I'm a freelance writer living in Perth. Having 2 young kids with endless energy, we are always on the lookout for new outdoor activities.
Published April 22nd 2016
Free camping has never been so good
Free Camping at Kwolyin Camp Site
As the Perth and WA population is growing rapidly, free camping has almost become a thing of the past. Almost. There are still a few shires and state parks which provide free camping and Kwolyin has got to be one of the best of this breed.
As with anything free in life, most of us would ask ourselves: So, what's the catch? Why are we getting this for free? What do we have to sacrifice? Is it in the middle of nowhere so far away from the city that nobody wants to go there anyway? Does it have such bad facilities that the shire cannot in good conscience charge anything for it? Is there nothing interesting in the vicinity so the only way to entice people to come is to provide free camping?
Surprisingly, the answer in this case is: none of the above. Nothing is wrong with the campsite. Really. You get a free campsite with great facilities in a reasonaby good location. Still doubtful? Let's talk about each of these a bit more.
Where is this Kwolyin anyway? From Perth, it's about 200km (2.5 hours) via York. It's about 100km east of York and 40km west of Bruce Rock.
To get there from Perth, travel east on Great Eastern/ Southern Highway towards York, then follow the road sign to Quairading and then Bruce Rock. The campsite is on the left-hand side off Quairading-Bruce Rock road, clearly signposted about 40km before Bruce Rock.
Local area map. (Map taken from Granite Way brochure published by the Shire of Bruce Rock.)
If you need a further landmark to make sure you're at the right spot, look out for a granite outcrop directly across the road from the Kwolyin camp. It's called the Coarin Rock, and yes, you can walk up the rock if you wish although there's a much bigger Kokerbin Rock just 9km away. More about this later.
To give you a bit of history, up until the 1990s, Kwolyin used to be a small townsite, but there's also a competing townsite called Shackleton just 7km further along the road and it was quite clear to the community in the area that they didn't need, and in the long term could not support, two townsites in such close proximity. To cut the story short, Shackleton is today still a townsite whereas Kwolyin has returned to wilderness (but google maps still give me the streets of Kwolyin, even though they no longer exist). If you are interested, ask me and I'll tell you quite a dramatic story involving water, fire (arson?), and a pub. For a teaser, see this bit of old news. Hmmm...
Anyway, the Shire of Bruce Rock then decided to build a campsite on what used to be the old Kwolyin football oval. But you wouldn't know it just from the look of it. The place has really gone back to bush. The shire tries to maintain the history of the area by providing signs to explain what's what. Do walk around and read them if you have a bit of time.
With bush camping, you'd generally expect non-flushing toilets or in other words a rather smelly hole in the ground between four walls. However, not so with this one. The camp boasts flushing toilets, not one, not two, but three of them (one disabled toilet). Each is sitting pretty in a big, clean room with its own wash basin, and they even have lights with a motion sensor that comes on at night. No need to bite your flashlight between your teeth while you're trying to accomplish your activity of choice.
Clean flushing toilets next to the camp kitchen.
The camp kitchen is more than adequate, with a 4 burner gas stove, washing up double sinks, and again, lights with motion sensors. A gas barbecue is provided in its own shelter with multiple picnic chairs, perfect for a group.
The area is tidily divided into dedicated tent camping and caravan bays. The overall area from York to Bruce Rock has always claimed to be RV friendly, so not surprisingly, there are more caravan than camping bays here. But the camping bay does have the benefit of being closer to the campfire location.
Local land division.
The campfire is an upgraded version of the humble wood barbecue. My husband would be happy to discuss with you how the design of this contraption allows oxygen to feed the fire better than a normal cut-off oil-drum wood barbecue. But please spare me. Take note that campfires are only allowed from April to September.
Come in the cooler months to play campfire.
If there is one tiny complaint I can mention in the face of such generosity from the Shire of Bruce Rock, it's this: There seem to be a tad more bugs than I'm used to in other camping areas. I understand perfectly that we're borrowing this little section of land from nature and that we're the intruders here, not the insects. But I still secretly wish there were not so many mosquitoes, flies, and ants that I have to constantly try and avoid.
As mentioned in the introduction, Kwolyin campsite is right across the road from Coarin Rock, one of the hundreds-of-millions-years-old granite outcrops that dot the wheatbelt area from here all the way east almost to Coolgardie (the most famous of them all being Wave Rock). As far as monoliths go, Coarin Rock is not huge. I mean, compared to Uluru etc. But having said that, it's still one big rock compared to the variety we see day to day in the city. It's bigger than a house, and you can walk around it and climb on it, so definitely fun to explore.
There are many granite monoliths in the area. This one is Merredin Peak, 50km north of Bruce Rock.
Even more impressive in terms of size is the Kokerbin Rock. From Kwolyin, you need to travel north west about 9km. There's a map in the campsite kitchen indicating where this is and the route there is signposted as "Granite Way" so it's unlikely you'll get lost.
Kokerbin Rock is reputed to be the third largest monolith in Australia, so it's quite large. Allow 2 hours walking time to reach the peak and back, mostly because the carpark faces the sheer steep side of the rock and the walking path has to take you halfway around the rock to find a more gentle rise up.
Kokerbin Rock seen from the carpark
Once up though, it's a good view of the surrounding area and of course you'll get bragging rights for having been to the top of the third largest rock in the country. I bet your mates don't even know there's such a thing.
Also in the area is a historic well that the pioneers built by hand about 100 years ago using the local stones for the wall. They definitely chose the right spot as it's still full of water even today. Well, they could hardly choose a wrong spot as they had Aboriginal guides and if anyone knows how to find water in the dry inland of Australia, it would be the first Australians.
There are a couple other lookouts you can visit along the Granite Way (see map in previous section), but Kokerbin Rock I think is the reigning monarch of the area.