Some places in WA get all the publicity and hype. Pemberton is not one of these, and I reckon its one of the most underrated places in the state, any time of year. If you haven’t been to Pemberton, this post covers everything you need to know, and will hopefully leave you wanting to find somewhere to stay for a few nights in the region.
Every single time we visit, we leave feeling like its deserving of so much more credit, with heaps to do, great scenery and magnificent people.
Where is Pemberton?
You’ll find this stunning place roughly 3.5 hours away from Perth, on the South West coast, and heading inland a fair while too. It’s about an hour and a half away from Margaret River, and 50 minutes from Bridgetown by car.
What’s to love about Pemberton?
You only have to spend a couple of hours in Pemberton to fall in love. The people are magic, the scenery anywhere close to town is brilliant, the local produce is second to none and there’s more amazing attractions and 4WD tracks to explore than you’d do in a couple of weeks. Everyone is laid back, friendly and helpful and its got an awesome small country town feel to it.
What are the major attractions?
Right in the centre of town, where most of the mountain bike tracks start lies Pemberton Pool. It was not at all what we were expecting, and I was quite shocked. The pool is natural, with a bit of man made intervention to make it easy to access and swim in.
They actually do swimming lessons here, and with a backdrop like it has there’s not too many nicer places to learn to swim!
Downhill mountain bike tracks
Like many towns in Australia, Pemberton has jumped on the Downhill mountain bike frenzy, and put a heap of trails in. We hired bikes for half a day and explored a heap of them close to town, and were absolutely knackered by the end of the day. I managed to stay on this time, but felt it the following day.
The tracks cover a huge region, and as we discovered part way through you can actually load the bikes onto the back of a 4WD and take them to the top of the hill, which saves the huge ride up the hill in the first place.
We found a lot of the tracks to be quite rocky and bumpy compared to Dwellingup and Margaret River, but they are a heap of fun regardless.
There’s not too many places where you can hop on a tram or train and cruise through magic scenery like in Pemberton. This has become quite the popular tourist attraction, with the tram leaving not too far from Pemberton town, and heading out through the bush. The tram driver literally blocks the main road of the town off while crossing, not that it ever seems to hold too much traffic up.
We’ve done this a couple of times now, and always enjoyed it. Its a great way to see the forest around Pemberton without having to go and explore it yourself, and you stop at some nice falls to walk around and enjoy.
Climbing the fire trees
If you are after a bit of adventure, or you just want to see something amazing, there’s a couple of huge trees in Pemberton that you can climb almost right to the top of using bits of reo bar that have been knocked into the tree. These trees were originally used for spotting fires, but when you read how they were made to climb, and do it yourself, you’ll be in for a wild ride.
I’ve done them a number of times, and it never gets easier; you are literally climbing a 60 + metre tree with no safety gear, and there’s only farming fence wire to stop you falling. You need decent shoes (don’t be like the guys that regretted going up with nothing on their feet), and a bit of confidence. There are a few platforms on the way up, but if you meet someone else along the way one person has to go on the outside of the pegs, which flex a bit as it is anyway.
One of my favourite drives in the south west is the Heartbreak trail, which is a one way gravel road that winds its way through the stunning forest. You can stop at a couple of attractions and camp sites, but have to go all the way around if you want to go back.
Seeing the huge trees, winding rivers and creeks and amazing drop offs is a seriously impressive drive and one that we always love doing.
The Warren River
We’ve got a few favourite rivers in WA, and the Warren is up there with the best. You can access this at a huge number of places around Pemberton, and even watch it flow out to the ocean down at Yeagarup. There’s a heap of great camp sites, hikes and tracks that follow along the Warren River, and its absolutely worth a look at a few.
If you own a 4WD, or have access to one, Yeagarup is one of the best 4WD adventure’s you’ll do in WA. It’s got some of the biggest sand dunes in Australia, with really soft sand, and an amazing beach. You
need to be experienced in sand driving to head here, and understand that really low tyre pressures may be required (they recommend 10 PSI at times), and be prepared. I wouldn’t be towing anything in here unless you are familiar with it, but the views and coastline are truly magnificent.
There’s something about beautiful, big, freshwater lakes that we love, and there aren’t actually too many around in WA. Lake Jasper is a magnificent place to visit in the D’Entrecasteaux National Park. Whilst you can no longer water ski here, its an incredibly peaceful place to kayak, swim and relax, and requires a 4WD to get you there.
Big Brook Dam
Not far of a drive out of Pemberton itself is Big Brook Dam, which is well and truly worth checking out. There’s plenty of room for a nice picnic, the fishing is supposed to be good and the views are brilliant. We had a nice paddle here with the kids and really enjoyed it.
The DBCA has done a pretty magic job of getting lots of camp sites ready for camping in the Pemberton Region. There’s plenty of great places to stay that are either run by them, private properties or general free camps
One of the more popular camp sites in Pemberton is known as Draftys. This has a magic camp kitchen, and is right on the Warren River, with lots of peace and quiet. You’ll find it on the Heartbreak trail, and it makes for a pretty amazing trip away.
A smaller camp site further along on the Heartbreak trail is the Warren. This only has a handful of sites, and tends to be quieter, but the sites are much smaller. We spent a couple of nights here in one of the most peaceful camping experiences we’ve ever enjoyed. We tried to catch some fish and failed miserably, but it was still unreal.
Camping on the beach, in cleared sections of the dunes and along the coastal part of the Warren River has been popular, and common for many years. I believe technically this is not allowed, and you are supposed to camp at the lake camp ground run by DBCA, but it seems its generally accepted.
The formal camp site on the way to Yeagarup is called Leaning Marri, and has 6 shady camp sites that you can stay at, not too far from a spectacular little lake. We’ve only ever driven through this quickly, and helped to jump start a vehicle that was flat from the previous night, so can’t comment too much on it!
Fernbrook Farm Stay
We love the idea of camping on private property, and when its a great camp site at a decent price its the ultimate camping experience. A few months back we spent a long weekend at Fernbrook Farm stay, which is a brilliant Hipcamp property, that suited us to a tee.
We used this as a base to explore and enjoy more of the amazing Pemberton region, and its brilliant.
Accommodation in Pemberton
Like most beautiful towns in the south west, you’ll find a heap of airbnb’s, holiday homes, motels and stayz style options. For my brothers 30th birthday we rented two amazing houses in the Pemberton region that were pretty decent value with a large crowd of people using the beds.
It’s small and far enough from Perth that it doesn’t command the huge prices like places around Margaret River, but is equally as beautiful.
4WD tracks in Pemberton
We love exploring a location by 4WD, wherever possible. Pemberton has a heap of 4WD tracks that you can explore, with plenty more that are only on a map, and not written about.
Yeagarup is the place to go if you want to explore amazing beaches and coastline.
Moons crossing is worth a look depending on the water levels, and the Heartbreak trail is stunning (not mandatory for 4WD’s).
Lake Jasper and Black Point are certainly worth a look, with a heap of other 4WD tracks in the D’entrecasteaux national park taking you to places like the Gardiner river and Fish Creek.
Overall, we truly love Pemberton and are surprised that it hasn’t become more of a tourist hot spot; its easily as good as some of the other, more well known regions! Have you been to Pemberton? What did you think of it?