Is Forest Tourism the next big thing?
You don’t have to take my word for it because you only have to watch the news and follow trends to spot that forest tourism could be the next big thing.
With radical deforestation happening in so many places around the world, we are really lucky to have glorious tracts of forest and national parks in the South West. Places which could soon be almost sacrosanct where tourists can get back to nature and breathe clean air.
Holy smoke, as I write there’s a smog so thick in Asia from forest burnoffs that it’s killing people, and severely hurting the Orangutans, not to mention the unspeakable effects the fires are having upon the environment.
“Nasa satellites have detected more than 117,000 forest fires in Indonesia this year, according to the global fire emissions database. Most are believed to have been started deliberately to clear land for farming. They have been raging for several months and have destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of forest.” According to The Guardian.
Although we may take forests a little for granted here in South West Australia, we are so lucky to live close to pristine forested areas which people can still experience and explore as nature intended.
6 Things to do in the forest
- Stay in a forest lodge – Inn The Tuarts, near Busselton, is my new flavor of the month.
- Go cycling – We always enjoy the 13 km, mostly flat, old rail trail that runs from Cowaramup to Margaret River. It goes through beautiful forested areas, and for the most part is always shady too.
- Visit a gallery – we like to take our visiting friends and family to Boranup Gallery, set in a forest glade, which showcases the works of Australia’s leading designers and artists as well as a wonderful collection of their own Australian handcrafted, custom made Jarrah, Marri and Blackbutt furniture.
- Eat – Don’t miss The Goanna Gallery Café near Dunsborough. It’s a true-blue bush and forest experience with great food.
- Sleep under the stars – There’s a woodland campsite in Boranup Forest while our favourite is Conto which has recently been redeveloped. You can check out more campsites here.
- Walk – part of the wonderful 135km Cape to Cape Track which makes several inland loops, including one shady, woodland section that meanders through the tall karri trees of the Boranup Forest.
A woodland retreat
Our first ‘port’ of call last weekend was literally situated near a port in the midst of a tuart forest.
Inn The Tuarts is a secluded Guest Lodge ten minutes from Port Geographe, where the whale boats depart, and it’s also close to the vibey town of Busselton.
Driving along the scenic Ludlow Tourist Drive through the dappled shade of the Tuart Forest National Park at dusk I pondered the fact that The Ludlow Forest is the only natural tuart forest on the planet.
This quiet road was once the main route to Busselton, but now it winds its way without much traffic through the tall trees.
“Are you sure it’s straight over at the roundabout and not right?” Dave asked as we drove along Layman’s Road. “There doesn’t look to be much going on straight ahead.”
And he was right. There isn’t much going on except for lots of bouncing kangaroos (be careful as you drive) which is why Inn The Tuarts is so lovely.
The Lodge is set deep in the forest off the beaten track, but it’s remote location bears no witness to the friendly welcome you’ll receive from owner Peter who has ancestral roots in the area.
“My grandfather, Dick Perry, was awarded an Order of Australia for his work mapping the South West forests. He was involved in forestry for over 50 years, became a world expert on WA termites, even had an island named after him, and he lived to be 100.5 years old,” Peter told me.
So in a sense, Peter and his wife Suzanne have come home to roost.
They’ve been running the guest lodge for 6 years, after owning and managing similar businesses in Denmark near Albany but they’re seasoned professionals when it comes to hospitality and our every need was catered for making sure that we did, as the sign in the dining room suggested, “Enter as strangers and leave as friends.”
“Believe”, “Laugh”, “Dream” so say the signs on the dining room tables, and as we began to relax and unwind, so we started to laugh and dream in this natural forest setting and wished we’d had more time to explore and perhaps walk the 3km forest trail or visit the National Trust Historic Homestead, Wonnerup House which is just down the road.
I asked Suzanne for the best time to visit.
“Well spring is so pretty with all the wild flowers beginning to bloom, but autumn is beautiful because of the colours. Winter is chilly and atmospheric and we have a lovely log fire burning in the winter months. Then there’s the whale season from September to November and of course summer is gorgeous because our nearby beaches are so beautiful,” she said with a smile.
- Inn The Tuarts is only 10 minutes away from Port Geographe harbour – where the whale trips depart – so it’s really convenient for an early morning start.
- Want to spot kangaroos? No worries. They’re likely to be hopping around near the lodge.
- The rooms. Expect simplicity with some charming touches. Rooms are well appointed and ours had a functional kitchenette along with a dining and sitting area.
- There’s a barbecue in a covered outdoor setting, a solar heated indoor swimming pool, a Jacuzzi and an infra-red therapeutic sauna which we wanted to try but didn’t have time to (apparently it’s good for aching joints).
- Breakfast is plentiful and beautifully presented. Don’t forget to order your main brekkie selection the night before.
- Visit nearby historical homestead Wonnerup House and find out what life was like here in the 19th Century
Goanna Bush Cafe and Gallery
I like to give a big thumbs-up to slightly out-of-the-way places like the Goanna Bush Café and Gallery which is situated bang slap middle in a gorgeous forest setting, and yet reasonably close to Dunsborough.
As we drove onto Hayes Road and into the parking area I wondered how on earth anyone would ever just casually stumble on this wonderful place tucked away from the world at large.
But obviously its reputation runs before it, because it was happening the Sunday morning we arrived, but not so busy to be overcrowded.
It’s quirky, unpretentious and casual. There are shade sails, and dappled shade from the canopy of trees. It’s relaxed and peaceful with nothing but birdsong and laughter to split the air.
“Help yourself to rain water and let us do the rest,” said our waiter, Peter, as we sat down outside.
And we were pleasantly surprised by what ‘the rest’ consisted of because, the food was fabulous, the flavours mouthwatering and the service was excellent.
Overall, we had to agree, that our taste plate was one of the best (and good value for money) that we’d enjoyed for a very, very long time.
Fast Facts and Tips
- Go for the Taste Plate or the Bush Brekkie – truly amazing!
- There’s a great kids menu and the setting is a wonderland for kids to play and explore – lots of nooks and crannies, and a semi-enclosed playground.
- Expect locally produced food products and local art from around the region in the gallery.
- It’s BYO – Yay! So go wine tasting in the region, pick up a nice bottle of your favourite wine and come to Goanna and feast on one of their amazing taste plates at lunchtime.
- Sit in the sun or shade – there are shade sails and trees, as well as open areas.
- Enjoy a little stroll around the unusual Sculptor Walk.
- Expect a friendly atmosphere and great service.
- The poached pear and fruit toast looked delish for breakfast.
- Who goes? Locals, international holidaymakers, and weekend warriors from Perth.
How did Goanna come to be?
Restauranters Duncan Timmons and Tim Meikle met while working in London in a Michelin star winning restaurant.
Goanna first opened in the late 1970’s on a parcel of bushland just 5 minutes from Dunsborough but it wasn’t until 2008 that Duncan purchased the café business and persuaded Tim to quit his job as a private chef in Switzerland to join him in revamping Goanna, as well as to begin their catering business.
Goanna Gourmet Catering launched in 2012 at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape where they debuted the ‘Big Red’ pulled pork sandwich. 2013 heralded a new direction for the gallery and gift shop, with a focus on quality local and Australian design, and monthly art exhibitions displayed on the café walls.
World class forest hotspot
Your Margaret River Region is not only a wine, beach and cave mecca, because its forests are sublime and they truly set the area apart as a world class forest destination.
So isn’t it time you visited? Where would you head to if you could spend time relaxing in the shade of a Margaret River Region forest?