A sister town to the port of Dampier, Karratha operates as the administrative and commercial centre of the region and the massive North West Shelf Project. Located on Nickol Bay, it provides accommodation and services for the employees of Hamersley Iron, Robe River Associates, the Dampier Salt Company and the workers on the North West Shelf Gas and Petroleum project.
The North West Shelf Project, situated on nearby Burrup Peninsula, has been supplying gas to domestic and industrial users in WA since August 1984 and in 1989 it began exporting liquefied natural gas to Japan. Its rigs may be sighted if they are in the bay for maintenance.
Where is it? 1,550 km north of Perth.
Fenaclng Festival: Each year in August Karratha holds a Fenaclng Festival. Reflecting the mining background of the region, its name is an acronym of the chemical symbols for iron (Fe), salt (NaCL) and the abbreviation for liquefied natural gas (LNG). A fundraiser, the festival is a popular community event.
Pilbara Railway Historical Society: Created to preserve for future generations a small part of the rapidly developing heavy haul railway scene of the Pilbara. The museum complex houses numerous retired locomotives, rolling stock and a features a miniature rail track to promote interest in railways through the children of the Pilbara.
Jaburara Heritage Trail: A 3.5 kilometre walk highlighting the Karratha districts natural history and cultural heritage and in particular its traditional inhabitants, the Jaburara Aboriginal Tribe. The trail traces the culture and lifestyle of those inhabitants, the impact of white settlement since the 1860s and the even more spectacular effects of the resources boom from the early 1960s.
Staircase To The Moon: Between March and October each year, when conditions are just right, visitors to the North West region of WA are treated to a natural spectacle. This natural phenomenon occurs only when the full moon rises over the exposed mudflats at times of extremely low tides, creating the optical illusion of a staircase reaching for the moon. The best viewing spots are at Roebuck Bay in Broome; Cooke Point in Port Hedland; the Lookout at Cossack; Hearson's Cove, located on the Burrup Peninsula between Karratha and Dampier; and Sunrise Beach in Onslow.
Red Dog: One of the local characters of note was Red Dog, about which the popular feature film is about. Born in Paraburdoo in 1971 he travelled throughout the entire region from Perth to Broome to Port Hedland. However, his exceptional homing instinct always returned him to Dampier or Karratha. This kelpie/cattledog cross is honoured with a statue at the town's entrance. A book about him is available by ringing the Karratha Tourist Bureau on (08) 9144 4600.
For a single-purpose town, designed and constructed by the Hamersley Iron mining company , Dampier is a particularly pretty settlement. Hamersley Iron Pty. Ltd. operates mines at Tom Price and Paraburdoo 290 km to the east in the Hamersley Ranges, shipping its ore through the Port of Dampier.
Dampier is one of the largest ports in Australia. In 1989, 506 vessels were loaded with over 49 million tonnes of iron ore from the Hamersley mines at Tom Price and Paraburdoo, making it the largest tonnage port in Australia. It is possible to visit and inspect the port facilities and all of the industries.
The site of hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal rock engravings that are distributed over an area of 88 sq. km, and to see them necessitates some four-wheeled means of transport.
The rock art ranges from small engravings of Emu tracks to very large ones representing a corroborree or ceremony, and even Aboriginal figures climbing a ship's mast. They depict a Tasmanian tiger, whales, kangaroos, emus and thousands of Aboriginal ceremonies.
A string of 42 pristine islands that lie off the coast of Dampier and Point Samson. The islands’ white sandy beaches and blue waters also make them an ideal location for swimming or just lazing the day away.
Dugong and bottlenose dolphins are often sighted in the waters of the Dampier Archipelago, while humpback whales are regularly seen between July and September, as they make their way north to breed. Green, loggerhead, flatback and hawksbill turtles use the beaches during the nesting season, from September to April.
Located on the Burrup Peninsula between Karratha and Dampier, Hearsons Cove is one of the many beautiful beaches in this region. This lovely sheltered cove is a popular swimming and picnic spot all year round and is ideal for children as its water is calm and clear.
Roebourne (39 km east) is very much the grand-daddy of Pilbara towns, an old gold rush town in Western Australia's Pilbara region. The town prospered during its gold boom of the late 19th century and was once the biggest settlement between Darwin and Perth.
Settled in 1866, this inland community is WA’s oldest surviving town north of Geraldton. It served as the administrative centre for the Shire of Roebourne (previously the Roebourne Roads Board) until 1975, when operations were transferred to Karratha. Roebourne has continued to develop and is a thriving hub for Aboriginal enterprise and culture.
Wickham (51 km east) was created in the 1970s as the support town for the mining operation of Cliffs Robe River Iron Associates at Pannawonica.
Cossack was the original port of pearls before the luggers moved north to Broome in 1886, an early hub for gold prospectors in the region, and a port for pastoralists in the Pilbara. Following the opening of Point Samson jetty, the town was dissolved in 1910 and abandoned by 1950. The beautifully restored bluestone buildings in the ghost town of Cossack are testament to this small town’s huge importance in the late 19th century. Cossack is 15 km from Roebourne, the nearest town to Cossack is Wickham. Cossack is located on Butchers Inlet at the mouth of the Harding River.
From 1938 to 1966 blue asbestos or crocidolite was carried here by rail from Wittenoom for shiploading by Australian Blue Asbestos Pty. Ltd. When the Wittenoom mine closed, the future for Point Samson became unlear, but in recent years it has re-invented itself as a recreational area for the nearby mining towns and ports.
Point Samson (57 km east) is truly one of the most unspoilt and picturesque seaside villages in North Western Australia. The beautiful sandy beaches of Point Samson are protected by fringing coral reefs offering good protection for swimming, snorkelling or even a spot of fishing.
The oldest port in the Pilbara region, Port Hedland (239 km north-east) is the second largest town in the Pilbara region. With a population of approximately 14,000, including the satellite town of South Hedland, 18 km away, it is also the site of the highest tonnage port in Australia. Port Hedland serves the iron ore mines of Mt Goldsworthy, Shay Gap and Mt Newman.
Built on an island 13 km long and 1.6 km wide, it is connected to the mainland by four long causeways over tidal creeks. Port Hedland has a natural deep anchorage harbour which, as well as being the main fuel and container receival point for the region, was seen as perfect for shipment of the iron ore being mined in the ranges located inland from the town.