Remembering back to the days when our children were little and the times we embarked on family holidays to either beach or countryside, fills with me nostalgia, although I conveniently forget the long car journeys filled with arguments and the “Are We Nearly There Yets”.
I think our children would have loved Pemberton, and it wouldn’t have been such a long journey for us had we lived in South West Australia back then, so when we have friends come to stay with young kids in tow we often send them off to one or other of our beautiful South West country towns.
Today, contributor Shannon Meyerkort takes us on a lovely foray to Pemberton (with kids) and offers a heap of things to do for young and old.
Things to do in Pemberton with Kids
If I was going to be completely honest, the thought of driving more than half an hour with kids in the back usually fills me with fear. However, the prospect of a genuinely child-friendly holiday at the other end of the journey was tempting enough to entice me (together with my husband and three small kids) to Pemberton recently.
Pemberton is a quaint old logging town located about three hours south of Perth, about the maximum limit of both my – and my kids – patience for confined spaces. And while much smaller than nearby Manjimup or Bunbury, there are plenty of things to do in Pemberton with kids.
Where to Stay
The primary draw card for this trip was the chance to go on a farm-stay with another family. By definition, farm-stays are both family-oriented and pretty basic in their accommodations. You might get a spa bath, but chances are the water will be from a dam and a lovely shade of yellow. Still, kids don’t notice the same things that adults do, and you can pretty much guarantee that a farm stay will provide a unique experience that city kids of all ages will love.
Pemberton Farm Chalets are located about one kilometre north of the town, set amidst the native bush. Twelve chalets overlook an enormous paddock, home to sheep, cows, donkeys, goats, kangaroos and some seriously grumpy horses. Elsewhere on the property are free-ranging peacocks and chickens and a shed of rabbits and guinea pigs, the favourite of our household of little girls.
The two-bedroom chalets sleep up to six and are self-contained or you can do what we did and stay in the four-bedroom homestead and share with another family. All the essentials are there including BBQ, washing machine, DVD playing-TV and a sound system. Guests are able to feed the animals at any time, and enormous bags of carrots are provided every morning in the main shed. Kids are kept amused with a wealth of other activities on-site such as a swimming pool, adventure playground and tennis court. Parents are kept amused because the kids aren’t bothering them. It’s not fancy by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a heady mix of bush and farm and other things that keep kids happy.
Click here for more information about Pemberton Farm Chalets.
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Where to eat
Hidden River Estate is a parent’s dream: a winery that caters to kids. That’s not lip-service, this is a genuinely child-friendly establishment. Kids will immediately be drawn to the large outdoor play area with sandpit, diggers, slides and climbing equipment. The downside is that not a lot of it is undercover so you’d need to be prepared in the height of summer or wetness of winter. The site slopes down towards a dam, and there are some horses kept in a pen near the water, so you still need to keep an eye on the little ones.
I found Hidden River unique in that the kids menu actually offers dishes that kids like to eat, and are pretty close to what many parents might cook at home such as a cheesy hot dog, pasta bolognaise and nachos with baked beans and mince. They even offer vegemite sandwiches or plain pasta with cheese if you have a fussy eater.
Finally, there is the bonus of being able to eat in a reconditioned 1901 tram, which kids think is just ‘awesome’. Fitted out with air-conditioning and heating, parents can sit inside the tram and watch their kids through the large windows in all directions at once.
With award-winning wines and a Gold Plate award on the wall, this is a genuinely family-friendly place to come for lunch or dinner.
Where to swim
Even though Pemberton has the distinct advantage of being a few degrees cooler than Perth, it can still heat up in the middle of summer. Less than ten minutes from town is Big Brook Dam, Pemberton’s main swimming hole (and water supply for the area). The family beach is accessed from the second car park, and offers a shaded grassed area, white beach and shallow swimming area perfect for children of all ages. The water is calm and there aren’t any weird bitey things lurking around, even though part of the Dam also doubles as the local trout hatchery.
Although there is no café (bring your own picnic) there are toilets as well as a sealed path around the edge of the dam, perfect for prams and small legs. In the middle of winter, the path would make a scenic and easy walk for all members of the family.
Where to play
There are two different play areas in the heart of Pemberton. The town’s cultural heritage area on Brockman Street provides adventurous kids with a full sized coal locomotive that they can climb all over, while mum and dad sit next door in the Millhouse Café enjoying breakfast or lunch. It’s too big for anyone under the age of four, and admittedly it’s a long drop if someone falls but older kids can easily spend hours pretending they are Harry Potter or the fat Controller.
Not far up the road is a large shaded and semi-gated playground, with flying foxes, swings, slides and climbing frames, all over an enormous sandpit. It’s pretty much perfect for any age. With a huge grassed area and picnic tables nearby, it is an ideal place to enjoy the range of goodies from the Pemberton Town Bakery. This is a traditional bakery, now quite rare in Perth, and you will find vanilla slice, lamingtons, enormous cookies and other old favourites.
Where to commune with nature
I’m not sure how much communing can be done with small children in tow, but there are a range of beautiful bushwalks in and near Pemberton including child-friendly walks around the Gloucester Tree which are only 400 or 800 metres long.
Climbing the Gloucester Tree itself, with its 152 metal spikes leading up to the viewing platform (a dizzying 61 metres off the ground) is not recommended for children, but letting them climb a few steps of the lower rungs always makes for a good photo opportunity. And if you (Mum and Dad) don’t make it to the top, don’t feel bad, they estimate that only 20% of climbers ever make it all the way.
Entry to the National Parks costs $12 per car per day, so bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it, and after lunch head down to the beautiful Cascades waterfall at the southern end of the park. For more information: Pemberton Visitor Centre
What else to do
The Warren River Bridge Tram trundles through the beautiful Pemberton bush from the township, over bridges, through the forest and stopping at the Cascades waterfall. Departing twice daily, the journey clocks in at just under two hours and while there is the opportunity to get out and explore a couple of times, it’s wise to remember it’s an old tram, with no room to run around when in transit (and presumably no toilet).
The Tram would be perfect for train enthusiasts, Thomas or Chuggington die-hards or those who like a less active approach to sight-seeing.
BIO : Shannon Meyerkort is a writer, blogger and mother of three girls under seven. Most days her idea of travelling is limited to doing the school-run, but she enjoys the idea of going further afield… one day. Find Shannon on her Website, or on Facebook, follow her blog Relentless or read her reviews and articles on WeekendNotes.
Photos (except first pic): Copyright Shannon Meyerkort.