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Dwellingup, WA

Small timber town surrounded by jarrah forests

Dwellingup is a small timber town situated on top of an escarpment. It is surrounded by a state forest known for its extensive stands of jarrah. The appeal of the town lies in its historic Hotham Valley Tourist Railway, which runs trains on lines once dedicated to the local timber trade, and the outstanding range of bushwalks through the surrounding forests.


Dwellingup is located 105 km south of Perth via the South Western Highway.


Origin of Name

It is believed that 'dwellingup' is located on the site of a local First Nations camping place which was called 'dwellingupp' which is a Noongar word meaning "place near water".


Things to See and Do

Hotham Valley Tourist Railway
Hotham Valley Tourist Railway was established in 1974 and runs a range of trains from Dwellingup to Etmilyn (a distance of 8 km) and from Dwellingup to Isandra Siding (a distance of 14 km). The railway website - http://www.hothamvalleyrailway.com.au - has details of services, prices and times of running. The old promotional brochure described the trips as "Re-live the age of steam ... along the beautifully scenic Hotham Valley Railway. Western Australia's steepest and most spectacular section of railway. Travel through lush green dairy country and in Spring view a magnificent display of wildflowers before climbing the Darling Range into the heart of the jarrah forest."
The services offered are:
Forest Railway - 8 km to Etmilyn along WA's last surviving lightly built developmental railway. Usually with an historic diesel locomotive. The train operates on Saturdays and Sundays at 10.30 am and 2.00 pm. There is a pleasant loop 20-25 minute Forest Heritage Walk at Etmilyn which passes through stands of blackbutt, jarrah, grass trees, red gum, and banksia. Information about the trail and the railway can be accessed at http://www.hothamvalleyrailway.com.au/history_forest_railway.htm#Walktrail. Tel: (08) 6278 1111.
Steam Ranger - 14 km to Isandra Siding which "Travels along an amazing portion of steeply graded and tightly curved railway manually carved into the Darling Range, which once so masterfully served the timber industry and the agricultural areas of Dwellingup and beyond." It travels on Sunday between May and October at 10.30 am and 2.00 pm with a 30 minute turnaround at Isandra Siding. The round journey takes two hours. Check out http://www.hothamvalleyrailway.com.au/Dwellingup%20Rangers.htm. Tel: (08) 6278 1111.
Restaurant Train - the Etmilyn Forest Diner leaves Dwellingup every Saturday night, and on selected Friday nights, at 7.45 pm and returns around 10.35 pm. Diners travel in a 1919 Vintage Dining Car or an 1884 Club Car, eat a five course meal, and sit at tables for four. For more information check out http://www.hothamvalleyrailway.com.au/restaurant_trains.htm. Tel: (08) 6278 1111.

Forest Heritage Centre
Located at 1 Acacia Road, the Forest Heritage Centre offers a range of tours designed to "explore the interpretative centre and the walk trails, learning about wildflowers, animals and resources of the forest.  A tree-top viewing platform allows visitors to enjoy the bush at canopy height and a handmade timber cutter’s hut and campfire area can be reached from one of the bush trails." The platform is 11 metres above the ground in the canopy of the jarrah forest.
There are also two Indigenous tours: the first "Take a journey through the six seasons with a Noongar guide and learn how Indigenous people used the six seasons as a calendar to measure where and what to hunt, and how this method ensured survival and sustainable use of their land. Tour groups also be introduced to a number of traditional tools and discover many uses of plants and animals during a forest walk. The importance of totems in conserving species and sustainable management of the forest will also be discussed."
The second tour has participants enjoying "a session with Aboriginal leaders, learn about traditional nutrition, and make and eat a damper and kangaroo supper while listening to Dreamtime stories. The food is a sampler amount only and not a full meal. A 2 hr session is require for this tour."  
The centre also offers courses in photography, woodturning, mosaics, watercolour painting, sculpture, knitting and blacksmithing. For more information check out http://www.forestheritagecentre.com.au, tel: (08) 9538 1395.


Other Attractions in the Area

Mundi Biddi Mountain Bike Trail
The Mundi Biddi Trail passes through Dwellingup. It is a 1000 km cycle track built through undeveloped forests and lands between Mundaring and Albany. The section at Dwellingup is detailed in the Jarrahdale to Nanga section with specific reference to the 44.93 km Dandalup-Dwellingup route and the 28.5 km Dwellingup to Bidjar Ngoulin Hut section. For detailed information and a map check out https://www.mundabiddi.org.au/trip-planner/section-guide/jarrahdale-nanga which describes the section as " passing through magnificent Lane Poole Reserve with its swimming, camping and canoeing opportunities ... also takes cyclists through the historic timber towns of Jarrahdale and Dwellingup."

Lane Poole Walking Trails
The Dwellingup WA website has a collection of outstanding, downloadable maps with excellent descriptions and handy information about the trails which criss cross the huge Lane Pool Reserve. 
Lane Poole Reserve covers 55,000 ha and combines jarrah forests with river scenery along the Murray River Valley. In total there are eight walking tracks in the Reserve most of which are around the Murray River which forms rapids, small waterfalls and deep still pools along its course. In winter, it can be a raging torrent, and in summer, is suitable for swimming, canoeing, or fishing. In spring, the forest is home to extensive displays of wildflowers. Lane Poole Reserve was declared in 1984 to protect the conservation and recreation values of the northern jarrah forest and the Murray River - the longest permanent river in the jarrah forest. It was named after C.E. Lane Poole, the State's first Conservator of Forests and a devoted conservationist. Check out http://www.dwellingupwa.com.au/maps-trails for details:

King Jarrah & Lane Poole Walk Trail
The trail starts at Nanga Mill Campground which is 18 km south of Dwellingup and traces the former roads and tracks of the local timber industry. The impressive stands of Jarrah, Marri and Blackbutt brought timber cutters to the area and today it is possible to walk along the tracks. The Dwellingup site (http://www.dwellingupwa.com.au/maps-trails/king-jarrah-lane-poole-walk-trail) explains: "The trail commences at Nanga Mill campground ... Follow North Junction Form for 7.5 km. This was once a rail formation from the days of timber harvesting in the area. North Junction Form becomes King Jarrah Form. Continue on King Jarrah Form for 1.7 km past the locked gate until the trail turns right off the form ... After leaving King Jarrah Form, the walk trail passes the King Jarrah tree, a 250 year old jarrah. The trail crosses Dawn Creek Road. From here, it is 5.2 km back to Nanga Mill with some steeper sections." 

Chuditch Walk Trail
A two kilometre (one way) walk from Nanga Townsite to the Nanga Mill campsite. For most of its length the path runs beside the Nanga Brook. It then rises through dense undergrowth before returning to the brook and crossing a bridge on the way to the Nanga Mill campsite. For a map and details http://www.dwellingupwa.com.au/maps-trails/chuditch-walk-trail.

Xanthorrhoea Walk Trail
The Xanthorrhoea Walk Trail is three forest walks (a 6 km loop, a 7 km loop and a 9 km loop) between Nanga Mill Campsite and Chuditch Camping Ground. The long loop , because it is over steep hills, is estimated to take around 4.5 hours. The walk is named after the Xanthorrhorea Preissii, once known as 'blackboys' and now by the more accurate 'grass trees' which are common in the area. Check http://www.dwellingupwa.com.au/maps-trails/xanthorrhoea-walk-trail for a detailed map.

Island Pool Walk Trail
A short, 2 km loop walk, from the Island Pool Day Use area which heads away from the Murray River up the side of the valley and offers excellent views over the river and across the valley. Check http://www.dwellingupwa.com.au/maps-trails/island-pool-walk-trail for a good map.

Yarragil to Nanga Bridge Walk Trail
An 11 km walk along the banks of the Murray River from Nanga Bridge to Yarragil passing rapids, ti-tree forests, unusual granite formations, hazardous sections of fast flowing water and long pools. Check out http://www.dwellingupwa.com.au/maps-trails/yarragil-to-nanga-bridge-river-trail for a good map and detailed description of the route.

Marrinup Cycle Trail
The Marrinup Cycle Trail is an easy 8 km loop which is mostly flat and passes through jarrah forest. It is an ideal beginners track for mountain bike enthusiasts. For a map explaining location and details of the loop check out http://www.dwellingupwa.com.au/maps-trails/marrinup-cycle-trail.

Turner Hill Cycle Trail
The 11 km Turner Hill Trail is a cycle trail of intermediate difficulty through dense jarrah forest. For a good map check out http://www.dwellingupwa.com.au/maps-trails/turner-hill-cycle-trail.

Bibbulmun Track
Bibbulmun Track (Western Australia's world class, 1,000 kilometre walk trail from Perth to Albany) passes through Dwellingup. In the Dwellingup area the track traverses the Murray Valley beside the Murray River and makes its way through jarrah and marri forests which offer views over farmland. 

Inglehope Arboretum
Located 13 km East of Dwellingup, on the road to Boddington, the Inglehope Arboretum was established in 1929 and, after the devastating fires of 1961, a series of 58 trial plots of trees from around the world were planted to see what would grow in the area. A nature track and picnic ground facilities were developed so that today, after major attempts at regeneration, an easy half hour walk trail with some log seats, and some species identification plaques, passes through the arboretum. One of the highlights is a grove of Californian Redwoods. Check out http://www.dwellingupwa.com.au/maps-trails/inglehope-arboretum for more details.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the district was home to the Noongar First Nations people.

* By the late 19th century timber cutters, eager to exploit the jarrah, blackbutt and marri, had moved into in the area.

* In 1909 the district was surveyed and townsite lots established. 

* A Government railway was built from Pinjarra to Dwellingup in 1910.

* In February 1910 the name Dwellingupp was chosen for the town by the Surveyor General. 

* A cooperative of sleeper cutters, the South West Timber Hewers Co-operative Society Ltd, was established to extract timber from 20,000 acres which became known as Holyoake.

* In the period before World War I a number of small timber settlements - Holyoake, Nanga Brook, Marrinup, Chadoora - grew up. Dwellingup became the most important centre.

* In 1918 the forests around Dwellingup became part of the State Forest and the town became a centre for forest management and research.

* The town was virtually destroyed in 1961 when lightning started a bushfire which lasted for five days, damaged 140,000 ha of forest, and wiped out many of the smaller timber towns. It destroyed Nanga Brook, Holyoake and Marrinup and seriously damaged Dwellingup destroying 132 homes. Only Dwellingup was rebuilt.


Visitor Information

Dwellingup History and Visitor Information Centre, Marinup Street, tel: (08) 9538 1108. It is open daily from 9.00 am - 3.30 pm.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out https://dwellingup.destinationmurray.com.au.

Got something to add?

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4 suggestions
  • The town of Banksiadale was not destroyed in the 1961 fires. A change of wind direction saved the town from the fire. Two years later the Banksiadale timber mill was destroyed by fire (the cause unknown). Because of this most residents had to move to other towns to find employment as the mill was the major source of employment for the residents.

    Shirlie Makin
  • I am having a problem getting information on Duncan’s Mill which was located east of Holyoake. Records show it operated between 1925 and 1929 but my family history indicate it was operating during the 1930’s as they have said that was where they worked.
    Was the mill reopened after the depression as a State Mill and affectionately referred to as Duncan’s by the locals?

    Ian Digney
  • Can you please tell me the name of the sculptor who created the red and blue life-size parent emu and the three chicks. They look brilliant. I am interested in contacting him/her with a view to commissioning a work piece.
    Thank you Cheryl Finlayson

    Cheryl Finlayson
  • Wow i love going on walks

    Yousef Mohummed