There’s a couple of national parks in Australia that really are a step above everything else, and it doesn’t take too long to find them when you ask people who’ve been travelling long term for many years.
Karijini National Park is often high up on the list of best national parks in Australia, and once you’ve been there its not hard to understand why.
When you visit though, you’ll have to find somewhere to stay, and Dales Campground is by far and away the most popular location on one side of the national park.
It’s a Department of Parks and Wildlife (now DBCA) camp ground that is well maintained, has basic amenities and is within walking distance of some great attractions.
Where is Dales Campground?
Dales Campground is located on the eastern side of Karijini National Park, not far from Circular Pool, Dales Gorge, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. If you jump in your vehicle, the Karijini Visitors Centre is 13 minutes away.
Access to Dales Campground is entirely bitumen now, with the actual camp ground being gravel, and many of the roads through the national park gravel too.
Walking from Dales to the gorges
One of the great things about Dales Campground is that you can walk to 4 attractions that are all right next to each other. The closest attraction is Fortescue Falls, which will take you 5 – 10 minutes to walk to the top of from Dales Campground.
There’s a lot of stairs to get to the bottom of the falls, or you can head east towards Circular Pool (which has been closed recently due to rock falls).
Alternatively, you can head down the goat track towards Circular Pool that takes you to the bottom of Dales Gorge. When you are at the bottom, you can take an easy walk to Fern Pool which is absolutely spectacular.
Dales Campground to other gorges
To get to the other gorges, you need to drive, and be prepared for some pretty average corrugated gravel roads.
Kalamina Gorge, Knox Gorge, Weano Gorge, Handrail Pool and Hancock Gorge are all fairly easy to get to from Dales, but don’t expect to do more than a couple a day, or you’ll be absolutely knackered.
The outlier is Hamersley Gorge, which is located on the other side of the National Park, and literally takes about 1.5 hours to get to from Dales Camp Ground.
We did do it on our last visit, but its a fair hike and it’d be much nicer to stay on that side of the park.
Dales Campground Cost
Camping at Dales Campground is $11 per adult, per night. You’ll also need to have a National Parks Pass, which you can purchase upon arriving, or get something before you visit.
You can get a number of different types of national park passes, and if you are with RAC you can get a couple of them at half price (one year is $44 instead of $88) which is pretty good value.
What amenities are at Dales Campground?
Dales Camp Ground has a significant number of bush toilets (that are generally pretty good), a dump point, BBQ, and a lookout deck
How many camp sites are there at Dales?
Dales Campground has 6 loops, with a whopping 144 camp sites. Warlu, Kangaroo, Bungarra, Cockatoo, Dingo and Euro make the loops up, with some allowing generators.
Be prepared for seriously hard ground
One thing you need to be prepared for is that the ground at the camp sites is like concrete. When I say hard, I mean seriously hard; you’d never be able to knock normal pegs in, and my brother in law even stripped a couple of his screw in pegs as the ground is so hard.
Whilst I understand the premise of longevity in installing and compacting the dirt, it makes life incredibly hard for a lot of people.
Fires and Generators at Dales Campground
Fires are not permitted within Karijini National Park, at any time of the year. Generators are permitted at Cockatoo and Bungarra loops, with the other 4 not allowing them to be used.
Dales Campground Booking
You must book this camp ground, and the overflow before arriving. If you arrive without a booking, you’ll be turned away and its a long way to the next camp site.
Booking is done online at the parkstaybookings website, and can be done 180 days from your arrival date.
Karijini Overflow Camping
With the huge explosion of interest in Karijini, and travelling in Australia in general there has been an overflow camping area opened up, on the way to the visitors centre.
Other Karijini National Park Camping
The Karijini Eco Retreat is the other majorly popular camping area in Karijini. You can either glamp in their tents, or stay in the camping part of the retreat.
This is located much closer to Weano, Hancock, Handrail Pool and Knox Gorge, which makes it another good base if you want to travel more slowly through the National Park.
Alternatively, head to Tom Price, or there’s a few camp sites outside of Karijini that you’ll find on Wikicamps, like Albert Tognolini (which is incredible!).
We love Dales Gorge Campground though; its easy to get to, close to 3 incredible attractions and the best place to camp on this side of Karijini National Park.