The towns here are surrounded by nature. There’s no other place in Australia’s South West that deserves the description as much as the Southern Forests and Valleys region. The immense karri, jarrah, marri and tingle trees tower over every town, yet they’re not oppressive or stifling; quite the opposite in fact. The region feels open, fresh and the scent of clean forest is always on your nose, intermingled with fresh fruit, freshwater streams and the salty ocean air.
The striking coastline of the Southern Forests stretches across 140 kilometres, where beautiful karri forests sit atop rocky cliffs, and white sandy beaches are pounded by the wild Southern Ocean.
The towns within the region collectively radiate a charm that is often boasted about in tourist brochures yet is rarely ever achieved. They’ve managed to retain their quaint main streets, complete with tearooms serving scones, perfect planter boxes full of seasonal blooms, the classic country pub where the local characters meet and antique stores aplenty.
Between towns, the winding country roads crisscross through lush rolling hills, stands of ancient jarrah forest and sidle up against the beautiful Blackwood River- the ribbon that ties the region together. The Blackwood River is the longest continually flowing river in Western Australia, at 270 kilometres long. In late winter to spring, the region comes alive with its iconic tulip and daffodil displays, adding vibrancy to the already rich colours of the region. Wildflowers are in bloom and the local open gardens provide a dazzling display of colour.
Regional produce and wine
Here, the tall trees are interspersed with rich agricultural lands. Many regard the Southern Forests and Valleys to be the food bowl of Western Australia, home to some of the most productive soils in Australia. A wide variety of fresh produce is available year-round, and often straight from the farms from which it’s grown. Niche epicurean treats include chestnuts, finger limes, the Pink Lady apple, cherries, ginseng, green tea, dairy products, beef, lamb, marron, perch, trout, smoked products and, more recently, the rare black Perigord truffle. In addition to agricultural produce, aquaculture is popular in the area; waterways are densely populated with trout, perch and marron (freshwater crayfish).
The Pemberton and Manjimup Wine Regions combine southern latitude with high altitude and has a relatively cool climate, making it ideal for growing pinot noir and chardonnay grapes and suited to the production of refined Bordeaux-style wines.
Top 10 things to do in the Southern Forests & Valleys
- Take a drive. The roads between these small towns are some of the most beautiful in the south west, particularly in winter and spring when the rolling hills turn a lush green and forests are full of wildflowers. For nature exploration, follow the self-guided Karri Forest Explorer and tune into the radio (100FM) for tips and facts along the way.
- Discover the region’s history. Visit the Manjimup Timber and Heritage Park, Pemberton Museum and Northcliffe Pioneer Museum for an insight into the region’s timber, agricultural and mining history. Brave visitors can climb to the top of the 75-metre high Dave Evans Bicentennial karri tree near Pemberton.
- Explore the Walpole Wilderness Area, encompassing 13 national parks, stunning coastline and river systems. The WOW Wilderness cruise is a must-do, as is walking through the ancient tingle tree-top canopy at the Tree Top Walk near Walpole.
- Stroll the 1.2-kilometer Understory Art Trail in Northcliffe, showcasing sculptures by Australian and international artists.
- Enjoy a lunch of delicious marron paired with local wine in a beautiful vineyard setting. Otherwise, enjoy freshwater fishing on the Blackwood River. Hundreds of thousands of trout (rainbow and brown) are released into the waterways throughout the south west annually.
- Discover beautiful gardens. Visit Nannup in August to see the blazing colour of thousands of tulips and daffodils on display. The Nannup Flower and Garden Festival is held in August annually. Otherwise, visit an open garden as part of the Festival of Country Gardens initiative that occurs in spring and autumn. Or wander at your leisure through the Golden Valley Tree Park, WA’s largest arboretum. It’s particularly pretty in autumn, when the leaves are changing colour.
- Take the kids for a weekend break to one of the area’s farmstays, complete with baby animals and native wildlife. Let’s face it though, cuddly animals aren’t just for kids.
- Buy beautiful antiques from one of the overflowing antique galleries. The second-hand stores also have a treasure trove of vintage bargains.