them?" Apparently my comments were so effective that my aunt and uncle dutifully drove by the turn-off and returned to Sydney none the wiser.

It's only now, more than 10 years later and with one of Australia's most famous landscapes in front of me, that I realise my mistake. The Pinnacles really are amazing.

Just outside the coastal town of Cervantes, the bizarre formations rise up from the sand in stunning contrast with the clear blue skies that are so common here. They look like something from another world, or at least an ancient one.

These "rocks in the desert" are actually thousands of tall limestone spires, and were formed 25,000 to 30,000 years ago. Apparently after the sea receded from the area it left deposits of shells and coastal winds, then removed the surrounding sand, leaving the pillars exposed. So, yes, they are pretty up there on the "unique" scale of things - are you beginning to see why I might feel a tad guilty?

The tallest of Pinnacles stands between 4-5m, depending on who you ask, and they eerily resemble a field of tombstones or, less disturbingly, large termite mounds.

Attracting almost 200,000 visitors a year, the area has all the benefits of being relatively well-known (maintained roads, informative signs, walking tracks and parking bays), without the hordes of tourists lining up to spoil your photo.

The park itself costs only $11 to get in, and there is a scenic drive marked out through the Pinnacles. There is also a 1.2km loop walk through the park to the Desert View lookout.

The area has been improved recently by the opening of the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre, which showcases the Pinnacles' story and provides information on the surrounding flora and fauna.

As I turn to leave the natural spectacle, I can't help but feel like I shouldn't be enjoying the view. But what can you do, you live and learn, right? Just don't mention the Pinnacles to my aunt and uncle - they have since seen photos and are little touchy about the subject.


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