I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published June 16th 2013
Take A Road-trip Into Our State's Heartland
Just a few hours' drive from Perth yet a world away, Western Australia's Wheatbelt region is one of the state's best-kept secrets. Covering a vast area, from east of Geraldton in the north, to the south coast, it's characterised by fields of golden wheat, small rural hamlets and friendly down-to-earth locals. However, despite its beauty and relative proximity to Perth, the region is largely an undiscovered gem, with very little tourist traffic extending beyond the Great Eastern Highway, or the roads leading to the popular tourist attraction, Wave Rock. While famous wilderness areas in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions are often crowded with visitors, out here, once you venture off the beaten track, it's not unusual to travel for an hour or more without seeing another vehicle.
A road to adventure on the Western Australian Wheatbelt.
While the Wheatbelt is well-known as Western Australia's agricultural heartland, what comes as a surprise to many people is the numerous picturesque nature reserves that are scattered throughout it. Generally, even the smallest towns have at least one on their doorstep, where rare native marsupials can be discovered and wildflowers come to life every year after the winter rains. In addition, despite the region's relatively flat terrain, it's also characterised by large, granite outcrops, many which are embellished with dramatic rock formations that rival and even surpass well-known tourist magnets. Most of these are also situated in nature reserves, with marked walking trails and often simple facilities for bush camping. My family and I have frequently been the only visitors at these pristine and magical places: a rare experience, today, in our increasingly crowded world.
The following paragraphs focus on the north-eastern part of the Wheatbelt, and provide some tips on where to go for the best bushwalking opportunities. At many of these places it's also possible to camp free of charge, although no facilities are provided, apart from basic pit toilets and perhaps some picnic tables. If you love the Australian bush, enjoy exploring far beyond the tourist trail and don't mind sacrificing your creature comforts for a few days, you'll undoubtedly find a road-trip to the north-east Wheatbelt an inspirational and exhilarating experience. To discover where to go, what to do and where to stay, please read on.
Eaglestone Rock Situated approximately 21 kilometres north-east of Nungarin on the shores of a large salt-pan, Lake Brown, Eaglestone Rock is a rugged rock formation which is popular with nature-lovers, campers and rock-climbers. A few days spent in this pristine nature reserve are strongly recommended, especially during the spring when native wildflowers bloom in a spectacular kaleidoscope of colour.
Eaglestone Rock is situated on Lake Brown, a large salt-lake which is oftem dry.
While the free bush-camping facilities here are minimal, this shouldn't be a problem if you're well-prepared with plenty of water, food, warm bedding and anything else you may need. For those who aren't so keen on camping, close by in Nungarin, McCorry's Old Hotel offers comfortable rooms and warm hospitality in a classic heritage pub for a very reasonable tarriff. To find out more, give them a call on 9046 5187 or email them at email@example.com.
McCorry's Old Hotel, just outside Nungarin, is a great base for exploring the area's nature reserves.
Beringbooding Rock If you're enthusiastic to really get away from the rat-race, you couldn't choose a better spot than Beringbooding Rock, a large rock formation about 48 kilometres from Mukinbudin, situated in the far extremity of the north-eastern Wheatbelt.
Like many large rocks on the Wheatbelt, Beringbooding Rock was used by settlers in the early twentieth century to harness rainwater for their personal use, crops and livestock. To do this, numerous small walls were constructed over the rock's surface, serving to channel the runoff into a large tank at its base. Built in 1937, these walls are an integral part of the area's recent history, and rather than detract from the rock's appeal, their rustic and meandering forms are an intriguing, picturesque feature.
Beringbooding Rock is a great spot for bushwalking and a couple of trails enable visitors to explore its various features. It covers a large area, and you could easily spend a few days here. For a general overview, when my family first arrived we followed the small wall which follows the lower edge of the rock. As it's quite flat, it's an easy walk even for young children or people who aren't very fit. Later, we climbed further up the rock, which provided some spectacular views as the sun set over the surrounding landscape.
The small rock walls on Berringbooding Rock which were constructed to capture rainwater.
For those with the time to explore further, Beringbooding Rock possesses some absolutely awesome rock formations. There are huge balancing boulders, a large gnamma hole (natural waterhole), and unusual wave-like rock formations. For those with a respect and appreciation for Indigenous Australian culture, there are also cave paintings by the local Kalamaia people, although we didn't manage to find them.
Balancing boulders on Beringbooding Rock.
Beringbooding Rock's large gnamma hole.
For those who don't mind roughing it a bit, there is a small camping area situated at the base of the rock. To stay here comfortably, you'll need to be quite self-sufficient as there are limited facilities (simple toilets but no showers) and no nearby shops to buy forgotten necessities. Despite this, provided you're well-prepared and bring everything you need, this is a magical place that families with young children, recreational vehicle enthusiasts, nature-lovers and photographers will love.
For those who desire a few more comforts, Watson's Way, a lovely, cosy bed-and-breakfast, is situated less than a kilometre away on an adjoining property. To find out more, take a look at their website.
A short drive from Beringbooding Rock, Elachbutting Rock is another amazing rock formation that is also situated within a nature reserve. If anything, its first impression is even more striking than Beringbooding Rock, although each is unique and really shouldn't be compared.
Unlike Beringbooding Rock, Elachbutting hasn't been modified in any way to accommodate rainwater harvesting and is therefore entirely pristine. A six kilometre track follows the base of the rock, enabling visitors who can only visit for a few hours to see it from different angles, as well as enabling access to secluded camping sites in the surrounding bush.
A small gnamma hole at Elachbutting Rock
Beautiful secluded camping spots can be found close to the base of Elachbutting Rock.
Due to the rock's size, I'd strongly recommend that visitors spend at least a few days exploring it. However, as at Beringbooding Rock, the camping facilities are very basic, so you'd need to bring all your own water and provisions. As the climate out here can get quite extreme, I'd also recommend that you carefully consider what time of year you want to visit. Like most of outback Western Australia, summer temperatures can get extremely hot, making camping very uncomfortable, while during winter the cold nights may make camping impractical for all but the most austere or well-equipped travellers. Autumn and spring, with their mild weather, would therefore be the best times to camp here. Spring would be an especially wonderful time to visit, as the vegetation is green and lush after the winter rains, and hundreds of exquisite wildflowers are in bloom.
Elachbutting Rock boasts several bushwalks which enable nature-lovers to experience a variety of its features. One of the most stunning spots to explore is an incredible wave-like rock formation, similar to, but in my opinion much better than the famous Wave Rock, further south near Hyden. The rock's colours are stunning, making it popular with photographers and artists. A short walk away, Monty's Pass is a 30 metre tunnel which was formed as the result of a rock slide. This can also be easily explored by foot, along with a nearby echoing cave which is somewhat similar to an amphitheatre.
The amazing wave formations of Elachbutting Rock.
Monty's Pass is a lot of fun to explore.
Other reserves in the North-eastern Wheatbelt
A nature-lovers' paradise, the North-eastern Wheatbelt also boasts many other beautiful reserves, most which have free designated camping areas with barbecues and picnic tables. Free camping can be found at Mollerin Rock , Newcarlbean Rock and Koorda Native Flora Reserve near Koorda; Marshall Rock near Bencubbin; Billiburning Reserve near Beacon; Weira Reserve near Mukinbudin; Boodalin Soak near Westonia and Danberrin Hill and Talgomine Reserve near Nungarin.
Berringbooding Rock is typical of many Wheatbelt rock formations.
The vast majority of these also provide marked walking trails and interpretative signs for visitors so you can better understand their unique landforms, flora, fauna and history. When visiting these special and remote places, please treat them with the respect and care that they deserve. Be mindful not to endanger the local flora and fauna, and be aware of local fire restrictions during the warmer months. As minimal facilities are provided at these camping spots, please ensure that you bring everything that you need, including water, food items and even firewood. Similarly, be sure to take all your waste products away with you when you leave. If camping isn't your thing, most small Wheatbelt towns also offer simple but comfortable accommodation in their local pub.
Camping in Australia's wild places is an unforgettable experience and these incredible Wheatbelt reserves are situated just a few hours' drive from Perth: so close, yet a world away from the chaos of city life. Watching the sun set over the dramatic landscape and huddling around a camp-fire with friends and family, as the stars twinkle far above, are priceless experiences which you'll be sure to treasure forever.
To learn more about the wonderful nature reserves of Western Australia's Wheatbelt region, check out the Wheatbelt Way website or call the Central Wheatbelt Visitors Centre in Merredin on 08 9041 1666. For the ultimate weekend escape, there's nothing like taking a road-trip to one of Western Australia's secret treasures: the beautiful north-east Wheatbelt region.