One of my fondest travel memories was visiting a beer garden in Germany frequented by deer – we drank steins, they nibbled grass – it was great. So when I heard about the John Forrest Tavern and its beer garden of friendly kangaroos near Perth, Western Australia it immediately became a trip must-do.
Most people who visit John Forrest National Park about 30km east of Perth, Western Australia, are there to hike in the gorgeous greenery or to try and spot some of the 91 species of bird that live there (or maybe the 10 types of frog). Some people are here to visit the two waterfalls in the grounds or explore the old train tunnel that’s also in the park…but when have we ever done what everyone else does in a destination?
We were here because a schooner with Skippy was too good an opportunity to miss.
Making a Morning of it
The John Forrest Tavern (and the park its in) are about a 36-minute drive away from central Perth. It’s very close to the Swan Valley wine region and so we started our day with a drive around the food and wine loop checking out the wineries and pretty countryside before rolling up to the pub around the opening time of 11 am.
It seemed a bit early to go in the pub so we sat in the car for a bit – and then all of a sudden, boinging across the car park came a mum kangaroo with her hopping toddler behind her. We looked to where they were going and realised, the mob were already here. There was about 15 of them lying under the trees. There were mums snoozing baby heads sticking out of pouches, baby legs sticking out of pouches, lounging roos, bouncing roos, great big boy roos. I was already as happy as a clam and decided it was probably THE best place to see kangaroos in Perth.
At this point, I realised that the pub beer garden had a gate. With so many roos outside, I wondered whether these were the main attraction and we didn’t need to go in the pub proper, but as we peered over the fence, we could see more roos, hanging around the tables. Figuring it was past noon somewhere, I was at the bar faster than you can say mine’s a Carlton Dry.
If you read reviews of the John Forrest Tavern online, they can be less than glowing. The fact that the pub is a bit basic seems to be a theme and it is but, it’s charming because of it. Let’s face it, its a basic Aussie pub in the middle of nowhere. It doesn’t need airs, graces and frills to do its job. The beer was cold, the staff and other customers were really friendly and the toilet was attached to the building, not a hole six feet down the garden that you need a snake stick to visit, so it worked for me. Plus did I mention the beer garden is full of ROOS!
When Your Beer is Rather Hoppy…
We took our drinks outside and sat at one of the benches closest to the roos. Every so often the door to the bar would open and another kangaroo would hop out from inside the pub – it seems that the fact that the garden has a gate doesn’t matter. If the roos want to come in they just come in the front door like the rest of us, and hop around the pool table until someone sends them into the garden.
Star of the show though was Manky – an enormous male who was stationed outside the kitchen door like a bouncer. He only had eyes on one prize – entering the kitchen.
I admit at first I was a bit scared of him – male roos are about human height when they stand upright and all muscle. If the guy at the gym that grunts and throws the weights around had fur, he would be a male kangaroo. You do not want to tangle with a grumpy one.
Manky though wasn’t bothered about us – he only cared about the magical nirvana he’d obviously decided was the John Forrest Tavern kitchen. There was a child’s seat barricading his path but, if he wanted in, he just moved it – or apparently some days he just hops over it (I’d have paid good money to see that).
During the time we visited he hopped into the kitchen about three times hoping no-one would notice him….funnily enough, considering he’s enormous, they did and chased him out. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the site of a massive kangaroo being pushed out of a pub with a crisp box in my life!
Manky also made the news recently for his particularly interesting lying pose getting him the nickname of the ‘seductive kangaroo’ – I wouldn’t take the mic out of him too much!
This may lead you to think that the roos are tame – they aren’t. They have nothing to do with the pub itself other than making the garden their personal playground. Yes, the staff have named them – we met Manky (above) and Dribbly when we were there – but these are most definitely wild animals. That’s why I think that if you’re looking for where to see kangaroos in Perth, the John Forrest Tavern is a must do. You can really get up close to a completely wild group.
And the kangaroos aren’t the only wild things that frequent John Forrest Tavern…we got visited by parrots and ducks and, there’s also a bandicoot that appears on occasion but we weren’t lucky enough to meet him.
If we hadn’t had a car we could have sat having a few beers and watching the animal antics for hours but, I felt bad drinking beer while The Boyfriend was on soda and so, we left after about an hour to head back to town for lunch with a bunch more marsupial memories to keep us happy. I say more memories because this wasn’t the first time I’d met cute animals in pubs during my Perth trip (check out my post on the quokkas in Rottnest). There are also pubs in Sydney with cats, dogs and a particularly fabulous cockatoo. Seems like drinking with critters is the done thing here, which begs the question, does anyone know where I can find a bar full of wombats?
How to Get to the John Forrest Tavern
The easiest way is by car. It’s about 36 minutes drive from Perth. Note, you will. have to pay a National Park entrance fee of $12 if you come in by car. This is valid all day though so, you can either go and explore all the other cool stuff in the park, or visit one of the other National Parks in the area.
As I said, when we visited we combined it with a drive around the Swan Valley which works well if you don’t want to go wine tasting but want to check out the area anyway. Also nearby is Caversham Wildlife Park if you want to make an animal-themed day of it.
It is also possible to get public transport to the Tavern – google maps will tell you otherwise but google maps lie!
If you want to find the route don’t put the John Forrest Tavern into the directions, just put in John Forrest National Park. It will then find you a route to the entrance hut and the Tavern is about a ten-minute walk from there.
This was our original plan to visit the park, but we had to be back in town for a set time and the timings didn’t quite work. If you want to try it though the journey sees you getting on the Midland line train at Perth central station, stay on it for 25 minutes until Midland, then get on a number 320 bus.for 16 minutes to just by the park entrance (the 322 also goes here). The Tavern is about a 30-minute walk inside the park from the bus stop.
So, what’s the most fun pub you’ve ever visited on a trip – I’d love to hear about it (and probably add it to my list of must-sees). Let me know in the comments. And, if you like the post please share it on social media.