Having lived in Western Australia for over 20 years, this is my guide to the best free things to do in Pemberton WA, plus tips on the weather, how to get there, and where to stay.
Pemberton is known for its massive karri trees, spectacular forests, and beautiful scenery. It’s a lovely place to get away for a long weekend, to spend a week, or as part of a South West road trip.
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Location & How To Get There
Pemberton is in the South West region of Western Australia.
International and domestic visitors will fly into Perth Airport. Find details about visas, prohibited items, currency, and safety on our Australia page.
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Pemberton is a 3 hour and 45-minute drive along State Route 2, National Route 1, followed by Vasse Highway.
TransWA runs buses to Northcliffe that stop in Pemberton. However, it’s hard to get around this region without a car.
The 8 Best Free Things To Do in Pemberton WA
This detailed map shows where the attractions, trails, and other free things to do in Pemberton WA are located.
Pemberton Town & Visitor Centre
The first stop should be the Pemberton Visitor Centre, 29 Brockman Street. Maps are available along with other tourist information and brochures on the local area and attractions. Pick up a map of the Karri Forest Explorer, which is explained further on in detail.
While in town, wander along the main street. These buildings are well preserved and feature in the movie Jasper Jones. Pemberton was chosen as the fictional country town, set in the 1960s, due to its authenticity of that time. Download the Walking in the Footsteps of Jasper Jones brochure.
The historic Pemberton Hotel was constructed in 1926 from materials from the Courthouse Hotel site in Greenbushes. This was originally built in the early 1900s. The motel units and café were added in 2000.
The Gloucester Tree is the closest fire lookout tree to Pemberton; only 2km from the center of town, in Gloucester National Park. This makes it accessible if you don’t have transport.
It was made a fire lookout in 1947, one of a few lookouts built in the Karri forest between 1937 and 1952. These trees were an excellent way of spotting fires in the tall Karri forest.
Gloucester Tree got its name from The Duke of Gloucester, who was visiting Pemberton when it was made into a fire lookout.
The giant Karri tree is the second-tallest fire lookout tree globally, with the Dave Bicentennial Tree being the tallest (see further on).
Today, the tree can be climbed to a height of 61m. The old wooden pegs have been changed to metal, making it easier to grip. However, they can be slippery in wet weather, and it is advisable not to climb in these conditions. The Gloucester Tree has 153 of these pegs.
You’ll be pleased to know that nobody has died climbing the lookout trees, but two people have suffered heart attacks afterward. It’s certainly not something I could do, but our daughters climbed part of the way.
A 12km hike starts at the Gloucester Tree and finishes at The Cascades, using the Bibbulmun Track (a long-distance walking trail stretching 950km from Kalamunda to Albany). It is named after a local Indigenous people’s language group and recognises their practices of walking long distances.
There are plenty of wildflowers in spring and an abundance of birds. A great place to visit whether you want to climb the tree, or go on a peaceful walk amongst these spectacular giants.
Karri Forest Explorer Drive
The Karri Forest Explorer Drive is an 85 km circuit through the native forests and passes by many local attractions. We did the circuit in a clockwise direction, so the attractions listed are in the order of where we visited.
As mentioned, pick up a map at the Pemberton Visitor Centre or download a copy here.
The best part of this drive is it can be explored at your own pace, making it ideal to stop for a picnic en route. Alternatively, there are places along the way to do wine tasting, have a coffee, or a gourmet meal.
Pemberton has some amazing fresh produce, so look for signs on the side of the road. Most have an honesty box to put the money in. It’s one of the best ways to sample the region’s delicious food and support the locals.
Be aware that part of the circuit is on unsealed roads. If you have a hire vehicle, check the terms & conditions as some do not allow driving on gravel.
The drive goes through National Parks, which requires a pass. Either pay at the self-registration points, purchase a pass at the Visitor Centre or, if you are a RACWA member, buy a yearly pass through them at a 50% discount.
You will be amazed at this area’s beauty, with the tall karri trees, green countryside, and the contrasting red gravel roads.
The Cascades, in Gloucester National Park, are beautiful waterfalls that cascade over Lefroy Brook. A short walk from the car park is a boardwalk with views over the river and the cascades.
The trail here is a 1.2 km, grade 2, family-friendly walk that loops around the waterfalls. I recommend doing this walk; it was one of our highlights in Pemberton. We saw lots of wildflowers, birds, and a kangaroo. He even stayed for a while so we could take his photo.
There’s plenty to photograph along the trail with beautiful moss-covered tree trunks and brightly coloured fungi.
In winter, you may see pouched lampreys (Geotria Australis) in Lefroy Brook. These eel-like creatures migrate from the ocean to the river to breed. As it was spring when we visited, we didn’t get to see any, but it was interesting reading about them on the information boards.
Warren National Park
Warren National Park is home to some of Western Australia’s tallest Karri trees. They can grow up to 90 metres, making them one of the world’s tallest.
The tallest climbing tree in the world can be found here. The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree was open to the public for climbing in 1988.
It is not for those scared of heights or unfit. There are no safety harnesses, clips, or ropes, not even any protection if you fell. The 165 pegs are drilled into the side of the tree and provide a spiral ladder to climb.
The first platform allows you to climb halfway. A sign reads, “that was the easy bit.” Near the top, the ladder is almost vertical and narrow. The advice is not to climb any further in wet or windy conditions, and if in doubt, don’t climb. There isn’t anyone to help you and going back down is the hardest part!
With my fear of heights, there was no way I was climbing this tree. One of our daughters and Dave went to the halfway mark. It was a wet morning, so they decided not to risk climbing to the top. Maybe we will return in better conditions and try again, or maybe not!
The 12km Heartbreak Trail is a beautiful drive through the karri forest and Warren River valley. The trail was built by hand to make a path down to the river for the firefighters. You can understand how it got its name.
There are canoe launch sites with picnic and barbecue facilities, making it an ideal place to relax. The one-way drive is, however, on unsealed roads, which are steep in parts. It is unsuitable for buses and caravans, and hire vehicles must check their terms and conditions before driving on gravel roads.
The Warren River Lookout and the rapids at Heartbreak Crossing are the best places to stop at on this drive.
The Warren River is also a popular spot to fish. In season, you may be able to catch marron. There are strict guidelines, though, so to avoid a hefty fine, check the fisheries site.
If you’d rather walk beneath the incredible trees and see the fallen trunks covered with moss, lichen, and fungi, consider the Warren River Loop Walk. The 10.5km, moderately hard hike goes through the old-growth karri forest. It passes picnic areas and the Warren Lookout, with views over the valley and to the river.
To avoid the steep uphill climb, do the trail in an anti-clockwise direction.
Beedelup Falls is always a favourite of mine. Not only is the waterfall beautiful, but the 25m suspension bridge is a lot of fun. It’s best visited at the end of winter or the start of spring when the waterfall is in full flow.
The falls are accessed on a 300 metre loop trail, which takes you across the suspension bridge. The best views of the falls and Beedelup Brook are here, but it’s hard to take photos as the bridge is very wobbly!
The path takes you alongside the falls and to the universal access lookout and bridge. From here, the 100m Beedelup Falls can be seen cascading over the big granite rocks.
The Karri Valley Lookout provides views over the karri forest and Lake Beedelup to the RAC Karri Valley Resort.
There are a couple of additional walking tracks that leave from the lookout. The Beedelup Loop Walk takes you on a 3.5km walk around Beedelup Lake. If you add on the walkthrough tree, the walk will be 4.5km. Alternatively, it is possible to do a loop to the walkthrough tree and back to the falls car park.
It’s a Grade 3 listed trail as there are some steep and uneven sections and steps when walking the whole loop.
We walked to the Walk-Through-Tree, but it started to rain, so we headed back via the lake. This part was pretty easy, and the kids enjoyed walking through a tree! Again, with most of the areas here, there were plenty of wildflowers and birdlife to make the walk interesting.
Karri forests here are so beautiful to walk through, and the trees are just majestic.
Big Brook Dam
Big Brook Dam is definitely worth a stop on the Karri Forest Explorer Drive. Whether you want to hike around it, have a picnic, ride your bike, have a swim, jump in your kayak, it has something for everyone. It is especially popular with families, locals, and visitors.
It was built in 1986 to boost the area’s water supply but has become one of the most visited places in Pemberton.
We parked near the sandy beach area and took our picnic down. There are picnic tables but, as it gets extremely busy, your own chairs may be needed. This is also an ideal place for swimming and launching a kayak.
The grade 1, sealed 4km trail is great for bikes as well as strollers and wheelchairs. It is dog-friendly, too, as long as they are kept on-lead.
It’s an easy but gorgeous walk, taking in the dam as well as the 60-year-old regrowth forest.
Many water birds call this dam home, so pop into one of the viewing huts along the way and see if you can spot any. The huts also provide information and are interesting to read (be careful of the spiders that live in them).
The dam is stocked with trout, so many people fish here, especially near the dam. Check with Fisheries before fishing.
Download this brochure for more information.
If you visit Pemberton during summer, the historic Pemberton Pool is a fantastic location to cool down.
It was built in the late 1920s for the use of the timber workers’ families and is now an iconic spot for locals. It’s perfect for a picnic or BBQ and a good meeting place for friends and family.
If your kids enjoy mountain biking, The Pemberton Mountain Bike Park is next to the pool.
Tours from Pemberton
If you don’t have your own transport or prefer to do a tour, the Half-Day Beach and Forest Eco Adventure sounds good. You get to see the sand dunes of D’Entreasteaux National park as well as the Karri Forest. We were considering this tour to experience the dunes but ran out of time. It’s on our list to do when we return.
Accommodation near Pemberton
Big Brook Arbaretum Campground is 3 km from Big Brook Dam and offers basic camping for around $11 per adult per night. Situated amongst the karri trees, picnic tables, barbecues, and toilets are provided.
If you prefer more facilities when camping, we stayed at Fonty’s Pool, between Manjimup and Pemberton. It has the best reviews in the area, but it was jam-packed, so we had to queue to use toilets and showers. The sites are also quite close to each other, which didn’t provide much privacy. However, the pool was great, and the site is in a beautiful setting.
If you are after a bit of luxury, or a romantic getaway, consider Mudstone Suites. These suites come with all the usual amenities, including a coffee machine, barbecue, and sun terrace. Some suites also have their own spa and sauna! Just note, the property is located on an unsealed road.
Both Big Brook Cottages and Rainbow Trail Chalets are very highly rated, and I’d consider either of them on our next visit to Pemberton. Click on the links to view the full range of facilities and amenities on offer at these properties, as well as the price.
Maybe not budget but definitely on the cheaper end of the scale and good value for money is the Karri Forest Motel. All rooms are air-conditioned, have a TV, and barbecue facilities are provided. The gym and swimming pool are available for use all year round.
We stayed previously at Diamond Forest Cottages and recommend it for families. Our children adored the farm animals, and feeding them each morning was a highlight of their day. They still talk about Choppa (the kangaroo) five years later. Read our full review of Diamond Forest Cottage.
Stargazers is a great choice for winter as they have a fireplace in their cottages. If, like me, you enjoy cosying up in front of the fire at night, then Stargazers is for you. You can read all the excellent reviews on Booking.Com
|Big Brook Cottages||4||5||$$||N||Book Here|
|Diamond Forest Farm Stay||4||5||$$||N||Book Here|
|Rainbow Trail Chalets||4||5||$$||N||Book Here|
|The Forest Lodge Resort||3||4.5||$$||N||Book Here|
|Mudstone Suites||N/A||4.5||$$||Hot Tub||Book Here|
|Karri Forest Motel||3||3.5||$$||Y||Book Here|
Pemberton Forecast & Weather
The warmest months are from December to March when the average highs are 24/26 degrees.
The coldest months are from June to September. During this time, the temperature will be around 15/16, with a minimum of 7.
Most rain falls between June and August, with February being the driest month.
I like the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn when it’s not too hot for walking but not cold and raining. Spring has the added bonus of wildflowers.
See the detailed 7-day forecast at the Bureau of Meteorology.
Brief History & Settlement of Pemberton
I want to respectfully acknowledge the Nyoongar People, the Traditional Owners, and First People of these lands. I would like to pay my respect to the Elders past, present, and future, for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture, and hopes of the Nyoongar People.
The first European settlers to Pemberton were Edward Reveley Brockman (1861), his brother in law Gerald de Courcy Lefroy, and Pemberton Walcott (who the town was named after) in 1862.
The state-owned Saw Mills were constructed in 1913 to supply half a million railway sleepers for the Trans-Australian Railway.
Pemberton town was gazetted in October 1925.
Tourism began to grow in the 1980s to what it is today. The Timber industry continues alongside agriculture, aquaculture, and viticulture.
The Population of Pemberton WA
According to the 2016 Australian Census, Pemberton had a population of 974.
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Travel Information & Guides
This Australia Travel Guide, which includes all essential information and tips, will help with the planning of your holiday to this beautiful country.
If you are looking for more things to do in Western Australia, check out this Western Australia Travel Guide.
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How far is Pemberton from Perth?
Pemberton is 323 km from Perth and takes 3 hours and 40 minutes to drive via National Route 1 and Forest Highway.
How far is Albany from Pemberton?
Albany is 231 km and a 2 hour & 35 minute drive via Muir Hwy/State Route 102 or a 2 hour & 45 minute drive (239 km) via National Route 1.
How far is Walpole from Pemberton?
Walpole to Pemberton is 120 km and takes an hour & 20 minutes to drive via National Route 1.
Can you still climb the Gloucester Tree?
Yes! See above for all the information on climbing this fire lookout tree in Pemberton.
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