Hyden is a small farming town in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, 292 km east of Perth and with a population of 384 in 2021. Its star attraction is Wave Rock.
Come prepared for the climate, which Nov-March is dry and routinely above 30°C. The sparse rains fall May-Sept, when daytime highs are below 20°C, and nights drop to 5°C.
In the Dreaming, Wagyl the Rainbow Serpent drank up all the water here, then dragged her bloated body across the land. Her slithering carved out Wave Rock and other formations, and she left little pools of moisture in her wake. She appointed the Noongar people to be hereditary guardians of this land, while she busied herself elsewhere: under different names she carved out canyons and valleys and rock formations right across Australia. Whenever the precious rains replenish this parched land, you might see a rainbow - that's Wagyl curling from one waterhole to another.
This region was once a savannah, with a river catchment draining west to join the Avon and Swan towards Perth. Those rivers still flow but their eastern tributaries dried up, leaving long chains of salt lakes. It was semi-arid not outright desert, so when Europeans arrived they found just enough water for wheat farming and livestock. Hyden town was established in 1922. And over the following century, these practical workaday people became part of a western Dreaming no less wondrous, which relates how the ashes of an exploded star formed their world, their own bodies, and the abundant minerals of Australia. Then groundwater charged with corrosive minerals seeped down the side of a buried block of granite, eating out a concavity. Another 50 to 100 million years passed while surrounding material was eroded away, and Wave Rock emerged into the sunlight.
Hyden is 340 km from Perth on Brookton Highway (Hwy 40), via Brookton, Corrigin and Kondinin. Reckon five hours drive, so with an early start it's within a day trip, but beware driver fatigue on the return to the city. Hwy 40 is a good sealed road that eventually joins National Route 1 at Ravensthorpe.
Transwa buses run once a week from Perth, taking 4 hr 40 min via Mundaring, York, Corrigin and Kondinin. The bus stop is by the hotel. They take a short rest stop then continue south to Ravensthorpe, Munglinup and Esperance, another 5 hours. Transwa ply between Perth and Esperance on other days but not via Hyden, so you either spend 48 hours here then return to Perth, or as many whole weeks as you can face before going on to Esperance.
The airstrip just north of Wave Rock has no commercial flights but is open to private light aircraft.
You need your own vehicle, 2WD is fine. Hyden town centre is around Marshall and McPherson Streets, and Wave Rock is 4 km east, with Hippo's Yawn another 1 km. The Humps are 18 km north along Lovering Road.
The sites are privately managed and not part of the national or state park system. In 2023 it costs $12 per vehicle for Wave Rock, pay in coins at the kiosk or ticket machine. From the car park it's a 100 m walk to the rock.
If you intend also to visit the Wildlife Park, park there instead for less and walk the extra 100 m to Wave Rock car park.
You could also drive on to Hippo's Yawn, park there for free, then walk the 1 km trail to Wave Rock. It's a pleasant walk if the heat's not too fierce.
- Wave Rock Wildlife Park, Wave Rock Rd (opposite caravan site and entrance to rock), ☏ +61 8 9880 5182. Daily 9AM-5PM. Small bush park with various Australian animals such as kangaroos, parrots, koalas, black swans, and, er, alpacas? You can sit out with your lunch. Adult $15 (combi $20), child $7.50.
- The Lace Place, Wave Rock Rd (by entrance to Wildlife Park), ☏ +61 8 9880 5052. Daily 9AM-5PM. The boondocks of Australia have fine lace the way County Kerry has wallabies, but this unexpected collection was amassed by Mrs Margaret Blackburn (1920-1990) of Perth, with pieces old and new. Adult $5 or combi.
- Toy Soldier Museum within the same complex remains closed in 2023.
- Lake Magic next to Wave Rock Resort is a salty gypsum lake with attractive colours especially at dawn and dusk, part of the long chain of pools that the ancestral snake left across this landscape. Pay at the Resort kiosk (adults $10, children $5) and walk around. Don't take a vehicle onto the lakeside, it will bog down, and they charge $500 to haul you out. The mozzies are a pest here.
- 1 Wave Rock is the reason you've come all this way. It's a granite wall some 110 m long by 15 m high, concave like a giant wave about to break, and streaked by mineral deposits. It's the most spectacular outcrop of the underlying Hyden Rock, and is thought to have been created when chemicals in the ground-water eroded the base of the rock some 50-100 million years ago, when it was still buried. The softer surroundings then washed away, leaving Hyden Rock as an "inselberg" rearing up on the plain, with its north cliff sculpted into the wave.
- 2 Hippo's Yawn 1 km east was formed in a similar way. Here the cliff has eroded more deeply to create a gaping cavern.
- 3 The Humps are 18 km northeast of Hyden via Lovering Road. This is a granite dome rising 80 m above the plains and dotted with massive boulders weathered into fantastical shapes. A couple of trails wind up and around the dome with panels explaining its geological, botanical and Aboriginal cultural features.
- Mulka's cave (or Bate's Cave) in the northeast corner of The Humps is a recess beneath a huge boulder, with a remarkable collection of 450 handprints and other Aboriginal rock-art. Their age is uncertain, perhaps hundreds of years rather than the thousands that the area has been inhabited.
- Other rock formations dot the landscape, such as King Rock 30 km east of The Humps, but they have bad access roads. Tell someone before you venture out this far, as there's no way to call for help if you break down.
- Wild flowers burst into colour between September and November, depending on the weather. The dry terrain is briefly lit up, as if by slow-motion fireworks.
- Hyden swimming pool is public. It's at 4 McPherson St opposite the Bakehouse, open Tu-Su 10:30-18:00.
- Wave Rock Weekender is a music and film festival staged around the rock face and caravan park. The next is probably 22-25 Sept 2023, tbc.
- Fuel: the self-serve on the main highway is open 24 hours.
- Hyden IGA, Marshall St (next to hotel), ☏ +61 8 9880 5272. M-F 8AM-6PM, Sa 8AM-4PM, Su 11AM-4PM. A small selection of fresh fruit and veg, and a wider range of frozen and canned goods.
- Hyden Trading Company, 14 McPherson St (behind IGA), ☏ +61 8 9880 5057. M-F 8AM-6PM, Sa 8AM-1PM. General store with a wider selection than IGA.
- Hyden Hotel has the best dining, see below.
- Bush Bakehouse Cafe, 10 McPherson St (behind IGA), ☏ +61 8 9880 5678. M-F 6AM-4PM, Sa 7AM-4PM, Su 9AM-3PM. Pleasant place for coffee and light bites.
Hyden has no pub. The restaurant at the Hyden Hotel has a bar.
- 1 Wave Rock Caravan Park, 1 Wave Rock Rd, ☏ +61 8 9880 5022. A ring of sandy caravan and tent sites around a central ablution block. The campers' kitchen only has a fridge, kettle and microwave. Dogs welcome on leash. Powered site $70, unpowered $55.
- 2 Wave Rock Resort, Wave Rock Rd, ☏ +61 8 9880 5022. Fourteen two bedroom brick villas with kitchen, one having a disabled accessible bathroom. It's in the sparse countryside around the lake. Double (room only) $170.
- 3 Wave Rock Hotel, 2 Lynch St, ☏ +61 429 511511. Motel with 55 rooms and 3 suites, decor stuck the 1970s and pricey for what you get. Double (room only) $165.
- 4 The Cottage, 5 Smith Loop, ☏ +61 400 488821. Pleasant self-catering accommodation. They also operate the Bungalow, the Chalet, Silos motel and a campground. Double $200.
As of Feb 2023, Hyden and its approach roads have no mobile signal.
- Highway 40 curls south through Lake King to join Highway 1 at Ravensthorpe. East is the interminable road across the Nullarbor Plain towards Adelaide. South leads to the small coast resort of Hopetoun, with a great arc of white beach.
- Fitzgerald River National Park west of Ravensthorpe has primordial granite peaks and plant life undisturbed by agriculture.
- Norseman can be reached by the 300 km dirt road heading east from Hyden. It's little more than a road junction, with routes to Kalgoorlie, Esperance and away east.