The Southern Forests Food Council recently launched their Genuinely Extraordinary Southern Forests Food & Farm Experience. This five day, four night tour takes you on an amazing adventure throughout this beautiful region – encompassing Manjimup, Pemberton, Walpole and Northcliffe. It is interesting, engaging, informative and delicious!
The tour gives you the unique opportunity to get behind the farm gate, giving you a front row view of all the action. It aims to showcase the Southern Forests and to highlight the vast range of amazing produce that is grown and made in this part of our fair state. It is a welcome reminder of the importance of buying local as you meet some of the genuine down to earth farmers and the friendly locals of the Southern Forests.
The three things I particularly loved about this tour were:
The people – genuine, hardworking, friendly.
The produce – fresh, diverse, delicious.
The passion – inspiring, innovative, creative.
I recently went on the November tour and while there will be some variance from month to month in terms of the stops on the itinerary (because they want to keep things seasonal), I thought I’d mention where I got to go to highlight just how much can be comfortably packed into a few days of avid exploring.
I arrived in Manjimup around 5pm on the Friday, it took about 3 and a half hours to get there and it’s a pleasant drive through cute towns like Donnybrook, Balingup and Bridgetown. For the duration of the tour, your accommodation base is at the Kingsley Motel. Recently refurbed, the rooms are fresh and clean with the added bonus of in room Netflix! Conscious that some people may be weary from travel (I was) your first official tour activity is to wander those few steps from your room to the motel’s restaurant to meet with members of the Southern Forests Food Council and others on the tour. I liked that everyone got to know each other early on, plus I enjoyed hearing from the council members and their family backgrounds with farming in the region.
Food wise the meal at Kingsley Motel knocked it out of the park. They do a marron risotto which is the best darn risotto I’ve ever tasted. Seriously wonderful. Plus their desserts were pretty special too! Chocolate mousse for the win!
You’ll be tempted to binge on a favourite Netflix show when you get back to your room, but you’ve got a big day ahead so rest up!
Breakfast is served at the motel, either cooked or continental. For me, poached eggs on toast with a side serve of sausages became my breakfast of choice. Very tasty!
Fuelled up and excited to explore, our first stop was the Manjimup Farmers Markets. Held on the first and third Saturday of the month, we were given half an hour to wander around the stalls. There’s a great range of fresh produce and artisan goodies to check out.
It was lovely to meet some of the local producers and I made a fair few purchases as I happily wandered around – wine, olive oil, hand towels, brownies – I nailed the essentials! Thankfully the SFFC crew bring along an esky in case any of your purchases need to be kept cold.
Up next was our first chance to embrace nature and for the braver tour members, to tackle the Diamond Tree, which is a 51-metre-high Karri tree that was previously a fire lookout from 1941 to 1974. Driving there I was trying my utmost to psych myself up to tackle the tall timber, but a quarter of the way up my fear of heights got the better of me and I made my way back down to the safety of the ground.
Bravo to those that manage to scale it! I’m sure the view from the top is magic.
Onwards we went and the next stop was at the Berry Sweet Strawberry Farm. As soon as you approach and see row after row of domed tunnels filled with strawberries you can tell it is an impressive operation. It’s actually the largest strawberry farm in the Southern Hemisphere and they have plans for further expansion, which is great news for strawberry fans! Here, our tour guide Dougie talked us through the operations, the recent move to lift the strawberries off the ground and introduced us to some of the workers. We then moved through to the packing area and what a buzz of activity there was as the strawberries were sorted, weighed and wrapped. It definitely put you in the mood for some strawberry eating and we were fortunate to leave with a punnet each. Delicious!
From strawberries we headed to Jarrah Jacks Brewery for a tour and then lunch. It is such a picturesque spot! Rolling hills filled with vineyards with the brewery perched impressively on top of the hill. On a sunny day such as this it was a lovely place to be lunching.
Assistant brewer Sam talked us through the process of how to make beer and I’ll admit I didn’t know a lot about it so it was very interesting. Once ‘full bottle’ on the process our attention turned to sampling and we were given a tasting paddle to work our way through the Jarrah Jacks range. Large platters followed for lunch. Wowsers, we would not be leaving hungry! Plenty of tasty morsels to choose from and we all happily sat and enjoyed our meal and the beers on such a beautiful sunny day.
After lunch it was best to stretch the legs and walk off some of that epic feed and we called past the Pemberton Fine Woodcraft and Art Gallery to take in some beautiful local artistic talent. There were amazing wooden tables that would make the most stunning feature pieces! A very pretty place for a wander and ideal if you fancied buying something special to take home with you.
From here we ventured to the Old Vasse Trout Farm. Having recently changed hands we heard from new owner Justin about his future plans for the place before checking out the baby trout. It was nice at this stop to have Justin’s dogs Lachie and Molly join us on the tour. They seemed equally as fascinated by all those fish, with literally thousands of babies in the tank! You are able to hire lines and go fishing in the pond and then you just pay for your fish by the kilo. Fresh fish is always great and I’m sure rainbow trout would be no exception.
We called into Beedelup Falls next and I was enjoying that the tour was such a well-managed mix between food, farm and nature experiences throughout the day.
It wasn’t an overly long walk, but incredibly picturesque and through the trees you could actually see our next stop.
We were visiting Karri Valley Resort for dinner. I’d never been to Karri Valley before but its reputation precedes it. As you drive onto the property, past fields filled with reclining kangaroos, it is incredibly beautiful.
All the more so once you arrive at the main residence and you see that amazing lake which is surrounded by sky high Karri trees. It is just so striking.
When we took our seat in the restaurant you could comfortably sit and take in that view.
We enjoyed a three course menu, kicked off with a seafood tasting plate, followed by tender lamb, before indulging in a chocolate pudding. They make sure you are well fed on this tour! Karri Valley Resort has actually had a change of ownership recently and now belongs to RAC who will reportedly be doing a few upgrades in the coming months, so will be interesting to see what changes they make.
We were then driven back to the motel and I think as soon as my head hit the pillow I was out. It was a big day, but had been thoroughly enjoyable. I slept incredibly well.
You can read onto Part 2 of my Southern Forest adventure here now!
Details of how to book in for their December tour can be found here:
Please note: I was a guest of the Southern Forest Food Council for this tour. My opinions as always are my own.