Meentheena Veterans Retreat; sensational Pilbara Camping
Last year, on our way back from Carawine Gorge to Marble Bar, we drove past a sign called Meentheena Veteran Retreat, and we looked in, wondering what paradise they’d have hidden. The region is stunning, and you really can’t go wrong around Marble Bar.
When we got home, we looked it up and earmarked it for a future trip. The scenery around the turn off to the retreat is stunning, and our research proved it was a pretty amazing place, so we locked a stay in on our 3 week trip through the Pilbara.
After spending a night at Skull Springs and then Running Waters, we were keen to see more of the Pilbara, and turned into Meentheena Veteran Retreat for a couple of nights to check it out.
Where is Meentheena Veteran Retreat?
You’ll find this place roughly 100km East of Marble Bar, and about the same distance from Carawine Gorge. You turn off a bitumen road onto a short gravel drive in.
Is it 2WD friendly?
If you had a bit of clearance you’d get a 2WD vehicle in with no issues, but a lot of the tracks on the property are 4WD only, and its much easier in a 4WD vehicle. When we visited the 5km drive in was fairly reasonable, but there were a few wash outs and dips that you’d likely have issues with in a low clearance 2WD.
They say its 2WD accessible, but to ring to get up to date track conditions before coming in.
In terms of accessing the majority of other attractions, you really need a 4WD, and one that is running some decent tyres. The rocks here are tough on your tyres, and if you have a set of all terrains that your car rolled off the factory with you are much more likely to get a puncture.
Some clearance doesn’t go astray either, with a number of wash outs and steep angle changes throughout the property.
Do you have to be a Veteran?
No, you don’t. Despite the name, anyone is welcome here and you can spend as long, or as little as you’d like.
Do you have to book?
Bookings are not required, but you can phone ahead as needed.
How large is the property?
Meentheena Veterans Retreat is some 700,000 acres, and with only 4WD tracks linking it all together it takes you the better part of a day to drive from one side to the other, and return.
It’s absolutely massive, like much of what the Pilbara has to offer!
Meentheena Veteran Retreat Map
When you arrive, you’ll be able to take a photo of a map, showing you everything on the property. Do this, as you won’t find your way around otherwise.
Where can you camp?
The most common place to camp is at a place called Paperbarks, roughly 1.6km from the Homestead. You can camp at the Homestead itself, but we spent a couple of nights at Paperbark and really enjoyed it.
There’s really only room for two setups (more if you are friends) that are right close to the water, but there’s plenty of room up further for larger rigs and extras who visit.
We managed to find a nice spot right near the water, although it was closer than I’d have liked to another couple in a Tvan but they were very friendly and didn’t mind us there. I’m always conscious that we don’t park too close to others, to respect their privacy and to ensure we don’t annoy anyone with our kids.
Initially I was a bit sceptical about Paperbark and Meentheena in general, probably because we’d left two absolutely world class camp sites in the days preceding, but a short walk along the river bed, and a kayak with the kids changed my mind very quickly.
There’s cows walking around everywhere, and the river is absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful. I was actually shocked paddling under all of the paperbark trees, and that doesn’t happen too often. The water levels were perfect for the kids, and they spent most of the day splashing and enjoying the incredible, shaded area.
Someone had built a rope swing that was a huge hit with our kids, pushing them high up into the sky and seeing their smiles and giggles take over.
What does it cost?
If you are a member, its $10 per night per adult. If you aren’t, its $15 for an adult per night, and kids under 10 are free.
What amenities are there?
Paperbark has a decent toilet a short walk away, and there’s showers at the homestead that you are welcome to drive into and use. They also have a camp kitchen, and the usual basics available.
Happy hour is between 4 – 5PM and they have a nice communal firepit for people to kick back and enjoy.
What are the 4WD Tracks like?
We’re always up for a bit of fun, and heading away from camp in the 4WD with the family is always good. We spent a number of hours driving around, with most of the 4WD tracks fairly easy, minus a few random step ups and holes to avoid.
A good set of tyres and you’d have no issues in most 4WD’s, but remember to let your tyres down or you might end up with a puncture. The 4WD tracks in the Pilbara are nothing short of brutal, with more rocks and puncture attracting objects than you’ll find anywhere else.
Take it slow, enjoy the stunning scenery that changes all the time, and you’ll have a great time. We didn’t go to the boundaries of the property, but met a couple who did and said it was worth the drive.
Reception at Meentheena
There is very weak Telstra reception at the homestead. It was enough to occasionally load a web page, or to send a couple of messages, but it was pretty average and I actually gave up a couple of times trying to load things. If you have a Cel Fi you might have better luck, but we are happy not to have reception from time to time!
What’s worth seeing on Meentheena Retreat?
When you arrive, you’ll be able to take a photo of a mud map on the wall that shows you where the attractions are, and you can have a chat to the camp hosts. The hosts that we met had only just started there and weren’t that familiar with the area, but we’re always keen to go on an adventure on our own.
We were directed to a pretty amazing pool that is near an Emergency Radio tower, and a short (400m) walk up the river bed. Its not on the map, and you’d probably never find it without some sort of guidance, but it’s a beautiful place.
I suspect there’s a heap of other stunning spots like this, so put your adventure boots on and head out to see what you can find!
About 12km from the homestead lies Pelican Pool. It’s a fairly slow, and sometimes rough track, but you eventually come to a heap of trees and a big pool of water. There was a huge amount of bird activity here, and you could swim comfortably if you were so inclined.
On the way out to Pelican Pool is the turn off to Rock Pool. I suggest you do it on the way, or you might end up like us and miss the turn off on the way out, as its not signed from that direction and very easy to miss.
Pool of Tranquillity
One of the closest attractions to the homestead is the Pool of Tranquillity, which we really enjoyed. The bird life here was next level, and we pulled up and kicked back for an hour or so, whilst the kids played under the trees near the water. It’s just another amazing slice of the Pilbara.
On the way into Meentheena Veterans Retreat, you go past a turn off to Tumbinna Creek. We headed back out for the day, and enjoyed a leisurely walk along the river, and spotted a heap of cattle enjoying the area too.
Bird life at Meentheena
We love kicking back and watching the amazing bird life, and in our 3 week trip through the Pilbara Meentheena Veteran Retreat took the cake for the best bird life by a long shot. We saw more Rainbow bee eaters than ever before, along with a heap of finches, beautiful whistling kites and more.
It’s a lot harder to do this with young kids around now, but Meentheena still turned on a pretty incredible bird watching experience for us! Here’s a few of the photos.
Overall, Meentheena Veterans Retreat did not disappoint at all. It’s in a stunning part of the world, and the access you have to the property, combined with the amazing locations, scenery and bird life make it a place that we’d head back to any time.
Have you been to Meentheena Veterans Retreat?