Southern Forests, WA
Western Australia’s southern forests offer a leafy alternative for your summer holiday.
The southern forests of WA offer a cool, green alternative for summer camping and, with a maze of rivers and dams, there’s also plenty of opportunities for a cool dip. This is my backyard and these are four of my favourite summer holiday destinations away from the coast.
Valley of the Giants
There’s a reason some places become top tourist attractions and it’s usually because they’re something special. Sometimes you just have to suck up the crowds and go and see them. The Tree Top Walk in the Valley of the Giants is one such place.
It’s one thing to walk among the giant tingle trees on the ground; it’s quite another perspective to be up in the midst of their towering canopies. The 600m walkway rises 40m above the forest floor and provides a breathtaking experience.
If heights are not your thing, the Ancient Empire walk, located at ground level near the Tree Top Walk, will still provide some stunning scenery. This boardwalk meanders among some veteran tingle trees and the girth of their bases will amaze.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) also runs a "forest by night" experience, where you can do both walks at night while learning spotlighting – searching for the nocturnal creatures that live in these forests. There is also a range of school holiday programs on offer.
Accommodation is available in Walpole on the shore of the Walpole Inlet at Rest Point Holiday Village.
Alternatively, conveniently located at the entrance to the Valley of the Giants Road in Nornalup is Valley of the Giants Eco Park.
The historic timber town of Pemberton has reinvented itself as a tourist destination with lots of galleries, cafes and wineries. Surrounded by some spectacular national parks, it also makes a good kick-off point for camping.
Only a few minutes out of town is the Big Brook Forest. This is a young forest, regenerated after being logged in the 1920s. In 1986, Big Brook Dam was built in the middle of it, primarily to supply water to Pemberton and the local trout hatchery. However, it is also set up for visitors to swim and fish there, with even a man-made sandy "beach" to lay your towel down on.
Nearby is WA’s most famous karri tree, the Gloucester Tree. At a towering 61m high, it was originally used as a fire lookout, but now visitors are allowed to climb it for spectacular views of the karri forest.
Warren National Park has a few campsites, including Drafty’s Camp with 22 individual shaded sites and nearby Warren Campsite with about six.
Kalgan and King Rivers
Yes, Albany is a coastal town with some great beaches nearby, but if you shy away from the waves there are some lovely rivers and estuaries to enjoy. There are a number of different caravan parks located on the banks of the rivers around Albany offering direct access to the water.
Staying at the Kalgan River Caravan Park, we were able to launch the kayaks from right behind our campsite into the river, which is very wide at this point.
You can’t talk about Albany without mentioning Whale World. Located on the site of the last whaling station in Australia, it really does provide the "fantastic interactive journey" that the brochures promise. With a 3D film, which really makes you dodge the oncoming whales, life-sized skeletons, a real whaling ship to explore and masses more in between, this one is worthwhile. Be warned though if you have smaller children, the videos of the whaling station in operation are pretty bloody — literally.
Accommodation is available at Kalgan River Chalets and Caravan Park. Powered sites $38 per couple per night; extra person $10 per night. To book, click here.
Barrabup and Workman’s Pools
If you pass through the old timber mill town of Nannup and head out towards St John Brook, you’ll come across the delightful Barrabup Pool and further downstream, Workman’s Pool.
Barrabup Pool is a naturally formed waterhole and the surrounding tall trees provide plenty of shade. There is a great wooden shelter and stepped access to the water, as well as a landing built out over the water, which you can jump from.
As well as good swimming, this area has a number of trails, which are suitable for walking or bike riding. Freshwater fishing, in season and with a licence, is also popular, as is bird watching.
The Barrabup Pool camping area has five campsites available. No bookings here, this operates on a first come, first served basis. A 300m track links the campsites with Barrabup Pool.
Workman’s Pool has six campsites near it with similar facilities and is located where the old township stood. The pool here is smaller, but it’s still a lot of fun.
Check out the full feature in issue #85 February 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.