Walpole and Pemberton along roads less travelled by Jo Castro

We pulled out the maps, scoured the guidebooks and dived onto the internet for we had a weekend free and were looking for things to do around Walpole and Pemberton that were off the beaten track.

We’re off

The weather is cool, overcast with grey skies but with intermittent sun bursting through and we set off south.

In Walpole it’s cooler than Bunbury by quite a few degrees and we arrive just as the sun is setting at Che Sera Sera chalets where we are to stay in a little wooden cottage called Boderlup.

Dave quickly finds matches, kindling and wood.

We light a fire and open a bottle of red wine before throwing some steaks on the barbie and making a fresh salad. Aah, life is good.

In the morning we are disturbed early, too early,  by magpies who seem to be doing aerobics on the tin roof.

Walpole and Pemberton along roads less travelled by Jo Castro

We have coffee, then head off from Che Sera Sera along Bridge Road, turning right onto the North Walpole Road before stopping at the Swarbrick Art Loop  for a cultural half hour in the depths of the forest.

The hills are rolling and lush, in stark contrast to the bleached-out fields further north around Bunbury (Why live in Bunbury?) from where we’ve come.

This is settler country, where in the 1920’s large tracts of virgin land were given to immigrants willing to make a new start in this verdant tract of the deepest south west where huge Karri trees and Red Tingle trees have gnarled old girths large enough to drive a car through.

Walpole and Pemberton along roads less travelled by Jo Castro

We pass an artist’s studio and gallery before reaching a gravel road where the gravel is loose and driving attention is required. An avenue of Karri trees line the road as if they are the bastion of a grand entrance to somewhere special – which they are because they herald the beginning of a thickly forested area, all stately and secretive.

A fire to our right still smoulders and evidence of a bush fire which didn’t cross the road is quite obvious for quite a few kilometres, and I shudder as I imagine the force of summer fires still to come.

Fernhook Falls

Mount Frankland and the National Park is to the right as we turn left to Fernhook Falls along Beardmore Road where the gravel is more compact but it’s wise not to take the corners too fast because it’s hard underneath and loose on top. For safety we decided to engage 4WD.

We come to Fernhook Falls – this is Jarrah country – there are an abundance of white flowers in spring, pink fairy orchid, banksias, pink boronia, marri, chorilaena with oak shaped leaves and kingia.

It’s beautiful. Beautiful, this south west corner of Australia.

The Deep River

The Deep River is brown from the tannin caused by plants breaking down and decomposing in the river but the water is still ‘pure’ because 95% of its journey is through forested catchment areas – in fact it’s one of the purest rivers in the SW.

It starts 52km north near Lake Muir then runs on from Fernhook meandering for 42km to the Nornalup Inlet in the South, and Dave wonders if he could kayak its length.

At Fernhook there’s a good information board by a clean, undercover Barbie and picnic area. On this information board I see that in 1911 a settler declared:

“I love this forest and this river! Luckily I’ve been able to purchase a bit of land on the Deep. I’ve put up a few tents and now this is home.”

Walpole and Pemberton along roads less travelled by Jo Castro

We walk along the track via concrete and boardwalks to Powell’s Pool, a great place for a swim in the sepia tinted water.

At Fernhook you’ll find: huts and a tent site, picnic tables, walking track and gas bbq’s. Did I say you should take your canoe?

Walpole and Pemberton along roads less travelled by Jo Castro
Top left and top right: Big Brook Dam in Pemberton. Clockwise from second right: Roads less travelled around Walpole and Fernhook with the sepia tinted Powell’s Pool a great place for a swim.

After Fernhook we continue onto the South West Highway and near Pemberton we turn off along a ribbon of gravel until we pop out on a leafy lane called Burma Road which is actually a tourist drive leading behind the Gloucester Tree into Pemberton.


A Kookaburra flies across the road, cackling, and we know we’re in bird country again –  for Rosellas and Port Lincoln parrots are inclined to land on your head and arms if you stand still long enough in the Gloucester National Park.

We park at a cafe in Pemberton and have a curried egg sandwich and quiche to fortify us for a bike ride.

Walpole and Pemberton along roads less travelled by Jo Castro
Another lovely bike ride near Walpole in the Walpole Nornalup National Park. Here at the Hilltop Lookout gazing down to Coalmine Beach in the distance.

Then, leaving the car at the Visitor’s Centre we unhitch the bikes and cycle to the Gloucester Tree where Dave just has to shin up and down it’s huge trunk once again, his feet clinging to the iron bars that span its girth as they spiral onwards and upwards, and upwards to the treetop.

PicMonkey Collage 1

Then we ride back through the village and up and down the hilly back roads to Big Brook Dam which is 5km from Pemberton.

Walpole and Pemberton along roads less travelled by Jo Castro
Big Brook Dam near Pemberton

We cycle the 3km around the sylvan dam listening to bird calls, watching the sun play on the great expanse of water and then head back into town for a Magnum ice cream. Much deserved after a bike ride from 1.30 – 3.30pm.

 “A great time of year to cycle – weather breezy,  cool in the forest but hot out of the shade.”

I love Swarbrick – the Walpole Wilderness Discovery – which is 8km from Walpole heading towards Mount Frankland and on the North Walpole Road. You’ll find beautiful old growth karri forest and a 500 m return walk through the trees where there are sculptures and  art exhibits that present perceptions of a different nature.

Fancy an Eco Cruise? I do. There are interpretive cruises departing from the Walpole Jetty Area going into the Walpole Nornalup Marine Park and the Walpole Wilderness Area leaving daily at 10am.

Next time…

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  1. Neva Fels

    Beautiful pictures as always of your travels. Growing up in Wisconsin and having done quite a bit of barbequing, we throw some steaks on a grill and you throw them on a Barbie. No matter how you say it, this is the life!

  2. what beautiful country, I love the vast green and different typography and wildlife in your world

  3. Thanks, Noel. It is beautiful, and the south west region is so diverse.

  4. There are three huge Karri trees in the area. They were once fire look-outs, now you can climb them, Muza-chan.

  5. Thanks for stopping by Neva and thank you. Grill or Barbie or Braai (South African speak!), they are all much the same!

  6. You have given me some ideas for a long weekend stay and walking trip my head is spinning, very motivating, or maybe I can try getting back on a bike again. Thanks xxx Rae

  7. Oh, that’s so good Rae! I’m glad. Maybe you could join me for a bike ride one day 🙂

  8. This is such a calming post, even the sound of the magpies made me feel at peace.
    Beautiful country, Johanna, and a beautiful post.

  9. I never hear much about SW Australia but it sure looks beautiful – with lots to keep you occupied. The karri tree is amazing and I can relate to magpies waking you up – or making so much noise you can’t get to sleep.

  10. What a wonderful journey you took us on today. I could almost smell those sizzling steaks and taste that wine!

  11. I love bringing out little corner of the world into the world, Leigh, so thanks for your comment. Yep, those magpies sure can be noisy 🙂

  12. Thanks for your kind words Marcia! I’m chuffed that you found it calming – that’s exactly what I intended when I wrote it.

  13. Hi Jo, what a beautiful time spent with nature and art. It sounds relaxing and recharging. I enjoyed walking with you in the woods with that amazing gnarled tree and with art stop in the middle of the forest. Your bike ride looks and sounds spectacular, too. The view from the hilltop lookout is certainly scenic. The climb up the tree looks like a lot of fun!

  14. Thanks Jo for this beautiful post. There are so many inspiring things to do in and around Walpole and Pemberton. We did the Eco Cruise a few years ago and it was just super – informative and entertaining. I’m inspired by your description of Fernhook Falls. It’s great to know there are activities on the list for the next visit.

  15. This looks like another beautiful part of SW Australia to explore. I’ve driven my car through a redwood in California, so I’d like to add the Kari tree to another drive-through experience. My boys would be up that Gloucester tree before I could blink.

  16. Thanks for introducing us to another beautiful place in SW Australia. One can’t go wrong exploring the beauty of National Parks all over the world. Love the way those Karri trees look. I totally fancy an Eco Cruise especially in someplace as scenic as this. 🙂

  17. I think the eco cruise would be ‘just up your street’ so to speak, Mary!

  18. Young fit boys would love these trees, Michelle, but please be careful if you ever do let them loose here. These trees come with warnings 😉 I think the Karri and the Redwood would both be awesome on a photo frame together 🙂

  19. That’s so cool, Wanda! Thank you, and I hope you do get to experience Fernhook Falls soon 🙂

  20. Thanks Marisol, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the journey via cyberspace 🙂

  21. I am amazed at the overpowering nature! Well captured! I really need a break like that!

  22. You’re right Renuka, the nature in this part of the world can be overpowering – just the size of the trees! Thanks for popping by 🙂

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