The Kimberley coastline is rugged and ancient, a living breathing thing, it’s pulse rises and falls with its huge tides.
Barn Hill is but a small breathtaking part of a larger picture. The beauty however is its location – you can easily get to it and enjoy it.
The coastal frontage of Barn Hill Station Stay is a kaleidoscope of colour, unique to the Kimberley, especially the West Kimberley.
In 1879 when Alexander Forrest wandered through on his Kimberley expedition, one could only imagine the thoughts in his mind as he tried to reconcile the contrasting wonder his eyes must have been processing as he looked over the coast when he constructed his surveyor’s cairn up top of what is today known as Barn Hill.
The Kimberley is full of characters and visionaries. 1960 saw a bloke called Alf Brown purchase Thangoo Station. From under his wide brim hat and through the Kimberley squint of his eye, he committed to memory a beautiful 50km or so stretch of coast that his 430,000 acres was blessed with and realised a vision splendour that would some day complement his 8000 head of Brahman cattle.
In 1976 this vision materialised when a portion of Thangoo was handed over to daughter Janice, and Barn Hill Station Stay http://www.barnhill.com.au was born.
Today it’s a back to nature station stay, a relaxing tree filled place with an Indian Ocean vista close by with pristine, untouched beaches which are a kaleidoscope of colour to the senses when you first lay eyes on them.
To explore is extraordinary, contrasts so vivid one really has to see to fully absorb. Pindan cliffs with towering turrets cut imposing figures into the seemlessly endless stretches of white sands and azure ocean.
Your days at the beach are then washed off under a million Kimberley stars as your mind merges between salt water, colour and sunset and the stars above as you wash down in an open air shower.
Once you wander away from your camp more often than not you’ll be heading to the beach, easy access is gained via a set of stairs which dissect their way down the most striking pindan cliff.
Once on the sand a quick scan is visual overload with a inviting blue ocean ahead, while in either direction white sand cuts clean against pindan cliffs.
As you enter the beach after coming down the stairs, wander right or north along the beach. Roughly 1.5km maybe 2km will bring you to the most extraordinary rock formations, stacks of sandstone laid high like turrets or pinnacles cut clean against beach, sky and water like a lost city. This area is a must to explore, the walk is pleasant the rewards great.
TOP TIP: Complete this walk at low tide. There is a small headland about 300m from the stairs which you won’t get around at high tide. The colours and designs in the rocks are best seen at low tide, with best shell fossisking also at this time.
TOP TIP: Should you miss time the tide and get stuck on the return trip, there is a alternative route back. It snakes its way back behind the dunes, it’s a bit of goat track and a tad warm during the middle of the day as you lose the breeze, however it brings you out in the unpowered camping area.
As with most beaches in the Kimberley they are big, bold vistas with horizons that always seem to disappear over the next horizon on the horizon, especially when the tide’s out with no shade.
if you plan on spending any considerable time on the beach it’s BYO shade.
Low tide at Barn Hill is a great time to explore the beach. North and south of the main stairs on to the beach there are some really interesting reef systems. The one slightly off to the north is the better for snorkling and exploring. My two kids spent hours combing every crevice looking for critters and treasure. It’s also a really nice place to sit on a warm day.
The cliffs that skirt the beach are not only extraordinarily colourful and striking, but ripe for exploring.
These cliffs have lots of trails and caves, nooks and crevasses littered with treasures such as driftwood, cool rocks and shells with hermit crabs in them. They were a highlight of each day for my kids and brought out their inner Malcolm Douglas and Steve Backshall as they dipped in and out of sight.
Fishing is done right along the beach at Barn Hill. Using the steps onto the beach as a reference point, people were giving it a go both north and south along the beach.
Best time to go was 1.5 hours before the high tide, fishing the incoming tide. To the north of the stairs as you walk along the beach for the first 500m or so the reef is quite prominent. There is opportunity to fish along this reef flicking lures out into the drop off or deep water. http://www.barnhill.com.au/activities
Once you pass the reef you will be down on a beach, somewhere close to the Lost City/Pinnacle rock formations where some bait fishing can be completed.
Heading south of the stairs it’s a much shorter walk to clear the reef area and find some beach. This is a longer section of beach with a sandier bottom, and it pays to come down at low tide to try and identify a channel.
Vehicles are only allowed onto the beach at Barn Hill to launch boats all boat launching is done off the beach, the track down is easy to find. However the sand is really soft at the entry / exit point, deflation of tyres is the only way to avoid getting bogged.
Target fish here are varied, however the prized fish is Bluebone. Travelly, Whiting and Long – toms or Garfish are often about.
The small kiosk at reception sells bait but no tackle.
Walk To Summit of Barn Hill
The walk to the top of Barn Hill is not too difficult for anybody of average fitness. This is no mountain just the highest point on the surround. The view is pretty good considering. As you make your way to the top please be wary of cattle and keep an eye out for Joe Blakes.
Please Note: The cairn atop Barn Hill is a historical landmark left by Alexander Forrest during his expedition to the Kimberley in 1879. Please do not tamper with or add to the cairn.
The colours are so vivid and striking at Barn Hill the challenge is to concentrate on and get right the composition of your image.
With so many opportunities at all times of the day its a location no matter where you wander you want to have a camera of some description in your bag or pocket.
Being in Western Australia you are presented with the luxury of the sun setting over the ocean which makes for great sunset possibilities there is a nice little lookout too, however don’t discard sunrise especially if you get a low tide at that time of day the reflections can be wonderful.
For that matter the reflections on the low tide can present many opportunities at anytime of day with so many vibrant colours.
The rocks, rock pools, cliffs and caves provide opportunities for creativeness. Wildlife is not abundant, however opportunities may present themselves in the form of cattle, kangaroos, goannas, hermit crabs, frogs and, should you be visiting in June/July, whales, which are best spotted from the lookout on top of the cliff.
Where is Barn Hill Station Stay
Barn Hill http://www.barnhill.com.au is in the Kimberley of Western Australia in Australia’s North West corner. It’s 132km south of
Broome and 480km north of Port Hedland on the Great Northern Highway or Highway #1. The Caravan Park is located right on the ocean 10km or so off the Highway. The track is pretty well maintained and all vehicles should have no trouble. Drive to the conditions, consider your vehicle and others and all should be good.
TOP TIP: This is a fully operational cattle station – close gates behind you.
Where to Stay
The Caravan/Camping Park at Barn Station Stay is divided into two distinct sections – the powered and unpowered areas – which are separated by the grassed communal area located out front of the reception/kiosk. This space has tables and chairs, shade and a view of the ocean and lawn bowling green.
The end of the track you will find yourself stopped looking down the barrel of the bowling green, your eye floats past what you assume is the reception to the ocean in the distance. You start to breathe as you’re falling into a relaxed state.
Where you go from here depends on what you have booked. If you have a powered site or one of the Mud Hut Chalets you will wander off to the left of where you are parked, into a shaded oasis.
This part of the park is a little dusty, especially if you are in swags and or tents. However the shade is heaven. This is a wonderful place to set up camp, to spend time, and to retreat to after beach time or fishing.
If you are staying in this part of Barn Hill you are only a short walk to the access stairs down on to the beach and this section is closest to the access ramp/track for vehicles wanting to launch boats.
If you choose to have an unpowered camping site you would be asked to wander off right from the car park. The unpowered area suits the more self sufficient traveller. There is little shade, however the trade- off is ocean views.
From this camping area there is a track down to the beach however its a bit of a goat track of 500 or 600m.
Regardless of where you choose to stay the central point is the reception-kiosk area. This is in easy walking distance of just about everywhere. http://www.barnhill.com.au/rates
Both the powered and unpowered areas have exactly the same type of ablution blocks. You will be
enjoying the view of the Kimberley sky be it crisp blue or a thousand stars, you’ll never get sick of it and it will keep you coming back.
- All toilets are flushing chemical toilets, do not empty porta potty’s into them, there are designated dump points for these.
If you are staying during the season there is no shortage of park activities to partake in. Do as much or as little as you like, this to is open to all regardless of where you are within the park.
- All power is generated on the property, each powered site has an individual overload switch. If you exceed your power limit. Your switch will throw out. This may occur if you have electric kettles, microwaves, toasters, or any high drawing appliances running simultaneously. To restore power unplug appliances and reset switch breaker in box.
- Dogs are welcome, however for the safety and enjoyment of all park patrons your dog must be on a lead at your site and whilst walking. Dogs can be exercised on the beach. Dogs are not permitted on the grassed recreation area in front of the reception/kiosk. Owners responsibilty to clean up after their dog.
- Rubbish – household only. All has to be bagged and placed in trailer provided, separate cans & glass bottles. No white goods, car parts, engine waste or gas bottles.
- No Fires allowed at Barn Hill Station Stay.
Time of Year to Visit
During the dry season or the southern winter this place is seriously popular. Don’t even consider rocking up in June, July or Aug without a booking, especially in the July school holidays it’s mayhem.
For most who live south of the 26th parallel the winter climate in northern Australia is to hard to refuse. Its perfect however this perfectness comes with the trade off, of having to practice what you preach to the kids and share and show lots of tolerance and patience, you’ll have nothing to yourself.
The shoulder season periods are always a nice time to visit May, late August, September (Careful of school holidays) and if your local October.
Weather is a bit warmer without being really hot, the nights a bit balmier and the crowds much, much thinner. You will have space to move and air to breathe.
How Long to Stay
Barn Hill Station Stay opens up around Easter each year and closes down around the end of October.
Length of stay is a bit like the old question how long is a piece of string. There are a lot of grey nomads who set up camp for 3-4 months, there are others who are on their way round the block who are not on the clock who come for two days and stay two weeks.
To be honest I think if your traveling and moving from place to place and keeping a schedule allow yourself 3 nights 4 days Time to explore, rest and play.
All Things Considered
Barn Hill Station Stay is a unique and wonderful pocket of the Kimberley coast. It marries the rustic, relaxed and friendly atmosphere of being on a station with a pristine and breathtakingly beautiful slice of the Kimberley coast.
A visit to Barn Hill will leave you with vivid memories that will be a little different for each person
But all reach the same conclusion – if you ever get the chance don’t drive past, drive in.
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Have you been to Barn Hill recently or on past travels? Planning a trip perhaps, leave a comment.
Be interested in your thoughts.