Yeagarup is an epic four wheel driving destination in the South West, where the Warren River meets the Indian Ocean. It is located just out of Pemberton, and has the biggest set of inland dunes in the southern hemisphere. The beach is massive, and has an incredible reputation for fishing.
Where is Yeagarup?
Yeagarup is located approximately 20km out of Pemberton, a quiet logging town in the south west of WA.
To get to Pemberton from Perth, take the Kwinana Freeway (turns into the Forrest Hwy) to Bunbury, then the South Western Highway. On the right hand side about 140km out of Bunbury, turn down the Vasse Hwy. Perth to Pemberton takes around 3.5 hours. To get to Yeagarup, head along the Old Vasse Hwy and turn off at Ritter road. This takes you all the way to Yeagarup Lake, which is where the 4wd track starts. See ‘Routes in and out’ below for another entry route.
Costs and permits to enter
Yeagarup is part of the D’Entrecasteaux national park, so there are fee’s involved. You need to have a pass to enter the national park. Whether it is a daily one ($11 per vehicle), a 4 week pass for all national parks ($40 per vehicle) or an annual pass to all national parks ($80 per vehicle), make sure you pay up! Fee’s go to managing the area, and keeping it open!
Weather at Yeagarup
The weather around Yeagarup is almost always cool. The mean maximum temperature for the year is only 20.5 degrees, with the mean minimum a cool 10.3 degrees! Being right on the coastline wind can be a major factor, making it feel even cooler. Rain is common throughout the year, but majority of it falls in winter.
Four Wheel Driving at Yeagarup
The only way to access Yeagarup is with a four wheel drive. You have no hope in driving a two wheel drive vehicle in there, so don’t even try! The four wheel driving is great, with one of the biggest sand dunes I’ve ever done to try, plenty of beach to enjoy and a number of water crossings.
Routes in and out
There are two ways to get into Yeagarup. The first has been mentioned above, when you drive passed Lake Yeagarup. However, you can also enter by coming down Calcup Hill.
Calcup Hill is one of the largest sand dunes in Australia. I’d estimate it to be at least 800 metres long. As mentioned above, it is used either to drive into Yeagarup, or exit. However, there are times of the year when this dune is very difficult to get up. I have heard of people letting their tyres down to 6 – 8 PSI and only just making it up. The dune requires a lot of momentum, and the second you start to bounce you may as well jump off the throttle, reverse all the way down and try again!
The dune itself is not actually that steep, but it is long, and gets chopped up very quickly with traffic going up and down it all day long! There are 2 main sections to drive up, but you can stop in the middle to let your vehicle cool down (and watch others try and get up!)
Crossing the Warren River
There have been more than a handful of vehicles lost on Yeagarup Beach, all near the Warren River or the ocean. I spoke to the ranger at Easter, who said there was a vehicle lost only a few months ago. The Warren River changes massively throughout the year; pay attention to where you are driving. Make sure you walk every crossing before you go through, or you could pay the ultimate price.
My first impression of the Warren River was that it would run straight out to the ocean. However, over Easter 2013 we watched the river change dramatically. When we first got there the river was only 2 metres wide, and barely ankle deep. Surprisingly though, instead of running directly out to the ocean, it ran along the sand dunes north, into a number of ‘lakes’ before swinging around and going out to the ocean in a big ‘S’ shape.
In the 5 days that we stayed at Yeagarup, we watched the river go from a 2 metre creek to a 15 metre river, with water flowing easily over wheel height. There were always places safe to cross, but when you stand on the sand it is easy to understand how people lose their vehicles.
Normally the best place to cross the river is right at the mouth of the ocean. Obviously, you don’t want to get salt water on your vehicle, so watch when the waves are coming in. Having a vehicle and the gear set up to pull you out quickly is well worth it!
When you are driving up to the Warren River, pay attention to how it has changed. Overnight, the river changed dramatically, and contributed to a very nasty accident that you can read about below!
Safety always comes first!
Asides from the serious accident that we saw below, I was totally unimpressed with the lack of respect and safety that a number of people had at Yeagarup over Easter 2013. There were people flying down the beach at well over 60km/h, right past families with little kids playing on the beach. There is a need for people to show some common decency and respect; if you are driving passed people you should be doing no more than 20 – 30 km/h.
Recoveries are always a risky situation, and couple that with a few drunken people and a lack of experience (and intelligence) and you can have some serious problems. I saw a snatch strap break and put a huge dent in the back of a vehicle, people doing doughnuts right near those camping and a number of people in the back of ute’s going excessive speed. I have a photo – (check it out) of a ute going through the Warren River at high speed, with people standing up in the back of the ute!
What really surprised me though was a four wheel drive club helping to recover a stuck jeep one morning. They looked very well set up, and knowledgeable so we left them alone. However, I witnessed a number of people from the club suggesting the need to join two snatch straps together with a shackle. They did it, and although there were dampeners on the straps it is still a terrible idea. Joining snatch straps should be done by feeding one through another, with a magazine or towel to stop them from over tightening. Snatch straps are huge rubber bands, and will send a 5 tonne shackle through both the rear and front windows of your vehicle without even looking like stopping. People are killed regularly in 4WD recoveries; take care and think about what you are doing!
On the other side of the coin, there were plenty of responsible drivers, who were enjoying the beautiful area, offering advice and having a great time. I spoke to the ranger a number of times, who was deeply unimpressed with the copious amounts of alcohol being consumed, drink driving and the general standard of behaviour. The police were meant to be at Yeagarup over the Easter break, but were called away to do other business.
A nasty accident while we were at Yeagarup
I mentioned above that the Warren River changed hugely in a short period of time at Yeagarup over Easter 2013. At 3PM one afternoon we took a few photos; it was around 2 metres wide, with water about 20cm deep right near the ocean. The next morning, I got up early and saw a v8 Land Cruiser ute parked very close to the water. I walked over to check it out, to see that they had a very serious incident over night.
The bank of the river had become almost vertical, and around 40cm in height over night. Two vehicles were speeding down the beach (approximately 90km/h) next to each other. One vehicle crossed closer to the ocean, and the other didn’t see the big sand wall, and hit it at full speed. This caused the passengers head to smash the front window and some serious damage to the front of the vehicle. Both tyres came off the beads, the whole ball joint on one side snapped and the wheels pushed so far back that they damaged the front quarter panels.
The accident had happened at around 1AM at night, and then the vehicle was dragged out of the way of the tide and left for the night. Judging by the alcohol cans around the place there were a number of factors that contributed. A few friendly four wheel drivers helped winch the cruiser further up the beach (as the tide continued to come up), and the owner went back into town to sort out a recovery. The Land Cruiser was a great attraction throughout the day, until a local farmer brought his tractor down and skull dragged it out.
Will my vehicle make it in and out?
In terms of dune and beach four wheel driving, Yeagarup would be one of the most difficult coastal area’s to go. The sand is extremely soft year round, and requires tyre pressures that you wouldn’t normally run. To get up the dunes (especially Calcup and the other entrance hill) a number of vehicles had to run under 10PSI. In saying this, I did see Subaru Foresters, Ford Escapes, Suzuki Vitara’s and even a small 4wd truck on the beach.
You need to be confident that your vehicle will handle the hill climbs (as you have no alternative to getting out!) and be confident driving in sand.
Take a tour of Yeagarup
If you don’t have a 4WD (you are missing out!), I’d highly recommend you visit the Pemberton Visitor center, where you can book a half day tour of Yeagarup. A Land Cruiser troop carrier will take you down the dunes and onto the beach, where you can enjoy some of the paradise Yeagarup has to offer!
Camping at Yeagarup
You are allowed to camp on the beach and in the dunes (providing you don’t damage vegetation) at Yeagarup. There are a few places along the beach which offer protection from the wind. I visited with 4 other vehicles, and with around 12 people in total we found it very difficult to find somewhere in the dunes. However, there is a larger section of land in near the Warren River that offered some protection and enough space.
If you want to camp further inland, DEC have a hut that can be booked, or you can camp at Leaning Marri, which is at Lake Yeagarup. Be aware though that in order to get onto the beach you need to drive for around 40 minutes; it’s not just a short stroll!
Pemberton has a number of places that you can camp too – the Warren River Camp Ground, Drafty’s, Snottygobble Loop, Black Point and Lake Jasper.
I mentioned above that the fishing at Yeagarup is very widely regarded. In season, it is one of the better places to catch Salmon. Asides from this, there are plenty of tailor, herring and whiting. When you see locals drive all the way in just for a few hours of fishing, it must be good! The beach at Yeagarup is not often calm; the waves are usually rolling in and it can look uninviting if you want to get wet.
Fishing in the Warren River
The Warren River has some great freshwater fishing available. You need a freshwater license though, and another license if you want to fish for Marron. Various trout, red fin perch and marron are common (and great eating too!). A lot of people take kayaks down to get to the better fishing spots!
Mobile phone coverage
Optus, Virgin and TPG have nothing (unless you have an external antenna, then you might get something). Telstra does have reception if you have an external antenna, but I don’t know if it works without one!
Other attractions in the area
Lake Yeagarup is worth a look on your way in. Pemberton has a number of tree’s that you can climb; the Gloucester tree is the better one, and is a lot of fun! The heartbreak trail is a one way track that meanders along the Warren River (2wd accessible too) passed two campsites. It is worth the drive, purely for the view (and the Gloucester tree is at the end of it).
The Warren River
The Warren River averages around 10 metres wide, and ends up in the Ocean at Yeagarup. For some parts of the year the river is completely shut. During other times of the year there may be a small crossing several hundred metres away from where the river comes out, and at times it can be deep and very soft. You can drive along a number of tracks that follow the Warren River, and there are a few places where you can camp quite close to it.
Motorbikes and unlicensed vehicles
You are not allowed to take any vehicles into Yeagarup that are not road licensed. I think this is a shame as it would be a great place to enjoy the toys, but rules are rules. The road licensing of a vehicle covers 3rd party insurance for the occupants, and as unlicensed vehicles are not covered by that insurance the risk is on the National Parks for any injuries (which you all know do happen!).
Look after the area
Judging by what the ranger was saying at Easter, if Yeagarup isn’t looked after in the next few years it may be shut down. Yeagarup is home to a massive number of animals, and if the environment is damaged then DEC will shut it down. The ranger said to me that there is already one species of bird that is no longer nesting in the area, purely because of the impact that we have had in the area.
Please drive slowly, let your tyres down, take your rubbish with you and don’t have fires unless they are specifically permitted. Getting behind the wheel after a few drinks is a bad idea; don’t do it!
Does Yeagarup get busy?
According to the ranger, Easter 2013 is the busiest she has ever seen it. I could stand on the beach at any given time and count well over 50 vehicles, just in the area that I could see. I would estimate that at least 400 vehicles went through the area over Easter.
Things to take
Fishing Rod + ganged hooks, rod holder, mullies and other bait
Plenty of fuel
First aid kit
Map and digital navigation if available
Yeagarup is one of the best places I have had the pleasure of visiting. It is truly gorgeous, with some of the biggest dunes and beaches that I have seen. We are so lucky to be able to visit such places!