Karri forest activities experiences – Finding the best places

Karri forest - finding the best places. Check out my list of photography and hiking, favourites.

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.

karri forest grows on rich karri loam soil Pemberton
Pemberton swimming pool is in the karri forest, from Pemberton Wine Region book.

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.

karri forest pemberton sunrise
Sunrise karri forest Pemberton

Western Australia’s best places to experience karri forest activities

Eight of the best karri forest places, activities and experiences

  1. Visit karri forest Pemberton

    In the heart of Tall Timber Country, about 350km south of Perthkarri trees mist pemberton

  2. Go for a paddle at Big Brook Dam

    10 minutes from Pemberton within the karri forest

  3. Climb the Gloucester Tree

    Also, climb the Bicentennial Tree or the Diamond Tree

  4. Relax beside Waterfalls and Rivers

    Enjoy waterfalls, dams, and rivers within karri forest

  5. Get out and photograph the karri forest

    waterfalls, river, birds, fungi, wildflowers, mists, sunsets

  6. Experience the karri forests of Walpole

    Karri forests Walpole Wilderness Area

  7. Go hiking in the Karri forest Denmark

    Stunning Monkey Rock and Mt Hallowell

  8. Visit the Porongurups karri forest

    Ancient granite domes in the karri forest

The Four Aces karri trees Manjimup
The Four Aces karri trees Manjimup
car driving karri forest pemberton
Driving through karri forest, Pemberton

Boranup karri forest Margaret River Western Australia

Karri forest Boranup Margaret River from Leeuwin Naturaliste Postcard Series
Leeuwin Naturaliste Postcard Series Karri forest Boranup Margaret River

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.

Karri forest Boranup is now within the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park. You can travel along Boranup Drive, which is suitable for two-wheel-drive vehicles.

karri forest boranup
Autumn karri colours Boranup, one of my first postcard images
karri roots augusta jewel cave
Karri tree roots penetrate the caverns of the Jewel Cave, Augusta

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 wildflowers margaret river boranup
Coral vine and hovea, karri forest flowers, Boranup, Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park.

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.

karri valley resort accommodation karri forest pemberton
Accommodation at Karri Valley Resort on Karri Valley Dam

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.

Karri forest and Water Bush, Beedelup National Park Pemberton
Spring display of Water Bush, karri forest, Beedelup National Park, Pemberton

Big Brook Dam karri forest Pemberton

Dwarfed by karri forest Big Brook Dam Pemberton
Visitors dwarfed by karri forest Big Brook Dam

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.

Summer dip, Big Brook Dam Pemberton
Summer dip, Big Brook Dam Pemberton
Sealed walk trails offer excellent access at Big Brook Dam
Sealed walk trails offer excellent access at Big Brook Dam
Sunburst through the karri forest at dawn, Big Brook Dam
Sunburst through the karri forest at dawn, Big Brook Dam
Cool morning, karri trees Big Brook Dam
Cool morning, karri trees Big Brook Dam
Wildflowers- Coral Vine and Clematis, karri forest Gloucester National Park
Wildflowers- Coral Vine and Clematis, karri forest Gloucester National Park

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.

Climbing the Gloucester Tree, Gloucester National Park
Climbing the Gloucester Tree, Gloucester National Park, Pemberton Wine Region

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.

Bicentennial karri tree, 75 metres,  Warren National Park
Bicentennial karri tree, 75 metres, Warren National Park
Gloucester karri tree, 61 metres, Gloucester National Park
Gloucester karri tree, 61 metres, Gloucester National Park

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.

Beedelup Falls, Beedelup National Park Pemberton
Beedelup Falls, Beedelup National Park
warren river moons crossing pemberton
Karri trunk, Moons Crossing, Pemberton
The Cascades, Lefroy Brook, Gloucester National Park
The Cascades, Lefroy Brook, Gloucester National Park

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.

Lane Poole Falls, Northcliffe
Lane Poole Falls, Northcliffe
Fishing, Karri Valley Dam Pemberton
Fishing, Karri Valley Dam
Moons Crossing karri forest Warren River, Pemberton
Moons Crossing karri forest Warren River, Pemberton

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.

Tassel flowers, karri forest wildflowers
Tassel flowers grow in the karri forest understorey

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.

Wildflowers, karri forest, Pemberton
Wildflowers, karri forest, Pemberton
Karri forest Shannon National Park Northcliffe region
Karri forest Shannon National Park Northcliffe region
moulting karri tree bark detail
Attractive patterns created by shedding bark of the karri tree
karri trees mist pemberton
Capture the mood of morning mist in the karri trees near Pemberton
Fungi and moss, karri tree bark detail
Fungi and moss, karri tree bark detail
Karri leaf detail, Shannon National Park, Northcliffe
Forest floor detail, karri leaf, Shannon National Park, Northcliffe

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.

Frankland River karri forest Walpole Nornalup National Park
Frankland River, karri forest, Walpole Nornalup National Park

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.

Circular Pool karri forest reflections Frankland River Walpole
Circular Pool and karri forest reflections, Walpole

Mount Frankland and Walpole Wilderness Area

Karri forest light rain Mount Frankland Walpole
Karri forest in light rain Mount Frankland Walpole

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.

View from Mt Frankland Walpole Wilderness Area
View from Mt Frankland Walpole Wilderness Area

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.

Bibbulmun Track, Mount Hallowell, Denmark
Bibbulmun Track, Mount Hallowell, Denmark

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.

Denmark karri forest, Bibbulmun Track on Mt Hallowell
Denmark karri forest, Bibbulmun Track on Mt Hallowell

Visit the Porongurups karri forest

Sunrise Porongurup Range
Sunrise Porongurup Range

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.

Karri forest growing in the valleys and granite slopes of the Porongurups
Karri forest growing in the valleys and granite slopes of the Porongurups
Fallen giant, karri forest, Porongurup National Park
Fallen giant, karri forest, Porongurup National Park

Basic Bush Safety

poor trail signage
Don’t rely on signage – be smart – take a map

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 a 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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Since 1989, Alex Bond has published cards, calendars, books, and posters under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His images showcase the West Australian environment. Bond's handcrafted, silver-gelatin, fibre-based prints are personally made by the author in his darkroom.

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  1. Thanks Alex, an absolutely great idea focussing on the karri. I’ll forward on to our prospective visitors too. Living and working in Pemberton, I’m somewhat in the thick of it and these trees and the ecosystems constantly allure. I cut my teeth on them so to speak with my first art exh in 1989 – the whole show wall to wall trees,see too: https://www.tonywindberg.com/1985-1990 . Cheers and keep enjoying your work! Tony

    • Hi Tony, I guess I have never tired of the karri forest. Gathering the images for this post has reminded me just how long I have been making journeys into the karri trees. Pemberton, which is in the heart of karri country, is such a great source of inspiration and creativity. I hope to get back down to do a little more photographic exploration soon. Thanks for reading and your comments, best regards, Alex