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Sights and Sounds: The Pinnacles – Western Australia

G1: We’re going to see stones in the desert…

The Pinnacles - WA

The Pinnacles

Located north of Perth in Nambung National Park, the Pinnacles is a two and a half hour drive away from the city. Rated as the top attraction to see in Cervantes by TripAdvisor, the Pinnacles are interesting limestone structures out in the desert. Although the actual formation of the Pinnacles is unknown, there appears to be three theories in circulation:

  1. They were formed from lime leaching from the aeolian sand (wind-blown sand) and by rain cementing the lower levels of the dune into a soft limestone. Vegetation forms an acidic layer of soil and humus. A hard cap of calcrete develops above the softer limestone. Cracks in the calcrete are exploited by plant roots. The softer limestone continues to dissolve and quartz sand fills the channels that form. Vegetation dies and winds blow away the sand covering the eroded limestone, thus revealing the Pinnacles.
  2. They were formed through the preservation of cast of trees buried in coastal aeolianites where roots became groundwater conduits, resulting in precipitation of indurated (hard) calcrete. Subsequent wind erosion of the aeolianite would then expose the calcrete pillars.
  3. On the basis of the mechanism of formation of smaller “root casts” occurring in other parts of the world, it has been proposed that plants played an active role in the creation of the Pinnacles, rather than the rather passive role detailed above. The proposal is that as transpiration draws water through the soil to the roots, nutrients and other dissolved minerals flow toward the root. This process is termed “mass-flow” and can result in the accumulation of nutrients at the surface of the root, if the nutrients arrive in quantities greater than needed for plant growth. In coastal aeolian sands which have large amounts of calcium (derived from marine shells) the movement of water to the roots would drive the flow of calcium to the root surface. This calcium accumulates at high concentrations around the roots and over time is converted into a calcrete. When the roots die, the space occupied by the root is subsequently also filled with a carbonate material derived from the calcium in the former tissue of the roots and possibly also from water leaching through the structures. Although evidence has been provided for this mechanism in the formation of root casts in South Africa, evidence is still required for its role in the formation of the Pinnacles.

More about the Pinnacles

The Pinnacles - WA

Things to do at the Pinnacles

1. Visit the Discovery Centre to learn about the theories of formation and the wildlife out in the desert.

Pinnacles 2

2. Take “selfie” photos with a backdrop of stone formations while the kids have a field day playing in the largest sandbox ever…

Pinnacles 3

3. Follow the trails around the Pinnacles if you can handle the heat. Just make sure you cover up and “slip, slop, slap”. Even though the weather was hot, we kept the boys in longs since they offered better protection against the burning heat of the sun which would feel even hotter against the skin not to mention the potential for sunburn.

The Pinnacles are a lovely place to visit – both unique and interesting to see. Was it worth the 5 hour return journey? I’m not really sure. Nevertheless it was a great experience for the kids to see a desert for the first time in their lives.

Pinnacles 1

There is apparently quite a bit of other stuff to do out there but we didn’t get around to it. You would probably have to make it more than a day trip to get all that in. For us, the boys were only interested in playing with the sand while the rest of us melted under the heat. I think we couldn’t wait to get back to the air-conditioned interiors of our cars.

But I digress… For those interested, here are some of the other attractions in the area:

  • Emu Downs Wind Farm
  • Lake Thetis and Stromatalites
  • Stockyard Gully National Park
  • Badgingarra Nature Trail
  • Nambung National Park
  • Lesueur National Park
  • Marine Park
  • Coomaloo Nature Reserve
  • Beekeepers Nature Reserves
  • Wildflowers

Visitor Information

  • Entry fee: $12 per vehicle
  • Visitor Centre operating hours: 9:30am to 5pm
  • Camping available
  • How to get there
  • What to bring:
    • slip, slop, slap – sunscreen; hat; and light, loose-fitting long sleeve shirt and pants to protect against the sun
    • water – as there is no water available
    • sturdy shoes for walking
    • plastic bag for your rubbish as there are no bins available

Places to Eat

We had lunch at the Sea Breeze Cafe which was rated No. 1 in Cervantes on TripAdvisor. They serve a variety of Western food – fish and chips, other seafood (that they boast is so fresh that the sea creatures were still living in the sea the day before you eat them), burgers, and pizzas. Pizzas are only served at dinner so we didn’t get to try them. As far as fish and chips go, it was pretty good, according to DH, except it was a bit pricey. Since I’m not really a fish and chip person, I don’t really feel qualified to comment.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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