A South West delight

By Merill Leach

In February this year RAC provided members the opportunity to win one of four BIG WA giveaways to the four corners of our beautiful state. Thanks to Star Ratings Australia, the only independent assessor of accommodation in Australia, winners received holiday packages that included car hire, flights and accommodation in star rated properties.

Our winner of the South West delights Merrill & Philip leach have given us some great insight in how they spent their prize relaxing in the South West.

My husband and I have often said we wanted to go back to the Pemberton area and explore during the spring, so this trip provided by the RAC was the perfect opportunity to explore the South West! We spent, with a three night stopover at Karri Valley Resort, two nights at Jarrah Grove Retreat near Margaret River, and two nights at Pullman Resort Bunker Bay.

Monday 14th of September: We picked up our Thrifty car, a beautiful brand new Camry Altise, around 10am. After driving home to pack we decided on a route and chose to go via the South West Highway, through Manjimup and Pemberton, with a quick stop at the Pinjarra Bakery for a genuine Cornish Pastie for lunch.  It showered a little on the way down, until we got to the Vasse Highway turnoff.  We arrived at the Karri Valley Resort at 5pm, and were warmly welcomed by reception staff who gave us a lakeside room, with private balcony over the water.  When we had unpacked the car and had a little look around, we heard a strange noise out on the lake.  On investigation it proved to be “Mr Ping” (as we later learned his name), our first introduction to a musk duck!  A previous guest had named him as the sound he makes is like a sonar ping!  He and his mate were both swimming around most of the evening, and he frequently broke into song.  He was quite a character, as he flapped his tail down on the water when he pinged, and he also had a large round wattle under his chin, which we had never seen on a duck before.  He even obliged by swimming right up to our verandah and parading around for us (probably wanting a free feed, but it is against the rules and we didn’t want to encourage wildlife to become dependent on humans).  We had reserved a table for tea at 6.30pm at the Lakeside restaurant.  The meal was delicious, the view spectacular and we were happily full as we returned to our room.  As we’d had a fairly frantic weekend beforehand, we retired to bed fairly early, and both slept well.

Tuesday 15th of September:  We woke early to the sound of Mr Ping letting us know the sun was up, but as we were relaxing we both went back to sleep in the lovely peaceful surroundings.  We woke again at 7.30am, dressed and went down to the restaurant to be served a delicious hot breakfast, with choice of cereals, toast and fruit from the buffet also.  Then we prepared our drinks and snacks and set off for a bushwalk to the beautiful Beedelup Waterfall, just a few hundred meters up the track from the resort.  It was cloudy and fresh, but a lovely morning for a bushwalk, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was quite delighted to find some beautiful native wildflowers along the trail including; snail orchids, mosquito orchids as well as a plethora of yellow Prickly Moses, gorgeous purple hoveas, blue orthrosanthus and yellow peas, among others.  I never cease to be amazed at the variety of wildflowers we are blessed with in this state.  The whole of Europe has around 800 species of native flowers, whereas we have around 12 000 – 14,000!  So being the avid flower hunter I am; I was very happy with our walk.  We walked back the longer way around the other side of Lake Beedelup to the Resort, with delightful views of the chalets across the water, it was very picturesque.  On the way back we spotted a cheeky kookaburra sitting on the “Beware” sign and I could not resist a photo of him.  After lunch we were fairly tired, and had a good rest on the comfortable bed.  The rest of the day was spent just talking, relaxing and generally reconnecting, something we have not had much time for lately.  We again enjoyed a delicious tea in the Lakeside restaurant, and came back to do some reading, letter writing and have another early night.

Wednesday 16th of September:  After another peaceful and relaxing night’s sleep, and a hearty breakfast we took off to explore the town of Northcliffe.  On the way we passed a sign to “The Cascades,” and decided to investigate.  We were rewarded with a lovely view of Lefroy Brook, and a nice, easy walk along the bank.  While we were there the local Pemberton Forest Tram came along with a load of passengers who quickly explored the area and then the tram took off again.  We arrived at Northcliffe in time for lunch, and enjoyed a lovely pie at the Hollowbutt  Café.  Then we were given directions to a recent burn by the dear lady at the Northcliffe Pioneer Museum, and took off down the road a few short kilometers to explore that.  I was delighted to find seven different species of orchids.  There were blue and pink fairy orchids, a little pink fan  orchid, and little pink bunny orchid, cowslips, redbeaks and spider orchids.  So I was extremely happy to see these healthy colonies there.  Then it was back to Pemberton, to explore the town, post some letters and do some shopping.   We had afternoon tea in Pemberton, as there are a couple of lovely bakery cafes in town.  Then we explored a little of the Warren National Park, but couldn’t find any promising orchid patches, so back to the resort for a quiet night of TV and reading.

Thursday 17th of September:  We were awake early so packed up and headed off at 10am, after thanking management for our enjoyable stay.  We were too early to book in at Jarrah Grove Retreat, so drove on into Margaret River, had lunch, did a bit of shopping and looked around.  The town has certainly grown a lot since I was last there about six years ago.  After lunch we went back to Jarrah Grove and made ourselves comfortable in the beautifully appointed chalet assigned to us. Leo and Kath have gone to a lot of trouble to make the four and a half star rating a reality, and it shows in the quality of accommodation offered.  The cabin was well equipped, and the lovely wood fire made the chalet warm in no time.  Kath kindly brought across our breakfast hamper which was generously full of yummy, healthy local goodies for the two days.  There was also a bottle of sparkling wine from the nearby Berry Farm in the fridge waiting for us.  We unpacked and settled in, and after tea I indulged in the luxury of a long bath in the extra-large tub, with scented oil.  It was so relaxing I headed off to bed soon after, and slept well in the very comfortable king sized bed.

Friday  18th of September:  We woke to the sound of a few birds around, and after a leisurely breakfast decided to go for a walk around the 82 acres of forest on the property.  It was a lovely walk, totally peaceful and thoroughly enjoyable, with lots of flowers to look at.  After lunch, while Phil had a sleep in, I went into town to shop again (Margaret River is only a short drive away).  Back again, and I cooked us a nice frittata for tea, and we indulged in some more of the lovely pastries from our hamper for dessert.  The two person shower was just as lovely as the hot bath, and I enjoyed it as I washed my hair with the sample bar of “natural oils” shampoo soap provided.  Then after reading and watching TV for a while we were off to bed.  We had decided not to use the hot spa tub provided on the verandah as it was still quite cold outdoors.

Saturday 19th:  Phil woke early after a very comfortable sleep.  We got up and had breakfast, and hurried to pack, then dropped by the residence to thank Leo and Kathleen, then on our way.  I felt so sad to leave there, as we had really enjoyed the chalet so much, and the peace and quiet.  It was absolutely the ideal place to chill out, and we would love to live there.  We stopped in at the Berry Farm for morning tea, and were totally enchanted to find the local silvereyes, New Holland honeyeaters, blue wrens (male and female), and a white breasted robin coming constantly  to the tables to steal jam and cream and crumbs.  The wrens hopped around on the back of the chair next to me, and on the table in front of us within reach!  It was delightful to watch them.  I had to laugh aloud when one silvereye picked up a strawberry from the jam pot and flew off with it, as it was so big and he was so small!  Reluctantly we left and headed up the road to Cowaramup where we stopped for a hot lunch in a lovely little café down a side street.  Then on to Bunker Bay, where we found the Pullman Resort and booked in.  It was a lovely drive across country and coast and we really enjoyed the pretty green of the paddocks, vineyards and orchards.  We had been allocated a beautiful lakeside room and our porter kindly took our luggage on the cart for us.  The fully self-contained rooms are beautifully appointed, with another huge bathroom with spa tub and shower.  Phil was starting to come down with the flu and not feeling at all well, so we had tea in our rooms and after reading for a while had an early night.

Sunday 20th  :  When we woke, Phil was feeling quite unwell, and we discussed going home early.  I cooked some breakfast for us and we went for a short walk down to the beach, but I had a headache and felt like I was coming down with the flu too, so we decided it would be safer to go home early, much to our regret.  It was delightful to spend a little time watching a family of new ducklings swimming around the lake outside our apartment.  We left after lunch, again having the porter come down and fetch all our gear to take to the car.  When I went to take the key back, our porter came over to the car with a complimentary brownie and bottle of water each, and the staff wished us a happy and safe trip home and to get better soon.   We drove home via the South West Highway, and arrived safely.

Monday 21st  :  We took the hire car back first thing after breakfast, and I offered to exchange it for my own Camry, but the staff did not think that was a worthy swap – darn it!!  It had been such a pleasure to drive.

We have happy memories of a very relaxing week away, which was exactly what we both needed.