This is ‘real country’ from the heart of farming territory, country music and rodeo at Boyup Brook to WA’s secret wine region in the Ferguson Valley. If you’re looking for somewhere with an urban touch there’s Bunbury with its topnotch hotels and restaurants. Adventures in the southwest can have you down at the river for a paddle or to fish for trout, walking along trails like the legendary Bibbulmun Track, cycling the Munda Biddi Trail through towering eucalypt forests, and marvelling at wildflowers in spring. This region has it all... and it begins just two hours from Perth.
Top things to do
Fish in the Nornalup Inlet
Spend a weekend in the Ferguson Valley
Canoe down the Blackwood River
Climb the Gloucester Tree
Walk a section of the Bibbulmun Track
Try a truffle in Manjimup
Swim in Koombana Bay
Take the Munda Biddi Trail through forests
4WD the Yeagarup Dunes with a tour
Attend a music festival in Nannup or Boyup Brook
Go crabbing in the Leschenault Inlet
Stroll along the Collie River Walk
All these things to do and more at www.scoop.com.au/southwest
Geographe and Bunbury
Close enough to the city for a day trip but far enough away to feel like you really are on a holiday, this region is just a 90-minute drive south of Perth. In Bunbury, you can sip a cappuccino at a cafe while the kids play on the beach just metres away (Bunbury is surrounded by tranquil Koombana Bay, the Leschenault Inlet and the Indian Ocean). The family can discover real shipwrecks from the wild days of sailing in Koombana Bay, get up close and personal with dolphins in the bay, or meet furry fauna at the wildlife park at Big Swamp Reserve. Dive the Lena wreck, three nautical miles off the coast, or wander prehistoric white mangroves on the inlet. Catch a show at the Entertainment Centre, visit the largest (and only) A-class regional gallery in the state, or follow the trail of public art sculpture as you wander through the town. Bunbury is a great base for exploring the countryside. A short drive to the wineries and eateries of Ferguson Valley or Capel, you still have every ‘citified’ convenience and comfort at your fingertips. Wonderful wines, boutique beers and summer’s succulent peaches, cherries and plums from local orchards are all there to be enjoyed. There’s accommodation to suit every lifestyle and budget: caravan and camping spots, self-catering cottages, chalets, luxury hotels, motels, indulgent gourmet dining, B&Bs and spa retreats. The historic town of Dardanup is the gateway to Ferguson Valley, where steep, winding roads weave through lush rolling hills. Just 15 minutes’ drive from Bunbury and the coast, the climate in the valley is perfect for shiraz, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, semillon and chardonnay. Follow Pile Road east and turn left into Henty Brook Road or Gardincourt Drive to visit some of the cellar doors and sample the local drops. Head for the coast in the heat for 42km of uncrowded pristine beaches with fantastic fishing and 4WD opportunities. Go crabbing in the estuaries, or try for trout or mouth-watering marron in freshwater rivers and waterholes. Winter is a pretty season here, with the golden hills turning green and Donnybrook’s autumn apples, pears and persimmons to try, plucked fresh from the tree.
Blackwood River Valley
The Blackwood River Valley stretches 270km from the southern wheatbelt through rolling hills to the ocean at Augusta, encompassing spectacular bush trails, natural waterholes and tranquil stretches of the river. Balingup, Greenbushes, Bridgetown, Nannup and Boyup Brook all have their own distinctive town ‘personalities’ and reasons to get to know them better. Balingup, is a hub of art and craft, and a haven for tree-changers. Many artists now call the town home, displaying their work in the town’s galleries. From there you can head southwest on the scenic (but winding) Balingup-Nannup Road to charming Nannup, or head southeast towards Bridgetown. On the way to Bridgetown, look out for the turnoff to Greenbushes, a fascinating small country town located at the highest point of the Darling Scarp and surrounded by forest and farmland, yet home to one of the oldest operational mining tenements in Western Australia. Historic Bridgetown is great in autumn, when you can marvel at the glorious gardens as the leaves change colour. Boyup Brook is the country music and rodeo capital of the state. This historic town’s population swells as thousands arrive for the five-day Country Music Festival in February, and for rodeos later in the year. Wander through the town to discover the extraordinary holographic sculptures, and visit the town’s fascinating museum to get a feel for the region’s rich history. The Blackwood River offers some of WA’s best canoeing and whitewater kayaking. Battle the rapids, or find one of many wide tranquil spots for a peaceful paddle... or just grab a spot on the riverbank to try your luck for trout (only in season, of course). Not to be missed is the wine – the Blackwood River Valley is home to more than 50 vineyards and about 15 cellar doors. The winemakers claim it is the most scenic wine region in the WA – perhaps it is time you see for yourself!
Climbing the Gloucester Tree.
This magnificent region has so much to offer – wander among some of the tallest trees in the world, paddle a canoe on wide unspoiled rivers, or unwind on pristine beaches. This beautiful southwest corner of WA begins three hours’ drive from Perth, comprising the main towns of Manjimup, Pemberton, Northcliffe and Walpole. Take the kids frog spotting or go on a bug hunt. You can take it easy, get dirty with some of the newest and most exciting mountain bike tracks in the state, or simply pedal your way between breathtaking climbing trees, including the epic Gloucester Tree. There’s also plenty for fishermen; the fishing Mecca of Windy Harbour is the only 2WD access to the coast and is home to a few holiday shacks. Locals say Walpole overlooks one of the finest fishing grounds in the state, at the junction of the Walpole and Nornalup inlets. Even on a day when the weather is terrible, you’re almost sure to catch a fish, be it herring, skippy, whiting, flathead, pink snapper, tailor or a variety of others. Walpole is also home to the Walpole Wilderness area, one of the largest wilderness areas in Australia, at over 363,000 hectares. Adventure junkies can head to Pemberton and Northcliffe for cycling, horseriding, bushwalking, motorbiking and 4WDing on more than 100km of coastline and the inland sand sea. There are fantastic opportunities for the 4WD enthusiasts. The Yeagarup Dunes, in D’Entrecasteaux National Park, form one of the world’s largest dune systems. The drive across the top is amazing – coastal heath on the south of the dunes has spectacular wildflowers in spring. Drive, take a tagalong tour, or sit back and let someone else do the driving through karri, marri and jarrah forests to the dunes and isolated beaches beyond. Many areas here are only accessible only by 4WD or boat. The coastline can also be accessed via the Donnelly River on your own kayak or boat, or on a 12km cruise through the National Park. The Bibbulmun Track and the Munda Biddi Trail run through this region – the area is a cycling hub, with events such as the Karri Cup mountain-bike challenge and the Pemberton Classic cycle race. The region is also famed for wines – chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are the most notable varieties. Avocados, onions, potatoes, pears and black diamonds – better known as black truffles – are also grown here. Truffle season is from late autumn, when you can join a truffle hunt prior to sampling the goods, and attend the Truffle Kerfuffle event.
Augusta Colour Patch, Ellis Street, Flinders Bay
Australind Ridley Place
Binningup Beach Shore
Blackwood River Alexandra Bridge, Molloy Island
Bunbury Stirling Street, Powerboat Club, Casuarina Boat Harbour, Turkey Point (near Ocean Cut)
Collie River Elbow Reserve, Taylor Road, Eaton
Donnelly River Boat Ramp Road
Eaton Elbow Reserve, Taylor Road (Pelican Point), Pratt Road
Bunbury (08) 9792 7205 Collie (08) 9734 2051 Harvey (08) 9729 1122 Donnybrook (08) 9731 1720 Ferguson Valley (08) 9728 1551 Balingup (08) 9764 1818 Nannup (08) 9756 3022 Bridgetown (08) 9761 1740 Boyup Brook (08) 9765 1444 Manjimup (08) 9771 1831 Pemberton (08) 9776 1133 Northcliffe (08) 9776 7203
NATIONAL PARK ACCESS FEES/CONTACTS
(Note: free entry if you walk and cycle in a park)
For details of the region’s wide range of national parks, contact the Department of Parks and Wildlife on (08) 9752 5555. Fees are payable in cash on entry, camping fees are additional. An Annual Pass ($88) and Holiday Pass ($44) allows entry to multiple national parks – they are available online from Department of Parks and Wildlife (dpaw.wa.gov.au).
Collie Taxis 0417 914 694
Donnybrook Taxis (08) 9731 1062
Manjimup Taxi Service 0418 949 936
Emergency contacts RAC 131 111 (Car breakdowns)