The region’s towns of Manjimup, Pemberton and Walpole are quaint, and fairly small, deferring to the natural surrounds that make the Southern Forests particularly special. There are five national parks within a 30-minute drive of Pemberton alone – the Gloucester, Warren, Beedelup, Shannon and D’Entrecasteaux.
For the active, there’s a range of adventures on offer, many taking full advantage of the region’s old-growth forests – tree climbing, for instance. Pemberton has three enormous climbing trees, the largest, the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, standing 75m tall. Originally used as fire lookouts in the 1940s, the trio of karri tree lookouts is impressive, but climbing them is not for those with vertigo – or with nervous parents.
Instead, you can climb up into a tree canopy with ease and grace by taking the 90-minute drive south of Pemberton to the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, elevating you 38m above the magnificent tingle forest.
The cascading Beedelup Falls, Big Brook Dam, national parks and Yeagarup sand dunes provide further adventure options. With the world-renowned off-road cycling track the Munda Biddi Trail and the Bibbulmun Track hiking trail, bush-walking, mountain biking, swimming, canoeing, 4WD tours and other family activities make this region an attractive and affordable holiday destination.
Take advantage of some of the 80 varieties of fruit and vegetables, fresh produce, truffles, marron and locally produced products by choosing self-catering accommodation options.
For the connoisseurs, the Pemberton wine region is renowned for its cool-climate chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot noir wines.
1. Climb Gloucester, Bicentennial or Diamond lookout trees.
2. Take a tour, drive or walk to the Yeagarup sand dunes.
3. Go mountain biking in Pemberton, or ride the
famous Munda Biddi Trail.
4. Tour cellar doors and taste award-winning drops of the Pemberton wine region.
5. Fish the rivers and dams for trout, marron and perch; go salmon fishing on the coast, or picnic at Big Brook Dam.
6. Take a half-day Donnelly River Cruise to explore nature and Aboriginal heritage, see squatter’s huts, and walk on the edge of the Southern Ocean.
7. Take a canoeing tour on the Warren River and learn about the region’s flora and fauna.
8. Ride the Pemberton Tramway and wonder at the 1920s timber bridges.
9. Enjoy the fresh pancakes, at the Lavender and Berry Farm.
10. Swim, picnic or walk around the natural swimming pool, constructed in 1928/29, in the Pemberton Forest Park.
For more, visit scooptraveller.com.au/SouthernForests.
The Southern Forests begin about 307km from Perth, just outside of Manjimup. The journey is best done by car, taking just under four hours.
WHEN TO GO
Summer is a gorgeous time to visit the Southern Forests, particularly to escape the heat in Perth. Spring wildflowers and autumn colours entice photographers, and both seasons have mild days and cool nights. Winter is perfect for outdoor pursuits or staying warm by the fire. Accommodation often books out in school holidays, and for June’s Truffle Kerfuffle event.
DO AND SEE
Established as a wine region in the 1980s, the Southern Forests’ temperate weather and rich gravelly soils make this an ideal place to grow splendid cool climate varietals. Riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir do particularly well. Cellar doors are dotted around the region, but check opening times because some are open only on weekends.
As you explore the Southern Forests, don’t forget to stop for some local fruit and veg – often it’s a case of ‘leave your money in the honour box’. The fertile soil grows amazing potatoes, cauliflowers and broccoli, apples, avocados, peaches, apricots, pears, plums, cherries, persimmons and other treats.
It’s the prized gourmet black Perigord truffle – grown in the roots of oak or hazelnut trees – that put the Southern Forests on the foodie map. The region offers ideal conditions for this delicacy to flourish: Western Australia produces 70 per cent of the country’s black truffles, making it the largest producer of the highly prized fungus in the southern hemisphere.
Marron and trout
The region’s freshwater crayfish – the marron – is a delicacy. To catch one in the wild, you need a licence, and the season is short, but you can catch your own and even have it cooked for you, there and then, at the marron farm (it doesn’t get any fresher than that). The region is also known for its exceptional trout, and people enjoy a visit to the farm to catch or simply eat one.
Tall timber forests
A staggering 80 per cent of the Manjimup region is forest and national parks. The tall straight trees, some 300 years old, are majestic, and emit an energy you can’t deny. With an array of activities, from bush-walking and mountain biking to canoeing in the river, getting away from it all and into nature is the region’s real attraction.
Tree top walk
Nervous to take on a climbing tree? The highly civilised, 38m-high Tree Top Walk in the Valley of the Giants in Walpole offers majestic views of the tingle forest treetops, and is suitable for everyone. The interpretive centre and gift shop are also worth a stop.
The $1.14 million Manjimup Timber Heritage Park is perfect for families. The kids can run wild over a massive climbing net, in and out of cubbies, slides, rides, and animal sculptures. There’s also a 40m double-cable flying fox. For adults, there’s an outdoor gym, and when you’ve worked up an appetite, light up a barbecue at one of the picnic spots. Open daily.
ALSO Play a round of mini-golf at the Pemberton playground; or take a dip in Fonty’s freshwater pool, while the grown-ups sample organic wines, avos and truffles.
Pemberton's climbing trees
The downside of living in an ancient forest? The risk of fire. To protect against this, a series of lookouts were constructed at the top of a few very tall karri trees during the 1930s and 1940s. Three remaining towers are open to those who are brave and love to climb.
- The Gloucester Tree was set up for convenient forest-fire spotting just outside of Pemberton. Today, visitors can climb 61m (about the same height as the Sydney Opera House) to see one of the most spectacular views of the the Gloucester National Park.
- ONLY IN WA The 51m Diamond Tree between Manjimup and Pemberton once housed a wooden cabin. The only wooden treetop tower in the world, it was one tall treehouse!
- The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree in the Warren National Park was first pegged in 1988, overtaking the Gloucester Tree as the tallest Pemberton climbing tree, 75m above the ground with a 360-degree view of old-growth karri forest.
TIP Purchase a national park pass from the Pemberton Visitor Centre to enter the parks and climb the trees. The visitor centre also has information on the region’s trees and forests in general.
Pemberton’s central location and good choice of accommodation make it a great base to explore the Southern Forests. Get cosy in one of the region’s luxury winery chalets or family-friendly farm stays, or settle down in a secluded, unpowered campsite. Opt for self-catering and take full advantage of the abundant produce.
EAT AND DRINK
Viticulture and wine-making began in the Manjimup and Pemberton region in the mid-1970s. This was soon followed by detailed climatic research in the mid-1980s, which identified the Southern Forests as a fantastic grape-growing region.
The ideal conditions of warm, dry summers and wet, cool winters, coupled with a pristine environment, provide perfect conditions for premium wine production.
The region now boasts several world-class wineries producing outstanding cool-climate drops, particularly sauvignon blanc, riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir.
One foodie experience not to miss is a seasonal or wood-fired dinner at Foragers in Pemberton. Chef and owner Sophie Zalokar trained under food icon Maggie Beer in the Barossa Valley. Take hands-on cooking classes that focus on improving basic skills and bringing the many tastes of the region to the table.
Only in wa While the wines and fabulous produce are a drawcard, it’s the celebrated gourmet black Perigord truffle that has foodies flocking to the region. Grown in the roots of oak or hazelnut trees, the Southern Forests offer ideal conditions for the ‘black gold’ to flourish – the region is now one of the biggest producers of black truffles in the world.
No matter what time of year you visit, your tastebuds will be taken care of. The Manjimup Farmers Market is held at Manjin Park on the first and third Saturdays of each month.
The region’s marron is sought after by the world’s top chefs. Catch your own and have it cooked for you at the King Trout Marron Farm. The Southern Forests are also known for exceptional trout, with a visit to a trout farm a must.
If you’re heading out for a day in the forest, fill your picnic basket at Pemberton’s gourmet produce stores and cellar doors. Enjoy your bounty by the Beedelup Falls, or with a barbecue at Big Brook Dam. Or throw a line in from the riverbank and catch a feast of local trout.
From June to July, look out for opportunities to pick your own Pink Lady apples at participating orchards, and try specially created dishes featuring the home-grown star at local cafes and restaurants.
TIP Pack an esky so you can bring home some Southern Forests bounty!
MUNDA BIDDI EPIC 1000
Thirteen great days of off-road cycling through the wilderness of the South West. Apr-May.
TARGA SOUTH WEST RALLY
See, smell, hear and experience the thrill of the open road as this rally of classic and modern cars makes its way through the Southern Forests. May.
Explore the region’s top wine producers, culinary geniuses, cultural heritage and wilderness adventures. May.
Manjimup’s premier foodie event attracts thousands of truffle fans and an impressive line-up of celebrity chefs. If you can’t make it, attend a truffle hunt in season from June to August. Jun.
BLOOMING WILD FESTIVAL
A celebration of the wildflower season across the Southern Forests and valleys, with chasing the blooms, walks, art, forage tours and more. Sep-Nov.?
MANJIMUP CHERRY HARMONY FESTIVAL
To celebrate horticulture of the region, Manjimup hosts a long-table lunch, stalls, demonstrations, music, entertainment, and a cherry-spitting competition. Dec.
Sophie Zalokar, chef and owner, Foragers Field Kitchen
- The best ways to stock up on local produce is to purchase from roadside stalls. My two favourites are Phil’s Vegie Patch, halfway between Pemberton and Northcliffe, and Kevin and Jeep’s Stall on Old Vasse Road, near the end of the Vasse Highway.
- Create a picnic with the above provisions together with Holy Smoke products, or buy some local Green Valley lamb from Fox Brothers Butchers in Pemberton and go down to Big Brook Dam. There are undercover areas with barbecues, a beach and a wonderful 45-minute sealed walk around the edge of the dam, with bird-watching huts.
- Take a drive down to Windy Harbour via Northcliffe and stop at the visitor centre where you can access Understory – a unique sculpture walk through beautiful karri forest. If you’ve got the energy, hike up Mt Chudalup for amazing 360-degree views.
- Only in wa Visit the amazing Yeagarup sand dunes with a Beach & Forest Eco Adventure Tour through Pemberton Discovery Tours. These dunes are the largest migratory sand dune system in the southern hemisphere, and are extraordinary!
- Plan ahead and book a seasonal dinner, wood-fired dinner or demonstration cooking class at Foragers.