Carnarvon – The Best Things To Do

The Carnarvon region is your perfect destination if you’re looking for a place to experience natural wonders, extraordinary local history, and enjoy an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood while learning about the Gascoyne region’s Indigenous and colonial pioneering heritage.

Did you know that Carnarvon produces the majority of Perth’s fruit and vegetables in the winter?

Find out what to do in Carnarvon, when to visit, and how to get there.

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a river with buildings in the background
The Fascine Carnarvon

Things to do in Carnarvon

Carnarvon is a thriving town with an abundance of natural beauty and attractions. So, if you’re interested in exploring all that Carnarvon has to offer, find out what are the best things to do there.

Gwoonwardu Mia

Gwoonwardu Mia, the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre, was our favourite attraction in Carnarvon. This multipurpose centre celebrates the five Aboriginal language groups of the Gascoyne Region and features a permanent exhibition, touring exhibitions, café, gallery, Artist-in-Residence program, conference and meeting rooms, an ethnobotanical garden and gift shop.

The permanent interactive exhibition, Burlganyja Wanggaya: Old People Talking, unites and reflects the culture and stories of the five Aboriginal language groups of the region; Yinggarda, Bayungu, Malgana, Thadgari and Thalanyji.

The Aboriginal history of the region has long been a part of its rich and vibrant history. This is recognised in this exhibition that features:

  • The Skydome, which is made up of time lapse night footage taken from different areas showing how our first astronomers were Aboriginal people.
  • A light table with an interactive experience presenting animation, information images and sound.
  • Artefacts such as shields and grindstones, which date back thousands of years, and a replica of a 33,000 year old shell necklace found in the area (the original can be seen in the Western Australian Museum in Perth).
  • The Burrowing Bees are big hairy bees unique to the Gascoyne area. Known as Mungurrgurra or Jurrabarri, they are one of the world’s largest bee species.
  • Dreamtime stories on how the land was made, which have been passed down through generations to keep the culture alive.
  • Stories and memories of working on the Stations.
  • How settlers moved or took traditional items that appeared to be left, but were actually still in use and important to the Aboriginal people.

We were lucky enough to speak to the manager, Keneth Phillips, who gave us an insight into the cultural centre and gardens. He was fascinating to listen to and we learnt so much from him in addition to the exhibition.

The building is shaped like a Willy Willy, a whirlwind or dust storm, and the courtyard has five alcoves representing the five language groups.

It is free to enter Gwoonwardu Mia, but entry fees apply to the Permanent Exhibition, which includes any touring exhibition. It was A$25 for our family, and well worth the money. It was interesting to learn about the Aboriginal culture and history, but sad to read what they had to endure from the settlers.

a bright orange building
Gwoonwardu Mia, the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre

The Heritage Precinct

The Heritage Precinct, including One Mile Jetty and the Shearing Hall of Fame, prove how rich in history Carnarvon really is. You can also see an old residence built around 1900, which was once used by lighthouse keepers, but has since been converted into a museum full of memorabilia from days past.

One Mile Jetty

From the late 1800s, as pastoralism developed in Carnarvon, residents pressured the government to build a port for them. In 1897 the jetty was constructed and became the first livestock export port in Western Australia. The jetty head was added in 1904 and later widened due to increased traffic and passengers.

The One Mile Jetty transport system and diesel locos on the tramway stopped in 1966 when road train transport commenced. Therefore, the jetty was neglected until 1998 when the community came together to preserve the longest jetty in the northern part of WA.

Unfortunately, the jetty is currently closed due to damage from Cyclone Seroja in April 2021. However, you are able to walk through the mangroves to Dwyer’s Leap and visit the One Mile Jetty Interpretive Centre.

The Railway Station Museum

The Railway Station Museum houses the last steam train to operate in the North West, the Kimberley Steam Train, which was brought down from Broome in the 1950s.

Shearing Hall of Fame

This is the first Shearing Hall of Fame in Western Australia and where you can learn about Gascoyne’s shearing industry in the 1950s.

Lighthouse Keepers Cottage

This 1900s cottage once housed the lighthouse keeper and his family and has now been restored. The museum features historic memorabilia.

From here you can take the 5 km (return) Tramway Walk Trail into Carnarvon town.

a wooden boardwalk with a cafe
Sunsets Cafe at One Mile Jetty

OTC Dish and the Carnarvon Space & Technology Museum

The OTC Dish and the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum are on most visitor’s itinerary.

Opened in 1966, the OTC Satellite Earth Station featured the Casshorn antenna locally known as the ‘Sugar Scoop’. This was used to relay Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon from NASA’s Honey Suckle Creek Tracking Station to Perth’s TV audience, the first live telecast into WA.

In 1969, a larger antenna was built for improved communication between the NASA Tracking Station and the US.

The station closed after assisting in tracking Halley’s Comet in 1987 but is now the site of the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum, which is operated by volunteers and is mainly self funded.

Access to the OTC Dish is free, but there’s a charge to enter the museum.

an old satelite dish
The big OTC Dish

Fruit Loop

Due to its geographical advantage, Carnarvon’s fertile plantations and farms supply Perth with most of its fruit and vegetables during the winter months. However, if you visit in summer, the riverbed is all dried up as it only flows after rains inland. The Gascoyne River is known as an ephemeral river, meaning it only exists for a short amount of time.

Although fresh produce grows year round in Carnarvon, the main plantation season is from May to October. You can take a drive along the scenic North and South River Roads, also known as “The Fruit Loop”, past working plantations. We read that some have roadside stalls with honesty boxes where you can pick up preserves and fruits. However, when we drove past, not many were selling produce.

If you’re on Instagram, you’ll recognise the Cactus Garden along the Fruit Loop on South River Road. Stop here if you want to snap a few photos for your social media!

Did you know that Carnarvon was the first location in Australia where bananas were grown?

banana plantations

The Fascine

Carnarvon’s central waterway, known as The Fascine, is an ideal spot to watch the sunset over a beautiful natural landscape. Along this stretch there are grassed picnic areas with BBQs where you can enjoy local produce while catching up on family time. You will also be able to see the HMAS Sydney II Memorial, featuring 645 plaques which commemorate the lives lost aboard the ship on 19 November 1941.

The Fascine Town Beach is a safe beach where you can swim to the pontoon and fish anywhere along the crescent-shaped beach or from the footbridge.

carnarvon town beach with boats anchored off the coast

Fishing

There are some fantastic places to fish along the Carnarvon coastline. Some of the best are Pelican Point, Miabooyla Beach, Carnarvon Jetty and Teggs Channel, a purpose built fishing spot for anglers.

Bird Watching

Carnarvon is a great place for bird watchers, where you might spot whistling kites, wedge-tailed eagles, little eagles and brown falcons. The best places are Chinamans’s Pool, Miabooyla Beach and New Beach Bush Bay. 

Rocky Pool

Rocky Pool is a freshwater pool near Carnarvon that provides an inviting day trip for the whole family looking to swim or just relax. Let the kids explore the shallow pools for fossils that have been washed down from the Kennedy Ranges.

Carnarvon Blowholes

About 75 km north of Carnarvon, on the Quobba coastline, is the Quobba Blowholes. Like the ones in Albany, powerful ocean swells force water through the sea caves and up out of narrow holes in the rocks, creating jets of water erupting into the air up to 20 metres high!

Caution is needed here, though, as lives have been lost due to king waves crashing over the top of the rock ledge.

The Aquarium, Point Quobba

Just 1 km before the blowholes is Point Quobba where there’s a calm coral-filled lagoon known as the ‘Aquarium’. We haven’t been there yet but it’s apparently an excellent snorkel spot filled with fish, starfish, giant clams, stingrays, and even turtles, eels & octopus. Definitely on our list for next time when the weather is warmer!

cliffs and whitewash of waves
Point Quobba photo by Tourism Western Australia

Where is Carnarvon?

Carnarvon is 904 km north of Perth and 1461 km south of Broome, on Western Australia’s Coral Coast. It lies at the mouth of the Gascoyne River on the Indian Ocean. The Shark Bay World Heritage Area is to the south of the town and the Ningaloo Reef and popular tourist town of Exmouth lies to the north. 

Carnarvon is a great place to stop on a Perth to Exmouth road trip.

Perth to Carnarvon

International and domestic visitors will fly into Perth Airport. Find details about visas, prohibited items, currency, and safety in this Australia Travel Guide and tips on arriving into WA and other essential travel information in this Western Australia Travel Guide.

There are car hire booths at Perth airport, but it’s best to pre-book your car rental. Choose from Avis, Budget, Europcar, Sixt, Hertz, Enterprise, and Thrifty. We compare prices with Discover Cars.

By Car

To drive from Perth to Carnarvon will take you about 9 1/2 hours along the North West Coastal Highway.

Rainfall can close the roads so check with Main Roads who can provide current information on the major roads.

Be careful when driving as you can encounter stray animals on the roads, including sheep, kangaroos, goats, cows and horses.

Travel with plenty of water, food and fuel as services can be limited or in case you break down.

By Bus

Integrity Coach Lines operate bus services travelling north and south to and from Carnarvon.

Flights

You can fly direct to Carnarvon from Perth with REX, which is a two-hour flight time.

a red riverbed nearly dried up with only a few puddles of water remaining
The Gascoyne River in July

Car Hire in Carnarvon

There are two car hire companies in Carnarvon; Avis and Budget – compare prices with Discover Cars.

Weather in Carnarvon

The weather in Carnarvon is usually around 10°C warmer than Perth in winter, making it a popular time to visit to escape the colder south.

February is the hottest month with temperatures averaging 32°C, while July is the coldest at 22°C.

June is the wettest time of year in Carnarvon and November is the driest.

You can see all the average temperatures on the Bureau of Meteorology site.

Despite the cyclone season officially being from 1st November to 30th April, cyclones can happen in any month. You can get up to date cyclone warnings on the WA Emergency site.

a yellow sand beach on a cloudy day
Point Pelican

How long to stay in Carnarvon

You should allow at least two days in Carnarvon to see everything. If you are stopping as part of your Perth to Exmpouth road trip, you can stay one night and choose your favourite activities to do while there.

Carnarvon Accommodation

We use Booking.com for most accommodation bookings as they offer free cancellation on most rooms, have a loyalty program (Genius), a price match guarantee, the site is user-friendly and they have great customer support. We also book through Stayz for private accommodation as they are often cheaper than Airbnb.

Carnarvon Hotels & Motels

Carnarvon doesn’t have a wide range of hotels but my pick would be the Carnarvon Motel as it has better reviews than the Hospitality Carnarvon, SureStay by Best Western. Read reviews here.

Carnarvon Caravan Parks

Carnarvon is a pet-friendly town with six out of seven caravan parks allowing dogs.

If you’re looking for great value accommodation, the following caravan parks offer cabins for a reasonable price.

We stayed at the Outback Oasis Caravan Park in a Family Double Room cabin, which was perfect for our nights stay.

Other Caravan Parks that have great reviews are:

Norwesta Lifestyle Park

Wintersun Caravan and Tourist Park

Coral Coast Tourist Park

Private Accommodation

The Carnarvon Luxury Canal Home looks amazing and has 4 bedrooms, and 3 bathrooms with a hot tub and a private beach area. See the photos here.

Carnarvon Town

There are shops including a Woolworths supermarket, a liquor store and a chemist at the Carnarvon, Central Shopping Centre and there’s an IGA in East Carnarvon.

Thoughts on Carnarvon

I have to admit that Carnarvon isn’t my favourite town, but I was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer. More towns should have Cultural Centres like Gwoonwardu Mia to pay respect to our traditional landowners and to learn more about their life and culture.

The Fascine is a lovely spot to have a picnic if you’re just passing through and want to break up the journey.

We didn’t allow enough time to see the blowholes or snorkel at the Aquarium, so this will be on our list when we return.

Now you know what to do, when to visit and how to get there, so please consider booking through one of our links. This won’t cost you any more but will help with the cost of running this site. Thank you.

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18 thoughts on “Carnarvon – The Best Things To Do”

  1. Carnarvon seems like such a nice, historical place and I’d absolutely love to visit the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre. This sounds right up my alley! Would love to learn more about the aboriginal culture!

    Also I do kind of want to visit the blowhole, just because I think it would be really interesting and make me laugh!

    Reply
  2. It’s comforting that cultural centres like Gwoonwardu Mia to pay homage the aboriginal heritage and put emphasis on its culture. They must have a microclimate in Carnarvon I imagine to grow bananas. I’m intrigued by the artist program.

    Reply
  3. I think my favorite might be Gwoonwardu Mia too as I don’t really know much about the history of Aboriginals. I didn’t realize there were different languages within them. I’d also enjoy visiting the lighthouse and the coastline to see the blowhole!

    Reply
  4. I imagine the cultural centre is what would interest me too. I know so little of the aboriginal peoples, and yet I’m greatly intrigued. Definitely a worthwhile stop.

    Reply
    • I know a bit as the Museum of Western Australia has a lot of information about the Aboriginal culture and history. However, it was fascinating to learn more about the people of this region.

      Reply
  5. Another new place for me to add to my WA trip Wendy! At first glance, Carnarvon looks quite tropical, I thought it was somewhere completely different! I’d also like to find out more about the aborigines and this seems like a good place to start.

    Reply

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