Pemberton is a beautiful old logging town located about three hours south of Perth. In summer it is a good deal cooler than Perth; in winter is the quintessential south-west town, with wood-smoke curling from cottage chimneys and mist hanging in the trees.
While smaller than its northern counterpart Manjimup (30 km away), Pemberton is an easy drive for families with children and there are plenty of things to do with kids.
Swim in Big Brook Dam A ten minute drive out of town along Golf Links Road is Big Brook Dam, part of the town's water supply and home to Pemberton's trout hatchery. It is also the main swimming hole for locals and visitors.
Go to the second carpark, and after a short walk through the karri forest you will find a large grassed area, white beach and shallow swimming area perfect for even the smallest children. The area is shaded at all times of day, though you may have to chase the shade. There is nothing untoward or bitey in the water and there are toilets up near the carpark.
There is no cafe nearby so you need to bring all your water and snacks with you, and once you are done with swimming there is a sealed trail around the edge of the dam that is suitable for prams and small legs.
Play in the town centre If your ideal morning is sipping on a decent latte and watching the kids play happily then you are in luck. With the Crossings Bakery selling a range of traditional baked goodies as well as a number of cafes such as the Millhouse Café in the town centre, you can buy up big and then let the kids loose on one of two play areas.
Directly next to the Millhouse is the town's cultural heritage area. In other words, it has an old train parked in the middle of the grass. Although too high for the smallest legs, anyone over four foot will have no trouble climbing all over this old relic. With plenty of shade and a picnic table nearby, my advice is to get a coffee and piece of vanilla slice from the Millhouse and then let the kids loose on the train. The Millhouse is open daily from 7.30am (8am on weekends) and they do a popular breakfast.
Alternatively, just up the main street (Brockman) is a large shaded and semi-gated playground, with flying foxes, swings, slides and climbing frames, all over an enormous sandpit. With nearby picnic tables and plenty of grass to run around on, this is a great way to burn some energy.
Climb the Gloucester Tree The Gloucester Tree was originally stripped back and turned into a fire lookout back in 1947. At a whopping 72m, it no longer functions as a fire lookout (but if you see one, tell someone!) but visitors to the park can climb the 152 metal spikes that take you to the (new) metal viewing platform at 61m.
It turns out that only about 20% of people actually make it all the way to the top, and it isn't actually recommended for children, but it makes a nice photo opportunity if you let them climb a few metres off the ground. No thongs!
If you don't have a head for heights, then you can take a bushwalk along one of the many identified trails (including the world-class Bibbulmun Track). At three convenient lengths (400m, 800 and 10km) there are also picnic tables and plenty of parking, and at the southern end of the park the beautiful Cascades waterfall. Entry to the park is $12 per car, and this allows you entry to any of the local National Parks on the same day.
Go on a Tram Ride
Many families had told us about the old trams that trundled through the beautiful Pemberton bush and told us to put it on our to-do list. The Warren River Bridge Tram departs twice a day from Pemberton, travelling over six bridges, stopping at the Cascades waterfall and through the forest.
The entire journey is about an hour and three-quarters and you do have the opportunity to stop and get out and explore a couple of times, but it is also important to remember that this is an old tram, with no room to run around when in transit (and presumably no toilet).
For train-loving kids who won't leave home without their conductor's hat, this would be a dream come true, and it is a good way for adults to explore this beautiful part of the country without having to do the driving.
Departures are at 10.45am and 2pm and adults cost $24, children between 2 and 15 are $12 and littlies are $3.
The winery with the playground
For a different type of train experience (the type where it doesn't move) take the kids along to Hidden River Estate which ticks a number of boxes. Award winning wine tasting, tick. Restaurant and café, tick. Family friendly with a playground, tick, tick.
The tram is an old 1901 Kalgoorlie relic which has been refurbished (and air-conditioned) and now serves as part of the restaurant. From the tram you can watch over the large grassed area with its huge range of toys and equipment such as a large shaded sandpit, slide and wooden cars.
Unfortunately most of the play area isn't shaded, so bring along hats and cream in summer.
Hidden River has one of the most genuine kids menu's I have ever come across. Where many restaurants simply scale down the size of adult meals, the kids menu here is pretty close to what you might serve at home. Or at least what I serve at my home. Vegemite sandwiches ($3), pasta with cheese sauce ($4.50), ham and cheese pizza with salad ($6.50), party pies ($6.50) and baked bean and beef nachos ($6.50) are amongst the choices on offer.
With decent serving sizes and simple flavours (not to mention the snazzy umbrellas) this is probably the best kids menu in the state (if not the best value). And if your kids have more adventurous tastes, order them something off the (more pricey) main menu. My suggestion, order a glass of the sangria.