Rottnest Island in March and now a weekend in Pemberton & Northcliffe, we certainly are discovering destinations closer to home in Western Australia. The South West is a beautiful and peaceful area of Western Australia. Pemberton and Northcliffe are southern forest towns surrounded by some fantastic natural scenery of karri and marri trees, falls and creeks, rolling green hills and expansive protected national parks. It is the destination to go for long forest walks, wine tastings and to spend evenings by the burning fire with good company and food. In wintertime the air is fresh and crisp, I would say the perfect time to crank that wood fire and crack open that bottle of Merlot.
The drive down to Pemberton takes around four hours from the city of Perth. The drive may be long but there is plenty to see along the way as the road winds up and down the hills passing farms, forests, orchards and wineries. There are a number of small towns along the way worth stopping at; the hardest decision for us was which town to choose! We stopped by a cidery in Donnybrook or should I say apple town, it is renowned for its gloriously juicy apples. Infact, the Pink Lady Apple originated from the Manjimup and Donnybrook region. We also stopped at the Wine and Truffle Co in Manjimup for some wine and truffle product tasting, it is the largest Truffle Orchard in the southern hemisphere.
We took South Western Highway from Bunbury which passes Boyanup, Donnybrook, Bridgetown and Manjimup. We were planning on detouring to Nannup before we reached Balingup however we were short on time and unfortunately missed visiting two cheese companies and a chestnut farm. Never mind as there will be a next time, if you love your food like me there many reasons to return to the South West.
The southern forest begins at the timber town of Manjimup and the drive from their passes through beautiful karri trees.
We started our day with a morning walk up a steep granite boulder, Mount Chudalup is located on Windy Harbour Road south of Northcliffe and has a walking trail that goes to the top of the 187 metre high summit. The amazingly and rather oddly placed boulder is surrounded by a small portion of Karri and Marri forest. The forest was green and full of life, if you whistle a bird may return your call. When I was younger, I always imagined the boulder having simply fallen from the sky as the surrounding area is fairly flat.
Facilities at the beginning of the walk include toilets and a sheltered picnic area with gas BBQ. The walk is 1km long and it is a slow uphill path before turning into a steep incline from the start of the boulder. On the way back down it is completely down hill. When the path ends you are free to climb in any direction upwards but a sign we passed reminded us that the winds can be strong at the top and there are some big drops down so be sure to stay clear of the edge!
The uninterrupted view extends across the untouched D’Entrecasteaux National Park and all the way out to the ocean. The top is certainly a great spot to take some photos.
The view on Mount Chudalup
There are quite a few wineries in Pemberton, the cool Mediterranean climate is an ideal location for vines and orchards. There are a number of wineries dotted along Channybearup Road as well as ‘good faith’ fruit stalls. Off Channeybearup road is Mountford Wines on Bamess Road. Bamess Road is not on Google maps so it can be easy to miss, the road is not sealed and is more like a track, suitable for any car though. We drove along the track for about 5 minutes before reaching the cellar door.
Mountford wines is a family run business on a large pocket of land with vines and an orchard. The winery has been certified as a organic winery by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Accredited (NASAA) and most of their range is preservative free.
Mountford Wines Cellar Door
The wineries in Pemberton are classically rustic and warmly welcome visitors through its doors, those that we visited were located in beautiful natural surroundings and for the most part wildly natural. The tastings were intimate and we were able to really learn about everything from the history of the property to the profile of wines and ciders. The service was casual and very friendly.
As our group of five entered into the cellar door we were warmly greeted and were invited to taste the Mountford wine and cider range. The ciders definitely left an impression, a great range for pretty much every type of palate from the traditional rough farmhouse cider to the smooth organic preservative free cider. There was also a non-alcoholic cider which was beautifully smooth and sweet, made from fresh apples.
Mountford also have a cherry orchard and we also tried the remarkable sakura cherry port which was my last tasting but the group continued onto the wines.
I left Mountford winery with a six bottle pack of Tangletoe Soft Cider (non-alcoholic) and the Cider Liqueur which I imagined would be lovely drizzled over baked apples and vanilla bean ice cream.
Above the cellar is a little loft gallery with the most beautiful view from a small window and there is also a lovely alfresco area to linger at the property for a little bit longer.
Tasting of the ciders
Pottery and honey also for sale
After a fun few hours of tasting the Mountford wine and cider varieties we drove along Pump Hill Road to the Pemberton town centre and we soon discovered the road was about (we were being followed by the marshals) to be closed off for the Targa West Rally stage. Lucky we made it otherwise it would have been a long drive around to reach the Pemberton town centre again.
Township of Pemberton
Holy Smoke Gourmet Food Shop, Pemberton
We stopped by the Holy Smoke Gourmet Food Shop which is located on the main strip in Pemberton and renowned for its locally smoked Salmon and Trout products.
I am a fan of their Paté range having bought a few from my local supermarket, Farmer Jacks in Subiaco. The smoked trout Paté would have to be my favourite and some might think it requires a refined palate, pish posh! It is a blend of smoked fresh rainbow trout, lemon and cream cheese. The Atlantic Smoked Salmon Paté is another favourite, a blend of bourbon and maple syrup, cured hot smoked Atlantic Salmon with lemon and smooth cream cheese.
We were fortunate to sample a range of the smoked meat and fish from the Bourbon & Maple Syrup Hot Smoked Salmon to the Smoked Trout. We also tried a new line called The Asian Style which consisted of Atlantic salmon, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and herbs. The Asian Style was the winner and we purchased a packet to have by the fire that night with our ciders.
Inside the cafe there are a range of local cheeses, crackers, jams and pickled items, all perfectly suitable to pair with Holy Smoke’s products.
I could not resist having some coffee and cake after eyeing the counter of desserts. The lime white chocolate mud cake was served with a spoonful of cream and strawberry, it was deliciously moist. The coffees were made from a local roaster’s blend, Yahava KoffeeWorks and it was a great pick me up after the wine tastings.
Coffee and cake from Holy Smoke Gourmet Food Shop
The Gloucester Tree
The Gloucester Tree is not too far from the town centre of Pemberton and it is located in the Gloucester National Park, a serene park of Karri Trees. The Gloucester tree is a 75 metre high Karri tree previously used as a fire look out well before modern planes took over that role. Now it is a tourist attraction for those that can defy heights and climb to the top cabin. It actually stands as the world’s tallest fire look out tree.
The Gloucester Tree is certainly mind challenging then it is physically challenging. Metal spikes or super large nails embedded into the tree are used to climb to the cabin that sits on the top, one look down and you could freeze in time unable to move from sheer fear. That would be me and for that very reason I happily had my feet on the ground entertained by the birds circling around me (I am not kidding, they are very friendly). Derek on the other hand was seen climbing the tree at a fast Monkey pace.
The boys climbing Gloucester Tree
The friendly bird walking towards me
Sunset in the Karri Tree Forest
In wintertime the sun falls at around 5:00 pm and we ended our day on the beach. The boys tried their luck with fishing whilst myself and my friend went for a long walk. It was cold but not a sign of wind at all and the sunset was still amazing leaving pink and blue tones in the sky. I love wintertime!
Ending the day at Windy Harbour beach
Fishing on the beach
What to buy
Many of the wineries in the Manjimup/Pemberton/Northcliffe area supply only a select range to the Perth city shops. The smaller scale wineries often sell out of their line in the same season so if you like a particular wine that you have tasted, be sure to take it back home. You can also purchase some of the products online through their website.
Wintertime is perfect to purchase apples and the supermarkets in Pemberton, Manjimup and Donnybrook stock the local produce at reasonable prices. Whilst driving around Pemberton we noticed many of the orchards had little stalls at the front selling fresh fruit and avocados too. Manjimup were selling apples by the boxes! Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Royal Gala, Golden delicious – you name it!
Cellarbrations in Manjimup stocks a large collection of local wines and it was a handy stop if you missed a particular winery but still wanted to purchase a bottle to take back home.
Bamess Road, Pemberton Western Australia
10am to 4pm – 7 days a week
Tel & Fax: +618 9776 1345
Holy Smoke Gourmet Food Shop
Shop 3 Pembee Court, Brockman Street (next door to Ray White)
08 9776 0712