Known for its huge iron ore industry, Port Hedland in Western Australia isn’t necessarily the first town you think of when visiting Australia!
Gritty, remote and industrial, it’s certainly not Sydney’s Bondi Beach or Cairn’s Great Barrier Reef.
Yet somehow Port Hedland does have a strange charm all of its own. Not least because of its location.
Right in the centre of Western Australia’s epic Pilbara region, this town is at the heart of a hot, remote and red dust sort of country.
As such, anyone who enjoys a road trip from Broome to Perth (like we did) or visits the epic Karijini National Park (definitely one of the best Australian National Parks) is likely to make a stop at Port Hedland, if only to stock up on supplies.
While you are there, then why not stay at night or 2 and enjoy more of what this Outback town has to offer with these, the 10 best free things to do in Port Hedland.
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#1 Marvel at the Salt Piles
As you soon as you drive into Port Hedland you’re bound to be confronted, as we were, by a giant pile of white stacked so high it can clearly be seen from miles around.
At first confused as to what exactly it was, we soon realised this was actually a huge mound of salt, literally being farmed along the side of the highway!
Known locally as Snow Mountain, we loved how this giant tower belittled the huge pieces of machinery being used to dig and shovel the salt. Despite, their massive size in real-life, these great farming pieces of equipment were made to look like toys in comparison to the size of the salt mound.
#2 Watch the Ships Loading
In keeping with the industry theme, a trip down to the town’s ship-loading facility is a must on my list of the best free things to do in Port Hedland.
To see such huge quantities of natural resources being brought to this port and ultimately loaded onto boats bound for destinations across the world is fascinating, if not an alarming sight.
The scale of this operation seriously puts a lot of things into perspective and whatever your feelings on the matter, it’s hard not to be slightly bowled over by the scale of such an operation.
One of the best spots to watch the activity from is Marapikurrinya Park, so head here if you’re not up for paying for a port tour.
#3 Discover the Spinifex Hill Studios
Located in the South Hedland Town Centre, the Spinifex Hill Studio is open five days a week and discovering this small art space is definitely one of the best free things to do in Port Hedland.
With a focus on aboriginal artists, many of whom work directly in the centre, this is a great place to view local artwork, chat with its creators and get to learn more about the local people in this area.
#4 Check out the West End Markets
If its arts and crafts that you’re in to, then a trip to the West End Markets, is another great free thing to do in Port Hedland.
The result of a recent redevelopment, the historic West End area of town now has a renewed vibrancy to it and leading this is the quarterly markets.
Featuring a curated selection of 50 local stallholders including artists, craftspeople, designers and gourmet produce, these are the only local maker’s markets in the area and can attract up to 5000 visitors!
#5 Marvel at the Stairway to the Moon
Another seasonal event in Port Hedland is the Stairway to the Moon, a natural phenomenon also found in the Western Australian town of Broome.
Taking place when the full moon roses over the exposed mudflats at extremely low tide, the resulting illusion that stairs reaching to the moon appear before you, is quite spectacular.
Check Australia’s North West for details of the next occurrence and try to time your visit accordingly – you won’t regret it!
Budget Places to Stay in Port Hedland
Popular with road trippers, most of Port Hedland’s budget accommodation comes in the form of caravan parks or motels and there are some really great ones.
Here’s our pick of the bunch:
Click the links to book them at the best rates now!
#6 Witness a Turtle Laying Their Eggs
And timing your visit to Port Hedland right is exactly what you have to do if you want to catch the amazing sight of adult flatback turtles nesting at Cemetery Beach.
From October to January, Port Hedland’s beaches are home to hundreds of flatback turtles as they nest. Then from December to March is the hatchling season.
Located opposite the Pioneer Cemetery, the Cemetery Beach Park interpretative signage centre is very good, but for turtle viewing and monitoring, it is advisable to contact the local Care for Hedland Environmental Association on 0488 907 260.
#7 Relax at Pretty Pool
If its natural pursuits that you’re into, then heading to Pretty Pool is another great free thing to do in Port Hedland.
This recreation spot is ideal for picnics, catching a sunset, enjoying a swim or firing up a barbie!
Essentially an estuary inlet, the swimming here is safe and there’s great birdlife to spot as well.
5 ESSENTIAL PACKING ITEMS FOR AUSTRALIA
#1 Good Camera – You will be pretty much snapping non-stop in Australia and will need a good camera to do this gorgeous country justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national park! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strollling, I love mine
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together
#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion, you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.
#8 Catch a Free Movie
Enjoy a free movie under the stars in the Courthouse Gallery Gardens, where you can kick back in a vintage-style deckchair and enjoy a live acoustic performance before the film under a real Pilbara sky!
Free moves night are generally held throughout the year on a Saturday in Port Hedland, but do check seasonal programmes for specific times and dates.
Otherwise, the Courthouse Gallery is definitely worth checking out in its own right. In addition to regular exhibitions, they also run weekly yoga, kids art clubs and workshops.
#9 Visit the Don Rhodes Mining Museum
This open-air museum is a great free thing to do in Port Hedland as it provides a super insight into the history and development of the mining industry that shaped this town.
If you think you can stretch to $3, then the nearby Dalgety House Museum is also well worth visiting.
Dating from 1903, it’s one of the few remaining examples of 20th century architecture in the town. It’s open from 11am-2pm.
#10 Be Wowed by a Pilbara Sunset
Sometimes just stopping to enjoy the splendour of a sunset is one of the best free things to do in life full stop, never mind Port Hedland!
With some epic Outback skies awaiting you here however, there’s several places to enjoy the closing colours of the day to their fullest.
Koombana Lookout is one of those spots, which gives great views of the lights of the harbour too.
Otherwise, the Redbank Bridge Salt & Train Lookout is another great place to head at sunset and enjoy views of the towering salt pile and the giant iron ore trains moving along the railway as the daylight fades.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So that’s my list of the top 10 free things to do in Port Hedland.
Have you made it this far into Western Australia’s Pilbara region?
What did you love doing there?