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Perth, you west coast a-grade legends. It’s your time to shine. This week on Unsealed4x4 we’re shining the muddy spotlights your way at our pick of the top 5 4×4 destinations within cooee of the most isolated city in the world. Love ’em? Hate ’em? Lettuce know in the comments below!
Can’t face a long drive for just a night or two of camping? You can’t get much closer than the Lane Poole Reserve, around 100km south of Perth.
Location, location, location. You can choose from seven camping areas – maybe a cosy couples’ corner in amongst the jarrah, blackbutt, marri and wandoo forests, or nestled on the banks of the Murray River? Or the big open spaces of Nanga Mill.
Play in the white water on the river in spring, or paddle gently in summer; enjoy bush walking, fishing and awesome mountain bike riding.
You will get the hill chill, so spring and autumn are top times to visit – or dress warm and enjoy plenty of space while the mollycoddlers stay home in winter.
Best Drive – The historic Captain Fawcett Track – easy to medium grade but very scenic, with a nice watering hole destination (Quindanning Pub).
Best Camping – We like Nanga because there’s room to spread out and the soothing sound of running water.
Five things to take – The fur-kid (dogs permitted on leash); firewood (no bush collection); warm clothes or swimming costume; fishing rod and permits; canoe or mountain bike.
Sun, sand and surf. At around 130km north of Perth, Lancelin offers a great day out or perfect salt water weekend.
Lancelin is best known for its spectacular shifting sand dunes that offer endless dune dancing for bikes, buggies and fourbies – or the energetic sand-boarders. Climbing those dunes on foot sucks, but the ride down is a total blast! It’s a perfect way to exhaust hyperactive kids of all ages.
Take a sand flag and explore the narrow, winding coastal tracks to your own spot of beach fishing paradise.
There are some coastal tracks to explore, but make sure you have a sand flag flying as the tracks are often very narrow and winding. Be prepared for strong coastal wind – brilliant for wind or kite surfing.
Best Drive – Dune play just north of Lancelin township.
Best Camping – Free camping is prohibited and regularly patrolled. You need to head further north, south or inland, stay at a caravan park or day trip.
Five things to take – Air compressor and gauge, snatch strap and a mate, fishing rod, surf/sand/sail or kiteboard and plenty of sunscreen.
If you haven’t driven the Powerlines Track you haven’t driven a 4X4 in Perth. It’s just up the hill, so you can enjoy a big brekky on the way and still have a full day of track tackling.
The beauty of the Powerlines Track is you can expect the unexpected – some parts are perfect for newbies or soft roaders looking to play with the big boys. Particularly in summer, you can take the easy path around the tougher obstacles, and sit back and watch the tough trucks tackle the toe curling terrain. It’s ideal for a group of vehicles with a varied range of capability, as you can challenge yourself according to your personal limits.
Be careful in winter; the track is clay based and you can slip and slide your no claim bonus away very easily. The track is maintained by Western Power but open to four-wheel drivers; meaning that it’ll stay open only as long the gung-ho warriors stay within some respectable boundaries and don’t cut up the track impossibly during heavy winter conditions.
Head in on the track next to the Sawyers Valley Tavern, 40km east of Perth. There are several other connecting roads if you decide to make an early exit back to the Great Eastern Highway.
Best Drive – Track difficulty varies; allow five or six hours end to end.
Best Camping – No camping along the track – this is day trip territory.
Five things to take – A winch, a mate to footprint or help you winch, diff lockers (handy, but not essential), all food and drink, …and don’t forget some firewood!
Harvey Hills / Wellington National Park
Follow the hills inland from Harvey, past Brunswick Junction and down to the Wellington National Park near Collie –there are enough hilly tracks to take your breath away. They can also get you unequivocally and totally lost as they twist and turn onto well graded forestry tracks and back on themselves. Follow a few and you’ll be constantly checking the sun for directions. Take a GPS and make sure you know how to log waypoints or you’ll reach camp way after dark.
Watch out for timber trucks on the logging roads and be prepared for rocky scrambles that can require winching. Be warned that tracks can deteriorate and peter out without warning, so a reversing camera and confident footprinting skills are very useful.
The dams at Harvey, Logue Brook and Wellington provide a variety of water sports and camping options. Wellington doesn’t permit motorised water activities. There are defined walking trails in Wellington National Park and the trek along the Collie River is particularly scenic.
Best Drive – Tackle Lennards Track in Wellington NP in summer. In winter, get lost in the hills.
Best Camping – Potters Gorge (for caravans and campers) or Honeymoon Pool.
Five things to take – Winching gear, back up vehicle, GPS; firewood, water sports toys.
The Avon Valley National Park, some 80km north east of Perth, provides a soothing feast of undulating green for the eye at any time of the year. It’s more about kicking back and relaxing than engaging the short stick, but it rates a mention as it’s close enough to the city that there’s no excuse not to use it as the perfect overnighter or dry run for the new camper.
For the less experienced, summer and autumn is a good time for reconnoitring the occasionally steep and rutted tracks under dry conditions, with most roads suitable for 2WD. It’s soft roader heaven. Winter can see easy tracks offer a bit more bite. There are no open vehicle access roads to the river.
The spring rush of the local white water Avon River dwindles to tranquil pools that provide welcome relief to the park’s bird, reptile and animal life in summer. The park is a great spot for wild life watching. Rising early on a cool morning, you may be able to quietly stake out a river pool and keep watch for western grey kangaroos, echidnas, or some of the species reintroduced in 2002 by the DEC such as the black flanked rock wallaby, tammar wallaby and quenda (southern brown bandicoot).
Best Drive – Follow the Moondyne Track and soak up the history of our locally infamous bushranger Moondyne Joe. Only one optional section requires engaging 4X4.
Best Camping – Homestead; 4X4 access only.
Five things to take – Camera, warm clothes, all food and water, insect repellent (don’t forget to check for ticks), GPS or area maps.