Why you need to visit WA’s Southern Forests and Valleys
The epic natural landscapes of Western Australia’s Southern Forests and Valleys region are something to behold. Around three to four hours drive from Perth, this picturesque area features beautiful grazing land, coastal plains, cute country towns, world-class restaurants, iconic wineries and charming places to stay.
Scott River or Nannup are great locations to use as a base for exploring the entire south west corner of Australia with towns like Augusta, Hamlin Bay, Pemberton and Margaret River all within easy reach. And when Margaret River is booked out or busy, you’ll usually find plenty of peace and quiet, and available accommodation in the Southern Forests and Valleys region.
What to see and do in the Southern Forests and Valleys
With some impressive natural landscapes and character towns, here are some of our top picks for what to see and do in the Southern Forests and Valleys region:
Sample the wine of the Southern Forests and Valleys
With an ideal climate for growing grapes, the Southern Forests and Valleys region has a small wine region mostly centred around the timber town of Pemberton with an impressive reputation for top-notch emerging wineries.
One such boutique winery is Ampersand Estate which produces varietals such as pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. With beautiful grounds, a stylish cellar door serving incredible grazing platters and gourmet picnics, it’s a fantastic spot for wine tasting.
Or if Gin is your preference instead of wine, Ampersand also own Australia’s first single harvest distillery. Rainfall Distillery partners with local farmers (taking discarded potatoes grown in the region) to create artisanal spirits and gin from scratch featuring flavours of the southwest like cherries, macadamia, smoked Karri and using Southern Forests rainwater in their distillery process.
If you can’t find your favourite wine near Pemberton, just take a one-hour drive to the Margaret River Wine Region to sample wine from one of the 95 wineries around Margaret River.
Discover the historic town of Nannup
Situated on the banks of the Blackwood River, Nannup is a quaint, historic, milling town originally settled in 1850s and 1860s. Surrounded by karri and jarrah tree forests and the farmlands of the Blackwood River Valley, its name means “stopping place” in Noongar. Also dubbed ‘The Garden Village’ you’ll find pretty shop fronts and colourful flower boxes, and in-season, an abundance of tulips and daffodils blooming.
Here’s what to do in Nannup:
- Walk the main street past tearooms and gift stores full of local wares and arts and crafts, or enjoy a bite to eat from one of the many cafes. The town comes alive with flowers during spring with flower and garden festivals, artisan markets and music festivals. Take the Nannup Heritage Trail marked by interpretive wall plaques and signs to better understand the history since it’s founding.
- Enjoy a stroll or picnic by the Blackwood River. Walk the 5-kilometre Blackwood River Trail for a picturesque journey beginning at the Old Railway Bridge. Or visit the beautiful Barrabup Pool, where you swim or canoe in a natural pool surrounded by forest. Picnic and camping facilities are also available at the pool.
- Take the Blackwood River Valley Food and Beverage Trail, to eat and drink your way through the region tasting roasted chestnuts, farmhouse cheeses, honey, wines and ciders, enjoy a pub meal, or sit by a log fire on your journey.
- Visit the Nannup Lavender Farm. Located on Graphite Road, you can enjoy a meal overlooking the fields of lavender (in flower Dec – Jan) and pick up one of their locally made lavender products.
Download the ‘Experience Nannup‘ app for visitor information and events happening in Nannup.
See the unique volcanic geology of Black Point
Located in Scott River East, around 4 hours from Perth, Black Point is a spectacular and geologically unique drawcard for the D’Entrecasteaux National Park in south west Western Australia. Featuring a massive outcrop of hexagonal basalt columns this extensive lava flow was formed millions of years ago originating in the Darling Scarp.
But this little-known epic Western Australian spot is not easy to get to – only accessible by high clearance 4WD. But don’t fear… if you don’t have a 4WD (like us) you can still visit this location on a tour.
We went with Hank from Margaret River Exposed Tours, who knows this region like the back of his hand. The full day Off Road Discovery tour included a gourmet picnic lunch, spotting wildflowers (in season) driving through the diverse wetlands and pockets of Karri, Jarrah and Marri trees and the incredible landscape of Black Point with its basalt columns and stunning secluded beaches.
Here are our tips for visiting this amazing location:
- To get to Black Point there are 2 tracks, but only one is open year-round (Woodarburrup Rd). The other route via Black Point Road north is closed through winter.
- Stop at the scenic lookouts of ‘Surfers Cove’ and ‘Breakfast Holes’ for incredible views over the Southern Ocean and the black basalt that gives Black Point its name. Take a walk at Breakfast Holes along the clifftop for an even more spectacular perspective.
- The basalt columns are best seen at ‘Stepping Stones’. Take a 1km walk along the beach to find the outcrop of classic ‘organ pipe’ columns. Check the tides before you go (low tide is best).
- There are drop toilets and shaded picnic tables at Black Point. However, the D’Entrecasteaux National Park is very remote so you need to come prepared. Mobile reception in the park is poor.
- National Park entry fees apply. Purchase an annual or holiday WA Park Pass.
Taste the gourmet produce of the Southern Forests and Valleys
Often referred to as the food bowl of Western Australia, the Southern Forests and Valleys are home to some of the most fertile soils in Australia. The farms of south west Western Australia grow fresh produce year-round like chestnuts, avocados, cherries, nectarines and Bravo apples, and in-season you can often buy directly from the farm gate. Or visit one of the local food artisan producing olive oil, chocolate, cheese, coffee or craft beer. Here are a few of our favourites:
- Sample some local cheese. Visit the small family-operated cheese factory of Cambray Cheese located 12 km from the picturesque town of Nannup. Drop into the farm shop between 10am – 3pm daily for cheese tastings of their unique range of hand made sheep and cow’s milk soft white-mould cheeses, Greek-style feta.
- Taste some artisan chocolate. The boutique rammed earth chocolate shop of South Forests Chocolate Co. is a treasure trove of handmade truffles and chocolate bars, as well as serving the best hot chocolate! Located in Yeagarup, they are open 9am-4pm 7 days a week. Or check out the hand crafted chocolate of Oma Bar to Bean in the main street of Nannup that is open weekdays 9am-4pm and 8am-3pm on weekends. The owner Lucia sources cacao beans from Solomon Islands, Peru and Indonesia and roasts them in store – single origin chocolate at its best! You can also grab a truffle, hot drink, treat or even order a sourdough loaf from this cute little store.
- Take a tour of a chestnut farm. Chestnut Brae runs farm and foodie tours on their property near Nannup. See the gardens, meet the farm animals, sample the chestnut products and during harvest season (March – May) you can even “pick your own” chestnuts for a small additional fee.
- Dine Farm to Table. The award winning Glenarty Road is a boutique farm and vineyard based in Karridale offering a farm-to-table feast and world-class wine. Their menu focuses on fresh and seasonal food grown on their regenerative farm with over 250 fruit trees, numerous veggie patches, a hop garden, and a few thousand sheep. You can also book a farm and foraging tour through the vines and gardens that finish with a feast. It’s an experience you won’t forget!
Explore the Karri Forests and National Parks
With majestic old Karri forests and pretty waterfalls, the timber town of Pemberton offers picturesque drives and pristine wilderness areas. Located just under 4hrs drive from Perth, the Southern Forests and Valleys region also has an abundance of National Parks where you can spend a day in nature. The Gloucester, Warren, Beedelup, Greater Hawke, D’Entrecasteaux and Shannon National Parks are all within easy reach of the township boasting waterfalls, spots to picnic, hike or camp.
Here are some of the best things to see and do in Pemberton:
- Go for a swim in Pemberton Pool: Constructed in the late 1920s for the families of the local timber workers, this natural pool has remained an iconic destination for generations since. It’s nestled on Lefroy Brook next to the Pemberton Mountain Bike Park and has benches, picnic tables, BBQ and toilets.
- Check out the Karri Trees: Some of the region’s oldest karri forests are located around Pemberton, with many trees over 80 metres tall, and more than 300 years old. Gloucester National Park is home to one of the region’s favourite climbing trees. These giant Karri’s were used as fire lookouts in the 1930s, as a way of spotting fires in the forests.
- Fish or Hike the Cascades: Located in Gloucester National Park you’ll find beautiful waterfalls that cascade over Lefroy Brook offering superb rainbow and brown trout fishing. Just a short walk from the car park is a boardwalk with views over the river and the cascades, or take the 1.2 km trail for a family-friendly walk that loops around the waterfalls.
- Visit Beedelup Falls: Amidst dense karri, jarrah and marri forest the Beedelup National Park features a beautiful waterfall over granite rocks. Take the 300 metre loop trail across a suspension bridge for the best views of the falls and Beedelup Brook (note – the bridge is very wobbly!). This waterfall is best visited during winter or the start of spring when it is in full flow.
See the largest land-locked sand dunes at Yeagarup
The Yeagarup Dunes are a dune system slowly moving inland, swallowing karri forests and wetlands in its path. Rising metres above the surrounding trees, these dunes are thought to be the largest land-locked mobile dune system in the southern hemisphere.
Located 20 kilometres southwest of Pemberton you can access the dunes with a four-wheel drive. However, it requires confidence driving on soft sand and you’ll need to reduce your tyre pressure to suit the conditions. The journey across the dunes is challenging, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible views and access to Yeagarup Beach on the other side.
Yeagarup Lake is the gateway to the dunes. It’s a pretty area to stop for a picnic or just enjoy the scenery. Take a walk along the curved boardwalk which stretches 30m out into the lake.
If you don’t have a 4WD you can still see the dunes with a regular car just like we did with a bit of walking. Park near Yeagarup Lake as beyond that point is strictly for four wheel drive vehicles. Then walk on foot along the sandy track and keep an ear out for approaching vehicles. It’s about a 30 minute walk, a little undulating, but not too difficult before you’ll hit the entrance to the dunes. A wall of sand rising about 40 metres out of the forest. Climb the sand hill, and you’ll be on top of the Yeagarup Dunes that are swallowing the forest at a rate of about 4 metres each year. Slow, but unstoppable – it’s an amazing place to see!
Where to stay in the Southern Forests and Valleys
Whether you’re interested in a family farm stay, a self-catered luxurious bush cabin or keen to camp in the forest, there’s a huge range of accommodation options in the Southern Forests and Valleys! Whatever your choice, you can be assured of dazzling night skies and waking up to nothing but the sound of birds calling and the occasional lowing of cows. With so much to explore in the region, we suggest you stay two to four nights to give you the time to unplug from city life and connect with nature.
Here are a few of our favourites:
Little House Republic
Around 3 hours south of Perth in the stunning countryside of the Scott River area, Little House Republic is a perfect hideaway. Nestled on an active pastoral farm their tiny houses are surrounded by peppermint trees and offer a secluded self-catered couples retreat for a romantic getaway or some downtime in nature. Spend your time hiking to the private beach, stargazing, reading and relaxing. Or venture further afield to Augusta, Hamelin Bay, Margaret River, Pemberton and Nannup just one hour from the property.
The Little House Republic cabins are fitted out with luxury linen and all the creature comforts, but are completely off-grid – powered by the sun, water from the rain, gas for hot water and cooking, and a waterless composting toilet to conserve water. Think of it as ultra luxurious camping. Gorgeous styling, eco friendly toiletries, an indoor wood fire and the outdoor firepit (in season) made our recent stay at the property a beautiful experience.
Camp at Lake Yeagarup
Located at Lake Yeagarup, the Leaning Marri Campground offers six shady single campsites and one group campsite with a shared shelter. Suitable for tents, small caravans and camper trailers campfires are permitted, in the provided fire rings only between 15 April and 30 November. BYO firewood and no dogs are allowed at this campground. The site has toilet facilities and a tap with a sink available. Camping fees and National Park entry fees apply to this Southern Forests and Valleys destination.
For more options on other beautiful regions to visit in Western Australia, check out Our Ultimate Guide to the Ferguson Valley, or our 5 favourite WA spots for an overnight getaway from Perth that are less than 2 hours drive!