Sometimes, the most beautiful scenery and magical places are the ones barely anyone knows about. The Marrinup Falls lies just outside Dwellingup in Western Australia, yet very few people visit making this a pristine and secluded little hike.
It was the weekend before Jed returned to work for another 4 weeks and we wanted to spend some family time together, just the three of us.
Maddie has not been keen on her carrier lately so we decided on a short walk down to some falls we’ve been meaning to check out for a while. We had visited the falls on a previous occasion but had found them dry. Many of the waterways in Western Australia only flow after heavy rainfall. After a particularly wet start to spring, the rivers and streams were in full flow. We recently hiked Kitty’s Gorge Walk alongside the Gooralond Brook finding stunning lively falls along the way. We hoped Marrinup Falls would be just as active.
It is only a short scenic loop trail about 1.3km long taking less than an hour.
Check out the TrailsWA site for more information on Marrinup Falls and other local trails here.
More tales of Family Hiking Adventures in Western Australia:
- Exploring the Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs
- Family Fossil Hunting Trip in Kalbarri National Park
- Hiking with a toddler along the Cape to Cape Track
Getting to Marrinup Falls
Although quite spectuacular, these falls are actually not very well known. There is not a signpost off the main road. The turning is just 5km west of the small trail town of Dwellingup and marked only by a small sign of the Prisoner of War camp. It would be easily missed if you were not looking for it.
Follow the signs for the POW camp through the forest and over the railway track. If you are lucky you may get to see the Hotham Valley steam engine chug past. The dirt road opens up beneath the giant power lines and it is only here that you see the first sign for Marrinup Falls.
The Mundi Biddi Trail, a 1000km bike trail from Perth to Albany runs along this road so keep an eye out for cyclists. We passed many, including some children on bikes, on our way to the small car park.
The car park itself is only big enough for maybe 4 cars so may fill up during the busy season.
The trail to Marrinup Falls
When we arrived we wanted to give Maddie some time to stretch her legs and play around her carry pack before even trying to put her in. As she’s getting older she is starting to prefer to walk herself rather than be carried. The only problem is she doesn’t walk far, she likes to stop and examine every leaf and stone. If Jed and I want to get somewhere, or the terrain is a little dangerous for little legs, we still use the pack. Maddie protested slightly when we put her in the pack but was happy within a few seconds when Jed gave her a handful of rocks. She found a little nook to store the pebbles in her pouch and seemed quite happy to take in her surroundings, occasionally finding one of her stash to throw at Jed’s head for motivation.
It is a beautiful narrow track that winds through the dense bush with birds soaring overhead. The wildflowers were starting to come out revealing blooms of tiny, brightly colored blossoms. You can discover other prime Wildflower destinations in our post about exploring Wildflower Country.
After a short time the trees clear to reveal a granite outcrop overlooking a stream. From the granite boulder you can see where two branches of the stream meet. The sound of cascading water was delightful and would provide a continuous soundtrack along the hike.
Continuing on we spotted a small trail veering to the right away from the track. We followed this for only a few metres before the bush opens up to expose a beautiful stepping cascade of small waterfalls and shallow pools. We explored the little area, keeping Maddie in her pack for her own safety. She has become very confident in water lately, loving her swimming lessons and afternoons in the pool. I don’t mind letting her play around the shores of a lake or pond with me right there, but this was fast moving water over slippery granite. She was still quite happy in her pack taking in her surroundings.
Jed carried Maddie further down the track to a second little outlook. I stayed up at the top, carefully jumping between dry stepping-stones, trying to get the best angle and experimenting with camera settings. I’ve not had much practise photographing moving water, especially in full sunlight with plenty of glare on the water.
The price we pay for the perfect photo
I was happy to find I could attach my neutral-density filter over my polarizing filter on my DSLR to give both the ability to take long exposure needed to get the milky water, and see through the sun glare to the pebbles beneath the water.
To get the some of the best viewpoints required getting my feet wet. I didn’t mind, it’s all in the name of art. The water was cool but not too cold. Climbing back up one of the granite boulders I slipped and grazed my knee.
I tried a few different compositions before realising that the best shot was on the other side of the stream, looking back to where I was standing. I left my camera equipment there and carefully made my way over through the shallowest and calmest part of the stream. Always mindful of the slippery, moss covered surfaces.
Having found the perfect composition for my photo, I turned to go and get my camera only to slip and land hard on my butt. I satthere for a moment, half submerged in the cool water and waited for the shock of pain to pass. Jed jumped over the stream to help me up and back to Maddie who was safely contained in her carrier.
I had risked my coccyx in the name of photography, but I was not going to risk my camera! I decided to stay on the safe side of the falls and cut my losses at getting the perfect composition.
I’m not sure what damage I did when I fell but I had a sore bum for weeks.
Surprise vistas around every corner
Feeling a little sorry for myself, but happy with my shots, we started the walk back towards the car. Foolishly, we had assumed that these main falls were the only ones along the track but how wrong we were. As we walked we passed several more small falls, some wide-open, some just glimpses through the bush. There are so many picturesque little nooks to explore.
Just before the end of the trail we spotted a bobtail lizard on the side of the track. I love these reptiles and have a fondness for them after learning that they mate for life. You often see them in pairs, two little scaly lovebirds. I found one in my garage once; an experience that made me feel I had really arrived in Australia. Luckily, that’s the only time I’ve found a reptile in my house!
We got back to the car and arranged a small picnic for Maddie so she could play some more before getting back in the car. This had been such a lovely and scenic little hike. I’m glad we tried a short hike with Maddie in her carrier. However much we love a good long walk, we’re happy to go short distances so our girl can enjoy her day to the fullest.
There is a longer walk around the Prisoner of War camp nearby, a walk we sorely want to do but will save for another day. The story of the camp, however, is quite fascinating…
Prisoner of War Camp
Prisoner of WarCamp no.16 was the only POW camp in Western Australia. Today only the foundations of a few buildings remain. A 4.5km walk trail winds through the site with informative signs telling the story of life in the camp. As with most things in Western Australia, the history of the POW isn’t quite what you would imagine.
The camp was established in 1943 to house around 1,200 prisoners and army personnel. The prisoners, mainly from Italy and Germany, were expected to work 8 hours a day from 6am to 3pm, with lights out at 10pm. On Sundays they were allowed out for supervised walks and sports. The POW camp itself was often just a stop over for the prisoners before they were assigned to farms for labour or for woodcutting.
To deter prisoners from trying to escape they were paid in tokens that they could exchange for luxuries such as chocolate and cigarettes. This is quite contradictory to our idea of what conditions in a POW camp would have been like. I’m not assuming it was a pleasant experience to be taken to the other side of the world for labour, but it didn’t seem entirely awful either. In fact, at the end of the war and closing of the camp, some 30 of the men due for repatriation to their home country escaped to avoid leaving on the last ship out of Fremantle. Many more applied back in their home country to emigrate back to Australia. Many of the men settled in the region, getting married to locals and starting families.
I can image how this isolated little corner of Western Australia, so far from conflict, may have seemed idyllic compared to war-ravaged Europe.
Exploring away from the crowds
Like the history of the POW camp, there is so much more to this area than you would imagine and sometimes the stories and vistas which reveal them selves are surprising.The Marrinup Falls are arguably more beautiful than any in nearby Lane Poole Reserve, however the steep valley on which they are found makes camping difficult. I am glad that most visitors bypass the falls and go straight to Lane Poole (which does have fantastic facilities) as it leaves this area untouched. Perhaps the key to getting the most out of hiking and camping is to get away from the more signposted areas, be brave, and take a leap of faith occasionally …even if it does sometimes result in landing on your rear end!