Ford Everest adventure series: Solo, safe & sound from Perth to Dwellingup

Just over an hour away from the flat urban landscape of Perth, the world turns into a lush forest with walking & mountain bike trails, waterfalls & glorious sun-soaked drives through Lane Poole Reserve.

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Nothing beats a solo adventure on the open road, tapping out of the city and tuning into nature with the 2023 Wheels Car of the Year.

Driving on my own means extra prepping in case of emergency, but this is made less daunting with the appropriate gear and an impressive vehicle like the Ford Everest Sport to take for a weekend spin.

My mission was to find a destination not far from the city that has great camping areas, walking trails and the occasional four-wheel drive track to get my dose of outdoor adventure. Dwellingup and its surrounds tick all these boxes, and it’s just over an hour south-east of Perth.

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The Everest is extremely comfortable to drive, and it’s equipped with a suite of advanced safety technologies, offering features such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring to keep me alert and in control at all times.

It’s also a stand-out from the crowd with its slick blue exterior design, front fascia features such as a black mesh grille, distinctive LED headlights and stylish 20-inch alloy wheels.

My first stop, just 15 minutes north of Dwellingup, is a drive along Grey Road towards the Marrinup Falls Walk Trail; just outside of Marrinup town and campground. It’s an incredible time of the year to see wildflowers; particularly the wattle trees that illuminate either side of the road with their iridescent yellow flowers.

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There are some moderate, slightly rocky inclines towards Marrinup Falls, with the descent control settings of the Everest regulating its speed while descending the steeper gradients and always maintaining traction and control.

Adjacent to these trails is the POW camp trail. This historical trail has a dark history, as it was used as a prisoner of war camp during, and after World War II.

It allows hikers to retrace the footsteps of the prisoners on a 4.5 km circuit and undoubtedly is a unique way to experience first-hand the history of this area. However, I am on the clock to set up camp and check out some other tracks before dusk sets in; so, I head off towards Dwellingup.

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Choose your own adventure

I make a quick detour to the Pinjarra Bakery in Waroona to grab one of their ‘famous’ vanilla slices, then drive 30 minutes to the Dwellingup Visitor Centre to gather some more information on the area.

Next door is a buzzy little cafe with a throng of bikes out front; not surprising due to Dwellingup’s burgeoning mountain bike scene and other outdoor winter activities from what I’ve gleaned from the information counter and pamphlets I’ve gathered.

Everything from different grades of cycling and hiking trails to ziplining and white-water rafting prevails in this area. The Dwellingup Adventures shop within the same building, offers a variety of mountain bikes, canoes, or kayaks for hire.

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I leave the info centre armed with maps and set off for a leisurely drive in the Everest towards Lane Poole Reserve to set up my swag and check out the Cape Fawcett Track.

Lane Poole Reserve is a 50,000-hectare natural playground; nestled in the Darling Range and less than a 10-minute drive south from the Dwellingup Information Centre, it offers a very easy driving circuit through forest dappled sealed and unsealed tracks, and over river crossings.

There’s plenty of options for camping upon entry to the Reserve (fees apply), with each area providing pit toilets, fire pits and bins for both families and solo travellers like myself; including campgrounds at New Baden Powell (usually a host to school camps), Charlies Flat, Yarragil, Stringers and Tonys Bend.

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Camping fees apply at all sites and it's best to check the Parks and Wildlife Services website for updates on road closures, maintenance, and bookings at certain times of the year.

I take the winding road that splits off from Nanga Bush Camp near the main entrance towards Bob’s Crossing - a quaint little bridge that overlooks the Murray River, and so glassy that it resembles a fold-out painting of forest as it reflects off the water’s surface.

During the summer, the river provides a playful setting for swinging off ropes into the water, canoeing and fishing; a very different scene to the stillness and tranquillity I am witnessing right now.

Although during the winter months, when the water levels rise from the rains, the river swells provide small rapids further towards the Lane Poole Reserve entrance at Dwaarlindjirraap, ideal for white water rafting.

The road towards Tonys Bend campground runs parallel to steeply forested valley slopes and swimming holes of the Murray River and it’s mottled with dark muddy potholes and slimy unsealed gravel road, which the exceptional suspension of the Everest helps it glide over with ease.

It’s a magical view of the river from my secluded camp spot as I set up my swag, devour my vanilla slice and then jump back in the Everest (while still trying to get used to the auto start button for the ignition!) to check out the Captain Fawcett track for some potential off-road action.

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Commemorative 4WD tracks

Named after Captain Theo Fawcett who created the track back in the mid-to-late 1800s, the Captain Fawcett track runs along old rail embankments, where trains once hauled timber from the forests.

Allow for up to 4 hours on this moderate to difficult four-wheel drive track. It’s around 105 km with the first 30-odd km taking most of the time; beginning at Dawn Creek Road near Nanga Mill and ending at Quindanning.

Unfortunately, with the recent heavy rains, the track is closed once I get there.

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I get a rare glimpse of what looks like a western quoll (or chuditch) scuttling across the track and into the forest underbrush.

There’s no doubt that with the Everest’s V6 diesel engine that delivers ample torque for off-road adventures, it will find the steep hills and challenging terrain of this track a cinch to power through, but bringing a driving buddy along during the drier months may prove to be the safer option for me, anyway.

So, I drive back through the Nanga Townsite, past the Treetops Adventure playground which is webbed with 8 different tree rope courses and 23 ziplines, through to Nanga Mill campground to have a snack and watch the kangaroos, kookaburras and magpies go about their business in the sunshine.

I get a rare glimpse of what looks like a western quoll (or chuditch) scuttling across the track and into the forest underbrush.

Yes, quokkas are found outside of Rottnest Island, which is news to me as a Western Australian local!

However, I start chatting to a ranger doing some maintenance around the campgrounds who says it’s unlikely I would have seen one around these parts - but that it may have been a quokka. Yes, quokkas are found outside of Rottnest Island, which is news to me as a Western Australian local!

The reserve protects about 500 species of native plants which provide important habitat for threatened fauna species; including said quokkas, the noisy scrub-bird, woylie, chuditch and western ring-tailed possum.

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Sunday driving

There’s so much to do at Lane Poole Reserve that it would require at least a few days to experience most of the activities on offer.

It hosts part of the Bibbulmun Track, a walk that stretches 1000 km from Perth Hills through parts of Lane Poole Reserve and down through to Albany. The Munda Biddi Trail is a renowned off-road cycling track that traverses through the pristine forests of the reserve and is suitable for all levels.

Chuditch Walk Trail also passes through the Nanga area, which was once a thriving timber milling town, operating from 1900 until the devastating Dwellingup fires of 1961. The trail can be started from either Nanga Townsite or Nanga Mill campgrounds.

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There are numerous unsealed driving tracks around the area, as well as gravel roads.

The Everest cruises on the undulating, wet and windy roads of Dwellingup and surrounds, with barely a noise heard within the cabin itself.

It’s incredibly chilly outside, particularly in the depths of the jarrah forest, so the seat warmers add extra comfort for the drive, and I’m enamoured with the extra top glove compartment for easy extraction of maps; which I’ve marked up with places I want to visit on my drive.

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As dusk is slowly encroaching, I head back to camp, get the fire going (bring your own firewood) and rug up with two layers of thermals for a good night’s sleep.

I awaken to early morning sunlight filtering through the trees and go about making coffee in my filter cup; then pack up my swag to hit the road. It’s not a country drive without picking up some local produce on my way through Dwellingup.

There’s a convenient ‘tap-and-go’ backyard caravan setup selling all the relishes, local honey and jams that I can fit in my arms, and then I’m back on the open road in the Ford Everest towards the big smoke once again.

For information on the Ford Everest range and features, visit here [↗].

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Acknowledging this land's traditional owners

The Pinjarup and Wilman people are the Traditional Owners of Lane Poole Reserve. The reserve is named after Lane Poole, who was Western Australia’s first Conservator of Forests and formulated the Forest Act for the sustainable management and conservation of Western Australia’s forests.

Lane Poole Reserve was designated in 1987 for the protection of its unique flora and fauna, after a long history of timber milling.

Mind your mess!

Leave no trace and stick to designated tracks: Dispose of waste responsibly and leave no trace of your visit. Pack out all rubbish, including food scraps, to maintain the pristine beauty of the reserve and follow specific track guidelines or closures to protect the natural habitat.

Anji Bignell
Ellen Dewar


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