Covering around 850 kilometres and winding through jarrah and karri forest country along the Donnelly River southwards of Bridgetown, then through a section of D’Entrecasteaux National Park on the south coast, this trip suits a summer long weekend.
If you’re into fishing or just lazing on the beach watching the surf of the Southern Ocean roll in, plan to spend longer. Remember though, that no pets are allowed in our National Parks. The trip notes begin in Bridgetown, taking you through Donnelly Drive, across the Vasse Highway, through D’Entrecasteaux National Park via Lake Jasper, and bringing you out at Manjimup on the South Western Highway. Roads utilised within the State Forest are unsealed but generally well maintained, while tracks in the National Park are mostly deep sand requiring 4WD and reduced tyre pressures. Check on track conditions, camping regulations and seasonal road closures by contacting the DPAW Donnelly District office at Pemberton on 9776 1207.
Please note that you can purchase this and 17 more great day trips out of Perth in 4WD Weekends out of Perth.
A great place to base yourself, is Donnelly River Holiday Village. For thirty years, from 1948 to 1978, the Holiday Village was the working mill town of Wheatley, servicing Bunnings’ Donnelly River Sawmill. After Bunnings pulled out, the town was retained in its entirety and redeveloped as a tourist venture. There are 38 weatherboard cottages of various sizes grouped around the old sawmill and surrounded by majestic karri forest. Although facilities in the cottages have been upgraded to incorporate hot water service and electric cookers, the dwellings remain largely unchanged with the wood stoves still in the kitchen and a log fire in the lounge. The comfortable cottages are equipped for four, eight or twelve people but guests need to provide their own sheets, blankets, pillow-slips and towels. The original general store is open seven days a week but, unfortunately for those interested in Western Australia’s timber milling heritage, the old sawmill is now structurally unsafe. Other activities at Donnelly include a games room, a playground, tennis courts and a flying fox. A tranquil lake near the settlement provides the perfect venue for barbecues, swimming, canoeing and fishing. There’s even a paddle pool for the littlies. But, perhaps the most endearing thing about Donnelly River Holiday Village is the animals. Kangaroos feed placidly in your back yard and emus stroll around the village looking for handouts. The variety of bird life is amazing with over 70 species frequenting the region. For obvious reasons, no pets are allowed. It’s a great place to stay and you can book a cottage on 9772 1244.
The scenic tour through the towering karri south of Donnelly Village out to the Vasse Highway passes close to the Four Aces, an impressive row of mighty karris. As Malcolm French points out in his book The Special Eucalypts of Perth and the South-West, the karri is the largest tree in Western Australia, and the second tallest hardwood tree in the world, reaching heights of up to 90 metres. These trees (Eucalyptus diversicolor) are ranked in the top ten largest living things on the planet, some weighing up to 150 tonnes. Across the Vasse Highway, the vegetation changes gradually to coastal heathland and the karri gives way to marri as the route takes you south-east past dwindling farmland into D’Entrecasteaux National Park
Set aside in 1980, this 114,000 hectare south coast park is named after the French navigator, Admiral Bruny D’Entrecasteaux. Searching for the lost voyager La Perouse, the D’Entrecasteaux expedition ships, Recherche and Esperance, charted the Western Australian shoreline from Point D’Entrecasteaux near Windy Harbour eastwards to Termination Island in December 1792.
The park preserves isolated cliffs, beaches, dunes, coastal heath and swamplands. The Warren, Donnelly and Shannon rivers all pass through the park to their ocean mouths. The annual average rainfall is one of the highest in the state and jarrah, bullich, yate and peppermint trees grow profusely in places.
Besides the seemingly endless stretches of pristine beach protected by steep sandhills and a wild tangle of thick coastal scrub, the park encompasses the remarkable basalt columns of Black Point, ‘Bolghinup’ to the Noongar Aboriginal people, and several freshwater lakes, the largest of which is Lake Jasper. Over three kilometres in length and about two kilometres wide, the lake was known to the Noongar as ‘Yoondaddup’. Surveyor H. S. Carey referred it to as Lake Jasper during a traverse in 1874 and DOLA’s Geographic Names Section speculates that it may have been named in memory of Jasper Taylor Bussel, son of Alfred and Ellen Bussell, who died as an infant ten years earlier.
With tracks through much of the park and leasehold land south of the lake traversing some steep blind slopes and bends, take extra care and keep a sharp lookout for oncoming traffic. Several sheltered campsites can be found at Black Point and near the 3km long Jasper Beach. If you do any beach driving, watch the tides and keep out of the surf where the sand can be very soft and treacherous.
A picturesque swimming beach is situated about 1km east of the boat ramps via a plank track.
As in many remote national parks, visitors are expected to take out whatever they bring in and this is especially important in D’Entrecasteaux National Park.
Evidence of Noongar occupation has been dated as far back as 47,000 years within the South-West of Western Australia. Current archaeological evidence within the national park is dated at 6,000 years. Significant finds of stone artefacts, fish traps, quarry sites and burial sites have been found after sand dune erosion. Artefacts have also been found 10m below Lake Jasper’s current water level, indicating that there was significant habitation when the area was covered in prehistoric forest.
Wandjoo ngaalang kwoba/moorditj boodjar,
Nyoondool djinang ngaalang kwobidak Wardan, balyoongar, bilya, worl wer djinda kada werda ngaalang miya,
Ngaalang koort kalyakoorl nidja.
Welcome to our good/strong country,
You will see our beautiful sea, sand, rivers, sky and stars across our place,
Our heart always here.
Two smaller freshwater lakes, Lake Wilson and Lake Smith, lie on the north side of Scott Road eastwards of Lake Jasper. Just before you leave D’Entrecasteaux National Park, the track crosses the Donnelly River and you’ll need to check the depth before proceeding. From there to the Vasse Highway and across to Manjimup is all straightforward travelling through our magnificent south-west forests.
The terrain consists of well-maintained forestry roads inland with soft sand tracks nearer the coast that will require reduced tyre pressures. The route includes no extreme sections. The ‘Summer track’ goes through a low – lying area that is subject to inundation, becoming very soft and muddy after rain. It is closed at these times to reduce the risk of spreading dieback.
D’Entrecasteaux National Park is remote. All visitors who come here are asked to ensure that they are well prepared and self reliant. Having a knowledge of how to drive on soft sand, how to self recover after getting bogged and how to behave when driving along narrow tracks is extremely important to ensuring that your adventure is a memorable one for all of the right reasons.
Great for getting yourself out of a sandy situation. They also work really well in mud. There is a very high probability that you will need to use your recovery tracks on this trip.
You never know when you are going to have to dig yourself out of trouble or when there is a call of nature that requires a hole.
You don’t always need this equipment BUT when you do, you do. Best to ensure that it is always in your vehicle.
Much better than a stick and a lot more accurate. You will more than likely need to adjust tyre pressure on this trip.
If you need to let your tyres down for any reason then you will also need to pump them back up again.
Despite the relatively proximity to smaller towns in the south west, this trip should be considered remote. Make sure you let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be home. Mobile phone coverage should not be relied upon. This could impact how well Google Maps (or equivalent works) and you should either invest in a good quality GPS unit or ensure you have a map of the area.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife have produced some comprehensive safety resources that you can review before travelling to any of their national parks.
Something to deal with minor cuts and scrapes as well as compression bandages to treat snake bite.
Make sure you have some sunscreen and insect repellant with you.
Ensure there is enough water in the vehicle for everyone who is coming with you.
We use and recommend HEMA’s HX2 GPS navigator. The unit does not require mobile phone signal to operate, shows you exactly where you are and what is around you (including points of interest and facilities). The HX2 also gives you turn by turn navigation when back on the bitumen if you need it.
Your other option is to grab a copy of one of HEMA’s maps or 4WD atlas relevant to your area of travel.
If you have a smart phone or an iPad (preferably one that can take a mobile SIM card – you don’t need a SIM installed) you can look at HEMA’s CamperX or 4×4 Explorer.
Keep a roll in the car, along with hand sanitiser and maybe some wipes. Make sure you have a rubbish bag handy and bring all of your rubbish home.
Don’t spend the entire trip driving, make sure you stop and explore. It’s a great opportunity to build some memories with the family.
Time your trip so you stop at Mt Observation and have either morning tea or a picnic lunch there. Spend some time exploring the area and take in some of the views.
When you stop and sit for a little while you will be amazed at the amount of wildlife that you will spot.
Take a camera and try your hand at some scenic shots or even some macro. It’s also a great spot to get some nice portrait shots of friends and family or even a candid shot of them enjoying nature.
There are a couple of ways that you can get your hands on the instructions for this little adventure.
Grab a copy of 4WD Weekends out of Perth from our web shop or your nearest 4WD accessory store.
You can also purchase our basic Fact Sheet and Map from our web shop for $2.95