The Pilbara region covers more than 505,000 square kilometres (195,000 square miles) of Western Australia. It is surrounded by the Indian Ocean to the Northwest, the Kimberley to the North, the Northern Territory to the East and the Goldfields, Mid West and Gascoyne regions to the South.
The Pilbara is a very ancient land, with iron mining being the main industry. Like all other areas of Northern Western Australia, the Pilbara is very sparsely populated. It is a very hot area, the Marble Bar area is often quoted as the hottest place in Australia.
The Pilbara is an arid land of Old, a landscape of ancient rocks and stones, some estimated to be over 3 billion years old (!). The area is not fully barren (like the inner deserts), but is still very inhospitable, dry, and most of all extremely hot. Just like the rest of Western Australia, the Pilbara is very sparsely populated, furthermore here a good majority of the small population works for/is related to the mining industry. The scenery, however, has not been disfigured, and some beautiful natural attractions are found throughout the vast expanses of the Pilbara.
In the few areas where there are actually people to talk to, English should do just fine, just like in the rest of the country...
Getting in the Pilbara requires flying to Port Hedland, Newman or Karratha via Perth (daily flights by Qantas), or drive the very long route from either Perth or Darwin (Port Hedland to Perth is 1650 km via the Great Northern Highway, 1770 via the Coastal Highway, and Port Hedland to Darwin is 2400 km...).
Flights from Perth are expensive, but the cost varies greatly depending on the type of ticket purchased. The less flexible "Red E-Deals" are the lowest cost, but sell out quickly. Book well ahead to ensure you get a seat at a reasonable price.
Scheduled buses between Perth and Port Hedland are operated by Integrity Coachlines. The service runs four times a week and takes approximately 22 hours with 19 intermediate stops. Three times a week the bus continues on to Broome, a further 14 hours.
Standard one-way fare for one adult from Perth to Port Hedland varies between $275 and $295 depending on which route the bus takes. Port Hedland to Broome is $129 (June 2015).
There are two main sealed roads, the Great Northern Highway and the North West Coastal Highway. The Great Northern Highway passes through old gold mining towns like Cue and Meekatharra. North West Coastal Highway passes through Geraldton and Carnarvon.
The recently constructed Karratha Tom Price Road (Stage 2) is a sealed link from Karratha to just short of the Millstream oasis (about 90km). There are some spectacular views long the way. Note that the road is not sealed all the way to Tom Price.
Coming to the Pilbara without paying a visit to Karijini would be missing a lot.
Eat and Drink
Eating fine delicacies should probably not be the main objective of a trip to the Pilbara. Port Hedland and Karratha are reasonnable options to gather sufficient supplies to go into the outback, and are probably the only options to have a drink anyway. Temperatures can be extreme, so the recommended choice for a drink in the area is actually water.
Accommodation anywhere in the Pilbara (but especially Port Hedland and Karratha) is likely to be in short supply at most times, and very expensive. Book well ahead to secure a room.
Karijini National Park
If you are extremely well prepared for some very serious remote 4WD driving, you can reach the vast Rudall River National Park on the Eastern side of the Pilbara. This park is actually one of the largest National Parks in the world, but also one of the most remote and least visited. There are absolutely no facilities, stores or supply, and you will have to drive 260 km on 4WD tracks from Newman.
There are no possibilities to leave the Pilbara to the East on the ground (no tracks, even unsealed). The only way to get out the region is to the North on the Great Northern Highway or to the South.