Karratha is a fairly new city, built in the late 1960s to service the resources industry. In recent years, it has been transformed, with $600 million in federal funds to boost the economy and the structure of the town. Thanks to these programs, you will find many things you may not expect on the Western Australian north coast. Karratha Airport is just a few minutes’ drive from the city centre and right on the water.
The city is home to an arts centre, library, and restaurants, from fine dining to casual pub meals. To relax in the city, you will find no less than 38 parks dotted throughout its geography. You can also exercise some retail therapy, with shopping complexes and boutique shops offering a range of stores and merchandise.
Start off your trip to Karratha at the Visitors Centre; here you can book tours, buy something from the gift shop and learn about what’s on at the Arts Centre or other city events. The city hosts more than 80 events each year, so there is a good chance something is happening in Karratha during your stay. At the Visitors Centre, you can also learn about the many walking trails you can take your rental car to.
Out by the ocean, there are a number of stunning beaches to enjoy as well as the Dampier Archipelago. This series of 42 islands off the coast offers fantastic fishing, boating, snorkeling and diving opportunities. On the islands, you will also find a variety of wildlife, from multiple different species of turtle and dolphin. In addition, you can find ancient Aboriginal rock art on Enderby and Rosemary Islands, created by the Jaburara people. The best time to visit the Dampier Archipelago is between the months of July and September, when you might be lucky enough to spot the migrating humpback whales as they head to the subtropical waters to give birth to their young. Dampier is just a 20-minute drive from Karratha.
There’s a lot to this regional city in a hire car
Thanks to the influx of regional mining royalties, you will find a lot to do in the city of Karratha. The centre of culture and art in Karratha is the striking Red Earth Arts Precinct. The $56 million facility is only a few years old, officially opening in April 2018. The centre includes a rooftop terrace with views of the city, a 478-seat auditorium, two foyer spaces, an amphitheatre with space for 2,000 people, a public library and more. See movies, art workshops, live music and dance.
Take a drive around Karratha to one of the many restaurants and pubs for a fantastic meal; with the Indian Ocean right on its doorstep, Karratha has access to incredible seafood.
Take a drive from Karratha in your rental car
Karratha is surrounded by national parks and small regional towns, offering some fantastic coastal and inland drives in your rental car. The town of Cossack is just a 40-minute drive east of Karratha. Cossack is a living ghost town full of heritage bluestone buildings. The town has been abandoned since the 50s, after trade left, but recently has become a tourist destination with guided tours of its heritage along the Cossack Heritage Trail. Spend the night in the old police barracks before returning to Karratha.
Drive just over 1.5-hours inland to the south, and you will find the Millstream Chichester National Park, a desert oasis filled with walking trails that are dotted with forest and waterholes fed from deep underground. You will find plants and animals here that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.