BHP Billiton is the largest operator in Port Hedland with 8 berths. Fortescue Metals currently has 3 operatinal berths, and a fourth berth under construction, due to be completed in early 2013. A number of Iron Ore juniors have plans to open berths in Port Hedland over the coming years.
Port Hedland also exports Salt and Copper with the Port Hedland Port Authority having 4 common user berths utilised by a number of smaller mining companies.
Port Hedland has an international airport and flights from Perth are frequent, although not very cheap. A small bar is available in the departures lounge with an alfresco area which caters to smokers. There are usually direct flights from Melbourne and Brisbane once a week, and twice weekly service direct to Bali, Indonesia, but these are suspended as of Jan 2021 due to the covid pandemic.
Otherwise drive in from the Great Northern highway to the south, Karratha from the west or Broome from the north-east. Allow at least two long days driving from Perth, the most direct route is via the Great Northern Highway, but its dull and not much to see en route. Plenty of service stations on the way, make sure you dont let your tank get too empty before driving our of town. Food is pretty ordinary and expensive, you're really doing yourself a favour bringing your own picnic to eat on the way.
There are numerous rail lines going into Port Headland, but these are very strictly only for the famous iron ore trains.
Dont get your expectations out of place, Port Headland is primarily a heavy industry town and there are barely any sights, most tourists pass straight through.
Due to the large tidal range in the area (up to 7m in Spring Tides), Port Hedland has many mangrove lined tidal creeks around town that present excellent fishing and crabbing opportunities. Whilst at High tide the water can easily be accessed for swimming and the beaches quite inviting, visitors must be cautious as Saltwater Crocodiles and Sharks are frequently spotted. In the hotter months when the water warms up a number of dangerous marine creatures including stonefish, blue ring octopus and box jellyfish are also present. Pretty Pool Park is probably the nicest place to go hang out near a Port Headland beach.
There are areas to view the large iron ore trains coming into town, just north of the town's main interchange. Try to count how many carriages there are.
You can also go to Port Headland town itself and spot the bulk carriers in the port getting loaded with endless tonnes of black iron ore, en route to (mostly) China. Try to get a sense of appreciation how what you are seeing is carrying 10-15% of Australia's entire economy, and is driving China's construction and manufacturing boom.
The Port Hedland visitors centre should be contacted to see what tours are operating as it may be possible to tour both BHP and FMG's Port Operations. Otherwise there is not a great deal to do here. You could wander around the beach area but this is a working town.
Speaking of which, if you think you have a skill that is useful in the mining or construction industry, this is probably the best place in Australia to seek work. There is always a demand for certain trades and professions out here and wages can be very good, although work is demanding and isolating. You need somewhere to spend your breaks as well. Only those with full working visas or Australian residency need apply.
Your best bet is to head to the South Headland area, this should have everything most tourists need. Theres a small shopping centre there with supermarkets, a Kmart, banks, hairdressers, newsagent and other shops. Nearby is a modern car wash, a hardware store and other shops. Most basic things are cheap enough, anything service related will cost more than Perth. South Headland shops can attract 'characters' who hang out there, so lock you car up.
The industrial area of Wedgefield slightly to north has mechanics and tyre shops and windscreen replacement should you need their services. It wont be cheap, but this may be your best bet for those services anywhere between here and Darwin if you're headed north.
There is very little need to head into Port Headland town, unless you have business there or want to see the port. There is one other small shopping centre out that way though.
Due to the large influx of workers and shortage of places to eat in town, unfortunately prices to eat out have been greatly increased, if you are after a nice venue with an atmosphere. There are fast food venues in South Headland and near the Port Headland CBD areas.
Supermarkets are generally reasonably priced and not too different from the city, although some items cost slightly more. Try to self-cater if you are on any sort of budget. Service stations have food if you're just passing through, but is usually a bit unhealthy and not cheap either.
There are two main pubs in Port Headland. One is in South Headland called the Last Chance. Maybe the best bet for a tipple, Sports Bar can be rowdy. Theres also The Pier hotel in Port Headland's CBD area, opposite the port. A classic old building that seemingly hasn't changed since the 60s, it has a huge beer garden and plenty of atmosphere. Rowdy can be an understatement and hygiene is questionable.
Otherwise you can buy drinks from linseed stores and enjoy at your accommodation. Just remember Port Headland is primarily a town of transient workers, so the atmosphere in bars may be uncomfortable for some.
Contact the Port Hedland visitors centre for options.
Note: As at mid 2012 accomodation is at a severe shortage in Port Hedland and as a result prices extremely high. It is recommended to book well in advance.