An enchanted forest full of swimming holes, cellar doors, restaurants, and truffles: Manjimup, WA, number 62 on Australian Traveller’s ‘100 amazing places you haven’t been to yet‘. Nominated by: Al Blakers, king of the WA truffle industry.
It was 1994 when a bloke by the name of Al Blakers planted oak and hazelnut trees inoculated with the fungus Tuber melanosporum in the tiny WA town of Manjimup.
Manjimup Truffles is now a global supplier of the prized fungi, and the former timber town is again well and truly on the map.
But don’t just come here for truffles, says Blakers (though let’s be honest, they’re worth a visit in themselves). “The whole region is breathtaking,” he says, and we’re happy to report he’s not biased.
Bookended between Margaret River (a two-hour drive north) and Denmark (a two-hour drive south), Manjimup is a thickly forested area filled with wineries, cellar doors, and restaurants where, yes, truffles are often on the menu. But it’s the area’s beautiful hiking and biking trails that are its missed secret, he says.
Like the Munda Biddi Trail: “It’s the world’s longest off-road cycling trail, and it slices through forests full of old-growth trees,” he explains.
The walk to Diamond Tree Lookout, which takes you to a 51-metre-tall tree with steps built into its side, leading to a treetop cabin and lookout at its top, is also pretty special, he adds. (The treetop cabin was used as a fire lookout every summer from 1941 to 1973; its views are amazing.)
But the area’s most “spectacular” hiking trail, he says, is the five-hour King Jarrah Walk. Starting at Nanga Mill, which is 10.5 kilometres from the entry station of Lane Poole Reserve, the track follows the meandering Murray River through stunning old-growth jarrah forests to an enormous tree said to be between 250 and 600 years old, which has been officially marked as a ‘unique tree’ since 1921.
Pack a picnic, and when you see the signposted detour to Stringers campsite by the Murray River, take it – you’ll come across a series of swimming holes perfect for cooling off in between bites of your sandwich.
When you’re done, you’ll surely be ready to settle into the unbelievable outdoor ‘bush bath’ at Stonebarn, a six-room boutique hotel, but do try and find it in yourself to visit Fonty’s Pool first, Blakers continues.
“It’s a much loved local landmark and has been since it was first opened in 1925,” he explains. Fonty’s isn’t your usual chlorine-soaked experience – the area was once farming land, until owner Archimede Fontanini filled in the dam and allowed the resulting ‘pool’ to be used for local kids’ swimming lessons.
After a forced closure in 2005, the pool was sold and, with help from the National Trust of Australia and enterprising insurers, the new owners have rejuvenated it to its former glory.
With huge flowering trees, shady nooks and large inflated tractor tyres for visitors to play on, it’s one little gem you absolutely cannot go past, says Blakers.
“The whole town was so happy when it was given a new lease of life.”
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