Nature's day trips from Perth with Toddlers
Sat 6 Sep 2014 - Sun 23 Nov 2014
We’d previously driven past this national park numerous times a year when heading into or out of Perth, but had never gone in to have a look. So this year we decided to change that and check it out. Finding that several trips were in order to fully appreciate each of the main attractions. Making for some very enjoyable days out in nature.
The park is enveloped by the cultural history of the Nyoongar people who lived nearby or traveled through the area, and also further colonised history, as the original eastern rail line ran through there from 1896 – 1966. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, sustenance workers also did a lot of work in and around the parks headquarters, helping to make it the wonderful place it is today.
As one of the parks’ information brochures explains, the area was originally declared as a conservation reserve in 1898. Making it the oldest national park in WA. It later become John Forrest National Park in 1947 in honour of the famous explorer and statesman, Sir John Forrest (Premier of WA 1890-1901).
As this is a National Park, there is an entrance fee (currently $12/vehicle without annual pass), and depending on what you’re wanting to do, there are several access points to the John Forrest National Park. The three main entrances that access the national park headquarters and developed area are located off the Great Eastern Highway between Midland and Mundaring.
The first signed entrance when heading east away from Perth is opposite the Bilgoman Aquatic Centre, which takes you on a scenic drive through part of the park before reaching the entrance toll booth. Near the beginning of this road is a lookout point allowing you to look west over Perth towards the coast. Take note that the gates on this road are shut by 4pm daily, so it’s recommended that all visitors should exit this area by 3:45pm to avoid being locked in!
The second entrance isn’t as well sign posted, but is the shortest route into the main park area. And the final entrance road is opposite the Glen Forrest Shopping Centre.
For parking and walk in access to various walks and sites, without having to pay to go through the main entrance, Pechey Rd in Swan View, Toodyay Rd between Red Hill and the Red Hill Auditorium entrance, and Victoria Rd in Hovea are other possibilities.
Things to see and do
There are quite a few tracks available to explore including the John Forrest Heritage Trail, which is a section of the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail (RRHT). Some tracks are wheelchair accessible, some are for walkers only, others allow bicycles, and some that pass through the park boundary also allow horses and dogs for the sections located outside of the national park. All of these tracks allow you to enjoy the natural bush and wildlife of the area.
With regards to prams, we found both the RRHT and narrower trails between the main attractions that we visited were quite suitable and relatively flat. There were also informative signs located along the RRHT explaining various interesting points, but not along the narrower walk trails.
As explained further below, the gardens and picnic areas are also rather nice for young and old to be able to enjoy.
Some of the main highlights or sights to see include:
This is a 340m long inactive railway tunnel built in 1894-95 for the Eastern Railway. The jointed granite, and clay seams in the area caused difficulty with the construction, requiring a masonry-lined face to prevent rock falls. This however reduced the inner diameter of the tunnel, which along with the steep gradient, caused smoke accumulation. This resulted in near-asphyxiation of train crews, with the first serious incident occurring in 1903. The worst accident in the tunnel was in 1942 when several train crew workers were asphyxiated, causing one death. A new line was built around the tunnel for trains going up (east), which was completed in 1945. This Eastern Railway line route was finally closed in February 1966, coinciding with the opening of the new eastern rail route through the Avon Valley. (References and further information: ...1... ...2... ...3...).
Hint: Remember to take a torch! It is doable in the dark, but some form of light source is definitely appreciated. Especially if you’re riding a bike and there’s still puddles around. We forgot a torch, but managed to get through the tunnel ok using an assistive light app I had on my phone.
From the main picnic area of the national park, it’s about a 5km return trip along the RRHT. Going this way, you’ll pass the National Park Falls along the way. Or for free access and a shorter walk, you can park near the Pechey Rd, Morrison Rd, Swan View Rd intersection and walk or ride in to the tunnel from there.
- National Park Falls
Jane Brook drops sharply over about a 20m rock face before continuing to flow through further boulders, creating a rather picturesque scene. Late winter and spring (especially after recent rains) are the best times to view these and Hovea Falls as the brook generally dries up over summer.
Exploring the rocks and bush around these falls with toddlers can be both a lot of fun, yet also slightly stressful. Requiring the need for you to constantly know where they are and what they’re doing, as there are both water and cliff hazards that they may not necessarily recognise.
It’s about a 2km return trip from the picnic area along the RRHT. An alternative route is following a section of the Eagle View Walk Trail which follows along the northern side of the Jane Brook (RRHT is on the southern side). Being a narrower trail and closer to the brook, this track provides a slightly different perspective of the brook and surrounding bush compared to the RRHT. The variety of flowers available to see along this track during spring is also rather spectacular.
Or, if you’re prepared for a slightly longer walk, you can park near the Pechey Rd, Morrison Rd, Swan View Rd intersection and walk or ride in past the tunnel.
- The national park main picnic and entrance area
As mentioned above, a lot of work was completed during the Great Depression of the 1930’s as part of relief employment, including gardens, paths, picnic shelters, and other infrastructure. It may appear more run down now than what it did then, but it is still a really nice place to enjoy a picnic and relaxing time out in nature (barbecues are also located throughout the picnic areas).
The kids (myself included!) really enjoyed exploring the numerous paths and interesting picnic shelters scattered throughout the extensive native gardens. Being able to set up lunch while the kids played nearby in the creek was also nice. Something to note however… Watch out for the magpies and twenty eight parrots who like to steal food from your plate/hands before (or even as), it enters your mouth! Miss 3yr old Sonia was none too happy when the cheese on the sandwich she was about to devour disappeared in a whoosh of wind and feathers brushing her head from a rather pleased and successful magpie!!
The John Forest Tavern is also located here, with some rather yummy food available. The tavern staff put feed out for the kangaroos as well, so about mid-afternoon, you’re pretty well guaranteed to see a good sized mob of kangaroos up nice and close if you wish to. From bigger older ones, right down to small joey’s.
- Hovea Falls
These falls occur where the Jane Brook cascades down a large granite sheet, occasionally weaving amongst bigger boulders sitting on top of the massive rock face. Not as spectacular as the National Park Falls if you prefer typical falling style waterfalls, but still very impressive in its own way.
Once again, constant monitoring of toddlers is required for water and fall hazards. Another thing we found to watch out for leading up to and around this area was meat ants. After quite a few unhappy encounters, followed by repetitive education and instruction (with frequent reminders!), Sonia finally realised that they weren’t too bad if you kept moving and stayed away from where their nests and trails were located.
From the main picnic area, it’s about a 2km return trip along the RRHT. If you’d prefer to walk down amongst the bush closer to the Jane Brook, there is also a nice track available to do that. Or, for free access, you can park at the end of Victoria Rd and walk in from there.
- Glen Brook Dam
You see and pass this dam upon entry into the national park through the main entrance point. There is a walk trail leading around the dam’s perimeter (Approx 2.2km), but unfortunately there are signs up to say ‘Swimming not allowed’ due to the disturbance this would cause to the animals who use the dam as a refuge and feeding area. According to one of the signs there, the water is also neither treated or quality monitored, and is mainly used for watering the gardens and fire fighting.
- Rocky Pool
As the name suggests, it’s a rocky pool in the Jane Brook, not far from where the brook exits the national park. So far I’ve only seen this area with very little water present in the lead up to summer. Lots of fun clambering around and over the abundance of rocks that make up the stream bed, and exploring the few remaining pools of water. From this, I could imagine that during winter with a better water level, it would be rather nice, with quite a few small rapids along this section of the brook.
Parking is located on Pechey Rd near where the brook goes under a bridge in the road. Tracks lead off in different directions from here, heading to different locations within the national park. So you could access this area from within the national park if you wished.
I have not completed this trail, but as the trail brochure states ...
The Eagle View Walk Trail is a 15-kilometre bushwalking circuit that leads you to several of John forrest national park’s less explored destinations. The trail is a bushwalker’s delight, covering a variety of relatively pristine habitats. It’s also more challenging than other trails in the park, but your efforts are well rewarded. Be sensible and allow plenty of time for the walk which, depending on your level of fitness, will take from about four and half to seven hours. This also depends on your interest in your surroundings as you go along.
Another good source of information about the trail can be found on the Inspiration Outdoors website.
So there you go, another excellent, not too far away place that’s just waiting to be explored and enjoyed
(References: Historical and other detailed information (not attained from personal experience) was obtained from the associated links inserted into the blog.)