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Only 45 km south of Mandurah, Martins Tank Campground is a great location for a quick weekend getaway from Perth. We stayed there with the extended family one Australia Day long weekend.
We were hoping to find another great camping spot which was close and convenient to home. This is what we found.
Camping Close to Perth
When we can only get away for a couple of nights we want to waste as little time in the car as possible and get down to the business of exploring as soon as we can. We also love our National Parks for great low-cost camping options with great facilities. Martins Tank Campground in Yalgorup National Park took us less than 2 hours to get to, so we arrived and were set up before lunch on Saturday.
If you are looking for other options for camping close to Perth, check out my posts on Lake Leschenaultia, Yanchep National Park, Willowbrook Farmstay, or the many options on Indian Ocean Drive for more great ideas.
Martins Tank Campground
The campgrounds at Martins Tank were nice, though pretty basic. There was a drop toilet only and no showers. Em’s cousins were horrified by the toilet when they first saw it. I laughed when I heard them gasp, eyes open wide with shock. So great to give the kids their first drop toilet experience.
There is a camp kitchen, barbeques and picnic tables in a communal area near the kitchen. The camping fees are $11 per adult and $3 per child.
There were a total of 34 campsites available with the last few being suitable for caravans and camper trailers. The sites were all a reasonable size with a patch of bush between each site so you weren’t right on top of your neighbour. Each campsite also had a picnic table and chairs.
The kids played for hours on their scooters at the campsite. They made friends with some of the neighbours’ kids. They played cricket together and explored the bush around the campsite. They were searching for critters with their binoculars, screaming and running back to camp after unearthing an ants nest.
Yalgorup National Park
Yalgorup National Park is home to 10 salt lakes. These lakes form a wetland habitat which are important for a variety of migratory birds. There is no access to the lakes for swimming, fishing or any water based activities. There are a few walking tracks through the area and some bird hides for those that are interested in the many birds that frequent the wetlands.
Lake Preston is the largest lake and was the closest to Martins Tank Campground. The first evening, after we had eaten dinner and before the sun went down we walked down to the lake. It was the hour just before sunset and there was a band of pale pink in the sky that was also reflected in the lake. No one else was down there and it was nice to have a little walk around. We entertained ourselves by taking slow motion Baywatch pictures on the shore of the lake which we all found hilarious.
Lake Clifton Thrombolites
One of the lakes that make up Yalgorup National Park is Lake Clifton. A 20 minute drive from Martins Tank campground and you are able to explore the colony of thrombolites that live here via an observation boardwalk. Similar to the Stromatolites at Lake Thetis in Cervantes or Hamelin Pool in Shark Bay, they are an example of the oldest lifeforms on earth.
The thrombolites at Lake Clifton are only 3500 years old and not 3 billion years old like the original. It is however one of the few places on earth that you can see them. I like to think of them as breathing rocks (technically they are cynobacteria or something like that but I think the idea of breathing rocks makes them much more accessible intellectually so that is how I like to think of them.)
The unsealed road to Martins Tank is also the road to Preston Beach. The first drive in was not too bumpy but because four-wheel driving and hanging out on the beach is our nation’s greatest Australia Day tradition, the quality of the road deteriorated rapidly over the few days we were there.
Our own Australia Day celebrations also centred around the beach. After a breakfast of scrambled eggs and baked beans, we were at the beach by about 8.30. The beach was quiet when we arrived, the water was calm and glassy with only a couple of other families there.
A stingray brushed against Rick’s legs while he was carrying Em and playing with the kids in the water. I was watching them from the beach and he had a stricken panicked look on his face and almost dropped Em in his haste to get back to shore. I laughed when he told me it was a stingray. They are generally harmless animals with a bad reputation.
Preston Beach is a favourite beach driving spot with a stretch of 30km of beach to drive along. Over the course of the morning we watched car after car after car drive onto the beach. Most had their fishing rods ready and a couple even had full sized barbeques strapped on the back of their ute.
In the afternoon, we hopped in the car for some beach driving fun. We wanted to drive to Binningup but never made it the whole way because we were worried about running out of petrol. We must have driven past at least 50 cars parked up on the beach for the day and quite a few more that had tents set up in the dunes, which made me think it was a popular beach camping spot.
Also in the area
We explored a little more around the area. Lake Hayward is a smaller lake just outside the national park which would have been a perfect early morning walk. It was just the right size so you could easily walk around the whole lake.
While Em slept in the car one afternoon, we drove further down the coast. We stopped at all the small beach side towns getting ideas for future weekends away. We stopped at Myalup, Binningup and down to the Leschenault Peninsula Conservation Park. All good contenders for a future trip.
The highlight of this trip was spending time with family and watching the kids play. It was a convenient location with the best of a bush based national park which was also close by the beach.