Where do you find karri forests?
Where do you find the best karri forest activities and experiences? Karri forests are unique to the southwest of Western Australia. Don’t get karri confused with the Queensland and New Zealand Kauri, they sound similar but are not the same! Karri trees are Eucalyptus diversicolor. Kauri trees from Queensland and New Zealand are a coniferous tree, Agathis australis.
Nearest karri forest to Perth
- Perth to karri forest Boranup, Margaret River Region 3 hours and 15 mins Approximately 290km
- Perth to karri forest Pemberton – Northcliffe Regions 3 hours and 40 mins Approximately 350km
Karri trees, like a wet climate with about 1100mm rainfall per annum. They also grow the tallest on a rich dark red loamy soil known as karri loam. Consequently, Pemberton and Northcliffe regions of southwest Western Australia, have some of the best distributions of karri forest. This region is collectively referred to as Tall Timber Country, and, until recently, had working timber mills which processed this valuable hardwood.
But the karri forests also extend south to the Walpole Wilderness Area on the south coast and as far east as the Porongurup Range. The most western distribution of karri forest can be found at Boranup, between Margaret River and Augusta.
Boranup karri forest is probably the closest to Perth, followed by the karri forests near Manjimup, Pemberton, and Northcliffe. Although the Boranup karri trees are not as tall as those from Tall Timber Country, they are never-the-less unique. Unlike any other karri forests, Boranup’s karri forest in the Margaret River region grows on the limestone soils. These are substantially poorer nutritionally than the rich karri loam soils further south.
How tall are karri trees?
Just how tall are karri trees? Well, there doesn’t seem to be a straight forward answer, due to different measurement techniques and their potential for error. Karri trees can grow between 60 to 90 metres high. They are one of the tallest hardwoods in the world.
How old are karri trees?
Karri trees can live for several hundred years. 350 years is about the expected lifespan of most trees. However, some karri trees have been estimated to be much older.
Western Australia’s best places to experience karri forest activities
Eight of the best karri forest places, activities and experiences
- Visit karri forest Pemberton
In the heart of Tall Timber Country, about 350km south of Perth
- Go for a paddle at Big Brook Dam
10 minutes from Pemberton within the karri forest
- Climb the Gloucester Tree
Also, climb the Bicentennial Tree or the Diamond Tree
- Relax beside Waterfalls and Rivers
Enjoy waterfalls, dams, and rivers within karri forest
- Get out and photograph the karri forest
waterfalls, river, birds, fungi, wildflowers, mists, sunsets
- Experience the karri forests of Walpole
Karri forests Walpole Wilderness Area
- Go hiking in the Karri forest Denmark
Stunning Monkey Rock and Mt Hallowell
- Visit the Porongurups karri forest
Ancient granite domes in the karri forest
Boranup karri forest Margaret River Western Australia
Stop by Caves Road to appreciate the stunning karri forest Boranup. Just 20 km south of Margaret River in the heart of cave country. As you travel from Margaret River towards Augusta on Caves Road, you enter the karri forest just north of Mammoth Cave. A little further along, you follow Caves Road around several corners and then down into a forested valley. If you choose to stop there is a wooden viewing platform and a dirt area where you can pull off the road, park your car, get out and walk around.
Early Timber Mills Karri Forest
The Boranup karri trees are regrowth forest and therefore relatively young compared to those of Pemberton, Northcliffe and Walpole Wilderness regions. During the 1880s karri forest was cut down and milled at Karridale. It was then shipped worldwide from Hamelin Bay Jetty. During the early 1900s, Boranup even had its own timber mill.
Towering karri trees grow above the limestone caves near Augusta. From the time they are just a small sapling, karri trees send down deep into the earth a long taproot. This will supply the growing tree with a source of groundwater, especially during the drier months. Here, the taps roots of karri trees penetrate the large caverns within the Jewel Cave at Augusta. They have traversed the empty cavern space to continue their search for water deeper into the limestone cave system.
Karri forest Pemberton Western Australia
Pemberton is a great place to explore ancient karri forest and enjoy the karri forest environment. You can enjoy activities such as hiking, photography, canoeing, fishing, and swimming in a forest dam. Also, within a short distance of Pemberton are four large national parks with karri forest. These include the Warren National Park, the D’Entreacasteauux National Park, Beedelup National Park, and the Gloucester National Park.
All the national parks offer a range of bushwalking, backpacking or hiking options. Most have walk trails. Some are short circuit walks of an hour or so, others such as the Bibbubmun Track take days. If you are looking for karri forest walks or karri forest maps, contact the Pemberton Visitor Centre or Northcliffe Visitor Centre for details. They will also have information about the karri forest explorer drive maps for car touring.
Pemberton also has a range of karri forest accommodation options from karri forest glamping, regular karri forest campsites, chalets nestled by the forest’s edge or hotel accommodation in town. Popular camping sites around Pemberton include the Heartbreak Trail in the Warren National Park, Big Brook Arboretum camping and Moon’s Crossing on the Warren River. Again, check with the Pemberton Visitor Centre for up to date details.
Big Brook Dam karri forest Pemberton
Big Brook Dam was built in the late 1980s to help supply Pemberton with drinking water. This magnificent expanse of water is within the karri forest. Massive karri trees provide a stunning shoreline backdrop and there is a small beach area. You can go canoeing, swimming, or fish for trout and marron here. There are 4km of sealed walk trails that follow the shoreline of the dam. This shared cycling and walking trail also provides for excellent wheelchair access through the karri forest.
Climb the Gloucester Karri Tree Fire Lookout
How do you get to see over the top of these massive karri forests if you are not a bird? Climb a massive karri tree taller than all the others of course!
This was the solution during the 1930s and 1940s the early foresters took to build fire lookouts. They drove pegs into the trunks of these trees to assist them to climb all the way to the top. Once at the top of the tree, these highly skilled workers would cut down part of the tree canopy to make way for a viewing platform and shelter. High up on this perch the forester could view 360 degrees of the horizon and could report on any forest fires and their location.
Bicentennial and Diamond Fire Lookout Trees in the karri forest
There are three fire lookout trees that visitors can climb, all close to Pemberton. There is the Gloucester Tree, at 61 metres, just past the Pemberton High School. Also, there is the Bicentennial Tree, at 75 metres, in the Warren National Park, and the Diamond Tree, at 51 metres, on Southwest Highway between Pemberton and Manjimup in the Diamond State Forest.
Relax beside Karri Forest Waterfalls Rivers and Dams
No visit to the West Australian karri forest is complete without some forest activity experienced in the presence of water. Karri loves a high rainfall, and there are some wonderful rivers, streams, waterfalls, and dams worth visiting. Options vary from a 5km bushwalk to Lane Poole Falls, to strolling around the circuit trails of Beedelup Falls or the Cascades. If your time is limited, I would recommend concentrating your karri forest visit around Pemberton, also Walpole.
Whether you plan to cast a line in a dam or go for a hike or picnic, the options are up to you. Either way, take some time to relax and experience the uniqueness of Western Australia’s magnificent karri forests.
Photographing karri forest activities and experiences
Trying to distill some of your karri forest activities and experiences into your photography can be challenging and rewarding. There are literally loads of subjects to aim your camera at. Whether it be close up details of bark and leaves or the majestic view of karri stands.
Just remember that every visit to the forest is unique. No two days a really alike. Trees standing today may not be standing on your return visit. Fire changes the distribution of wildflowers and can even destroy mature trees. Storms take their toll. And of course, the weather and light quality on your visit is everything. Whether it be fine cloudless days or overcast and rainy, the forest will look different. Each visit to the karri forest offers a unique opportunity to create a special photograph. Let your photographs embody your karri forest activities and experiences.
Experience the karri forests of Walpole Nornalup National Park
Walpole is one of the few places where you will find views of the karri forest growing down to the shoreline of an inlet. There is karri forest on the slopes of the knolls that shape the Walpole Nornalup Inlet. From walk trails, you catch glimpses of karri trees lining the shoreline.
Circular Pool Frankland River Walpole
There are scenic forest drives along Hilltop Road in Walpole Nornalup National Park. From Hilltop Rd you can access Circular Pool on the Frankland River. In winter it can be a roaring torrent of water, in contrast to summer, when it is a peaceful pool with karri forest reflections. Stop by, enjoy a picnic and the views.
Mount Frankland and Walpole Wilderness Area
Walpole offers a variety of potential karri forest activities and experiences. You can undertake short day walks, or alternatively, go backpacking on the Bibbulmun Track for days. There are also plenty of photographic options, plenty of giant trees, granite domes in the forest, fast-flowing rivers, and wildflowers.
If your legs are up for the challenge, you can climb the granite peak of Mt Frankland, within in the Mt Frankland National Park. Otherwise, you can enjoy the views from the track at the foot of Mt Frankland. A hut on the summit was once used as a fire lookout.
Once at the summit you can enjoy views over the Walpole Wilderness Area. There are several walk trails of various grades and access. Get up to date advice from the Walpole Visitor Centre.
Hiking in the Karri forest Denmark
Karri forest extends to the south coast in patches. If you are following the Bibbulmun Track from William Bay to Denmark, you will head towards Mount Hallowell and Monkey Rock. While these massive granite outcrops and boulders are impressive in themselves, they are dwarfed by the surrounding karri forest. This is some of the most southern distribution of karri trees.
The views from Mt Hallowell and Monkey Rock through the karri forest to the Southern Ocean are impressive. It is possible to do a bushwalk of about 2 to 3 hours return from Monkey Rock to the Sheila Hill Memorial Track starting point. However, the trail can be steep and slippery in winter. As a result, you will need a reasonable walking fitness. It is a worthwhile hiking activity and a great way to experience the karri forest. Check with the Denmark Visitor Centre for up to date walk trail details.
Visit the Porongurups karri forest
This is the most eastern extent of the karri forest. About 90km north of Albany and near Mount Barker. Bushwalking the trails of these ancient granite domes and peaks is to go back in time. Geologically, the formation of the granite domes began deep underground when Antarctica collided traumatically with Australia. That was about a billion years ago.
Here you will find forested valleys of karri forest, partially covering the granite domes. Take a one hour hike and explore Castle Rock and the panoramic views from the Granite Skywalk.
Basic Bush Safety
Finally, a word on safety. Karri forest activities and experiences should be enjoyable. But safety is primarily your responsibility. Therefore, before setting out, you should let someone know where you are going and your expected return. Take water, a rain shell, and a small first aid kit. Maps and compass are also a basic bit of bushwalking kit you should have with you. These days a small handheld GPS would also be useful on longer, more difficult, walks. Last, personal location beacons are small and affordable. Consider getting one. Don’t rely upon mobile phone coverage.
Dare to be different! Where-ever you find your best karri forest activities and experiences, leave only your footprints, so others can enjoy it as you found it too.
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Alex Bond has been photographing landscapes professionally over several decades, contributing photographs to Australian and overseas publications. Consequently, he has made many photographic trips to the karri forests of southwestern Australia. Since 1989 Alex Bond has published under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His photographs are held in both private and public collections.