Nestled in a quiet valley, four hours' drive south of Perth, lies the little town of Pemberton. Surrounded by forests of the world’s largest hardwood trees, it's the perfect spot for a romantic break
Exploring Western Australia, we took advice from our globetrotting son, who recommended visiting the old logging town of Pemberton, in the heart of Karri-tree country - and we were not disappointed!
We stayed just outside town at the Karri Valley Resort, overlooking Lake Beedelup in the midst of the giant Karri forest. For our two-night stay (longer stays are possible if you have more time), we chose a tranquil lakeside motel room, where you can even fish for trout from the balcony. Not being overlooked, we left the curtains undrawn at night and were able to lie in bed gazing up at the stars twinkling down over the lake. It's the perfect spot for a romantic getaway. Rooms cost from Aus$126 for two people.
Families may prefer one of the self-catering forest chalets here, where the resort offers a variety of nature-based activities to suit all tastes. There is also a small animal farm, and boats, cycles and fishing equipment for hire at the resort. Barbecues can be found near the lake, where you can cook your catch for supper!
Wild kangaroos and emus wander into the resort, and drivers need to keep a lookout after dark, when animals risk running across the main Vasse Highway outside. Laughing kookaburras (large kingfishers) cackle in the trees and a variety of wildfowl swim and paddle around the lake.
What to do
Close to town you can climb the famous Gloucester Tree, the world's highest fire lookout, or take a peaceful walk through the woodland trails and enjoy the colourful wild birds flitting from branch to branch in the trees above. Others may prefer to take a drive through the forest, which comes alive with dazzling displays of rare and delicate wildflowers in springtime.
The Pemberton Railway in town offers a scenic tram ride through local forests, stopping at the cascades en route. The cascades vary in their intensity, from a gentle flow in summer to a raging torrent in winter. The Lefroy Brook tumbles over rocky shelves that provide picturesque spots for a picnic, barbecue or fishing in the forest. Our driver gave a commentary along the way, as we trundled over narrow bridges and looked down on streams flowing below the track. We paid Aus$18 each for this trip.
You may enjoy fishing for rainbow trout and marron (large freshwater crayfish), which are bred in hatcheries around Pemberton and released into streams and rivers each year. You can catch these delicacies in the lake at the resort, elsewhere in the wild or by visiting one of the hatcheries.
Wine and food
There are over 30 vineyards in the Pemberton area, and the main grape varieties grown include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. There are good quality wines from well-known wineries including Eastbrook Estate (open 11am-4pm at weekends) and Smithbrook Wines (open 11am-4pm Monday-Friday).
The Karri Valley Resort has a lakeside restaurant, although we tended to eat out during our short stay. We found the food at the Best Western Hotel (www.pembertonhotel.bestwestern.com.au) in Pemberton town good (and good value), with large portions served when we ordered lunch and dinner there on the terrace. The old-style charm of open fires in the dining room and wood-panelled lounge bar blends favourably with the modern atmosphere of the cafe and alfresco dining area. The hotel is within walking distance of the town centre and tramway, and close to trout fishing and national parks.
We found it impossible to get a mobile phone signal or use our laptop in the resort, because of the tall trees blocking the signal. I believe they have an internet connection at reception; otherwise go to the telecentre in Pemberton town, where you can use their computers or plug in your laptop for a small fee.
Where to stay in Perth
Before our flight from Perth, we stayed overnight at the Mantra on Hay, where we were upgraded to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. It was really well equipped, with full kitchen, laundry and dishwasher, and overlooked the WACA Cricket Ground.