Australians love a good road trip. What’s not to love? Freedom to go where you want, when you want. I love that freedom.
Our destination: Pemberton. If you believe google maps, it’s 3 hour 40 minute drive from Perth. My tip, don’t believe it. It took us four and a half hours – okay, we left Perth during rush hour traffic, and stopped once for a 10-minute break. Also, driving at night, we had to slow it down when visibility wasn’t so good.
Pemberton is an exciting destination for both Zorba and I, mainly because we haven’t spent a lot of time there to discover all it offers. I was impressed with Pemberton when I hosted a short trip last year. Six months later, I’m back but this time it’s a holiday.
What lured me to Pemberton this time instead of my much loved Margaret River was a place I’d been dying to go back to: Silkwood Chalets. I stayed there last year and the chalets are divine. Think calm, peace, luxury, leather corner lounge, gas flame fire, a TV that slides up out of the marble topped cabinet, fully equipped kitchen, marri-wooden floor boards and a huge spa bath. The bed is made up of quality linen including a feather doona and there’s fluffy white robes in the cupboards with matching slippers. From the chalet the views are stunning – each window overlooks a large dam to the tall-timber karri forest beyond.
There are only four chalets on the Silkwood Wines estate, each named after a wine varietal. We stayed in Chardonnay. The are nicely spread apart and fully equipped, dishwasher and BBQ included. A nice breakfast basket with a selection of tea, Yahava coffee, fruits, nuts, local muesli, fresh bread and a half a dozen eggs was waiting for us on arrival.
Pemberton has earned itself a reputation as a foodie hot spot, however, it is often overshadowed by the well known Margaret River region. In and around Pemberton, you’ll find avocados farms, wineries, orchards, marron farms (now we’re talking), and celebrated truffles known as black gold. We bought some apples and avocados from the side of the road and left the money in the honour box.
A big bag of each for a total of $5. Zorba and I both commented how crispy, sweet, and juicy the apples were. I haven’t had apples that good in a long, long time. The avocados are a bit hard, so we hope they ripen up in a few days.
Did you know that more grapes are grown in the cool-climate of Pemberton than in Margaret River? That’s what the brochure said. Silkwood gave us a complementary bottle of pinot noir from their estate, and I have to say, the cool-climate obviously works wonders for this varietal. After it breathed, the pinot noir opened up to a smooth, rounded, light red wine. The latest vintage is particularly good.
The town of “Pemby” has a population of under 1000 and it is very cute. It’s an old wood-mill town and along the main road, you’ll see a handful single storey wooden houses. There’s a bakery, a couple of cafés, a lawn bowls club, gift shops, a pub, a butcher, IGA supermarket, a couple of clothes shops, newsagent, and not a whole lot more.
Driving from place to place, we were awed by the beauty of the green rolling hills, some lined with vines, others used for cattle or sheep, and the majestic tall timber karri forests. Every road we turn down, Zorba and I looked at each other and said, “Wow, it’s so pretty!” It reminded Zorba of Sicily. The landscape reminds me more of Tuscany. It’s so nice to see hills – which might sound weird, but when you live in a city as flat as Perth, hills can be somewhat of a novelty.
You can always hire a car if you don’t have one, or get a car loan to buy your own. Once you have wheels, you can say hello to independence! I don’t know how anyone in WA copes without a car.
There are plenty of places to eat. One of my favourites is Foragers, a cooking school, a place to stay, and a great restaurant. Chef Sophie Zalokar trained under Australian food icon Maggie Beer in her home town, the Barossa. She has a wonderful food philosophy – cooking and teaching how to serve good wholesome unprocessed dishes, in fact, Sophie heads up Southern Forests’ slow food branch.
Millhouse Cafe is another good choice for breakfast or lunch. The service is slow, but the coffee and the food are good. They even have fresh local marron on their menu. Our late breakfast was almost perfect. Had my poached eggs been soft, they would have oozed the perfect dressing for my charred bread, crispy proscuito, and the sharp-tasting parmesan flakes. Zorba’s poached eggs were soft and runny and he ate up every mouthful of his classic big breakfast. The tables outside under the veranda over looking a park with an old-fashioned shiny steam train parked under the trees sets the scene for the archetypal Australian country-town cafe.
The Pemberton Hotel (“The Pemby”) looks like a nice spot for a pub lunch, but in this case, looks were deceiving. My smoked trout was ok, the salad nothing more than a garnish, and the chips tasted like they were fried in old grotty oil. Zorba’s home made chicken burger was huge and he hated every mouthful. He said he felt like throwing up after it. We met another couple later that day who said they have been coming to Pemberton for years and years and have slowly watched the grand old pub’s food diminish. So much so that after their meal there the previous night, they vowed to never, ever eat there again. What a shame. One positive I can say about the pub, the James Squire Pale Ale was cold and slid down my throat beautifully, and the outdoor area in the sun was a lovely spot to sit and relax. It’s just a pity about the food.
9649 Channybearup Road, Pemberton, WA
Tel: +61 (0)8 9776 1584
Mob: +61 (0)428 105 075
Cost $330 per night, but ask for specials (we received pay for three, forth night free)
Sophie & Chris Zalokar
1 Roberts Road
(cnr Roberts Rd & Pemberton Northcliffe Road)
Pemberton WA 6260
Tel: +61 (0)8 9776 1580
Woodfired dinner $55pp; Seasonal dinner $75pp. BYO (unlicensed). Open for dinner Friday and Saturday – check website for details.
There are also chalets onsite at Foragers if you fancy staying there.
Disclosure: This post was done in partnership with Westralian Auto Finance.