Karratha on the northwestern coast of Western Australia is often overlooked by tourists. Mainly a base for workers in the nearby mines and ports, usually it is bypassed in favour of the inland Karijini National Park (which is admittedly spectacular).
However, if you’re travelling with a dog through Western Australia, perhaps consider spending some time around Karratha. While dogs are strictly prohibited from Karijini (and are usually left in the kennel at Tom Price), there’s quite a few fun dog-friendly things to do around Karratha. Check out these options…
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Karratha
Karratha is a surprisingly modern and tidy city in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia. While there’s not much to do within the city, which is a mix of residential and commercial areas, there’s plenty of dog-friendly things only a short drive away…
#1 Meet Red Dog in Dampier
One of the highlights of a visit to the Pilbara Region, especially if you’re travelling with a dog, is stopping off at the Red Dog statue on the edge of Dampier.
Red Dog is one of the most famous dogs in all of Australia and the star of multiple movies. While he travelled all around the vast Pilbara region, he regularly returned back to his main home in Dampier.
The statue is located just just before you drive into the town of Dampier, a 20 minute drive away from Karratha on the coast. It’s a very popular photo, especially for dog owners wanting a selfie of their pup with Red Dog.
#2 Follow the Red Dog Trail
To explore Red Dog’s favourite hang-outs around Dampier, follow the Red Dog Trail. This 6.6km trail is moderately easy, and can either be walked or driven. It’s fine to visit the stops along the way in any order. There’s a map at the Red Dog Information Bay, plus online.
If choosing to walk the trail, it’s best done early or late in the day, ask the sun can still be fierce during the winter months. Dogs need to be kept on a leash on the trail.
#3 Hang Out at the Dampier Foreshore
While visiting Dampier, a wonderful spot to spend some time is the recently redeveloped Foreshore Area. The area features new BBQs and a large playground, plus some wonderful waterviews.
Dogs are permitted on a leash, except for in the playground, including on the beach immediately in front. But for some off-leash fun head over to the off-leash area at Hampton Oval, next to the Foreshore Area. I also didn’t realise when I visited that the beach past the oval, most of the way to the marina, also allows off-leash dogs.
The spot is particularly pretty at sunset, when you are often treated to a magnificent Pilbara sunset over the water, although of course you can’t camp up overnight in a campervan.
#4 Head to Hearson’s Cove
On the other side of the Burrup Peninsula is Hearson’s Cove, another popular beach spot near Karratha. The large stretch of beach has plenty of room for cars to pull up next to it, along with some picnic shelters and toilets. It’s popular for swimming, paddleboarding, and fishing (ideally at high tide), plus 4WDing. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
Unfortunately, on the day we visited, a fierce wind was blowing directly onto the beach, so we didn’t spend long here. During the rising of the full moon at low tide, it’s a popular spot to witness the “staircase to the moon” phenomenon.
On the road leading to the Cove, there’s a turn-off for the Murujuga National Park, home to countless rock engravings and likely to soon be a World Heritage Site. If you’re not travelling alone, perhaps take turns visiting while the rest of your party hang with your pup at Hearson’s Cove?
#5 Visit Historic Cossack
While Broome is these days synonymous with pearls and Western Australia, in the early days the pearl diving industry was located at Cossack. These days the town located a 40 minute drive east of Karratha is a ghost town, with only some of its historic bluestone buildings still standing.
Follow the Cossack Heritage Trail around town, which is partially a walking trail and partially a driving route. Highlights of the walking trail include the Courthouse, Galbraith’s Store, the Police Barracks and the Customs House & Bond Store. Sadly the pearling industry was very exploitative of the local Aborigines.
During the tourist season from May to September, an excellent cafe operates outside of the former Customs House & Bond Store. Dogs are welcome to join you at the tables in the garden. Afterwards, drive to the nearby Reader Head Lookout for coastal views.
#6 Follow the Ngurin / Harding River Bush Tucker Trail
Inland from Cossack is the present day town of Roebourne, which is home to multiple galleries displaying Aboriginal art and culture. For a different taste of Aboriginal culture, follow the Ngurin / Harding River Bush Tucker Trail.
This 2km long trail meanders on either side of the Harding River in the centre of town. It starts from the carpark opposite the Yinjaa Barni Art, where there are also toilets.
Most of the trail coincides with the large off-leash dog exercise area in Roebourne, so you should be fine to let your dog off their leash away from the road. Just avoid following the trail in the middle of the day, when it can be very hot no matter what time of year.
Dog-Friendly Parks in Karratha
There are multiple off-leash dog exercise areas in the Karratha area.
For starters, there are five off-leash dog parks in dog-friendly Karratha alone. Allow your dog off-leash at these areas, as shown on this map, as long as they’re still under your control and no sporting events or training is underway:
- Tambrey Oval in Nickol
- Baynton West Oval (also known as Mara Guthara Park) in Baynton
- Millars Well Oval in Millars Well
- Pegs Creek Oval in Pegs Creek
- Bulgarra Oval in Bulgarra
In Dampier, dogs are allowed off-leash on Hampton Oval and the beach to the south, nearly all the way to the oval. In Roebourne, dogs are allowed off-leash in a large area around the Harding River (see the map for the complete area).
At the beach community of Point Samson, dogs are not allowed on the main beach or Honeymoon Cove, but they are allowed off-leash on the beach north of Meares Drive.
Dog-Friendly Dining in Karratha
In the centre of Karratha, head to Lo’s, which has outdoor seating – just double check they are still dog-friendly. The cafe is open daily for breakfast and lunch, with its coffee highly rated and a Taiwanese touch to the menu.
In Dampier, head to the Soak In Dampier, just on the rise behind the Foreshore Area. The cafe opens early in the day and is open all day long, plus for dinner, from Tuesday to Sunday, and welcomes pet dogs to join you.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Karratha
If you’re looking for a caravan park, each of the three caravan parks in Karratha, one in Dampier and two in Point Samson are pet-friendly. Note though that the Samson Beach Caravan park only allows small pets with prior approval. During the winter months, it’s best to book in advance, or else you may need to resort to the overflow campground.
At Discovery Parks – Pilbara Karratha (which is open year round unlike the other Discovery Parks caravan park in Karratha), selected Superior Cabins (that can sleep up to four) and Studio Cabins (that sleep two) are pet-friendly. Look for the cabins that state “Pet Friendly” in their name, if booking online.
At The Cove Holiday Village in Point Samson, call up and enquire whether you can bring along a pet if you book one of their chalets, varying in size from one- to three-bedrooms. Pets are only permitted with prior approval from management.
Alternatively, there’s more dog-friendly camping options if you stay out of town. At Cossack there are two basic camping areas, although you need to be self-contained and a fee is charged. Alternatively, it’s possible to stay for up to 24 hours at some of the rest areas along the highway, for free.
We stayed the night at Miaree Pool Rest Area, a delightful spot less than an hour south of Karratha on the North West Coastal Highway. The rest area is next to the wonderful Miaree Pool, a freshwater waterhole that’s a lovely swimming spot.
Just note that some of the best camping spots, those next to the water, are only accessible by 4WD. Plus they’re popular with locals so are often camped out on the weekends. The main parking area next to the pit toilets is 2WD accessible and can fit a fair number of caravans and campervans, although it’s best to bring levellers.
We rated this one of the best free campsites in WA.