Newman Visitors Centre

Newman Visitor Centre is a unique world class Visitor Centre showcasing a wide range of souveniers and maps. We also have a selection of books, a contemporary range of jewellery, glassware, CAT model trucks and a great selection of gifts and homewares. The Gallery Coffee Shop at The Visitor Centre provides a lovely place to relax and enjoy a beautiful Devonshire Tea or a light snack after a long day of travelling.

Image courtesy of Haylee Guiver

Image courtesy of Haylee Guiver

Mt Whaleback Mine Tours

The Largest Single Open Cut Iron Ore Mine in the World! Tours of the Mine depart from the Visitor Centre at 9.15 in the morning and arrive back to the Visitor Centre at 10.45am. You then enjoy a lovely Devonshire Tea. It is an essential requirement that all visitors on the Tour wear a long sleeved shirt, long pants and fully enclosed shoes. A Minimum of 4 passengers is required for the tour to go ahead. Special tours for large groups can be arranged.


Newman Waterholes provide opportunities for half day or full day trips from Newman, or to go bush camping overnight. You can get maps and directions for all the local waterholes from the Newman Visitors Centre.

Opthalmia Dam - The dam is a good picnic and camping spot easily accessible from Newman. The dam was originally constructed to recharge the underlying aquifer used as a water source for Newman and is filled by the Fortescue River and Warrawanda Creek during the wet season. The dam can dry up if rains have been infrequent, so it is best visited after the wet season in late autumn or early winter. Hot plates, toilets and shade are provided. No swimming at the dam.

Kalgan’s Pool (Access Permit Required) - An easy 4WD out to one of the most popular waterholes on the Newman Waterhole Circuit. A large pool at the base of a cliff is good for swimming and rarely dries up completely. The main pool and other shallower pools along the creek are located in a scenic gorge with high banded iron formation walls. There is plenty of room to camp near the pool under shady paperbark trees Permit available from the Visitor Centre.

Eagle Rock Pool and Falls (Access Permit Required) - It is the spectacular views of the cliffs and Coondiner Gorge that make this spot well worth a visit, particularly just after heavy rain when the falls thunder off the cliff edge. The main track leads to Eagle Rock Pool, a good camping and swimming spot, however a detour across a creek to the falls is the main attraction. The track to the falls may be impassable if the creek is flowing and it is also rough. The falls are only a short 2km walk down the creek if you leave your car at the pool. At the fall the southern end of Coondiner Gorge is surrounded by red cliffs of volcanic rock popular with rock wallabies and local rock climbers. In the wet season the creek plummets down two sets of falls, 12 and 60 metres high. The falls only flow after heavy rain however permanent pools are found at the base of both falls most of the year. Spangled Perch somehow have managed to reach the upper pool near the base of the upper set of falls. Permit available from the Visitor Centre.

Weeli Wolli (Station Permission Required) - This is a pretty place with lots of clear shallow pools surrounded by large rivergum and paperbark trees. Some date palms that grow along the eastern bank of the creek are a legacy of Afghan Cameleers who used to camp here. The pools are shallow and are inhabited by three main species of fish: Western Rainbow, Spangled Perch and Eel-tail Catfish. A few pieces of bread can spark a feeding frenzy as all the Rainbows and Perch converge on the food whilst the catfish clean up the scraps on the bottom. This is a permanent series of pools with water constantly flowing even during the dry season. Access to Weeli Wolli is via a few river crossings which can go from ankle depth to above bonnet high, so make sure you walk all river crossings before driving through. Marillana Station Contact: Sue Bicknell - (08) 9175 7032

Wunnamunna - This is probably the best known Aboriginal site in the Newman area and is conveniently located only 2kms off the Great Northern Highway. Consider visiting Wunnamunna on the way to Karijini National Park. Large numbers of human figures and animals are carved into the dolerite rock on both sides of a sandy creek bed.

Image courtesy of Monique Manson, Capture This Photography

Image courtesy of Monique Manson, Capture This Photography

Fairy Circles – the Newest Discovery in the Pilbara

“Fairy Circles” are patches of bare earth that form a regular, hexagonal pattern within grassed areas. These patterns form between multiple plants and are different to the common, normal growth pattern that occurs within individual spinifex plants. Fairy Circles are best seen from the sky and in aerial images and can be missed if viewed from the ground.

These Fairy Circles were originally thought to be unique to Namibia, where they had attracted scientific interest for decades investigating their formation. Theories ranged from termites or ants to aliens and spirits. In 2014, Dr Stephan Getzin, a German scientist from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, published a paper on the Namibia Fairy Circles supporting a different theory – “self-organisation”. Self-organisation theory suggests that the circles are a consequence of natural competition between grasses in low rainfall arid zones with poor soil nutrient availability.

This 2014 paper was read by Bronwyn bell, an Environmental Engineer working in the Pilbara, who initially mistook the Namibian photos in the paper to be the spinifex patterns she had observed around Newman. Determined that the patterns in the Namibia desert were the same as those on the Pilbara, she emailed photos of the Pilbara Fairy Circle patterns to Dr Getzin and suggested that the Namibia Fairy Circles were not the only ones in the world and that he should catch a plane to Newman and ask for a window seat. Within 6 months, Dr Getzin and another scientist, Hezi Yizhaq (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel) had done exactly that and flown to the Pilbara to study the Fairy Circles. Their findings were published in March 2016 supporting self-organisation theory and the confirming of the discovery of the Pilbara’s Fairy Circles.

The Pilbara’s Fairy Circles are 4-7m in diameter and occur approximately 15kms from the Newman township near the airport. As they are best seen from the sky, be sure to ask for a window seat on your flight out of Newman and look out the window just after take-off to see if you can spot them.

Fun Facts

  • In 1861, FT Gregory was exploring east of Port Hedland when members of his party noticed their compass affected by the iron ore contained in the surrounding hills.
  • This paved the way for the development of the industry and the birth of the Mt Newman Iron Ore project.
  • Five years later in 1962, Goldsworthy Mining Associates explored iron ore deposits at Mt Goldsworthy, north-east of Port Hedland. In 1965 construction began to establish the town of Goldsworthy and a railway to carry iron ore 110 kilometres to new port facilities at Finucane Island, Port Hedland.
  • On the first of June 1966, the vessel the Harvey S Mudd left Port Hedland with the first shipment of iron ore from the Pilbara to Japan.
  • The population of Newman is currently around 6,000 people.
  • The average Iron ore tonnage per ship is 190,000 tonnes and this has been increasing as the push for larger shallower drafted vessels continues. Around 8 fully loaded trains would fill one ship.
  • When the mine is converted into a lake, it will not be used recreationally. The process for the natural recovery of the ground water will take hundreds of years and the resulting lake will be saline. This is due to the rate of recharge versus the rate of evaporation.
  • The water pumped from the pit cannot be used for drinking. The aquifer that feeds into the pit is not connected to the regional groundwater system. Newman’s drinking water comes from the Ophthalmia Dam system.
  • In the 2012 Financial Year, BHP railed over 4.75 times what we railed in 1979. This was enough ore to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground over 40 times.
  • We are shipping enough ore that once turned into steel it could make over 6 Sydney Harbour Bridges a day!
  • If we turned all the ore that our BHPBIO West Australian Operation has produced since 1966 into steel, and then made Sydney Harbour Bridges and joined them end-to-end - we could build a bridge from one side of Australia to the other going the long way… around the world!
  • If we turned all the ore that our BHPBIO West Australian Operation has produced since 1966 into steel, and then made Eiffel Towers stacking them side by side, this would span three quarters the distance around the world!
  • The Newman Visitors Centre building was first opened on the 23rd of July 1994 as the Silver Jubilee Museum Gallery by the then Premier, Richard Court.
  • Both the Visitor Centre and the building next to it are made of rammed earth, sourced from the Satellite Orebody 25, now known as Eastern Ridge.
  • BHPBIO has shipped over 1 billion tonnes to both Japan and China since operations began. To give you an idea on how much 1 billion tonnes of iron ore is:
    • It would fill an iron ore train 83,000km long. this would be long enough to stretch around the equator twice
    • It would fill 167,000 Olympic swimming pools
    • It would fill 6,000 Cape Size ships which would stretch for almost 2,000km if lined up end to end
  • The 200 tonne Wabco located in the visitors centre carpark is one of only 30 ever made in the world, and Mt Whaleback had 22 of them. Five of these were driven 400km from Hamersley Iron in Tom Price to Newman, making their own roads, with just one flat tyre. This video can be found on the Newman Visitors Centre Facebook page
  • BHPBIO has over 1300km of track running from Port Hedland to its mining hubs at Newman, Yandi, MAC and Jimblebar, of which much of it is dual track to allow for the required train movements and route trains around any track related issues.
  • In June 2001 BHP Billiton Iron Ore set a record for the world’s longest and heaviest train. The train comprised of eight AC6000’s locomotives, 682 ore cars and was 7.353km long. It weighed 99,732.1 tonnes and had 5,648 wheels. It carried a world record net mass of 82,262 tonnes of iron ore over a distance of 275km from mine to port. Once again with only one Rail Technician. This effort is now in the Guinness Book of World Records as the worlds’ longest and heaviest train. This video can be seen on the Newman Visitors Centres facebook page
  • Mt Whaleback & the surrounding orebodies produce more than 65 million tonnes of iron ore each year.
  • It was named Mt Whaleback because before mining started here in the 60s the aerial view resembled the outline of a humpback whale.
  • Ophthalmia Dam, which is Newman’s water supply. The dam has a surface area of 16 square kilometres and supplies artesian water. The water is stored underground due to our high evaporation rate, which is ten times greater than the area’s average rainfall. It was built in 1981. When the Fortescue River floods (about three times a year), water is pumped into four holding ponds at the dam. Water leaches through the sandy bottom to recharge the aquifers below.
  • Approximately 46 million litres of water (equivalent to 18 Olympics swimming pools) is pumped out every week from the pit.

Image courtesy of Jaymee Moyle

Image courtesy of Jaymee Moyle


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