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 November 4th 2014
My main concern with going bush camping on weekends or during the school holidays used to be the fact that no bookings were accepted, which meant that you might drive hours from home, only to find that all the sites had been taken prior to your arrival. The options of driving either back home or to the nearest town to find other lodgings, seemed to be equally distasteful. That's why I welcome heartily the campgrounds online booking system, which is currently on trial for a few locations under the management of Department of Parks and Wildlife.
One of the campgrounds closest to Perth that is bookable online is the Lane Poole Reserve. There are six bookable campgrounds altogether in this reserve: Chuditch, Stringers, Tony's Bend, Charlie's Flat, Baden Powell, and Yarragil. It sounds like there are plenty of spots for everyone, but the reality is come peak seasons like long weekends or school holidays and you really have to book in advance or miss out. When I drove through on the Saturday morning of Labour Day long weekend, many of the sites were empty, but they were all spoken for, so no luck for me.
Lane Poole Reserve (Baden Powell Day Use Area)
Why is this place so popular then? One of the main reasons is its closeness to the city. At just 100km south east of Perth, it is easily reached via Kwinana Freeway-Pinjarra-Dwellingup route. The other main reason is the natural surroundings that include the woodlands and the Murray River.
Summer-size brook in the foreground trickling into Island Pool
The Murray River, the largest river in the Darling Plateau that is not dammed for water supply, flows through the reserve all year long. Even in the height of summer, the natural pools at the two day use areas, Baden Powell and Island Pool, are still of considerable size and depth allowing recreational activities like swimming and canoeing. The tall trees surrounding the campsites and the river are soothing to the eyes and more importantly, give the necessary shade that make even the hottest days of the year that much more bearable. In winter/ spring, the rapids invite white water rafters who know what they are doing to have their turn in the river. In short, the location is pretty to look at, nice to be in, and fun to play with.
Having fun exploring interesting rock formations around the Baden Powell Day use area, with gems such as the below...
A natural whirpool with your own personal waterfall
The other aspect worth mentioning about camping at Lane Poole Reserve is that there are actually other non-bookable sites, including the Nanga Mill, the historical location of a jarrah mill that was burnt down in a 1961 fire, now sheltered by a grove of pine trees. That means if you're the impulsive type that never knows in advance when you might like to go camping, you can still do it the old way and try your luck at these non-bookable sites.
And if worse come to worst and you cannot find even a square feet of ground to lay down your weary self, look at the bright side: you are only less than 2 hours away from Perth. So park at one of the Day Use areas, blow up the inflatable raft, take the kids out into the water, drive back home at the end of the day, sleep in your own comfortable beds, and dream of the next time when you will get an opportunity to camp at Lane Poole Reserve.
Island Pool in the early hours before the crowd arrive