Pemberton, Jo Castro

There are some country towns that you never grow tired of, and Pemberton 343kms, from Perth set deep in the heart of the Southern Forests is one of those towns.

Every time we visit we find something new to do or see, and at any time of year the town exudes a quiet charm. It’s a sleepy town and yet full of life, particularly bird life, and if you enjoy outdoor pursuits and a lack of humanity at large, then it’s the holiday spot for you.

Pemberton, Jo Castro

Spoiler alert! Two guest posts from ZigaZag readers are waiting in the wings to be published – they give totally different points of view, so check back for more about Pembers next week, won’t you?

Things to do in Pemberton

We set off on a rainy winter’s day for a short weekend break ‘down south’ and after a misty drive passing through Donnybrook, Balingup, Bridgetown and Manjimup we were greeted by warm hospitality at The Pemberton Hotel,  (one of the Best Western hotel chain). Later on we would have a decadent lunch at Silkwood Wines, but more of that later.

You might also like: 10 Things to do in Pemberton and 21 Awesome Things to do around Pemberton and the Southern Forests

Our road trip from Bunbury threw up lots of interesting things including a Shoe tree, 8kms north of Manjimup at a small place called Palgarup!

We felt it had ‘lots of sole!’ I can’t tell you all about the witty banter which followed on Facebook as I live Tweeted and Instagramed, suffice to say that there was mention of it being a “Bootiful tree” and someone asked was it a “Sandalwood or a “Gum Boot tree”.

‘But Why?” someone else asked, and the reply was that, “Footwear advertisers must be branching out.’ Then someone remarked, “I’m sure you will finally twig!” To which I replied “What a Karri on,” because of course the Southern Forests are known for their ghostly giants, the Karri trees.

Pemberton, Jo Castro

History of the Shoe Tree

Ian Peacock, a rustic furniture maker, decided to do something with the huge pile of unwanted shoes that had been discarded by his growing grandchildren and he started nailing shoes of all types and sizes to the large gum tree at the front of his house on the South Western Highway.

Friends, locals and tourists soon added to the pile leaving bags of old shoes outside his home and now it apparently gets photographed by people from all over the world.

Oh Holy Smoke!

Our first stop in Pemberton had been recommended to us by friends.

What a fabulous first stop of the day. At Holy Smoke cafe we had hot coffee and Lumberjack cake, which was so good that I don’t think I can ever forget it. Suitably refreshed we browsed around the beautiful gardens nestled amongst the tall karri forest and popped into the adjoining gallery;  the Pemberton Fine Woodcraft Gallery which is right next door.

Pemberton, Jo Castro

It’s a rammed earth gallery showcasing high quality art and sculpture, fine furniture and fabulous wood-crafted items made from local timbers. Rosalind Piper, one of the owners, told us a little of its history.

“We came back to Pemberton from Oman and bought the gallery in June 2013. The premises had been purpose built in 1990 out of local wood but the gallery had gone to rack and ruin. The garden and pond were overgrown, and we stripped the building back and cleaned it up to expose rammed earth and fine carpentry.”

Lunch at a gorgeous winery

After a drive along Pemberton’s country lanes, through tall damp forest and then over hills and dales reminiscent of England complete with fluffy white sheep and glistening lakes, we arrived at Silkwood.

I have to admit that I’m a big fan of this winery and restaurant, and have been several times before taking friends and family for long lunches. It never disappoints.

Pemberton, Jo Castro

Wine Tasting in Pemberton

We started with a wine tasting at the cellar door, and the lovely Carla explained all the wine terms and effortlessly guided us through a selection of fine whites and reds. My favourite was the Silkwood Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot which is a premium sparkling wine made using the traditional French Champagne method. It’s complex, fresh and zesty with soft creamy bubbles. Loved it!

“The sparkling wine goes really well with most things, but particularly with back-packer food, like instant noodles,” joked one of the staff members who has been back packing around Australia.

Silkwood Winery and Restaurant

Dave particularly enjoyed the Silkwood Original Zin liqueur which is best described by suggesting Christmas Cake, Turkish Delight and Spice.

We bought bottles of our favourite wines to take home, but have to say that the Silkwood Wine list is strong all the way through. All the grapes are grown on the estate and the wine is produced at Silkwood.

The restaurant is bright and lively, ideal for group or family gatherings. When we arrived it was busy, vibrant and warm with a woodburner glowing at one end. The inside area with the cellar door overlooks a gorgeous decked area which in turn overlooks sweeping lawns, a large lake and forest beyond. If you really can’t leave then there are 4 luxury chalets (5*) within stumbling distance.

Pemberton, Jo Castro
Country roads in Pemberton

Chef trained with TV Celebrity chef Rick Stein

Most interesting though was that a new chef had just started at Silkwood. Dan Gedge  started his career as an apprentice with TV celebrity Chef Rick Stein in Cornwall, working at Rick’s restaurant in Padstow for 8 years.

“I like to produce classical flavour combinations with little surprises,” he told me, “And I always use the best of the best – I also don’t like to over complicate things. Marron and avocados come from a farmer up the road, everything is fresh. I believe that 4 or 5 things on a plate is enough.”

To begin with we were given olives and fresh sourdough. We couldn’t help but be impressed with the flavour of the olives.

“They’re handpicked by our staff in Margaret River and infused with rosemary in olive oil,” explained Anne Marie, the chef’s wife.

Following which we had a gastronomic feast of duck rillette, scallops, pink snapper and succulent steak – with all the trimmings. I’m not a food critic, but I do know what I like, and there was nothing not to love about the way our lunch was cooked or presented.

Lunch turned out to be rather a long affair. The fabulous food, great wines, warmth of the fire and the friendly staff turned early afternoon into late afternoon when the weather turned cool again and we returned to Pemberton.

The Best Western Pemberton Hotel

The Pemberton Hotel sits grandly on the main road going into the town and looks out over a lovely stretch of trees beyond which is karri and jarrah forest. Rooms with balconies take advantage of the view and as you enter the reception area you might be forgiven for thinking that you are entering a rain forest. Two huge paintings of forest and parrots adorn the high walls, and local timber is evident everywhere in the hotel’s construction.

Pemberton, Jo Castro

Clean and Comfortable Rooms

Rooms are clean and comfortable with plenty of space and there’s free wi-fi which of course I was glad of. The pub was buzzing and we enjoyed a glass of wine in the evening in the atmospheric bar where the walls are adorned with old artefacts and historic pictures from the past. In summer you’ll enjoy the al fresco dining area, but in winter there’s a log fire to be enjoyed.

Interesting history

The hotel has an interesting history. It was originally built in nearby Greenbushes in the early 1900’s and known as the Courthouse Hotel.   In February 1926 an application was granted for the transfer of the license from Greenbushes to Pemberton.  The Pemberton Hotel was opened in April 1926 re-built from materials transported from the former Courthouse Hotel site in Greenbushes. In 2000 the rammed earth motel units and Cafe Mazz were added.

After an undisturbed night’s sleep we woke early for breakfast as Dave was ready for the 40km bike ride along the Munda Biddi trail from the Gloucester Tree to Northcliffe. A hearty breakfast of fruit, yoghurt, cereal and a cooked breakfast set him on his way – and I would suggest the hotel as a great pit-stop for breakfast if you’re doing a road trip and don’t have time to stop overnight in Pemberton.

We shall return, and friends are already booked on our recommendation to visit this weekend.

Pemberton, Jo Castro

Pemberton Short Stay things to do

Silkwood Wines, Restaurant and 5* Luxury Chalets. Channybearup Road, Pemberton.  Cellar Door and Restaurant. Award winning wines. Deck over a lake. Open Friday – Monday 10am – 4pm. Bookings essential. Tel: 08 9776 1584

The Best Western Pemberton Hotel offers accommodation in 30 modern motel rooms adjoining the hotel.  Two rooms have facilities for the disabled.  All of the rooms have balconies and most have views across to the karri and jarrah trees of Pemberton town park. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, except for Good Friday and Christmas Day. Open wood fires in the lounge and TAB bar.  Cafe Mazz and the alfresco dining area have a bright modern atmosphere and gas heaters for warmth during the colder winter months. Coach and tour groups are welcome for accommodation or meals by prior arrangement. Tel: 08 9776 1017

Pemberton, Jo Castro
Pemberton Visitor Centre is a great place to book tours, visit a small museum and buy locally crafted gifts.

Pemberton Discovery Centre – I met the lovely Toni owner of Pemberton Discovery Tours on Sunday morning, and we realised that we’d been stalking each other on Facebook! I love it when online friendships become offline! You’ll find that Toni and her husband Graeme offer all sorts of things ranging from various day tours and hikes, to hire car, camping gear and bike hire, mini golf and a gift shop.

The fabulous Discovery Tours, beach and forest Eco adventures are definitely on my wish list – in half a day you travel in a 4 x 4 to the Yeagarup Dunes, the largest landlocked sand dune system in the Southern Hemisphere and visit old growth Karri forest, get to sea wildflowers in season (Sept-Nov) and drive down to the Warren River as it reaches the Southern Ocean. You’ll find the centre on Brockman Street. Tel: 08 9776 0484

Holy Smoke and Pemberton Fine Woodcraft Gallery. Dickinson Street, Pemberton. Woodcraft Gallery and adjoining cafe selling smoked products, gourmet foods. Offers free tastings. Tel: 08 9776 1741

Pemberton, Jo Castro

The Lavender and Berry Farm – expect lake views, farm animals, a garden cafe, gift shop, lavender, berry and honey ice cream (among others), pancakes and scones, gardens with birdlife, and four rammed earth chalets with fireplaces. While I was sitting in the cafe a Bandicoot scuttled in rummaging for crumbs, and I spotted blue wrens and silver eyes in the garden by the lake. On Browns Road, Tel: 08 9776 1661

“People travel from Perth just for our signature dish of pancakes and scones,” Pete the owner told me.

Pemberton, Jo Castro

More about Pemberton

I’ve written before about Pemberton; about the trails, the trees to climb and many more attractions, and today’s post is certainly not indicative of the only things to do in the area. So you might also like these posts:  10 Things to do in Pemberton and 21 Awesome Things to do around Pemberton and the Southern Forests

Disclaimer:  My night was courtesy of The Best Western Pemberton Hotel, and lunch was courtesy of Silkwood Wines.

I’m linking up with some other great travel sites today: Noel Morata Photography and Travel Photo Thursday and Friday Postcards.

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  1. Pemberton and Dunsborough were my two favourite S.W. corner towns. By the sounds of it Pemberton hasn’t changed much in 35 years which is good. Save me some of that lumberjack cake please!! Marty climbed that tree, but not me. No Way. Love the tall timbers and quiet of the big trees.

  2. We spent a few nights in Pemberton during our recent travels and we loved the country feel of the place and all those towering tree forests were amazing. I would have liked to tour the Lavender and Berry Farm and also lunched at Silkwood Winery. Maybe next time!

  3. Glad that you got to experience Pemberton, Kathy. It’s a very special South West Town 🙂

  4. Thanks Ingrid! I got that you meant the ‘shoe’ tree by the way. But maybe other people might have wondered about which tree in a forest of karris I guess! You’d love that tree I think – I can imagine you making a merry quip or two about it 😉

  5. Thanks for popping by Muza-chan – yep, it is quite a spectacle 🙂

  6. Ahh Jan, glad it brought back memories for you. Yes, I suspect it’s very much the same as when you visited. Except for the lumberjack cake! I climbed that tree once, but thought I was going to run out of puff and nerve and nearly didn’t get down 😉

  7. We had a fabulous weekend in Pemberton earlier this year. There certainly is so much to do just in the town and surrounds without exploring those communities a bit further afield. Holy Smoke was our first stop every morning too…they make a delicious breakfast!

  8. We don’t get much rain here in our drought savaged area. But, when we do get some rain even via thunderstorms I find those days to be so very cozy! That shoe tree is awesome! And the food you got?? Oh my gosh, Johanna! Steak, duck and scallops?? Yes please!! We hope you have a great weekend!! 🙂

  9. What exactly is Lumberjack cake? I really, really like that Shoe Tree. If we were there, I’d probably be digging through the suitcase to see if we had anything we could leave behind to add to their collection. Your photos of the area are beautiful. Free Wi-fi at the hotel? That’s wonderful as I remember public wi-fi being very hard to find when we were in Australia.

  10. Pemberton seems to have something for everyone, Johanna.
    So what does that lumberjack cake taste like?

  11. Johanna, What a great place to spend a few days! I would love to go! I would head straight to the Holy Smoke Cafe!

  12. Ha, that lumberjack cake Marcia was made of lumberjacks! Lol! It was like a carrot cake but with tons of extra fruit not as in fruit cake but more like a pudding. Delish!

  13. Free wifi is always a bonus isn’t it Michele. I can just see you finding shoes to leave for the tree … sadly I was ‘caught on the hop and shoe deficient so had none to leave! Thanks for your kind compliments.

  14. Thank you Mike, yes we had a lovely weekend and Pemberton in the green of winter is a gorgeous place to visit.

  15. So glad you enjoyed your stay Jenny but sad we were not around to meet up 🙁 Have a fab trip in Europe won’t you !

  16. I love that Shoe tree! What a neat and unique roadside attraction! Pemberton looks like the perfect weekend getaway. You always get me with your wineries. I love lavender too so I would enjoy spending quite some time at The Lavender and Berry Farm. Beautiful photos, Jo!

  17. I have only spent a week in Australia and that was all in Melbourne. I loved what I did see and look forward to returning. Pemberton looks like a great place. Thank you for the tips on places to stay and things to do.

  18. Great hey Mary! And there was a diddy one next to it, which we didn’t show in the photo 😉 Yes, Pemberton has it all for a weekend getaway! THanks for commenting today 🙂

  19. Australia has so many colorful and fanciful names and a quirky character that is very appealling. Love the names Balingup, Bunbury, Palgarup and Manjimup and the fact that someone would make a shoe tree!

  20. Pemberton looks like an exciting place… There are so many things to do here 🙂 and the shoe tree is interesting. I have never seen anything like that before.

  21. These are the types of small towns that I love to visit and explore in more detail. I would love to see your area one of these days, hopefully in the near future.

  22. What a lovely recap of what looks to be a wonderful destination. I was interested in it all, but you really had me at sparkling wine. Would love to visit Western Australia, perhaps after we are in Queensland early in the year.

  23. Lis Sowerbutts

    That part of WA is quite extraordinary – I remember driving down to Pemberton and feeling like we’d gone home to NZ for the weekend!

  24. Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it

    The shoe tree is a crazy idea that really took off. We have Mardi Gras trees which are very colorful with all the beads thrown on. Our Solitude Ski Mountain has a bra tree and we always wonder…

  25. Someone else mentioned the bra tree on Facebook, Neva. Er, is it well supported!

  26. Ahh, that’s lovely Lis! And New Zealand is somewhere I’d love to visit!

  27. Definitely Betsy – I can feel a trip West coming on! Thanks for your compliments.

  28. Nor me, Rajlakshmi! Although I believe there’s a ‘bra tree’ in America which might trump the shoe tree near Pemberton!

  29. Aren’t the names precious, Anita. And the ‘up’ at the end of each one means ‘place of’.

  30. If we ever make it back to Perth (only 11,603 miles from Philadelphia, PA, USA, our hometown), now we have somewhere else to visit. 😉

  31. The shoe tree is great we LOVE quirky roadside attractions! Lovely photographs of the birds – a trip must be made to see those guys! -Veronica

  32. Thanks Veronica! Great that you enjoyed the post and photographs 🙂

  33. What a fabulous post Jo –
    Inspiring and backed up with all the details needed for a visit to the region –
    I visited Pemberton many moons ago and have the obligatory photo of me standing on the 3rd or 4th rung up the Pemberton lookout tree, but that was as far as I got lol.
    It looks as though its changed in all the good ways with more offerings of fabulous food and comfortable places to stay –
    I loved the south-west… and you’re certainly tempting me to return 🙂

  34. Lindy loo

    I really enjoyed the recent post by Wanda and her adventures at Pemberton.

    I knew it was a beautiful town but did not realise it had so many hidden treasures to taste and explore. Thank you Wanda for sharing your discovery and experience. You have given me yet another reason to visit Pemberton again. I may even attempt the mountain bike trail you were on ( on a nice day 🙂 ). A motivational article.

  35. Thanks for popping by Lindy loo – yes, Wanda’s article was motivational wasn’t it, and I think will have inspired many people to re-aquaint themselves with Pemberton or cycling for a short stay weekend perhaps 😉

  36. Great read Jo, I simply adore the south-west of this beautiful country and I must get down and see that shoe tree. I have been to Pemberton Fine Woodcraft several times, just love how creature they are with timber.

  37. So creative, hey Lyn? And it’s such a quaint and welcoming place.

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