There’s a few station stays in Western Australia that have huge reputations, and Cheela Plains is one of them. Sometimes high reputations leads to high expectations, and that can be a big let down if you don’t feel wowed, but we decided to stay a couple of nights to check it out for ourselves.
We’ve learnt over the year that whilst one person might hate a place, we might love it and vice versa, and the only way to know for sure is to check it out for yourself.
I will mention that we are highly supportive of station stays and private properties opening up, as they have something truly unique to offer and anything that gives more options for camping is a good thing. If they have access to 4WD tracks too then its even better in our books, and many do.
Where is Cheela Plains?
You’ll find this station in the middle of the Pilbara, about a third of the way between Paraburdoo and Nanutarra Roadhouse. The actual station is a couple of kilometres off the main road. The road in is good condition gravel, and you’ll arrive at the homestead and camp ground, which is very well set up and run.
What’s at Cheela Plains?
Asides from the usual amenities, there’s a kitchen, dinner cooked each night, a whole heap of mining dump trucks and lots of station to explore. You can stay at the homestead, or go and explore more of the station, which is seriously large.
When you book in, you’ll get information (which we’ve uploaded in the photos in this post) that covers the various attractions, distances and then a whole heap of information on the geology of the place, which I’m sure some people find very fascinating.
We absolutely loved looking at the different rock formations, and some are probably the best we’ve seen in the Pilbara, which is pretty special. The sheer beauty of the red rock is nothing short of incredible.
Cheela Plains Accommodation options
Cheela Plains has a couple of accommodation options in Quarters and Lodges, or you can bring your own camping setup and kick back. You can get powered and unpowered sites, or you can opt to camp in one of the wilderness camping locations some distance from the station homestead itself.
Wilderness camping options
There’s quite a few places you can choose to ‘wilderness camp’. You need your own chemical toilet to stay here, and you have to be self sufficient. There is a toilet at Woongarra Pool, and a ‘shower’, but come prepared.
We chose to camp at Mussel Pool, which is actually a fair old hike away from the homestead, and you have to double back to return the key, but there’s a few wilderness camping options that are restricted to a small number of people camping in a beautiful area.
The drive to these day trip or wilderness camping options is stunning, with some truly magic Pilbara show and shine that was up there with the best of what we saw in our 3 weeks through the Pilbara, and that’s saying something.
Compared to other camp sites in the Pilbara, I didn’t feel that our camp site at Mussel Pool (59) was anything to rave about, but it did have nice scenery around us and was only a short walk to the pool, which was beautiful.
Camp site 63 seems to be the pick of the bunch at Mussel Pool, or 53 at Woongan Pools is pretty awesome too (although you’ll get a bit more traffic going past).
What does it cost?
Camping costs start off at $30 for a couple in the wilderness camps, and then work there way up. We paid $40 a night for our family of 4, and spent 2 nights exploring and enjoying the area.
Powered sites with water can be up to $65 a night, and whilst its not exactly cheap its relatively remote too, and they do a great job with running the station.
What’s worth seeing?
Mussel Pool is quite beautiful, and you can do a short walk (300 metres one way) to the falls, which only flow when its running.
We also headed to Woongarren Pool for a look around which has some spectacular scenery, and the Rock face, which is basically on your way in and is absolutely stunning even when the water isn’t running.
We did drive out to the Peaimatha soak, which was a pool of water with some pretty amazing pigeons hanging out, and we felt whilst it was a stunning drive there, its probably not worth heading to unless you were interested in the geology, which is a whole different ball game.
Is it worth a stay?
I didn’t really know what to expect pulling into Cheela Plains. Its really well run, the views heading into the wilderness camp are next level, and some of the attractions are very scenic and pretty amazing.
We had an amazing swim at Mussel Pool, enjoyed kicking back with the kids and exploring the area and overall felt very glad we’d visited. We didn’t spend much time at all around the homestead, and this is one part of the station stay that receives huge reviews. In some ways it reminded us of Bullara Station, which also has a huge reputation, and we quite enjoyed despite the huge number of people.
Balancing price, scenery, what you get access to and how its all run, we absolutely reckon its worth a stay.
Factor the drive in for day trips of wilderness camping
If you want to stay in the wilderness camping options, you need to head to the main station first and get a key, and then head out to the camp sites. If you’re going from the west its on your way, but if you are coming from the east its not, and you end up doing quite a few extra kilometres.
I was a bit surprised that we had to drive such a long distance, especially when we were already conscious of fuel. We’d planned to go to Mt Augustus after, and it meant we drove 10km extra to the station from the Ashburton Road turn off, then 34km back to Mussel Pool, then 34km back to Cheela Plains to drop the key off, and then another 10km back to the road to Ashburton.
In total, we’d done about 350km from Tom Price to Magic Pool, through Paraburdoo and then into Cheela Plains and were starting to push even our long range fuel tank limits with a further 350km to do from Cheela Plains to Mt Augustus.
Yes, we should have known in advance (and we partially did, but didn’t realise it was so far), but it did make us feel glad of the extra 20L jerry can we threw in!
Put it on the list
We’d been thoroughly spoilt in the rest of the Pilbara too, but in its own right Cheela Plains is incredible, and if you are going anywhere near it then consider a stay; we need more of these great stations around the place and we always prefer them over Caravan Parks!
If you are coming from Paraburdoo you’ll notice the amazing scenery on the way to Cheela Plains, and heading back out to the wilderness camping it only gets better and better. The owners are amazing people, the vibe was great, the tracks are well maintained and the signage is good; we’ll be back another time, and you should be too.