From our awesome spot alongside the Blackwood River on the edge of the Margaret River region we said goodbye to Sergey and continued east into Western Australia’s Southern Forests. The Southern Forests are an array of towering eucalypts that stretch from west of the quaint, inland timber town of Pemberton to the beginning of the southern inlets near Walpole. We first stopped off in Beedelup National Park on our way to Pemberton, taking in the gushing 12 meter (39 feet) high Beedelup Falls and having a walk through the Karri forests to the ‘Walk Through Tree’ near Karri Valley Resort (Mum: you’d like Karri Valley Resort…).
Never one to resist a country town bakery, I convinced Lisa on lunch at The Crossings Bakery in Pemberton (it didn’t take much convincing) before exploring a portion of Gloucester National Park. A climb up the 60 meter (197 feet) trunk of the Gloucester Tree was quite a workout, amazing views from the top over the canopy of the forest making up Gloucester National Park. The towering eucalypts in the forests in southern Western Australia are used as lookouts by firefighters, the tallest trees in each portion of the forest have metal stakes driven perpendicular to their trunk to form a makeshift staircase. The Gloucester Tree is one of the few trees used as lookouts open to the public.
We spent our first night in The Southern Forests at a beautiful campsite alongside the Warren River in Warren National Park (S34°30.569′ E115°57.693′). Our spot not only had a fire pit and picnic table with benches but also a private staircase leading down to the pristine waters of the Warren River. A really fantastic spot, so peaceful and tranquil in amongst the towering Karri Eucalypts with not a sound but the trickle of the river. I took a dip in the river, talk about icy, lucky for The Tank’s hot shower! From Warren National Park we stopped off at The Cascades in Gloucester National Park on our way back into Pemberton for another day of wine tasting. Lisa called ahead to Picardy Winery, an appointment only establishment north of Pemberton, hoping to organize a tour of one of the better known wineries in the region. Whilst waiting for a call back we took a scenic drive through the rolling hills surrounding Pemberton, stopping at Mountford Winery (where they also brew some tasty ciders), Silkwood and finally Salitage Winery. Dan Pannell, the winemaker at Picardy, called Lisa back and we were treated to an in-depth tour and tasting of his establishment. An outspoken but humorous bloke, Dan spent more than an hour with Lisa tasting her through all the varieties grown on his family’s estate, Pinot Noir being the highlight for Lisa. I was fortunate enough to taste everything on offer as well, while my taste buds aren’t anywhere near as tuned as Lisa’s I did very much enjoy some of the drops on offer in the Picardy barrel cellar.
From Pemberton the South Western Highway makes its way through Shannon National Park and back to the coast near Walpole. On recommendation from staff at a couple of the wineries around Pemberton we instead decided to make our way down through Northcliffe (Western Australia’s wettest town [even wetter than all those towns up north in the tropics!]) and to the sleepy fishing settlement of Windy Harbour (S34°50.187′ E116°01.538′). We’re glad we took the locals’ advice: Windy Harbour lies in a protected cove beneath the majestic cliffs of Point D’entrecasteaux, the vistas from the cliffs in the afternoon sun were brilliant and the campsite in amongst all the holiday shacks was a great spot. Windy Harbour immediately reminded us of some of the small hippy settlements along the Mendocino Coast… During our afternoon in Windy Harbour we explored beautiful Salmon Beach then along the top of the cliffs to the tip of Point D’entrecasteaux and some of the lookouts in-between. A very rugged but beautiful area of the country… On our way back to Northcliffe and the South Western Highway we stopped off at Mount Chudalup, where we spent an hour climbing to its peak for 360° views of D’entrecasteaux National Park and the ocean in the distance. As we made for the highway we attempted to find Lane Pool Falls in the wilderness area east of Northcliffe, but after the better part of an hour driving in what seemed like circles on a myriad of logging trails we called in quits and made a beeline for Walpole. We ducked into Fernhook Falls in Frankland River National Park on our way to Walpole, the tea color of the Deep River was more pronounced at the falls than anywhere else we’d seen in the region, the tannins from decomposing plants responsible for the colour. Even though the water is coloured deep brown, the Deep River is supposedly the most pure river in Western Australia, avoiding agricultural areas for over 95% of its 120 kilometer (75 mile) length.
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