IT’S A WEEKENDER goldmine south of Perth, and Wellington National Park, around 2.5 hours’ drive away, is yet another example.
The 17,000-hectare park contains the ubiquitous jarrah, marri and blackbutt timber, as well as the spectacular Collie River valley gorge, Wellington Dam, and – in season – up to 300 species of wildflower. The park is packed with adventure and leisure opportunities including camping, swimming, paddling (raft/canoe/kayak), fishing, swimming, cycling and bushwalking.
Wellington NP has two campgrounds: Honeymoon Pool, which lives up to its name in terms of being pristine; and Potters Gorge, which has just been upgraded.
Honeymoon Pool campground is set right beside the pretty Collie River and has 20 tent-only sites, along with wood barbecues (there are gas-operated jobbies in the day-use area next to the campground), as well as picnic tables and toilets. It’s a great camp location for the beautiful river views and surrounds, and also for a swim in warmer months.
Potters Gorge has copped a redevelopment, the result of the WA government’s Parks for People caravan and camping initiative which has seen $21 million invested in getting people outdoors and camping in national parks (NSW, take bloody note).
The result is impressive, with 55 sites within the campground that cater for small, medium and larger camper-trailer/vans and caravans, or you can just set up your tent on the tent pads at each site.
The campground includes a mountain-bike pump track, walk paths designed for “mobility-impaired visitors” and direct access to the Sika Trail, a dual-use (MTB and walking) track that links to other tracks in the park as well as to the park’s kiosk (drinks, food and MTB hire is available here), located at the nearby Wellington Dam. Unsurprisingly, with all these facilities and an encouraging attitude to outdoor activities in the park, the campground is very popular.
The activities are many, with mountain biking popular thanks to the pump-track, the fire trails to explore and the 40km Mt Lennard Mountain Bike Trail Circuit. Smartly, the circuit offers six trail loops for all levels of riders, starting at a 4km loop and going through to the longest, at 11.5km, so definitely load up the MTBs for this weekend destination.
A more MTB touring-oriented trail is the section of the long-distance Munda Biddi Cycle trail (this links Perth to Albany), which makes for a great few hours riding if you have younger kids.
The Collie River (and to a lesser extent, Wellington Dam itself) offers tons of water-based activities, with canoes and kayaks the best way to explore this waterway and/or the dam.
The nearby Preston River is also worth a paddle, but be aware of that river’s rapids (or just portage around them). You can also fish in the river and dam, with trout (rainbow and brown) and cobbler two prevalent species. There’s also the chance to catch marron (freshwater crayfish), but only in season (January-February).
For those who like to get vertical, there’s some climbing and abseiling at The Quarry. When Wellington Dam was built during the 1930s, The Quarry was the source for the rock that would make up the dam’s wall. Now, it’s a cracking climbing destination (you will need to book beforehand) and is located just below the Dam’s cafe.
Off-roading in the park is relatively straightforward on the main tracks and roads, but there is a sweet loop that takes in the 4x4-only Lennard Track, Sailors Gully and the Jump-ups, with Lennard Track in particular a great drive as it follows alongside the Collie River.
Bushwalking is popular in the park; tackle Jabitj Trail if you’re up for a challenge. This 12km-return jaunt takes you from the Dam kiosk to Honeymoon Pool and then back. It’s a relatively straightforward jaunt, but make sure you take water and swimmers (for a cooling swim in the Collie River).
Kurliiny Tjenangitj Trail is, at 9.5km, a shorter loop and leads to a lookout that offers great views across the valley. The Sika dual-use trail is another 9.5km loop that winds through stands of jarrah on its way north from the kiosk to Potters Gorge. Again, don’t forget the swimmers.
In terms of weekend escape bang for your bucks, Wellington NP is hard to beat, especially at it’s only 2.5 hours’ drive from the city. Being able to go for that last morning swim and still have plenty of time to pack before returning to town is the icing on the cake.
More Perth weekend 4x4 destinations on Perth Escapes
10km W of Collie
4WD and adventure motorcycling
Canoeing and kayaking