At more than twice the size of Uluru, Mount Augustus (Burringurrah) is Australia’s largest rock.
More than a rock, Mount Augustus is an ‘inselberg’, meaning ‘island Mountain’. It is located almost 500 kms by road, inland from Carnarvon in Western Australia.
The road trip
We decided to leave our van in Carnarvon and just take the car, so we booked a cabin for our two night stay at the Mount Augustus Tourist Park, allowing us a full day to explore the rock. We loaded up the car with food, clothes and ourselves and set off on our road trip, with the van stored safely at the Capricorn van park.
The drive from Carnarvon to Mount Augustus passes through the small township of Gascoyne Junction, which is where the sealed road stops and the dirt (and dust!) begins. We stopped there briefly to top up the fuel and check with the local tourist bureau on the state of the unsealed roads out to Mount Augustus.
Before leaving town, we stopped to admire the new Anzac memorial that was installed earlier this year.
The unsealed roads that we travelled on were in excellent condition, and we enjoyed watching (and dodging) the wildlife … including our first ever sighting of an Australian Bustard bird. Not that we knew what it was at the time; we had to Google it when we were back in mobile reception range!
Cattle weren’t the only road hazards with which we had to contend, as this next short video shows. We had quite a few interactions with wildlife and stock on the road to Mount Augustus.
We actually get excited when we see water where rivers should be, such is the rarity of flowing water courses in outback Australia. This next image depicts a very dry Gascoyne River. And yet, when it flows, water clearly runs with some force, as evidenced by the metre-high flood debris caught at the base of the trees.
The largely inhospitable terrain changed continuously as the trip progressed, from rocky to sandy, scrubland to barren flatlands and back again.
Yet the well maintained dirt roads were so good that we could actually look forward to the return trip a couple of days later.
Our first glimpses of Mount Augustus started when we were still about 60 to 70 kms away.
Mount Augustus Tourist Park
The tourist park adjoins the Mount Augustus Homestead and offers basic camping facilities and cabins for travelers to use. It’s very close to Mount Augustus, which dominates the view to the southwest.
Given we left the van in Carnarvon rather than drag it through 315 kms of dusty roads out (and then do it all again on the return journey), we stayed in a fairly basic self-contained unit. It was just as well that we took our own food with us, as there was nothing to buy out there (other than potato crisps, water and soft drinks); no cafe or take away options.
Mount Augustus (from sunrise to sunset)
Having one day to take in all the sites, we rose early and headed for the Yallowerie Hill lookout for the best views at sunrise.
We were the only ones there (even though the parking area was about the size of a Rugby field). A concrete picnic table with bench seats was provided, although we were surprised to find it was placed at the edge of the cleared parking area (and was resting on two pallets) – nowhere near the gazebo, that was some 30 metres away.
We enjoyed watching the sun light up the rock before heading back for breakfast. We still couldn’t believe we were the only ones there to witness the sunrise, despite it occurring at the comparatively reasonable time of 6:45 am – a far (and pleasant) cry from the hordes crowding in to view sunrise at Uluru.
The best way to explore the rock is to use the loop road that circumnavigates it. The loop road is 49 km long, unsealed, and provides access to all the feature sites, trails and lookouts.
We walked some of the trails and were able to observe ancient indigenous rock engravings at three different sites.
Much of the ground around Mount Augustus is covered in loose rocks, which made some of the trails a bit tricky in places.
Next stop on the Mount Augustus loop was the Cattle Pool (Goolinee), a permanent pool on the Lyons River. The pool is roughly one kilometre long and 30 metres wide, and attracts a wide variety of birdlife. Sadly, not when we were there! We had to settle for a few ducks and a stunning darter drying its wings in the sun.
Flintstone Rock (Beedoboondu) is a large slab of rock that bridges a rocky (currently dry) stream. Unusually, walkers are actually encouraged to crawl under Flintstone Rock to observe the old Aboriginal engravings. Unfortunately, there was no interpretative signage to provide meaning to the art.
We headed off to watch the sunset on the rock from Emu Hill lookout – armed with provisions, naturally.
As we toasted the sunset with drinks and nibbles, we reflected on how much we had enjoyed exploring Mount Augustus.
Watch the late afternoon colours change over Mount Augustus in this short time lapse video.
An early start the next morning had us arriving back in Carnarvon at lunch time to pick up our van and a few provisions before heading south towards our next stop, Shark Bay.