One of our favourite destinations in Western Australia is Pemberton, a small town about three and a half hours south of Perth. I’m not sure if it’s the giant karri trees, the pristine Warren River, the incredibly peaceful vibe or some of the best sand driving in Australia, but it pulls us back regularly and we wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’ve never been to Pemberton, put it on the bucket list and book a visit soon!
Whether you want to spend a few quiet days hauled away in a timber cottage or an adventure-packed weekend, Pemberton has you covered.
Pemberton logging was huge and although no longer in use, the sawmill is in the centre of town.
Originally a logging town, the Pemberton sawmill supplied timber sleepers for railway lines and other projects. Still located in the centre of town, the mill closed in 2016 and Pemberton has since become a desirable getaway destination for those seeking a quiet, slower and gentler pace.
Pemberton is well known for its local produce and boasts many avocado, potato, tomato and sweet corn farms, as well as vineyards. It is close to world-class national parks, stunning beaches and the beautiful Warren River.
The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is 75 metres tall and absolutely stunning for climbing and views.
Despite being a small serene country town, Pemberton has loads of amazing experiences to enjoy for the adventure enthusiast.
Climb the giant trees
If you aren’t too afraid of heights, there are two giant trees a short distance from town that can be climbed. Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is 65 metres tall and is the largest climbing tree in the world! Originally used as a fire lookout for the surrounding karri forest, the tree was pegged in 1988 and is now more of an attraction for tourists game enough to reach the top.
At 53 metres tall, the Gloucester is the world’s second-largest fire lookout tree and can be found just a couple of kilometres from the Pemberton Post Office. A third slightly shorter tree, the Diamond Tree, can be viewed just outside of town on the Southwest Highway but this one is no longer open for climbing although still holds great historical significance.
Whether you choose to climb or not, the sheer size and atmosphere of these three trees are well worth admiring. Follow it up with a visit to the award-winning State Timber Museum based at the Manjimup Heritage Park which pays tribute to the history of timber in this area.
Pegs are secured all the way up the trunk to create a spiral staircase for climbers.
If you can summon the courage to climb (and the fitness, as it’s hard work!), there is a spiral ladder of secure pegs to assist, as well as platforms for resting or allowing others to pass. If you meet someone mid-way, you can attempt to pass each other on the same peg, or the alternative is for one of you to return to the previous platform. It’s a challenging activity and one that gets the adrenaline going, but is so much fun for those that love a bit of adventure.
One section of the giant sand dune named Callcup Hill.
One of the biggest 4WDing attractions in WA lies not far from Pemberton, in Yeagarup. It’s known as Callcup Hill and is a giant sand dune with three distinct sections that cover 800 metres. The whole Yeagarup area is stunning and has some of the most amazing beach driving around. You can enter from Lake Yeagarup or from Callcup Hill, and exit on either side providing you find a safe crossing of the Warren River.
Many vehicles have sunk or been lost to the elements while attempting the river crossing. The volume of water flowing through can change dramatically in a matter of days, sometimes it’s a small trickle and other times it becomes a full-on river! Use caution and pay careful attention to the safest way across, and make sure there are other vehicles around in case recovery is needed.
Your tyre pressures are supercritical in this area, with 10 PSI being a fairly normal pressure required to get up the dunes, especially during periods of heavy traffic, like school holidays! You can choose to head either north or south along the beach and can travel for many kilometres, but always be prepared!
Alternatively, if you don’t own a 4WD, you can jump on a number of tours that will take you to Yeagarup for the day.
Draftys camp kitchen offers terrific sheltered space for food prep and meals.
Camp at amazing locations
The Department of Parks and Wildlife has done a truly brilliant job with the campsites around Pemberton. There are more to choose from than you can poke a stick at, and the peace and quiet are as good as it gets.
The Heartbreak Trail is a fantastic one-way loop that follows the Warren River and goes past Draftys and Warren Campgrounds. The atmosphere at both is second to none and facilities including toilets, gas BBQs and running water are well maintained. The water is not suitable for drinking, however, so you need to be self-sufficient, but we love spending a few days here.
Camping is also available at Lake Jasper, Leaning Marri, Black Point, Snottygobble Loop, Grass Tree Hollow, Yeagarup Hut and Big Brook Arboretum. All of which are beautiful places for a quiet few days away and kicking back under the karri trees, listening to nothing but the birds chirping for hours on end is one of the most enchanting things about Pemberton.
Young or old the Tramway is a thrill.
Go on the Pemberton Tramway
For a unique experience that the whole family can enjoy, take a ride on the Pemberton Tramway. This diesel/hydraulic tram starts on one side of the town, crosses the main road, heads past the sawmill and into the forest to the waterfalls of Cascades.
We’ve done this twice and although the tickets are not cheap, the experience is well worth it. You can book by ringing, emailing or just turning up on the day but if you take a chance on the latter, bear in mind that it is popular and you may have to wait!
Camping and caravanning sites need to be booked early for Fonty’s Pool.
Head to Fonty’s Pool
One of the best things about the Southwest of WA is that no matter which direction you head, you’ll always stumble upon something worthwhile. Fonty’s Pool is a great example and is located not much more than 20 minutes drive northeast of Pemberton.
This incredibly picturesque location is a dam that was built back in 1907 and holds more than 18 million litres of water! In winter, a staggering volume of around 40,000 litres of water flows through the dam every single hour!
In recent years, Fonty’s has been given a new lease on life with the caravan park enjoying a long-overdue makeover. Popular year-round, Fonty’s Pool offers some of the best photography opportunities in the region and is not only a stunning holiday destination but makes for a terrific day trip as well.
Grab a bag of food from the store to feed the emus and kangaroos.
Enjoy Donnelly River
Within an hour’s drive from Pemberton is Donnelly River; a small community with quaint cottages available for quiet getaways. Donnelly River Village is nestled deep in the heart of karri forest and encourages a slower pace to life.
The village’s main attraction is the small store where you can hand-feed emus and kangaroos. It is a truly memorable experience and one enjoyed especially by kids.
Grab a bag of food from the little store and walk outside to the many waiting emus and kangaroos. Keep an eye on your bag and hold onto it tightly or one of the over-zealous animals will snatch it away! The emus and kangaroos have become quite tame and brazen over the years and being surrounded by so many at once is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry!
Marron in the Warren River.
Freshwater fishing and Marron
If you’d rather swap the bag of roo feed for a fishing rod, then head to the banks of the Warren River, or alternatively, one of the Trout or Marron Farms where you can learn from the best.
There’s a range of freshwater fishing opportunities for the elusive trout or the even greater prize of Marron, but be sure to read up on the rules as they are strict in order to protect the waters from becoming over-fished.
Fishing in the magic Warren River.
Drive the Heartbreak Trail
I mentioned the Heartbreak Trail already when talking about the camping options available, but even if you aren’t interested in those you should head out a mere 19km out of town just for the scenic drive. The trail is a 12km one-way loop with various places along the way for stopping and soaking it up. Take a picnic, sit by the river or at the top of one of the lookouts and just appreciate the spectacular scenery.
The Lefroy Brook at Cascades.
Hikes and walks
With the 1003km long Bibbulmun Track passing through Pemberton, there are many smaller trails branching off the main track to offer plenty of bushwalking opportunities and an ideal way to appreciate the karri forest up close.
The shade and cooler conditions within the forest, in addition to the beautiful scenery, make it the ultimate place to spend a few hours exploring on your own two feet.
The Lefroy Brooks Loop Walk is a picturesque trail that climbs out of the valley is a great way to appreciate Cascades and the karri trees.
Mountain bike tracks
If you are keen for a bit more adventure, you can head to the Pemberton Mountain Bike Park, located on the edge of town off Swimming Pool Road. You can bring your own, or bikes are available for hire and there is a range of tracks from easy right the way through to difficult, making it fun for the whole family.
Fairy-wrens are among the amazing bird life.
What are you waiting for? Book a visit!
We love Pemberton. It is one of those places that you just don’t ever get tired of and with such a variety of attractions and natural beauty, it’s no wonder why. If you’ve not yet explored this region, do yourself a favour and book a few days. You won’t regret it and we might even see you there!
Have you ever visited Pemberton?
About the writer...
If it involves four-wheel driving, Aaron loves it. When he isn’t writing for his blog, 4WDing Australia or the Snowys Blog, you’ll find him camping and driving around Western Australia.