INSPIRED by their trip around Australia, Kelly and Jeremy Beissel made the ultimate treechange upon their return in 2005 when they purchased the well-known Fonty's Pool and Caravan Park.
Having raised their family in Leeman, where Jeremy worked as a cray fisherman, the couple decided there were more things for their children to do in the South West and so at the end of their travels they moved to the greener pastures of Manjimup and set about rejuvenating one of the State's best known treasures.
Due to the caravan park's insurance policy being revoked at the time of the purchase, the Beissels closed Fonty's Pool to the public and used their first 12 months of ownership to redevelop and make property improvements.
As part of the maintenance works and to help appease their insurers, a 300 metre fence was constructed around the perimeter of the pool grounds.
"The pool is three quarters of an acre and because it's a unique place, it fell outside any normal regulations," Mr Beissel said.
"Part of our new insurance though was that it had to achieve Australian Pool Standards, which was pretty challenging at the time, but we sorted it out so that it was compliant."
The Beissels bought the park from the Fontanini family who had held it since its first habitation in 1907.
Created in 1925 by Archimede Fontanini as a pool to irrigate his vegetables, over the years, Fonty's Pool became a popular spot with families for picnicking and to enjoy a dip in summer.
Due to the park being heritage listed, the Beissels have maintained its original facade, with any building or improvements going through the local Shire for approval, which, as part of the process, inform the Heritage Council of Western Australia.
"We've had hundreds of building permits here, but the Heritage Council has never had to step in with any contribution - they've been more than happy with everything we've done," Mr Beissel said.
Information boards around the park detail the long history of Fonty's Pool and draw the attention of visitors.
While the park has come to be an institution for WA families, there had been a lull in people visiting Fonty's in the years prior to the Beissels taking over the property.
"There was a period where the place was quite run down, so the Baby Boomers were probably the generation that missed out on enjoying the place the way it is enjoyed by families today," Ms Beissel said.
However in the years since, Fonty's Pool sprung back to life and is a busy and vibrant spot where families and friends gather to relax and explore the South West region.
It doesn't take long for visitors to realise Fonty's is a unique place and not a typical caravan park by any means.
Situated between Manjimup and Pemberton, the caravan and chalet park is only a half an hour drive from Bridgetown and an hour and a half drive from the Margaret River region.
The farming-based region that experiences all of the distinctive shifts in seasons offers something for everyone, with wineries, breweries, trout farms, Big Brook Dam and national parks and forests all close by.
"It used to be a place that people would drive through to get to other tourist destinations but now we've come into our own and we're a tourist destination ourselves," Mr Beissel said.
For those who just wish to relax though, they can enjoy the ambience of Fonty's Pool by simply lazing about on the tractor tubes, enjoying barbecues with friends on the picturesque grounds or gathering around the campfire at night.
Day visitors are also welcome to use the pool for a small entrance fee.
"Most families will bring their own entertainment, playing cricket etc. but there are so many activities to do in the region that the park is sometimes just used as a comfortable base for people to come back to after their day trips," Mr Beissel said.
"The best thing about Fonty's is that it's a wide open adventurous space that kids love, as they get to run around and do things they wouldn't be able to normally.
"When they first arrive down here they might be on their devices, but usually by the end of the week they are running around in the mud, riding their bikes or chasing frogs at night."
The pandemic only further contributed to the popularity of the park, with the caravan industry continuing to experience a steep increase in sales due to WA locals taking up the option of exploring their own backyard rather than travelling overseas.
"We closed in the months of April and May when the pandemic first hit and reopened at the start of June and were well supported from then on," Ms Beissel said.
With about 70 camp sites and nine chalets, Easter, the Christmas period and long weekends are usually the busiest times at the park.
"In times gone past we might have had some caravanners that stay a month or two but now there is less opportunity for that because, as a smaller park compared to the big caravan parks, our sites tend to get booked out very quickly," Mr Beissel said.
"A lot of younger people are doing the caravan thing now too, so there's definitely been a bit of a comeback in that type of travel.
"Another thing we are starting to see is a bit of FI-FO influence, where they will bring their families on their swings off rather than during school holidays."
The park is closed to the public each July and August for maintenance.
"We scheduled that as a hangover from the early days when we first took over, as no one would come during that time of the year, but even as we got busy we found it was a nice break for us to keep our sanity," Mr Beissel said.
About 140 weddings have been held at Fonty's Pool since 2005, and while the venue has a bar service, the Beissels leave the rest of the wedding planning up to the respective couples.
"We recommend a caterer in town and because we're a destination venue, we tend to have the wedding parties stay with us for three or four days, so while that can be a bit exhausting, it's also lovely because you become really close with each of the families," Ms Beissel said.
Initially the weddings were held at the venue to fill in gaps during its less busy periods, however in recent years Fonty's Pool has been so full that there hasn't been the need.
As a result, weddings are only held at Fonty's Pool during the off-peak season with other events including the Truffle Kerfuffle, charity fundraisers and local food festivals keeping the park busy throughout the year.
"We've done a lot of fundraisers for MS, Beyond Blue and the Variety Club where they'll have their finish or start here, but Truffle Kerfuffle is probably our favourite one and because we close in July, it sort of acts as a finale for us each year," Ms Beissel said.
With plans to change the current caravan zoning of Fonty's to tourism, if successful, the change will open up new opportunities for the venue, including the ability to hold music events there in the future.
While staffing has definitely posed its own challenges due to the impact of COVID, the Beissels have now employed managers to essentially run the park, to free them up to do other things.
"We've worked pretty hard for the past 16 years, and fortunately the staff we have enjoy living here as it's a work life balance for them," Ms Beissel said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.