The West

Break free from city limits
Throwing the fleece on to the wool grading table. Picture: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

There is that joy of "leaving town". Crossing the line. Breaking free of Perth's suburbs and being out there in woodlands and farmlands.

Of heading east, right outside the peripheral of our urbanisation and towards the heartlands of Australia. I drive down Great Eastern Highway on one of those classically beautiful winter mornings. A chill in the air, blue sky and sun.

I have just two nights away but once I am past the Northam bypass the sense of adventure and a big horizon flushes me.

Fuel up at Tammin, head on to Kellerberrin, and turn left - north towards the area of granite outcrops I'm interested in.

They are amazing - great bubbles of lava that stand sentinel. Surrounded by woodlands and the happy chirp of honeyeaters.

They are surrounded by productive land, and that's interesting too. Anyone who likes their toast in the morning should go and take and look at where the wheat comes from. The Wheatbelt is not some arid wasteland. Don't pre-judge. See for yourself, and this is a good time of year to do it.

It has spacious towns like Mukinbudin, with wide roads and an old pub, and a living community like Bonnie Rock, where there are young families - and where the members of the Bonnie Rock Book Club welcome other readers from as far as Wyalkatchem, Merredin and Koorda to a literary lunch, which I attend. It is in the Bonnie Rock Hall, built in the 1930s, but recently restored so that the local playgroup can meet there.

There's as much food as there is a warm welcome in the hall, and afterwards we head out to walk the granite outcrops, which fire up as livid red islands in the late light.

But it is next morning that we head up Beringbooding Rock, just outside Bonnie Rock.

Alongside Elachbutting Rock, Beringbooding it is probably the best known in these parts, out by the old rabbit-proof fence line. Both are good for camping and have toilets and barbecues - and the towns out here welcome caravanners.

The old settlers built low granite walls around Beringbooding Rock to channel rainwater into a tank that was built in 1937. But the stone cairn on it had been constructed by H.S. King in 1889 - long before Mr King and Alfred Canning, who in 1893 surveyed the 1891km rabbit-proof fence to stop the rabbit invasion from the east, and went on to build the Canning Stock Route, became partners in a surveying business.

So, there's this dip into history, a dip into the geological past, a dip into nature and a dip into the present and WA's agricultural life.

And, in these very few days, I feel I have dipped into part of WA that's too often missed.


• Wheatbelt Tourism has an excellent website and suggests self-drive trails at get-here/self-drive-trails/
• Or call the Central Wheatbelt Visitor Centre on 9041 1666 for advice.
• Among the overnight spots is Merredin Bed and Breakfast, which is in a 1930s Art Deco former bank building. There is an antique shop in the grounds and pretty gardens. There is self-contained accommodation, breakfast, and other meals can be provided. Contact Avril Parker on or call 9041 4353.

The West Australian

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