PLACES TO GO
This pretty little town on the banks of the Denmark River is less than an hour’s drive from Albany, and 400km from Perth, so it hasn’t been overdeveloped like
more accessible areas of the southwest. Denmark was a hippie magnet in the 1960s (it still has plenty of organic food cafes, art galleries, and stores selling new-age trinkets), but it now also offers sophistication. For a small town of 5000 residents, there are excellent places to eat, plus trendy clothing and homewares stores, with some lovely accommodation in town and the pretty hills surrounding it. These range from B&Bs and chalets, to high-end (and expensive) private homes and retreats. If camping’s your thing, there are campgrounds on the coast at Parry Beach, Peaceful Bay, and the river mouth, and one further north at Bow Bridge. Historically, Denmark was a timber-mill town, but now viticulture and boutique food producers rule – a big win for foodies because there are tons of cellar doors, cider houses, cheesemakers, olive groves and chocolatiers to visit. Denmark is also close to some of the most beautiful coastline and swimming beaches in the state.
The Denmark and Hay rivers empty into the Wilson Inlet just south of Denmark town. The 20km-long body of water opens to the ocean around spring and
early summer – at other times of the year it’s separated by a sandbar. There’s
a good variety of fishing throughout the inlet, but head to Poison Point (on the western side, halfway between town and the mouth of the inlet) where you’re likely
to catch tailor, salmon, snapper, King George whiting, and herring. There is a boat ramp in town just north of the bridge, another further south where the river meets the inlet, one at the end of Campbell Road near Poison Point, and another at Poddy Shot off Minsterly Road. Waterskiing is also popular, but it’s only allowed in the allocated zone off Rudyard Beach.
A scenic road in Denmark.
William Bay National Park
William Bay National Park (15km west of Denmark) features some of the region’s best swimming and snorkelling spots. Greens Pool is a natural swimming pool created by large boulders – the calm waters are perfect for small children (and older kids will have a ball jumping off the rocks into the water) and there’s also good snorkelling. Head to the southern end of the bay to access the 10-minute walk to the park’s other big drawcard, Elephant Rocks (which has a carpark nearby if you’d prefer to drive). The small cove, filled with giant, rounded boulders, is accessed by walking through a crevasse, which can be blocked by water at high tide. There is also a rip here, so swim with care. At Madfish Bay, at the eastern border of the park, there are several small beaches where you can fish for salmon, bream and whiting. At low tide, it’s possible to walk across a sandbar to a small island in the bay, which has some beautiful private beaches, but is also home to lots of snakes, so be careful when stomping through the vegetation. Waterfall Beach, where fresh water spills out of the heathlands and into the sea, is another good spot, right near Madfish Bay, and with less traffic. There is no camping allowed in the park but there are campsites just to the west at Parry Beach (head down Parry Beach Road). Spots are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. You can also launch your boat from the beach there when conditions are calm.
THINGS TO DO
There’s more than 70km of trails around Denmark, and many can be cycled. You can also jump on the Munda Biddi bike trail leading west from the township, and follow the track along Ocean Beach Road to Lights Beach. From there, it’s a further 5km along the only coastal section to pretty Greens Pool. East of town, you can take the easy, family-friendly path from Denmark Rivermouth to Rudyard Beach (6.5km). There is a campsite every 45km along the Munda Biddi Trail (approximately), or the visitor centre can arrange for you to be picked up at the end of your ride, which saves you from having to double back. Keep in mind there is generally no phone reception. There are a number of bike hires in town, or pick up wheels from the Denmark visitor centre, (08) 9848 2814.
Head to Wilson Inlet near town to catch whiting, snapper, salmon trout, tailor and flathead, and there are several boat ramps where you can launch your own vessel (see Places To Go, opposite). There are no boat-hire operators in town. Ocean Beach has a number of good spots – try McGeary’s Rock, the second turn on the left after the main carpark, for skippy, mulloway, whiting and herring. Or walk down from the carpark to Flat Rock (turn right at the beach and follow the track behind the rocks) to angle for skippy, silver bream, herring, and salmon. Elephant Rocks is the place for King George whiting. Other good spots for beach and rock fishing are Lights Beach and Parry Beach (if you’re fishing off the rocks, always keep an eye out for freak waves), and at Mazzoletti Beach there are deep gutters close to the shore that you can cast into for Australian salmon from February to May (try mulies for bait). For safe, family-friendly fishing, you can’t beat Waterfall Beach and Madfish Bay. With luck you’ll bag herring, King George whiting, silver bream, skippy, and salmon in season. For more information on accessing the fishing spots and launching boats, contact the Denmark visitor centre.
Forest Hill Wines (photography A.P. Lynch Photographics).
The 34km Scotsdale Tourist Drive carves through forests, fields of grapevines and rolling farmland. Starting from near the river in the township, the road follows Scotsdale Road for 20km, passing the Harewood Forest where you can learn more about the area’s timber-milling history from the informative signs, if you jump out of the car and stroll the walk trail. The drive then meanders by wineries, art galleries, and local producers (lots with farm gates) on its way to Greens Pool. The Mount Shadforth Scenic Drive starts from Denmark and passes wineries and galleries, while also giving views over the ocean and Wilson Inlet. For detailed routes, get in touch with the Denmark visitor centre.
Denmark’s cool-climate vineyards produce grapes for riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and merlot varieties. There are many cellar doors dotted throughout the region, which vary from tiny mum-and-pop enterprises to swanky establishments – although even the fanciest tend to be more laidback than you’ll find north in Margaret River. That’s not to say that there’s any lack in quality: many an award-winning wine began life as a Denmark grape, and there are some excellent restaurants too. You can pick up a map from the visitor centre, detailing all the local wineries.
Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk.
The Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk meanders through 600m of elevated forest scenery, including views of red tingle trees (found exclusively in this region) some
of which are 400 years old. Get there on Valley of the Giants Road, located between Walpole and Denmark.
The Wilson Inlet Heritage Walk Trail is a more challenging 6km hike that leads west from the old railway bridge at the rivermouth and follows the eastern border of inlet around to Crusoe Beach.
The Mokare Heritage Trail is an easy 3km-return stroll. It starts from either side of the town’s traffic bridge, and leads along both banks of the Denmark River to the inlet. The path can also be cycled.
The Denmark-Nornalup Heritage Rail Trail is a multi-use trail that runs along the old railway line both east and west of Denmark’s rivermouth. If you head east, the track runs to Hay River (12km); the initial portion is easy going but soon gets pretty sandy, so it can be a hard slog. Heading west from the river mouth, the trail leads 33km to Parker Road (the ongoing section to Peaceful Bay Road is currently closed). Keep in mind that horseriders also use this section. There’s also very little phone reception.
The Bibbulmun Track leads from Denmark to Albany (85km, around a five-day walk) with five camping spots along the trail. Peaceful Bay is a three-day hike from the west (65 km). If you’re coming from the west of Denmark, you’ll need to cross the Wilson Inlet, either by walking across the sandbar at the mouth if it’s possible to do so (contact the Denmark Shire ranger to find out, on (08) 9848 0300, by jumping on a ferry at the river mouth (call (08) 9848 2055 for times), or by hiring a private tour operator. If you’re starting your walk in Denmark, it’s easier to simply join the track from the eastern side of the inlet. Visit www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au for updates and further information.
Snorkel with the kids at Greens Pool
Sample the wares along the Scotsdale Tourist Drive
Tackle the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk
Cycle the coastal section of the Munda Biddi Trail
Try your hand at dragon boating
Camp at Parry Beach
Spot whales from Wilson Head
All these and more at www.scoop.com.au/thingstodo
Canoeing on the Denmark River (photography Tourism WA).
Horseriding | Nothing beats horseriding through Denmark’s forests and
along its pretty beaches. There are a few local horseriding outfits that offer trail
rides for riders of all experience levels. Contact the Denmark visitor centre
for more information.
Canoeing | Hire a canoe or kayak to explore the gentle waters of the
Denmark River and Wilson Inlet. Both are available from the visitor centre and
Out of Sight Tours, (08) 9848 2814. Plus you can get a double canoe if you have
any really little tackers in tow.
Surfing | Denmark’s Ocean Beach is excellent for wannabe gidgets and grommets, offering relatively protected waters and small- to mid-sized waves. South Coast Surfing Lessons can teach the whole family about riding waves in either two-hour lessons or three-day courses, 0401 349 854.
Dragon Boating | For a bit of friendly competition between older family
members (age 12 and up), why not join a paddle regatta with Denmark’s Dragon
Boat Club? There’s no experience necessary, and it costs $5 for non-members.
Races are on Wednesdays 4.30pm-6pm, and Sundays from 10am-12pm. Expect to get wet, (08) 9840 9990.
TREAT THE TASTE BUDS
There is plenty of produce grown and farmed around Denmark. The pristine waters yield fish and shellfish (local tip – head to the roadside stall on Inlet Drive that sells
fresh local seafood caught daily). There are still a number of dairies that supply to Denmark’s boutique cheesemakers, so tasting their produce is a must. You’ll also
find fresh fruits and vegetables (berries grow especially well down here, and you can pick your own in season), as well as preserves and truffles. Sweet tooths are well catered for; there’s a toffee factory, a meadery, plus a disproportionate number of chocolatiers. There’s also a bushtucker, and in town there are a couple of bakeries. Visit www.denmark.com.au for more details of where to eat and drink.
Taste Great Southern (photography Renee Bergere).
Denmark Arts Markets
Join the colourful throngs of people at the Denmark Markets, held five times a year in Berridge Park on the banks of the Denmark River. Somewhere in the vicinity of 100 stallholders sell local art and crafts, plus there’s food, live music and other entertainment.
Taste Great Southern
Food and wine lovers cannot miss Taste Great Southern, the state’s biggest food
and wine festival. The month-long event is a riotous celebration of the area’s produce, and brings renowned chefs and wine buffs to the area. It features dinners, concerts, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, guest chefs, films and more. Mar.
Marvel at the sight of mighty humpback and southern right whales on their annual migration. Wilson Head is a good place to view the whales from the lookouts and viewing platforms – catch an eyeful of the Nullaki Cliffs while you’re there. Or journey to the whale-watching lookout atop a cliff at Lowlands Beach, 28km east of Denmark. May-Oct.
Festival of Voice
This festival celebrates the human voice in all its forms. Venues across Denmark come alive as local, national and international artists share stories through choir singing, comedy and cabaret, poetry, spoken word and storytelling. May.
Bendigo Bank Southern Art and Craft Trail
With 65 exhibitions and open studios on show, there is a diverse and exciting collection of art spaces, workshops, demonstrations, talks and displays to keep art enthusiasts intrigued and delighted during the trail’s two-week run. Oct.
HIF LB and SUP Titles
Longboarding and stand-up paddleboarding have passionate followings in WA, and Denmark’s Ocean Beach is one of the best longboard locations in the state. Boarders from across the state compete in this comp, and Denmark’s beautiful coastline is the perfect spot to set up for a weekend of sport action and excitement. May.